In 1960, four years after the venerable Blue Note Records signed pianist Jutta Hipp to their label, she stopped performing music entirely. Back in her native Germany, Hipp’s swinging, percussive style had earned her the title of Europe’s First Lady of Jazz. When she’d moved to New York in 1955, she started working at a garment factory in Queens to supplement her recording and performing income. She played clubs around the City. She toured. Then, with six albums to her name and no official explanation, she quit. She never performed publicly again, and she told so few people about her life in music that most of her factory coworkers and friends only discovered it from her obituary. For the next forty-one years, Jutta patched garments for a living, painted, drew and took photos for pleasure, all while royalties accrued on Blue Note’s books.
Tom Maxwell | Longreads | November 2016 | 7 minutes (1,807 words)
Nineteen fifty-six was a defining year for American popular music. The foundations of rock and roll were solidified when Elvis Presley, newly signed to RCA Victor, released his eponymous first album. The harder-edged rockabilly band Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio did the same. The year’s jazz releases were just as iconic: “Chet Baker Sings” helped originate a smoother West Coast sound, and The Miles Davis Quintet would ultimately find four full-length albums worth of hard bop material recorded during only two day-long sessions. There was magic coming from every corner of musical expression — Glenn Gould, Sonny Rollins, The Jazz Messengers, Fats Domino — but one album, released in October of that year, was its own quiet revolution.
The album cover is a picture of two middle-aged black people, seated on folding chairs. The woman is in her late thirties, the man in his mid-fifties. She wears a plain print housedress and a wry expression; the man’s white socks are rolled at the ankles. A trumpet is on his lap, supporting his folded arms. There is no written information on the cover other than the name of the record label: “Verve,” it says. “A Panoramic True High Fidelity Record.” On the spine is the album’s title: “Ella and Louis.”Read more…
In the Seattle Weekly, Steve Griggs writes about John Coltrane’s first and only performances in Seattle, at the 225-seat Penthouse club, in 1965. Griggs provides a snapshot of the saxophonist’s life following his groundbreaking album A Love Supreme, during a period of artistic transition. Coltrane was usually in transition. He was expanding his sound again in Seattle.
Seattle disk jockey Jim Wilke sat near the stage that night, set to broadcast the first 30 minutes on KING-AM. His introduction of the show, broadcast from the club, went out over the airwaves like a countdown to liftoff. Meanwhile, Coltrane had hired [drummer Jan “Kurtis”] Skugstad, who had a studio with portable equipment, to record the evening’s performance. With all the club, radio, and studio gear, there were more microphone stands onstage than musicians. Coltrane briefly borrowed Wilke’s headphones to check the broadcast sound. Handing them back, he informed the DJ that the song was going to last longer than the half-hour broadcast. Meanwhile, Skugstad kept feeding fresh reels into his recorder, capturing every detail of the performance.
The first set on Thursday clocked in just shy of two hours, with the first number lasting an hour and a half.
During the 1960s and 70s, legendary jazz drummer Art Taylor interviewed his fellow musicians. The interviews are collected in the 1993 book Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews, and it’s one of jazz’s greatest. The familial, casual conversations are also serious and insightful, full of history, portraiture, and revelations about race relations in America, and the lives of black musicians in a music industry run by white people. From Philly Joe Jones to Kenny Clark, Taylor knew his subjects because he played with them, so he asked probing questions. Here’s an excerpt of his 1969 talk with pianist-composer Thelonious Monk:
Monk: I don’t know. I was aware of all this when I was a little baby, five, six or seven years old; I was aware of how the cops used to act. It looked like the order of the day was for the cops to go out and call the kids black bastards. Anything you did, if you ran or something, he called you black bastards.
Taylor: That was their favorite lick.
Monk: Yeah, I remember that; it was the first thing that came out of the mouth.
Taylor: I consider myself lucky to have survived.
Monk: Sure you’re lucky to have survived, you’re lucky to survive every second. You’re facing death at all times. You don’t know where it’s going to come from.
Horace Silver was one of jazz’s most influential composers and talented pianists. He’d played with countless greats, from Sonny Rollins to Miles Davis, and led a quintet that shaped jazz as we know it. You might not know Silver’s songs by name, but you’ve probably heard his melodies sampled in hip-hop. Silver died in June 2014 at age 85; Peter Keepnews reflected on Silver’s legacy in a New York Times obituary that ran that same month:
“I had the house rhythm section at a club called the Sundown in Hartford,” Mr. Silver told The New York Times in 1981. “Stan Getz came up and played with us. He said he was going to call us, but we didn’t take him seriously. But a couple of weeks later he called and said he wanted the whole trio to join him.”
Mr. Silver worked briefly with Getz before moving to New York in 1951. He was soon in demand as an accompanist, working with leading jazz musicians like the saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. In 1953, Mr. Silver and the drummer Art Blakey formed a cooperative group, the Jazz Messengers, whose aggressive style helped define hard bop and whose lineup of trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums became the standard hard-bop instrumentation.