Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coming Soon

Above illustration by Cliff Roberts from My First Book of Jazz by Langston Hughes, 1955

Big changes coming soon. Watch this space.

In the meantime, I have been fairly active over at Instagram and Pinterest.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1951)

Photos by Nick Rossi

860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect. Private, residential apartments. Project started in 1948 and completed in 1951. At the onset Mies was 61 and had been living in Chicago for just around 10 years. Individual unit redecoration aside, the buildings remain remarkably intact and stand as testaments to the man's art and genius.

Recommended reading:
1950 Sales Brochure (PDF)
1987 article about living inside the building
The Mies van der Rohe Society page about the buildings
Official Website

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Instagram (2015)

Urbana No.2 (The Archer) [detail] by Richard Diebenkorn, 1953. Oil on canvas. Photo taken at the de Young Museum, June 2013.

A Modernist is now on Instagram! Follow this link or follow @a.modernist for daily dispatches from a modern mind. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King (1951)

B.B. King holding a Fender Esquire, Memphis, Tennessee, 1951


Friday, May 1, 2015

Chipp (1953)

Every so often an item pops up on eBay that somehow needs to be preserved. I am not necessarily talking about museum pieces, but rather curios that folks cut from a certain cloth just are interested in - or rather should be interested in.

Print ad, Gentry magazine, late-1952
purloined from The Ivy League Look

This wool odd jacket is one such item. Bearing the label of custom tailor Chipp, the item has the added bonus of a genuine date: September 11, 1953. What a garment like this represents is an actual connection to the past beyond the grip of latter-day Internet-based theoreticians and speculators. It is a glimpse of what actually was. These types of items help put things into perspective; they help answer a few questions - and perhaps prompt one to ask other questions.

The Chipp story is well documented elsewhere, particularly in this Ivy Style piece. In short, the operation was started in 1947 by Sidney Winston and Lou Praeger, two J. Press refugees keen to break out on their own. Their New York address was within curling distance of the mighty 346 Madison Avenue address of Brooks Brothers and were, at their peak, certainly vying for the same clientele if not a true competitor. Peter Lawford was a client and it was the Brother-in-Lawford himself that introduced Senator John F. Kennedy to the joys of Chipp. Kennedy was perhaps the company's most famous patron who continued having his suits made by Chipp into his presidency. Almost needless to say, it is one of those Ivy League legends often mentioned in the same breath as The Andover Shop, et al.

So what should be said about this particular example of Chipp's handiwork? Well, let's take into consideration the year first: 1953. One would expect much wider lapels based on contemporaneous photos and movies. In fact, it is remarkable how narrow the lapels are even with the button on center stance (yes, I am still trying to get in the habit of using that one over 3/2 button).

The cut, in general, looks more 1963 than 1953 - but again, that can be chalked up to the slight of hand tricks of history books. The shoulders? As natural as can be. The wool check pattern itself certainly smacks of the 1950s - walking the line between a classic Northeast country tweed and something Lanksy Brothers in Memphis would sell to a Beale Streeter or their world-be imitators.

A couple of final shots in the spirit of preservation for the ages, such as it would be...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring is Here (1938)

The first chart hit version of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 1938 composition "Spring is Here", as adapted from the Broadway production of I Married an Angel. Reisman was an extremely popular bandleader during the 1930s who enjoyed success with his recordings of several songs that were to become jazz standards including "Yesterdays" and "Alone Together". The vocal refrain on his version of "Spring is Here" was by Felix Knight, known by most Statesiders of a certain age and older as Tom-Tom in Laurel and Hardy's Babes in Toyland.

4 years later, the song reached a wider audience courtesy of Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy's performance of the song in the drastically tamer film version of I Married an Angel. The movie was a box-office and critical failure, known in the history books more for what it might have been rather than what audiences saw in the theaters. One can thank the Hays Code and its neutering effect on a lot of film adaptations of contemporaneous Broadway source material.

The first jazz version of song is a matter that is in dispute. The 1954 10" LP (and 7" EP) Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet featured a stand-out early adoption of the tune by younger modernists. Recorded in the Summer of 1953 in Los Angeles for Norman Granz's Norgran label, Getz was joined by Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, Johnny Williams (as in, yes, that John Williams) at the piano, Teddy Kotick playing the bass, and Frank Isola behind the drums.

For more details about this composition and its history, I heartily recommend the entry here.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year (1953)

Elaine Johannsen models a hat design by Mr. John of New York City, 1953
Photo courtesy of The Powerhouse Museum
Thanks to Karen Finlay