Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charlie Parker (1920)

Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, July 1952 at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, photo by Esther Bubley

Today, Wednesday, August 29, 2012 marks the 92nd anniversary of the birth of the great Charlie Parker. Fortunately, there continues to be a tremendous amount of interest in (perhaps) the greatest modern jazz musician of the 20th Century.

Charlie Parker, Harry Babasin, Chet Baker, Helen Carr, Donn Trenner (at the piano, obscured), at The Tiffany Club, LA, May 1952, photo by William Claxton

I had planned on using the top photo of Bird in the recording studio for what was eventually released  as the first of Norman Granz' Jam Session LPs on Mercury Records, but this post covered the photo end of the topic much better than I could. By the way 4 sides were recorded that July day (actual date unknown) at Radio Recorders - and by sides I mean sides: each tune took up the entire side of a 33 1/3 RPM 12-inch disc.

I will also direct you to the above. This excellent 60-minute BBC documentary is both a great place to start for beginning Bird watchers as well as fans like myself who have already devoured a fair amount of info on the subject matter. Thanks to Marc over at JazzWax for originally bringing this to my attention. 

Finally, WKCR in New York is in the middle of their annual 72-hour back-to-back Lester Young/Charlie Parker birthday broadcast. If you jump now, you may still catch it. Otherwise, mark your calendars for next year, browse around their programming schedule, and maybe kick down a little cash if you can afford to do so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brooks Brothers (1952)

Print advertising, 1952

Shirt label, c.1952

New Yorker magazine, October 18, 1952

This week's post features more Brooks Brothers print advertising to compliment one of my earlier entries, which can be found here. The top image is a very rare color print ad spotlighting some more casual items and is presented in stark contrast to the second image, that of a dinner jacket. The third image shows remarkably clean lines, clearly illustrating that the "Brooks Brothers Look" was well defined by 1952. 

For kicks, I've also included a cartoon from the New Yorker from the same year. It too is fairly timeless. Just ask my wife.

Addenda & Errata: in my profile of Alvin Lustig and JBL some weeks back, I mistakenly identified James B. Lansing as an Italian-American. Thanks to a very nice email that I received from one of Lansing's granddaughters, I know now that he was German-American. Thank you Ms. Quintero for your kind words and for taking the time to correct the facts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Barney Kessel (1962)

Jazz Scene U.S.A. was a 1962 television series of 26 episodes hosted by the late, great vocalist/composer/performer/activist Oscar Brown, Jr. The series was produced by critic and sometime pianist/songwriter Leonard Feather. More significant was executive producer Steve Allen, a fellow who contributed greatly to promoting jazz music in the mainstream in the 1950s. Filmed in Los Angeles, at CBS ultra-modern Television City facility (at the time, only 10 years old) on Fairfax, it featured mainly West Coast-based working combos as one might expect. But due to LA's role as a major stop for touring acts, several Midwest and East Coast combos put in appearances.

CBS Television City, 1958

Some time in the mid-1990s, a handful of episodes from the series were released on videocassette. They were an absolute revelation. The performances were top notch, the set and back-drop was stylishly modern (thanks to ex-Twilight Zone art director Robert Tyler Lee) and Brown unbelievably cool. Each act would play their own version of the show's theme tune as an intro/outro and the credits were set against shots of the Sunset Strip. In many ways the show was a riff on and a refinement upon Stars of Jazz, another LA production which ran from 1956 until 1958. It both musically and visually evoked the earlier show, although to the best of my knowledge the two do not share any of the same production personnel. The latter program went almost as quickly as it came and apart from the few episodes officially released posthumously, it had seemed to have eluded the YouTube phenomenon.

So it was with great surprise that I stumbled across Barney Kessel's appearance in it's entirety on the 'Tube. As far as I know, it has not been issued since it originally aired in 1962. Yes, that is onetime Charlie Parker-sideman Stan Levey on drums, plus LA-mainstay Buddy Woodson on bass. So sit back, stream the sound through a decent pair of speakers, and (as OBJ would say) dig...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Out To Lunch (1964)

Out to Lunch by Eric Dolphy, 1964, cover photo and design by Reid Miles

Well as my wife likes to say, I've gone done did it. 'Overbooked myself this week, which is my excuse for this weak-of-content entry. So sit back and enjoy reedman Eric Dolphy's sole session as bandleader for Blue Note Records. Dolphy has long been my favorite "free jazz" musician, which is probably a good topic for another day. 'Be back soon.