Tag Archives: jazz

Blue Monday

Though he’s probably best known as one of the creators of Mr. Magoo, animator and jazzbo John Hubley should be better known for the work produced through his Storyboard production company, which frequently blended jazz with inventive animated images. This 1956 short, Date With Dizzy, shows Dizzy Gillespie being cajoled to come up with music for some television commercials. Not only do you get to see three of Hubley’s TV spots, you get some real live Dizzy Gillespie music in the mix as well.

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Crepuscule with Thelonious


A half-century ago, jazz great Thelonious Monk led a 10-piece orchestra in a performance at New York’s Town Hall that marked the first time his music had been played by a large ensemble. The concert, which Monk considered one of the proudest moments of his career, yielded a classic live album that I wouldn’t recommend as a starting point for Monk novices, but is a must-hear for anyone familiar with the songs in their original small-group settings.

A couple of weeks ago, trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Jason Moran led a pair of tribute concerts at Town Hall that duplicated the songlist, though not the performances, of Monk’s one-night stand. Fred Kaplan, whose writings about jazz are among the few reasons to pay much attention to Slate, has shrewd things to say  about the performances themselves, as well as the tricky business of trying to replicate recordings of music based on improvisation — especially an improviser with a style as idiosyncratic as Monk.  

As for the actual tribute concerts, NPR has posted a recording of Charles Tolliver’s night that should make for good listening while you check your e-mails.

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Blue Monday (‘Three Wishes’ edition)

Thelonious Monk composed “Coming on the Hudson” (see the clip) while watching ships from her window. Charlie Parker died while watching television in her Stanhope Hotel suite. She hosted jam sessions, wrote liner notes, lined up gigs and even took a drug charge when she and Monk were caught with marijuana by police in Wilmington, Delaware. Monk, Horace Silver, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and Gigi Gryce all dedicated songs to her. Not for nothing was Pannonica de Koenigswarter nicknamed “The Jazz Baroness.”

The baroness spent the better part of a decade asking jazz musicians to make three wishes, and she recorded their answers in a set of leather-bound notebooks that included Polaroid pictures of each player. Those notebooks are the core of Three Wishes: An Intimate Look at Jazz Greats, a new paperback of the fascimile from Abrams.

If you’re a hardcore jazzbo, Three Wishes is a must-buy. If not, it’s simply a curio. I fall into the first category, and I find it a fascinating window into the past.

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