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If this is your first visit, welcome to my blog of memories and observations. If you wish to be notified of new posts, enter an e-mail address above, and click on "Submit." As we move through a seventh year of this venture, I thank all who have made regular visits, as well as fellow bloggers who have found Stomp Off worth linking to. Doing this sort of thing is time-consuming, but I try to post fresh material at least once a week—let me know what you think. There is a Commentary option at the end of each post and a Guest Book can be reached by scrolling down and clicking on the quill image. I welcome your observations, reaction and/or suggestions in either spot—or both. As for blog content, the most current posts are on the home page, starting at the top. Earlier items are listed by month, year and title in the archive index. To zero in on a particular key word or subject, use the search option that is located directly beneath the blog's masthead. Most images can be enlarged with a mouse click, and there are links to some of my favorite blogs, etc. Since visitors have come from 150 countries, a translator with numerous languages is located below. You can at any time revert to English with a click at the top left of this page:

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5/8/15

Abbey Lincoln and I Thirty Years Ago...




1989 Interview with Valerie Wilmer


I first met activist attorney Flo Kennedy in 1962 when Timme Rosenkrantz and I rented an apartment from Billie Holiday's widower, Louis McKay. The rent was to be paid to Flo Kennedy, who represented the Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker estates, among others.

Flo and I became close friends, which is one reason why she occasionally asked me to host her public access TV show. Here is a June 6, 1989 interview I conducted with writer/photographer Valerie Wilmer. Val lives in her beloved London and is still around and writing interesting books.

I hope you like this half hour I spent with her on camera. It and a vast number of Flo's shows are now online as part of the International Archive's Schlesinger Library.



11/4/14

Shameless Selfie





As a rule, I don't carry ads on this blog, but friends tell me that I should at least run one for my Bessie Smith biography, so here is one that you can easily skip. The attached audio features actor Robertson Dean reading a short excerpt from my introduction to the book. The entire, unabridged reading runs 13 hours and comes in a Tantor Audiobooks boxed set of 11 CDs. A readable Kindle edition is also available for download, and Yale University Press still has it in book form. Mr. Dean does an excellent job of reading on the audiobook version. As for the HBO film, Queen Latifah's singing and Music Director Evyen J. Klean's instrumental setting lend an authenticity to the music that is rarely captured in biographical films but the rest of this atrocious film is a crude travesty of Bessie Smith, her era, and her life. You can blame a woman named Dee Rees for that—her writing and direction are disgraceful. 


I hope this commercial intrusion does not offend anyone. 



Links to Amazon for the Audiobook, Paperback, and Kindle editions:

5/31/14

Jackie Robinson jazz afternoon

The year was 1963 and the Civil Rights Movement was in full gear. Jackie Robinson and his wife threw a summer afternoon benefit party on their back lawn in Stamford, Connecticut. The purpose was to raise bail money for jailed SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) demonstrators in the South. It was an all-star jazz concert held in an idyllic setting, by a small lake at the end of the garden. Not surprisingly, the Robinson's attracted stellar performers and this became an annual event so popular that it soon had to be moved to a more capacious location.

I was working at WNEW Radio back then, so I went there with William B. Williams, Bob Hodges, and light equipment that included one of the station's portable Ampex recorders. The sound is not the greatest, but you will get a bit of atmosphere and hear some fine players.

I thought these tapes were lost, but my old friend, Mona Granager of Storyville Records, located them for me at—of all places—the Royal Library in Copenhagen. I had lent several reels of tape to my friend, Karl Emil Knudsen, and this is where some of them ended up after his death.
That's me on the far left, with the Ampex, Bob Hodges, and William
B. Williams on right.


On the first clip, Mercer Ellington introduces members of his band before kicking things off with one of his own compositions,  "Jumpin' Punkins" (thanks to Michael Leddy for furnishing the right title). The soloists are Clark Terry, Taft Jordan, Zoot Sims and Quentin Jackson.

From Billboard July 6, '63
Click to enlarge



Staying in the "jump" groove, the band continues with Duke's "Jump for Joy"...



...and a fine Jerome Richardson feature...



More to come...

2/5/14

Charles Mingus Sextet: Trenton - May 9, 1972


If you were around, in the U.S., and into jazz forty years ago, you may have seen a weekly half-hour television show called The Jazz Set, which I hosted and co-produced. We had many great musicians as guests, in a jazz club setting that some people took to be the real thing. After the show went national on the PBS network, we began receiving letters from people who were planning a trip to New York and wanted the club's address. Actually, our set was in Trenton, New Jersey, but we did have a real audience seated at tables and sipping cleverly disguised sodas.

Since I commuted from New York for the tapings, I frequently took the train with some of the performers, and I can still see Mingus on the platform at Penn Station, his arm around his bass and a snack in the other hand. When we boarded the train, he headed straight for the dining car, with me tagging behind.

We ordered a three-course lunch and had a delightful trip during which music never came up in our conversation. When I told him that I had named my dog Mingus, he stopped eating, looked up from his plate and asked, "What kind of dog do you have?"

He looked relieved when I replied that Mingus was a doberman, and told me that someone in Greenwich Village had named a beauty shop after him—this had obviously not pleased him.

We were still a good way from Princeton when Mingus finished his dessert, called the stewart over and—aiming a circular gesture at the table—said, "let's do this again." I limited my request to a second cup of coffee and watch with amazement as Mingus did his encore.

When we arrived at the studio, there was a huge chocolate cake, baked by the wife of one of our cameramen in honor of Mingus. We all had some, but Mingus enjoyed about half of it.

He was in a great mood that day, and I think it is reflected in his performance, which includes Peggy's Blue Skylight and Orange is the Color Of Her Dress.
Mingus, Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, Bobby Jones

There is also my interview, which you may have seen in the film, "Triumph of the Underdog." Unfortunately, I do not have this show on video, but it's all about the music—besides, I look silly in my dawn of disco locks and outfit. 




COMING UP: The next scheduled post will comprise recordings I made at a 1964 Jackie Robinson lawn party. You will hear performances by the Duke Ellington Alumni Orchestra (led by Mercer) and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.