Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Jazz Makers

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Columbia Records released The Jazz Makers in 1957 as a vinyl LP [CL 1036] in conjunction with a book of the same title which was edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff. I don’t think the music on the album was ever issued in a digital format,

With the exception of vocalist Bessie Smith, bandleader, composer-arranger, Fletcher Henderson and guitarist Charlie Christian, all of the twenty-one seminal figures represented on this tandem Jazz retrospective were still actively performing in 1957.

Here’s some background on the evolution of this concept from the liner notes to the LP. 

“Early in 1957, nine of America's best-known writers on jazz met in peaceful conclave (an ac­complishment in itself) to discuss the putting together of a new book about the makers of America's most vital native music. The easy part of the meeting had to do with conjuring up a title. Charles Edward Smith, co-editor of "Jazzmen," suggested "The Jazz Makers" and that, succinctly, was that.

The tough part was agreeing upon just twenty-one of the hundreds of musicians who had contributed most to the de­velopment of jazz. The idea was to pool the extensive knowledge and critical experience of the group in an attempt to produce fresh bio­graphical appraisals of the most important jazz figures of our time, utilizing all of the new ma­terial that has come to light about jazzmen and jazz history in these recent, fertile years of research, scholarship and analysis.

After much discussion (and some liquid refresh­ment), during which studies of several deserving musicians (because of space limitations) had to be omitted, the final group was decided upon, writers assigned, and a book—and this record— were born.

"The Jazz Makers," which is being published by Rinehart and Company simultaneously with the issuing of this recording, is edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff whose "oral history of jazz," Hear Me Talkin' to Ya, has achieved the status of a minor classic on the subject. The con­tributors, aside from the two Nats, also include such notable odd-balls and experts as George Avakian, Leonard Feather, John S. Wilson, Orrin Keepnews, Charles Edward Smith, George Hoefer, and Bill Simon. The twenty-one musi­cians chosen by this august critics' circle were Jelly Roll Morton, Baby Dodds, Louis Arm­strong, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Duke El­lington, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Bix Beiderbecke, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jack Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller and Earl Hines.

Since most, if not all, of these great men and women of jazz have at some time been represented in the vast Columbia catalog, the occasion of the publication of this new and important book seemed an excellent opportunity to dig into our treasure-trove of musical riches for recorded examples of many of these musicians' representa­tive performances. Presented here are twelve selections long cherished by record collectors and available on long-playing records for the first time. …

These are several of the jazz makers. They are men and women for whom jazz became a natural way of self-fulfillment, self-expression, and a totally engaged way of life. In turn, in the impact of their own originality, they became part of the jazz language itself, a form of immortality vouch­safed to very, very few.”

The audio track of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performing I Can’t Get Started on the following video tribute to The Jazz Makers provides a sampling of the music on the recording about which the liner notes observe:

“In the early days of modern jazz, the guerrilla warfare period, it was not always noted by even the appreciators of Dizzy Gillespie that he pos­sessed a serious lyrical temperament as well as the more familiar fiery daring and quixotic wit. A record which surprised and delighted supporters and quondam Gillespie detractors was this Gillespie interpretation of I Can't Get Started, recorded in 1945 with Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); Trummy Young (trombone); Don Byas (tenor sax); Clyde Hart (piano); Oscar Pettiford (bass); and Shelley Manne (drums).”