Playlists

You are currently browsing the archive for the Playlists category.

lovin spoonful money

One subject to appear in much of what has been written about Prince since his unexpected and tragic passing last week is his frequent legal battles with Warner Brothers Records. During his conflict with the label over the pace of releasing his recordings, leading up to The Gold Experience in the mid 90s, Prince made his famous appearances with the word “SLAVE” written on his cheek. He also said at times that the reason he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol was because he felt the label owned his name.

Pop records have made reference to the underside of the music industry and artist/label relations since at least around the time Prince was born. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Money” and the Byrds’ “So You Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star?” are both examples of successful sixties singles which reference the industry this way.

Billy Joel has never had a warm relationship with his label, Columbia Records. He presented a particularly sardonic view of the industry in “The Entertainer,” a song of his third album. Describing the decision to shorten his break-through hit for its release as a single, he sings

It was a beautiful song but it ran to long
If you’re gonna have a hit you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05

streetlife serenade

Streetlife Serenade is hardly remembered as one of Joel’s best albums. He complains that he was under such pressure to tour he didn’t have time to write enough songs. Columbia had him opening for big name acts like the Beach Boys at the time — this is probably why the album has two instrumental tracks as filler.

Another band with a high-pressure opening gig at the time was Lynyrd Synyrd, who joined the Who on the Quadrophenia tour in 1973 after the release of their first album. The first side of Second Helping, recorded after the tour, ends with “Workin’ for MCA,” a song about the label which ended the band’s “seven years of bad luck.” The song sounds mostly positive about their experience, but the last line is a warning to the label which Prince would probably have endorsed:

I’ll sign my contract baby, and I want you people to know
That every penny that I make, I’m gonna see where my money goes

lynyrd skynyrd second helping

This next artist/label conflict carried over to the cover of the album itself. After their fourth album was rejected and delayed by Apple Records, Badfinger commissioned Peter Corriston to paint the cover (Corriston also made covers for Carole King, The Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, Tom Waits, and many more). His painting portrays a donkey being led off into the desert by a gigantic, but unreachable carrot — presumably representing the way the band felt they had been misled by Apple Records.

The album also became part of a music publishing conflict between the group and the label, so the songs were not credited on original pressings. That’s too bad, because Pete Ham deserves credit for his hilarious break-up song intended for the label, “Apple of my Eye.”

Ass was also an album dumped in the cutout bins quickly, so actually copies like the one pictured (with an intact jacket) are probably harder to find. Its release delayed Badfinger’s debut for Warner Brothers, which the band wanted to title For the Love of Money, a decision rejected by their new label.

badfinger ass

The only time the commentary on the record label was released on another label that we’ve found is “EMI,” the last song on Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. The band had signed a contact with EMI, but were dropped after an incident on television in which Johnny Rotten repeatedly cursed at the host, causing a national uproar.

“EMI” ends with the band saying “Hullo A&M,” but this relationship also didn’t last, owing to equally outlandish behavior. A&M actually pressed 25,000 copies of their second single, “God Save the Queen,” but after dropping the band they were summarily destroyed. It is believed about a dozen exist today, making them among the world’s rarest and most valuable 45s.

Virgin Records signed the band, and manager Malcolm McLaren negotiated a deal for the album to be distributed in the United States by none other than Warner Brothers.

nevermind the bollocks

West Side Story was first proposed fully a decade before its first production. The 1957 Broadway musical was an enormous commercial and critical accomplishment but its success was hardly the result of sudden inspiration.

Broadway producer Jerome Robbins conceived the story (originally East Side Story) as a timeless cultural conflict, and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote a first draft. This is why he is credited in show business terms with “The Book,” although the actual book from which the story was derived would be a volume of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Laurent wrote a first draft of Robbins’ plan for an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet which recast the Capulets and the Montagues as Catholics and Jews, and Leonard Bernstein was on board to compose the score, but the project was pushed to the back burner.

Laurent and Bernstein mulled over the idea five years later, and the maestro suggested it be re-set in Los Angeles as a conflict between Mexican gangs. Laurent didn’t like the idea, but he did like the latin direction it took the story, and rewrote the book in New York City as a conflict between working class whites and Puerto Rican immigrants. When Laurent dropped out of the project to work on another project, he was replaced by a then-unknown composer and lyricist, not initially enthusiastic, named Stephen Sondheim, who was being mentored at the time by none less than Oscar Hammerstein II. It would turn out to a pretty good move on his part.

West Side Story went into production with an previously unprecedented eight weeks’ dance rehearsals. Bernstein composed concurrently with Candide, his critically panned operetta (which we kind of love and would like to encourage listeners to revisit) — not surprisingly, he’d originally wanted West Side Story to be an opera, and never really let go of his plans. You can hear Bernstein’s operatic aspirations throughout the finished score, which is part musical, part ballet, and also part opera.

west side story

After its awesome run — and all the drama over its production and credits — West Side Story was adapted to an epically successfully film, which won an unprecedented ten Academy Awards. The big-selling soundtrack album remains today a staple in the collections folks bring into the shop, but its so damn good we’re always glad to see another copy.

One secret to the story’s success is that it doesn’t shy away from its subjects. The plight of the Puerto Rican gang is portrayed through “In America,” a clever back-and-forth about the benefits and challenges experienced by immigrant communities.

Bernstein adapted the musical’s addictively awesome score into a symphonic suite soon after and recorded it with the New York Philharmonic. This shorter score condenses the music in very much the same way many ballets are shortened into similar suites, and maybe that’s why Bernstein chose to title it “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.”

west side story

Of course, the musical’s memorable melodies quickly became jazz standards. Ramsey Lewis recorded an entire side based on them, as did a variety of pianists. We recently posted a tribute to our favorite female jazz pianists and included tracks from Marian McPartland’s version of the score, which is a favorite trio album of ours. Here she plays “Tonight” and “Cool” with a great rhythm section of Ben Tucker and Jake Hanna:

mcpartland west side story

One of the biggest West Side Story jazz tributes was Kenton’s West Side Story, an album which will always be a favorite of Kenton fans but leaves the emotion of the story somewhere far from the west side. Kenton’s explosive arrangements are undeniably appealing, but lose us somewhere in their bombast. Even his own piano introduction to “Maria” seems without the same passion Marian McPartland brought to the song. Still, we can’t deny it’s a helluva big band track, even if it lacks the passion Jimmy Bryant put into singing the song for Tony off screen in the movie.

Kentons west side story

“Somewhere” was the first cover on a Tom Waits album when it appeared on Blue Valentine in 1978 (this fact is mostly true: a couple Foreign Affairs tracks are a little involved). Perhaps no other recording so aptly demonstrates Waits’ penchants for wistful schmaltz.

DSC08447

The only full-length album by the enormously inventive (although heavily derivative) 90s punk rock band Schlong was a complete cover of West Side Story. Although they shared a sound with bay area punks like Kamala and the Karnivores, Crimpshrine and Operation Ivy, Schlong’s Punk Side Story was a loving interpretation rather than an exercise in irony. We were pleased to read in Pop Matters (here) that when Bernstein’s daughter Nina was presented with a copy of Punk Side Story, “She was surprised that someone of our generation knew her father’s score so well, and said she wouldn’t sue us.”

punk side story

We think “Lenny” (as he is credited on Punk Side Story) himself would be very pleased with the inventive pistache of Schlong’s “Dance at the Gym,” if not their surprising devotion to his original score. This was, afterall, the guy who composed Candide and lived to see it come into some reknown.

And the band of misfits were perfectly suited to perform the Jets’ hypothetical, subversive response to authority in “Gee Officer Krupke” (a number which, incidentally, borrowed some music from Candide). This song is one of the gems of middle 90s bay area punk rock.

In 1985, Bernstein was finally able to realize the operatic West Side Story of his dreams. Although this recording for Deutsche-Grammophon was not produced for the stage, its stunningly theatrical. Fans of the film are likely to find it alienating, but this triple-album is well worth a second (and third and fourth) listen.

West side Story

Bernstein’s casting choices were confounding, especially the choice of José Carreras as Tony. This was several years before he became an enormous star outside of opera as one of the Three Tenors — at the time there was some controversy as to whether his accent was fit for the role (Carreras is the second-most-awesome Catalan in any good record collection). In his defense, his duet with Kiri Te Kanawa (as Maria) on “One Hand, One Heart” would captivate anyone who has ever been in love. Bernstein gets a magnificent performance out of the strangely anonymous symphony orchestra, making the action sequences especially exciting.

This West Side Story fell somewhere in between the opera house and the Broadway theater, and maybe never sat well with either audience. We feel its an essential Bernstein recording, if only for the insight it provides into his most enduring work.

Or “Alright?” Dave Mason wrote the song for the 1968 debut album by Traffic. The following year it was a minor hit for Joe Cocker and for Mongo Santamaria.

DSC08408

feelin alright mongo

DSC08407

Over the next several years, “Feelin’ Alright?” became a standard, and was recorded dozens of times in just about every genre. Scottish pop singer Lulu recorded the album on New Routes, a 1970 album which found her backed by the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and guitarists Eddie Hinton and Duane Allman.

DSC08410

DSC08413

A heavy version of the song appeared on Rare Earth’s hit album Get Ready, along with several other covers which made up the first side.

DSC08412

DSC08415

Dave Mason was one of the first members of Traffic to leave the band, and he released a series of successful solo albums on Blue Thumb Records (our favorite 70s label). During this time he wrote and recorded “Only You Know and I Know,” another song which was widely covered.

“Feelin’ Alright?” was included in the live recordings on his 1972 album Headkeeper.

 

DSC08409

The Jackson Five added “Feelin’ Alright?” to their live set, including performances on The Diana Ross Show.

hank williams tributesThere are more tribute records dedicated to Hank Williams than to anyone else, except possibly John F. Kennedy. We have an entire section of them in the shop. Many are budget-label junk, but there’s some gems in there — like that George Jones record in album.

But tributes to Hank Williams aren’t limited to Lps, there’s probably just as many on 45s. Here’s just a little sample.

 

ernest tubb hank


jack cardwell hank

 


jim murphy hank

moe bandy hank

johnny and waylon hank

the river

We might as well admit it, we’re reformed Springsteen fans. Yes, we’ve got one of those three-drawer cassette cases in our basement filled with bootlegs, and yes we saw him maybe a few times. Okay, we can also tell you the dates of the best shows (like the fifth of February, 1975, when the band played “Born to Run” for the first time and that siren outside interrupted the end of “Incident of 57th Street”) and we keep buying the albums, even though honestly we stopped playing them more than once or twice after Working on a Dream. And that was more than six years ago.

And until recently, we’d still go to the concerts, even if it got to be very expensive. This time around, Something what adds up to a day’s pay for us to see the Boss is just too much.

Tonight the Boss will be performing in St. Paul with the largely and remarkably intact E Street Band — saxophonist Jake Clemons filling in for his late uncle with, by all accounts, complete class — but their set isn’t likely to include songs from those albums we’ve all forgotten (ie, the last three or four). On this tour they’re revisiting The River, a thirty-five year old album which introduced so many of the Springsteen themes we love.

In today’s post we have a whole bunch of alternate versions and outtakes from The River. Most of them are recorded off cassettes, so the sound quality is a little up and down.

Springsteen’s initial plan for the album was a single LP to be titled The Ties That Bind. Bootlegs of the ten-track record have been around for years, although there were more than one version of the proposed 1979 release. For fans, the long appeal of Springsteen boots has been the wide variety of out-takes and songs which were never recorded in a studio or released. The Ties That Bind wouldn’t have just been a leaner album than The River, it would have done away with the unusual juxtaposition of the light-weight pop and heavy themes — think of how “Crush On You” (gotta be a candidate for the dumbest song Bruce Springsteen ever sang) shares a side with the brooding title track.

Springsteen has always described the double album’s balancing act as having come from essential element to rock and roll. Years ago, he told biographer (and professional Springsteen praiser) Dave Marsh, “I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you’ve got to live with them.” Like nearly any rock album of its length, fans have always theorized ways it could be improved by omission. Just as some would prefer London Calling without “Wrong ’em Boyo” or All Things Must Pass without, you know, the whole last record, there’s a dozen ways to slice up The River.

In addition to the myriad of bootlegs, outtakes from 1978-80 have seen official release. Springsteen is one of those artists who puts interesting songs on the b-side of his singles (a fun surprise for fans we were just writing about last week). The 1998 box set Tracks contained cleaned-up and remixed versions of several songs which were intended for The Ties that Bind, The River or both. And a more recent box set focused entirely on Springsteen’s burst of songwriting inspiration around the end of the 70s, also including a documentary about the album.

One song made the cut for The Ties that Bind twice, before being dropped from The River. “Loose Ends” would have been the last song but it was supplanted by “Wreck on the Highway,” which is a pretty popular ending with fans.

While Springsteen has been disappointing fans for a decade with his inability to write an interesting song, in 1979 he was so steadily inspired he threw them away. The Pointer Sisters got “Fire,” Dave Edmunds got “From Small Things,” and the Ramones nearly got “Hungry Heart.” You know he wrote that song for them, right? His grubby manager insisted he not give such a sure hit away. When people ask about the records we wish we had, the first ones to come to our minds are the one which don’t exist. Can you imagine Road to Ruin-era Ramones singing “Hungry Heart”? It would have been awesome!!

Another song which appeared on The River but only infrequently in concert is “Stolen Car,” which is one of our favorites. Even Rocky liked it. An earlier version (officially released on Tracks) is very different, but just as enjoyable. Another outtake that was released on Tracks is “Dollhouse,” which would have fit pretty well on The River.

We have read that this tour has included several of the outtakes in addition to the twenty songs on The River. Maybe one of the songs we chose to listen to today will be included in tonight’s set in St. Paul, or maybe one of the dozens of others. It makes it a little more fun than the just the songs on the album — this trend of artists touring on old albums is sort of strange when you think about it. We’ll look forward to hearing from customers what they think about the show.

amine claudine meyersAmine Claudine Myers’ third album was a tribute to blues legend Bessie Smith, with one side of Smith’s songs and one side of originals written by Myers in the same style.

Myers joined Chicago’s AACM early in her career, and has recorded with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp, Arthur Blythe and other post-bop and avant-garde artists.

Bessie Smith recorded “Wasted Life Blues” in October, 1929 with James P. Johnson on piano. It was not one of her more successful singles.

Myers’ interpretation is characterized by the ageless sophistication and grace one associates with the Chicago jazz scene of the 60s and 70s. She is accompanied on this album by Jimmy Lovelace and bassist extraordinaire Cecil McBee, but her solo introduction to “Wasted Life Blues” is the highlight of the record.

Myers relocated to New York and later Europe. In 1985 she toured with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and in the 90s played with jazz/funk supergroup Third Rail.

Speaking of the Liberation Music Orchestra, Haden’s original 1970 album is one of our “desert island” records, a must-have in our collection. A masterful amalgam of Spanish folk and free jazz, the record features exceptional talents: Gato Barbieri, Dewey Redman, Don Cherry and Roswell Rudd all contribute notable performances, and Sam Brown (of Keith Jarrett’s “American band” at the time) provides brilliantly colorful interludes on the acoustic guitar. What is so enjoyable about Liberation Music Orchestra is the ensemble playing throughout the album, and this is the work of pianist Carla Bley.

liberation music orchestra

The first side of the album is essentially a single suite, opening and closing with original melodies by Bley (“The Introduction” and “The Ending to the First Side”) and in between encompassing music of the Spanish Civil War, explosive free jazz arrangements and surreal moments of musique concrète. Bley makes clever use of Bertoit Brecht’s “United Front Song” and “Viva La Quince Brigada” (popularized with the American left by Pete Seeger in 1943), all the while holding together a large free jazz ensemble more successfully than any of her contemporaries.

Carla Bley’s credits extend far beyond this album and beyond the bounds of jazz. She was a founding member of the Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, with whom she recorded her epic jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill in 1971, and also wrote and produced a solo album by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. More recently, she has led a big band, although her last release was a collection of trio performances featuring long-time collaborator, bassist Steve Swallows and British saxophonist Andy Shephard.

When she was young, Nina Simone studied at the Juilliard School of Music until she could not afford the tuition, after earlier auditioning for the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her dream was to become a classical musician, but she worked as a cocktail pianist to pay for her private lessons. At Atlantic City’s Midtown Bar & Grill, she was given a raise if she would sing as well as play the piano — here she soon developed a following for her distinctive style.

So far as we have found, there are few instrumentals in Simone;s recorded catalog: these appear on the live album early in her career. Nina Simone at Town Hall includes an instrumental introduction to “Summertime” and on Nina at the Village Gate there is an extended and exceptional improvisation on “Bye Bye Blackbird,” which is as good as anything the top tier trios was recording in 1961.

Simone recorded one album without any accompanying musicians — Nina Simone and Piano — but she sings on all of its ten tracks. She felt it was one of her best albums, although it was not commercially successful. Most of her later albums include large arrangements and feature her primarily as a vocalist, in spite of her original, imitable style.

DSC07749Although Simone had a tendency to lean towards classical music and cocktail lounge piano, she could also lead a soulful ensemble, as on Nina Simone Sings the Blues, from which we have previously posted the protest song “Backlash Blues.”

Her flair for theatrics is apparent on another well-known protest song, “Mississippi Goddamn,” which appeared on the 1964 album Nina Simone In Concert. Simone opens the song humorously before singing a scathing response to the murder of Medgar Evers.

Nina Simone is probably more influential as a singer than as a pianist, but she would have been the first to remark that the two were simultaneous, and intricately related to one another. She was certainly one of the most versatile jazz pianist of her generation.

a single womanOn her last album, A Single Woman, Simone only played the piano on one song, “Just Say I Love Him.” The album was recorded in 1993, and owing to her declining health, Simone did not make another record before passing away from breast cancer a decade later.

Today’s post collects some of our favorite jazz pianists who also happen to be women. We think anyone who enjoys jazz piano will enjoy the music you’ll hear today.

jazz women

Any collection of the great female jazz musicians must include Mary Lou Williams, who is so integral to the history of American music that she played with an early incarnation of Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians in 1922 (at the age of twelve) and later taught and collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.

Williams became the first jazz musician to perform with a major symphony orchestra when, with a rhythm section of Al Lewis and Jack “the Bear” Parker she performed her Zodiac Suite with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic. Williams again expanded the range of jazz with her 1968 Mass for Peace, a moving Catholic mass in the soul jazz idiom.

We have already posted a collection of her compositions (here), and instead begin this collection of songs with an extraordinary solo piano recording which was the first record Williams issued under her own name. She writes to jazz archivist Bernard Brightman (founder of Stash Records):

I didn’t know they were recording me. I was in Kansas City when Jack Kapp had Andy Kirk send for me to come to Chicago. I went and they sat me down at a piano. I composed this as I played. I thought they just wanted to hear me play. This became my first record. After that Jack Kapp insisted that I play on all of the recording dates for the Kirk band.

She was soon arranging the best of those recordings as well, and working for Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy launched a legendary career. The recording was made in April 1930.

330834705833

There were many female jazz pianists before Mary Lou Williams, including two great ladies named Lil.

Lil Henderson fine accompaniment has been heard by millions, and she first got her start joining a li’l band called the Wildcats Jazz Band. Thomas Dorsey, the legendary “Father of black gospel music,” explains that in The Voice of the Blues, an enlightening collection of interviews edited by Jim O’Neil and Amy van Singel:

That was my band, with Ma Rainey, Gabriel Washington, Al Wynn and David Nelson. We only had about four or five pieces … Fuller Henderson was a trumpet player, yeah, and then we used his wife with Ma Rainey. I got sick and I turned the piano over to Fuller’s wife, and she traveled with ’em a season.

For a while Lil Henderson remained part of Ma Rainey’s Georgia Jazz Band, and it happens she was recorded backing “The Mother of the blues” in Chicago in June 1926, and it was for a fitting tune. Here they are performing “Trust No Man.”

The other Lil’s playing is far more documented on wax, although sometimes her role in jazz histories is limited to the moment she encouraged Louis Armstrong to leave King Oliver’s band in 1924. Yes, Lil Hardin (soon Lil Armstrong) gives some weight to the old phrase “behind every great man is a great woman,” but she was also an accomplished jazz musician in her own right.

She was a pianist, bandleader (in the 30s of an all women’s big band), and a composer. It’s for this last she’s best remembered, writing jazz gems like “Don’t Jive Me” and “Doin’ the Susie Q” and also songs which would be later be hits for Ray Charles (“Just for a Thrill” in 1959) and Ringo Starr (“Bad Boy” in 1978). Her “Oriental Boogie” was reworked by Austrian electro DJ Parov Stelar as the widely popular “Booty Swing,” becoming a dancefloor hit in 2010.

camille howard

Camille Howard got her start playing in Roy Milton’s popular rhythm & blues band, but her most famous recording was made unexpectedly, much like Mary Lou Williams’ “Nightlife” we heard earlier. At the end of epic New Years Eve session — trying to cut as many numbers as possible before the advent of the second American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban on the first day of 1948 — Milton’s band had five minutes of studio time to kill before midnight. The time was given to Howard.

With Dallas Barley (of Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five) on bass and Milton on drums, Howard improvised “X-Temperaneous Boogie” just before those outside the studio heard church bells ringing in the new year.

Standing next to Mary Lou Williams in Art Kane’s famous “Great Day in Harlem” photograph is Marian McPartland. She is one of two women in today’s collection not born in the United States. She was English, and a classically trained concert pianist who fell in love with jazz.

During the Second World War Marian Turner enlisted in the UK’s Entertainment National Service Association, which entertained Allied troop in Europe. After a couple years she left to join the United Service Organization in part because it provided the opportunity to perform with American jazz musicians. She is probably also the only woman in today’s collection who went through basic training.

She met Jimmy McPartland in St Vith, Belgium in October 1944, and they were married the following February in Germany. McPartland was a well known jazz musician, a cornetist from Chicago. Marian McPartland had her first serious experiences performing jazz in the band he led in the USO, but he encouraged her to explore her own style rather than follow in his, which was based in traditional New Orleans jazz.

Back in the states she began leading jazz trios, and also played with Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins and Terry Gibbs. The longest lasting of her trios featured bassist Bill Crow and drummer Joe Morello, and recorded several acclaimed albums for Capitol (Metronome named them best small combo of the year in 1954). Still, she never received due credit for the quality of her work. Leonard Feather once opened a review with “she’ll never make it: she’s white, she’s English and she’s a woman.”

mcpartland west side story

She began writing about jazz in the July 1949 issue of Downbeat with a firsthand account of the Paris Jazz Festival. Soon she was a frequent contributor, and her writing often reflected on the role of women in jazz. Some years later she would take her advocacy further by hosting the first ever Women’s Jazz Festival in Kansas City.

McPartland is best remembered today for hosting a NPR program, Piano Jazz, for more than twenty-five years. The program featured her at a piano with guests, playing and discussing jazz. In addition to being one of NPR’s longest-running cultural programs, it was one of the most praised.

Hazel Scott is the other jazz musician in today’s post who emigrated to the United States to perform jazz. Her family came to New York from Trinidad in 1924, when she was four years old. Just a few years later she was a student at Juilliard. As a teenager Scott performed in her mother’s women’s jazz band, which sometimes featured Lil Armstrong. She had a regular gig at New York’s Café Society, and was also frequently heard on the radio playing a variety of piano music, including jazz.

Hazel Scott appeared in several motion pictures, and in 1950 she was the first African American woman to host her own television program, The Hazel Scott Show.

She also recorded several albums in the 1950s, notably a highly sought-after trio LP Relaxed Piano Moods, which she recorded with Charles Mingus and Max Roach on their invitation to appear on their independent label, Debut Records.

Scott was an outspoken civil rights activist. As an actress she refused to take roles she felt represented black people poorly, and as a musician she would not play in segregated clubs. In one famous incident, she was led out of Austin by the Texas Rangers because she would not perform in a club after she learned that black and whites were seated separately. “Why would anyone come to hear me, a Negro, and refuse to sit beside someone just like me?,” she asked when interviewed by Time magazine. She also successfully sued a Washington restaurant for refusing to serve her and a friend “because they were negroes.”

In 1950, Scott was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and read a prepared statement which denied involvement with the Communist Party. A week later her television show was cancelled. Eventually, Scott left to live and perform in Paris, and did not return to the United States until 1967. Had she not left the country at such a critical time for the Civil Rights movement, and such a pivotal period in the history of jazz, she would surely be more well known today.

hazel scott trio

great day in harlemHere is a close up of our print of Art Kane’s famous photograph, “A Great Day in Harlem.” Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland are standing together, as one might expect — the only other woman in the group if fifty-seven musicians is singer Maxine Sullivan, standing next to fellow vocalist Jimmy Rushing. When Marian McPartland passed away three years ago, she was one of four figures in this famous photograph remaining. Today only Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins are alive.

In Friday’s post we’ll listen to more women play the piano, moving forward into the 1960s and beyond. We’ll hear Nina Simone, of course, and also a magnificent interpretation of Bessie Smith’s “Wasted Life Blues” and a legendary avant garde album from the Impulse! catalog which was arranged by a female piano player. Here’s a hint: it’s not Alice Coltrane. Wondering what it is? Tune on Friday.

« Older entries

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.