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About mmcgerr

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  • Birthday 01/15/1955

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  • Location Bloomington, IN

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  1. Howard Johnson - RIP

    When I was in high school, I saw him play one evening in an NYC club with Mingus. After a certain amount of back and forth, the drummer walked out, Mingus said to the audience "he must have got his period," and then Johnson came forward with his tuba to anchor things for the rest of the night. I was young and impressionable, so it was quite an event. Johnson was wearing sneakers and bounding around with incredible energy.
  2. It's interesting how Armstrong got put down by the mid-60s, considering that many Black musicians in other genres had had little or nothing to say about race. Sam Cooke has been retrospectively re-engineered on the basis of "A Change Is Gonna Come," a one-off moment. Armstrong had his own one-off but very revealing, moment when he condemned Eisenhower's handling of Little Rock in 1958. Berry Gordy, Jr.'s roster of Motown/Tamla artists didn't speak out in the early 1960s. Gordy put out a spoken-word line of records, including King's speech at the March on Washington, but the Supremes and the Temptations? What Black artists appeared at the March? Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson. There were Black musicians in attendance, including Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, and Sammy Davis, Jr., but they didn't perform (why that was so is an interesting topic). Duke Ellington? His urbane polish let him do things that Armstrong couldn't--but Ellington's wonderful music about race evoked Black history and "Black Beauty," but was never overtly political. Which makes a point about Armstrong's critical reception. There was a kind of condescension towards him because he was a working-class man of limited education, but he was too sophisticated to fit the beloved white stereotype of the unlettered Black blues musician. Much of the criticism of Armstrong came from non-Southerners, who expected Blacks to carry themselves differently--rather presumptuous, especially on the part of white critics such as Andrew Kopkind. In part because of his experience growing up in the South, Armstrong was understandably cautious about the more violent-sounding side of Black Power. And, as his Reverend Eatmore and "Lonesome Road" records indicate, he was suspicious of smooth-talking leaders who would leave ordinary people in the lurch. In a way, Armstrong shared a lot with James Brown who finally did put Blackness at the center of popular music (rather than the periphery) in the later1960s ("Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"). Both came out of the South, both believed in Black entrepreneurialism, both believed in "crossing over" musically. Who knows what Armstrong would have been like if he had been born later, but in some ways, his career would might have been like Brown's; Armstrong might have put race more towards the center of the music he created.
  3. Cootie Williams in Hi-Fi

    I have the right issue. The bonus tracks are an R&B-ish date with Wini Brown from 1957. As my friend JazzTrain would say, they're not essential.
  4. What Got You Into West Coast Jazz?

    Two things in particular: the Shorty Rogers Mosaic set & Ted Gioia's book West Coast Jazz.
  5. Sir Colin Davis has died

    Love his Sibelius symphonies, Mozart operas, and the Harold in Italy with Menuhin
  6. Volume 9, "Piano Music," of the Complete Mozart Edition on Philips includes 5 discs of sonatas--all 18 by Uchida, along with her recording of the Fantasia in C Minor. There is also a sixth cd of Uchida playing various short pieces: a couple of rondos, a fantasia, a minuet, etc.
  7. Thanks for sharing the obituary. I admire Leonard's book, which was before its time in a number of ways. That must have been an interesting undergrad course!
  8. According to Jos Willems' Armstrong discography,All of Me, there were only two issued takes of "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams." The uncommon take--take 2--is available on the first Neatwork cd of Armstrong alternate takes (RP2020) as well as the Fremeaux series.
  9. A truly great historian and writer. His books helped shape my life.
  10. Question re Amazon UK and shipping

    I find this site very helpful for comparing all the Amazon sites' prices, including shipping:
  11. I bought the Fitzgerald set and have this problem, which is not with the booklet but with the cds. Disc 3, track 20, wrongly plays "Wacky Dust." Disc 11, track 4 plays "Oops." Track 7 is "Baby Doll." Track 8 is "What Does It Take." Track 10 is "Two Little Men." So there are some tracks that appear twice on the set and some tracks that are, as a result, omitted. I've written to to see if I can get the discs replaced.
  12. As an academic myself (though not a writer on music), I certainly agree that academic writing on jazz, reflecting broader trends in the humanities, can offer some trivial observations couched in easily-parodied jargon. Too, a number of academic writers on jazz haven’t heard enough of the music. And many academics of all stripes don’t do enough to live up fully to the privileges of academic freedom. But this discussion, in turn, seems to trivialize academics’ role in jazz. The music is, if not a dying art, a declining art. In various ways, including sometimes jejune articles and books, academia is helping to keep the music on life support, whether it is by giving musicians support and another forum (I think of David Baker at Indiana University), publishing books on jazz, sponsoring research, or offering classes on the music. I assume the book that inspired this thread is Charles Hersch’s Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz. I don’t know Prof. Hersch and I haven’t read his book. But a cursory look at it on Amazon indicates that it is more than the couple of sentences about Louis Armstrong’s fascination with Swiss Kriss. As the title of the book suggests, Hersch seems to be arguing that in more ways than we typically recognize, jazz at its origins was a subversive force, well outside the cultural mainstream in a number of ways. Not a stunningly original argument, but a serious one, and not ignorant, either. More strikingly, Hersch argues against the now-received wisdom that jazz originated around the country rather than uniquely in New Orleans. He may well be wrong, but that is an interesting argument worthy of real discussion. Whether or not Hersch’s book is compelling, there is plenty of worthwhile recent academic writing about jazz. On the subject of Louis Armstrong, I have particularly enjoyed Brian Harker’s new book on the Hot Five and Hot Seven records—a fresh effort to explain the particular nature of Armstrong’s innovations. Harker’s book is part of a new series from Oxford University Press, which includes Keith Waters’ study of the records of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968 (lots of musicology, and no troubling bodily functions). Then there is Jeffrey Magee’s book on Fletcher Henderson—and so on. I think the music we all love has a better chance of surviving if we avoid stereotypes and try to highlight what’s interesting and exciting as well as what strikes us as absurd.
  13. Ellington JSP - vol 1

    Thanks for the clarification. I haven't seen a published analysis of the takes on the JSP set, one that would do the work for you. The DEMS newsletter, also available on, doesn't seem to have worked through the takes on the JSP, as it does with many Ellington issues. Perhaps you might want to use the "Sessions" listing to identify the sides on the JSP whose take numbers are in doubt, and then a/b those with the sound files of the different takes available at