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"Bio-worthy" jazz musicians

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I've been pretty well scared away from the new Shorter book, but it got me thinking ... all other things being equal, I would have preferred to see a new, GOOD bio of Jackie McLean than of Shorter anyway.

Who do you think should be the subject of a new biography?

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Some candidates:

  • Sam Wooding
  • King Oliver
  • Don Redman
  • Coleman Hawkins
  • Valaida Snow (there is a recent one, but it is seriously flawed)
  • Lonnie Johnson
  • Billie Holiday (several books out, but none comes close)
  • Lionel Hampton (the one that's available is a cut-and-paste job)
  • Mary Lou Williams (the real story)

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Some candidates:

  • ...
  • Coleman Hawkins
    ...

Chris:

Which is your opinion of John Chilton´s "Song of the Hawk: The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins" (that I haven´t read)?

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I like the Chilton/Hawkins - and while we're on the subject, we could use a decent Charlie Parker bio - and Chris, what do you think of the chapter on Wooding in - uh oh, can't remember the writer - Chip something or other, I think, used to write for the Post -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Johnny Mendel and Min Leibrook. :)

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Juan Tizol

Wardell Gray

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I've a yen to undertake a Claude Thornhill bio--but time is a big issue.

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per-Thornhill - read Mike Zwerin's aubiography - Thornhill was quite a character -

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per-Thornhill - read Mike Zwerin's aubiography - Thornhill was quite a character -

Allen, thanks for the tip. I recently did a Thornhil big-band program and came across a passage from Zwerin's book, quoted in a W. Balliett piece, I believe, that I incorporated into the show.

Of course it isn't just a question of time; it's a question of performing all the hard labor of research and improving my ability to write about jazz. But Thornhill's birthplace is just up the road from here, and nobody (that I'm aware of) has written a book about him before. His centennary is coming up in 2009, which is why the thought's been budding in my brain.

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Cannonball Adderley (a real biography, not a bio-discography).

Sarah Vaughn

Lee Morgan

Harold Land

Kenny Kirkland

Sam Jones

Charlie Rouse

Scott LaFaro

Thad Jones

Mel Lewis

Tony Williams

John Hammond (more of the story that is related in Mary Lou Williams Autobiography)

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I like the Chilton/Hawkins - and while we're on the subject, we could use a decent Charlie Parker bio - and Chris, what do you think of the chapter on Wooding in - uh oh, can't remember the writer - Chip something or other, I think, used to write for the Post -

EKE BBB, I had forgotten about Chilton's book on Hawkins. I have now put it on my list of bios to acquire. John Chilton is not a sloppy researcher, so I have high expectations. I hope he managed to straighten out some of the wild inconsistencies in Hawkins' own telling of his story. Sorry for having added him to my list.

Allen, I guess you are talking about Chip Defa. No, I have not read his chapter on Sam Wooding. I knew Sam and Rae (Harrison, his singer-turned-wife) quite well. She was the official record keeper in the family, and I understand that all her notes are at the Schomburg. Great stories, a very colorful and unusual life. Did you know that Clifford Brown was in Sam's class when he taught music in Delaware? Sam told me that Clifford was good, but there was also a better student!

Where can I find Chip's chapter?

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I think it's in Voices of the Jazz Age. As I recall it was very interesting -

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Thanks, Allen.

A factual John Hammond biography would be very interesting, perhaps even shocking.

Someone came to interview me for just such a book, but that was 2 or 3 years ago, so I'm not holding my breath.

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Ornette.

I thought that Litweiler's book was just fine.

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Him and Cecil Taylor would make good autobiographies. I would like to know how they dealt with the bashing they got as they pioneered their free jazz.

Edited by Jazz Kat

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Jack Sheldon.

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Him and Cecil Taylor would make good autobiographies. I would like to know how they dealt with the bashing they got as they pioneered their free jazz.

Autobiographies? Have you ever read Cecil's or Ornette's liner notes?!?

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Jim: I thought that Litweiler's book was just fine.

Yes, it was, yet at some point the first person accounts from Ornette fall away. J.L. does a great job from that point on through his own insights, but when Ornette backed out from the interview process, probably thinking he should save something for his own book, it seemed to leave room for more.

Let the cry go out across the land: MORE ORNETTE!!! :lol::excited:

And p.s. Jack Sheldon would be a riot. He's still playing well. Have you heard any of those Butterfly Records releases?

Edited by Lazaro Vega

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About Chilton's book on Hawkins, it seemed basically solid to me, but there is an odd aspect to it that perhaps someone knows enough to comment on. I was the person who took Hawkins to O'Hare airport after his disastrous late April 1969 trip to Chicago to record a public TV show with Roy Eldridge and to play a Sunday afternoon (4/20/69) concert at the North Park Hotel. (I think Hawkins flew out on Monday; he died on May 19.) I gave Chilton an account in a telephone interview of what happened when we got to O'Hare, but while this passage is placed in quotes (i.e. as though these were my actual words), they're not. Chilton doesn't add to or subtract anything from what I told him, but I swear it's a somewhat British-ized paraphrase of what I actually said, and includes several strings of words (e.g. "I'm normally diffident in the face of officialdom..." "...he looked at me with a gaze of appreciation as he went aboard" ) that not only were not spoken by me but probably could not have emerged from the mouth of any American. I've never known what to make of this.

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Jackie McLean was mentioned earlier. I would kill to read a well-researched and written book on McLean. He's lived through interesting times, seen several styles of jazz develop, known some of the major innovators, and played with them. He has a first-hand understanding of many of the extra-musical factors that both shaped and corroded jazz, such as heroin, hipster insularity and paranoia, civil rights, black power, religion and mysticism, political idealism.

His interview in A.B. Spellman's book Four Lives in the Bebop Business (I might not have the title right) was intelligent and trenchant. But that was decades ago.

I would love to see a biography on Sam Rivers. He's played with all sorts of people too, from blues bands to Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, to some incredibly adventurous, risk-taking outfits, his own and other people's. He possesses a vital mind, and is very eloquent.

Jackie and Sam are not going to be around forever, and I just hope some enterprising writer over there in the States gets on to it. Great musicians, with great stories to tell. What more could a biographer want?

Edited by SNWOLF

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Jackie would indeed be a great subject. I know someone who had a shot at perhaps doing this (he did Jackie's interview for the Smithsonian Oral History Project), but I don't think he has pursued this idea.

Bertrand.

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  • Larry, I find disturbing the fact that Chilton misquoted you in his Hawkins bio. As I have noted previously, I had the same experience--most recently with Linda Dahl in her Mary Lou Williams book. That sort of thing makes suspect everything else in the book, IMO, and thus seriously decreases its value to future researchers. The discrepancies you mention don't seem to change the story's course, but they are still quite bothersome. One problem is that factual errors tend to be compounded by subsequent writers who take things at face value, so misquotes that might seem trivial in one work can easily snowball and become significant.

    There simply is no excuse for misquotes when the interview is on tape, as was the case with Dahl. I still have great admiration for Whitney Balliett, who attended a recording session of mine, armed only with a pad and pen, and managed to capture verbatim a conversation between Roy Eldridge and Jo Jones. I had the advantage of having that moment on the master tape, and Whitney did not miss a comma.

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