Ornette Coleman, 85


Though his early work— a kind of personal answer to his fellow alto saxophonist and innovator Charlie Parker— lay right within jazz — and generated a handful of standards among jazz musicians of the last half-century — he later challenged assumptions about jazz from top to bottom, bringing in his own ideas about instrumentation, process and technical expertise.

— Ben Ratliff via The New York Times

He was always free. Now fly high. Farewell, Ornette.


David Carr, 58

“Shakespeare describes memory as the warden of the brain, but it is also its courtesan. We all remember the parts of the past that allow us to meet the future. The prototypes of the lie — white, grievous, practical–make themselves known when memory is called to answer. Memory usually answers back with bullshit. Everyone likes a good story, especially the one who is telling it, and the historical facts are generally sullied in the process. All men mean well, and clearly most people who set out to tell the truth do not lie on purpose. How is it, then, that every warm bar stool contains a hero, a star of his own epic, who is the sum of his amazing stories?”

— David Carr
from “The Night of the Gun”

Woke up and it was still true…Heartbreaking.
NYT obit here.

Phil Stern, 95

Phil Stern via Phil Stern Archives

Phil Stern via Phil Stern Archives

WHEN I think back, there have been so many conversations with so many vivid subjects over the last couple of decades, but I will always have a special place in my memory for my talks with photographer Phil Stern.

Stern, who died last Saturday evening,  had been shooting since the 1930s and had been pretty much any and everywhere you could imagine.  And though many might think of his specialty as rarefied worlds of Hollywood and Jazz — he could and would settle into anything with a singular POV and sense of authority. His war photography and quiet interludes and candid moments of everyday life had equal power and resonance.

Edith Irby Jones standing alone in the hallway of the University of Arkansas Medical School

I was honored to be able to sit and listen to his globetrotting stories and even more so, to be able to be one of the people to tell a little bit of it.  For some years afterward he remained in touch via letters, emails and the occasional phone call in which he always greeted me as “George.”

Here is a snip from my 2003 story during an all-day visit to his home in Hollywood:

Stern winds through his sunny living room-cum-studio. Aside from the cutouts, there’s not one photo framed on the wall. There are piles of Stern’s old LP covers stacked in boxes, some prints in matte-boards piled on a side table. Above the kitchen’s breakfast nook, a black-and-white collage of celebrity mugs spells out “Name Dropper”; a tiny cutout of Frank Sinatra, arms outstretched, pasted on a wooden crucifix, crowns the refrigerator: “That,” he says, with a dismissive wave of the hand, “was Frank’s idea.”

He wasn’t just everywhere, he allowed us to ride alongside, to be everywhere as well.

My thoughts and heart are with his family.

The rest of my feature is here.

And of course some of my all-time favorite Phil Stern images:

Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie — photo by Phil Stern

Stan Getz – photo by Phil Stern

Gerald Wilson, 96

RIP local jazz legend Gerald Wilson, pictured here on trumpet with Irving Ashby (guitar), George "Red" Callender (holding his hands over his ears), Lee Young Sr (drums), and Phil Moore (piano). (Order # 00052121, Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

RIP local jazz legend Gerald Wilson, pictured here on trumpet with Irving Ashby (guitar), George “Red” Callender (holding his hands over his ears), Lee Young Sr (drums), and Phil Moore (piano). (Order # 00052121, Security Pacific National Bank Collection) photo via LAPL Photo Collection

MY INTRODUCTION to musician Gerald Wilson was on the radio.

Not on disc, but as DJ. He was on the jazz station KBCA, later KKGO, the frequency my family’s car and household console stereo was always tuned to while I was growing up. I loved his voice, the “between platter patter.” bigband

Later I learned more about Wilson and his contributions to jazz in Los Angeles in particular. As well as his work as an arranger and bandleader that spanned eight decades, he also taught classes in jazz history and appreciation at college campuses across the city. But what many Angelenoes might remember him most for — if not by name — but a piece of music that has been part of the backdrop/soundtrack of L.A. for as long as I can remember — Viva Tirado — a piece he dedicated to dedicated to bullfighter Jose Ramon Tirado, part of his own long-time interest in Latin culture and its shades of influence.

He’s another one who I thought would go on forever.

Thank you, Gerald Wilson for sorting out and reflecting the true sound of Los Angeles in all of its influences, nuances and moods.

Obits here from Los Angeles Times and New York Times

Horace Silver, 85

When I wrote them,” he said in a 2003 interview for the website All About Jazz, “I would say to myself that I hope these at least withstand the test of time. I hope they don’t sound old in 10 years or something.”

— Hoarce Silver on the longevity of his music via the New York Times.

full NYT obit here

One more time for Horace

Second Set

I LAST saw Jimmy Scott in person at the Jazz Bakery. It had to be about ten years ago. It wasn’t the first time, but many of us who had staked out a place in line and a good seat in the auditorium were worried, though we might not have voiced it, that it might be the last.

When the lights dimmed, Scott came out in his standard shiny lounge jacket, but also this time in what hadn’t before been a customary feature — an electric wheelchair. He hit is mark on the stage; the band counted down and and we were once again plunged into Scott’s own well-trodden vocal territory of love, longing, heartache and loss.

He might have appeared frail but his voice was anything but and his elegant hands swam before his face shaping and underscoring the lyrics story.

I had interviewed Scott a few years before this evening, as he sat propped up on a nest of pillows on his bed at the Culver Hotel reminiscing about his improbable career full of soaring highs, seemingly irrecoverable lows, dead-ends and sharp switchbacks — a career that in many ways was much like the haunting, other-worldly contours of his singular voice. He was still angry about some bad deals and shyster business practices and outcomes that had laced his career, but overall was grateful that he was still pulling audiences in, still on the road, still juggling offers and options.

That afternoon he told me: “This activity of ‘show business’ has practically been my life. Then,” he shrugs, “there are disgusting parts to think about. But, I’m glad too. Because you realize that … there might not be a second chance to recoup anything concerning your career. But fortunately, for me, that’s the joy. Being able to continue the work and still love it. It’s not a showoff thing for me. It’s a life that I have had to live.”

Scott died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88.

My full L.A. Times piece here.

My favorite Jimmy Scott.

(top image: Jimmy Scott from the documentary “Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew”)