Here are photographs you won’t see on the Post Office walls, one by William Gottlieb (left), another by Gjon Mili (right):
And, finally, two recordings: one from the early Fifties:
and one from the Dear Departed Past:
What’s all this? Scott E. Brown wrote a wonderful book about our man James P. Johnson, A Case of Mistaken Identity: The Life and Music of James P. Johnson (Scarecrow Press, 1986). Johnson, as many of you will know, taught Fats Waller, composed “Charleston,” “Runnin’ Wild,” “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight,” “Mule Walk,” and many others. To my ears, he is the most satisfying of the great Stride players. But he also wrote longer works, including an opera, DE ORGANIZER, with libretto by Langston Hughes — “Third Stream” works bridging jazz and classical music. His more ambitious compositions received insufficient notice, and he may well have died a disappointed man.
Scott is up here in New York for a few days to do research at the New York Public Library, and he is looking for people who saw James P. play. That’s not an impossibility: James P. was at the keyboard in 1950 and perhaps beyond. If you have any information for Scott (a pile of acetates in the kitchen cabinet, perhaps) email him at email@example.com, or call him at 443-528-1444 (cell). I’ll see Scott on Thursday — we’re going to see Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen at Smalls (!) so I can also pass on messages. Thanks to Tony Mottola, editor of Jersey Jazz, the monthly magazine of the New Jersey Jazz Society, for letting me in on this.