Daily Archives: October 17, 2009


We get so used to idealizing our artistic heroes that it comes as a shock when we confront pieces of evidence that show them leading everyday lives.  Two such artifacts have just surfaced on eBay — pages from the celebrity register from a New York City restaurant, THE STUDIO, near Carnegie Hall, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The first page, from 1961, has been signed by Coleman Hawkins, J.C. Heard, Babs Gonzales, and others:


Hawkins loved the food!

The second page dates from 1958 and has a rarely-seen signature:


Oh, I hope that Billie liked the food as much as Hawkins did.


Nature photographer and essayist Lorna Sass also has a keen ear for swinging jazz, and last night, October 16, 2009,  she took her camera to Roth’s Westside (Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street on the Upper West Side of New York City) to capture some of the music — visually, that is.  Here are a few of her inspired portraits, capturing Ehud Asherie, Dan Barrett, Attillo Troiano, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Luigi Grasso in the heat of the moment:

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LS Roth's 101609 Tuscany etc 052


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 Wonderful portrait studies, taken under less-than-ideal conditions (including low light, rapidly moving subjects, and that infernal chalkboard as background).  Check out Lorna’s blog, www.lornasassatlarge.wordpress.com. for more intriguing art and nature photographs!



The American novelist William Maxwell (1908-2000), who wrote searchingly and lovingly about his Illinois childhood, told an interviewer late in life that if people didn’t write down what they remembered, so many beautiful things would vanish forever. 

Maxwell was right, and I am reminded of this now more than ever before.

One of the Beloved’s friends has endured the deaths of her parents, both in their early nineties, in the past year.  I met her parents twice.  They had been political activists in the Thirties; the husband, a writer, had worked with Langston Hughes.  When they heard that I was immersed in the jazz of their era, they — in turn — became happily animated.  They had been to Cafe Society; they had heard Billie Holiday and Fats Waller frequently; they had particularly loved a pianist who played on Fifty-Second Street but couldn’t immediately call his name to mind.  (He was Clarence Profit.)  They had been at the 1941 Count Basie recording session when Paul Robeson tried to sing Richard Wright’s blues in praise of Joe Louis, KING JOE.

Each of these comments seemed to me like a doorway into the miraculous past: people stting in the same room had been there.  They had seen my heroes; they might have magical narratives to share. 

Of course, they no longer remembered any details.  Robeson had had a hard time; the clubs on Fifty-Second Street had been a  great pleasure; they beamed as we exchanged the magic names.  I had come too late.  And they took their stories with them.

I urge my readers to ask questions of the Elders of the Tribe.  The Elders don’t have to be musicians; they can be someone’s aunt, who owned a candy store where Ellington would buy cigarettes.  Or we ourselves can be the Elders, contributing our own memories before they — and we — vanish.  I never saw Clarence Profit, but I did see Bobby Hackett indicating to the band the tempo he wanted for the next number by clicking his tuning slide back and forth in time.  Having written that down, I have hopes that it has a less evanescent existence. 

What do you remember?



In my previous posting about Dan Barrett’s October 15, 2009, gig with Ehud Asherie, I concentrated on the lovely hot sounds this duo made.  Late in the hour-long session they were joined by one of Ehud’s friends, altoist Luigi Grasso — a genuine marvel, as you’ll hear for yourself. Luigi is 23 — yes, only 23 — and he hails from Arianoirpino, Italy.  And he plays like a dream — serious allegiance to early Charlie Parker, but Luigi has his own energy and passion, rather than simply being a fledgling.  Ehud and Dan had played splendidly as a duo, but when Luigi showed up he became (without any particular motive of his own, I would guess) the kind of catalyst that my high school chemistry class never encountered.  Luigi balances sweetness and muscle, and he is an intuitive player — so the potentially unusual blend of trombone, alto, and piano, never seems ungainly.  Thanks, of course, to Dan and Ehud — two sublime players who know what it is to blend, to vary, to support.

This little session began with PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

That cheerful jogging music led to a real surprise: the moody SOME OTHER SPRING, always associated with Billie Holiday, and an emotional highlight of this or any other jazz evening:

Where to go from that peak?  A familiar romp, on WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

And, finally, what used to be commonplace but is almost a rarity — a medium-tempo themeless blues, suggesting Kansas City or perhaps Wichita in 1940, more or less:

Faithful readers will notice that I’ve commented less than usual on this music: all I want to write is WOW!