My chronological age is increasing, as I occasionally notice.

Tonight, the Beloved created a wonderful homemade Thai dinner, and when we’d finished, we worked our way through the dishes to music: an assortment of the 1937-41 sides that Billie Holiday and Lester Young created together, with friends.

And I thought, not for the first time, “How lucky I am to be the age I am. I saw Buck Clayton play — at the end of his trumpet career — and got his autograph. My friend Stu and I rode the subway uptown with Benny Morton, who sweetly and patiently answered our eager questions. I saw Teddy Wilson play at a shopping center, and got his autograph. Jo Jones spoke to me several times; two autographs, some recordings, some photographs. Dicky Wells waved an annoyed finger at me to get me to stop recording him with my cassette recorder. I saw Freddie Green and Count Basie, from a distance, at a concert in a Long Island park, Benny Goodman and friends in Carnegie Hall in the late Seventies.

Yes, Lester Young, Walter Page, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Ed Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Pee Wee Russell were already gone when I began actively searching out live jazz. But if I were younger today, I wouldn’t have had the precious experiences I did.

And listening to Billie and her friends — buoyant, wise, exultant, and so sweetly IN the music they were making — reminds me of how beauty never grows old. Let all the people who voyeuristically want only to make Billie into the Heroin Madonna, the Woman Abused by Louis McKay listen to this:

“Now they call it swing.” Exactly.

May your happiness increase!


  1. Michael Burgevin

    “… beauty never grows old.” That’s a great line, Michael… how true.

  2. A delight!

  3. what a great record. the way Billie sings just…slightly…behind…the…beat to set up a rhythmic tension.

    Buck’s obbligati, Pres’ abstracted summation of the changes, Jo lays exclusively on the hi-hat till laying down perferct rims shots in the last few bars, the New Orleans exultant “ride out”…

    Oh my, these gems grow in impact with age!

  4. Michael Burgevin

    “Co-a-tes”… as Cheatham would call you… long time pal… you too Stu… funny we all came together on this one… illustrates what marvelous energy MS has, yes? Easy! — xo /// mb

  5. Thank you for these considering words. You certainly made my day and made me listening to my Billie Holiday recordings the whole morning. And you are so right, if we were younger we would probably not be fond of this beautiful form of art called jazz. You must be a very lucky person that had the opportunity to listen to all those famous artists live. Here in Sweden they did not come that often, and when they did I wasn’t yet interested. The only famous name I had the opportunity to see live was Louis Armstrong when he and his All Stars visited Malmö in 1959. I was the 14 years old. Best regrds from Sven Söderbom in Sweden.

  6. Like you, Michael, although I sometimes regret being born a few years too late I have been very fortunate to hear, work with and meet people I so admire. On my early trips to New York I was grateful to perform with Max Kaminsky, Doc Cheatham and even Bobbt Short – long story that one! In Europe I worked with the wonderful Wild Bill Davison, Al Casey, Ruby Braff (and made it unscathed!) and Doc Cheatham – again. Others, also, lost in my memory – to my regret. I wish I’d have kept an accurate diary. Furthermore, I caught the ‘last years’ and saw in concert Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Ella, Sassie, Stan Kenton, Dizzy, Roy E, Clark T and, again others that do t spring immediately to mind. What prompts me to comment on this post at this time is that I am sitting in Atlanta airport en route home from a cruise contract….traveling as passengers were a wonderful couple, some 86 & 82; she a member of the ‘Morrison Sisters’, an Andrews Sisters type act of the ’40’s & 50’s & her husband; an admirably modest, humble gentleman – Jack Jennings. He was a mainstay of the NY studio scene (and a little in LA) working & recording with Wes Montgomery, Astrid Gilberto, Roberta Flack, Frank S, Dean M, Sammy D Jnr, numerous TV shows and then finished his career doing 13 years in the orchestra pitof “Cats” – I’ll not repeat his comments on that gig! A true gentleman who worked ‘for fun’ with George Duvivier, Hank Jones, Phil Bodner et al…. Like you, I consider myself to be, in some small way, connected to the links back to the ‘golden age’ of tis music we love so much. Keep up the good work!

  7. It’s not when you grew up, but where…how many of your generation would have reached your level of connoisseurship had they not been just a subway ride away from the city that was not just the heart of the jazz world, but in a very real way, its soul?

  8. What a gorgeous one you wrote with this, Michael. And what a beautiful song. Unbeatable! Thank you, and much love to you and to the Beloved.

  9. In case anyone thinks I am being excessive about people’s morbid fascination with Billie’s drug use, one of the search engine terms by which someone found JAZZ LIVES today was — I am not making this up — “billie holiday pictures of her arms.” It makes me sad.

  10. Very well said, NM,,and it really made me feel better about my chronological age. For all her drug abuse etc,, I always think of Billie as a lady, with a silken voice, and a gardenia in her hair,,,Thanks for the uplifting post NM. Much love to you and the beloved.

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