On Friday, March 3, 2017, I had the immense honor of visiting Dan Morgenstern at his home on the Upper West Side of New York City. I brought my video camera. Dan and I sat in his living room and he graciously talked about the wonderful people he has encountered. I am writing this simply, without adjectives, because I truly don’t know how to convey the pleasure of being able to ask this delightful man questions about his friends and heroes. Our heroes, too.
Dan offered telling portraits of Lester Young, Mary Lou Williams, Tony Fruscella, Brew Moore, Lee Wiley, Donald Lambert, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Dick Wilson,Olivia de Havilland, Andy Kirk, Ben Webster, Curly Howard, Bud Powell, Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Rushing, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Joe Thomas, Jimmy Rowles, Buster Bailey, Eddie Condon, Vic Dickenson, and more.
My premise, which Dan had approved of, was that I would ask him about people, “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” in the DOWN BEAT phrase, who didn’t get the attention they deserve. I thought it best to speak of musicians who have moved on, because if the conversation was about the living (who are also deserving of recognition!) someone’s feelings might be hurt by being left out.
We spent more than four hours together, and the cliche that the “time just flew” is appropriate. I recorded twelve segments, and present the first three here. Look for the others soon. If you’ve never heard or seen Dan in person, you will soon delight in his enthusiasm, wit, sharp recollection of details — the kind of telling details that a novelist would envy — and graciousness. And he was seriously pleased to be able to tell true first-hand stories to you — this audience of people who know who Hot Lips Page is.
We have another afternoon session planned, with a list of people we did not talk about the first time. As I say, I have kept my language restrained for fear of gushing, but we are blessed to have such a generous wise unaffected fellow in our midst. Of course he has great material to share with us, but he is a magnificent storyteller. And for those who savor such details: Dan is 87. Amazing, no?
May your happiness increase!