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!

15 responses to “DAN MORGENSTERN REMEMBERS FRIENDS AND HEROES (Part One: March 3, 2017)

  1. Michael,
    This is a tremendous contribution by Dan to jazz history. We are most grateful to him and to you for capturing his unique recollections of these wonderful artists, all of whom added greatly to our American musical heritage. Thanks and Bravo!

    Mike Zirpolo

  2. Fascinating. What a treasure! And the nicest man you ever wanted to meet.

  3. Laurence Scala

    Great stuff. Looking forward to the remaining clips. Thank you Michael!

  4. Thanks to you AND Dan for this invaluable contribution to Jazz research and history!

  5. Really wonderful, Michael. Thanks so much for doing this.
    In the first video, on Tommy Bedford, you and Mr. Morgenstern talk a bit about musicians who found themselves in the position of needing a day job to make ends meet. In a discussion I had with pianist/composer Dave Frishberg, he told me the musicians referred to a day gig as a “haim” or “hame.” I’d never heard, or seen, a reference to this term before. Just a little bit of trivia.

  6. You’re always enlightening. We often don’t know where slang comes from, but this one rang a bell in my mind — maybe from reading Faulkner? A hame or hames is / are “two curved pieces of iron or wood forming or attached to the collar of a draft horse, to which the traces are attached.” We say someone is in harness, or pulling the plow: you can see the connection. Some people I know talk of their day gigs as their “slave,” which is also painfully close to the bone. Or the collar. Thanks!

  7. Don "Zoot"Conner

    I also thank you for this magnificent time with Dan,one of my favorite writers,his “Living with jazz” is a classic.You mentioned Brew Moore.Perhaps you could ask Dan about him.I only saw him once in San Francisco,he adored Pres.

  8. Wonderful. Bless both of you.The lift and lilt of Dan’s voice is inseparable from what he says — music about music.

  9. Thank you so much for that lovely turn of phrase, Larry. And there’s more to come!

  10. Wonderful. Thank you Dan and Michael.


  12. When Dan talks about “a young blind pianist named Eddie….” was he referring to Eddie Thompson, an English pianist who lived in NYC for over a decade and was resident in the Hickory House for many years? Eddie was a wonderful Tatum-influenced player, and a good friend of mine. His records on the Hep label are worth checking out, especially the 2 recent live CDs recorded at Bosendorfer-run events where he works with his regular rhythm section and plays a wonderful-sounding Bosendorfer Imperial

  13. Great sleuthing, and I would not have made the connection, Ken, but Wikipedia (if that’s accurate) says that Eddie was in the US from 1962-72, and I think Dan is talking about a good many years earlier. And his memory is very sharp, so I think Eddie Thompson might have not slipped through. Thanks! Michael

  14. A new bio-discography of Frankie Newton has just been published by Names & Numbers in The Netherlands. It’s titled “Looking for Frankie, a Bio-Discography of the Jazz Trumpeter Frankie Newton.” By Bob Weir and John Postgate, this is a second edition. The first was self-published in 2003. The first record I ever bought (1942, age 6) was a Frankie Newton Bluebird recording of “Rosetta/The World is Waiting for the Sunrise.” These are two of six terrific sides Newton recorded for Bluebird under the auspices of Hugues Panassie. Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow reportedly helped put together the personnel for Panassie. Pete Brown and James P. Johnson are wonderful on both sides.

    The Wax label was short-lived but produced some interesting sides. Notes to the only 78 album Wax produced are by Paul Bowles. In his basement, Jack Towers had a box of all Wax stuff, including several “mothers” and a list of everything recorded for the label. It is a scarce label.

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