NYU Steinhardt Jazz Interview Series with Dr. David Schroeder interviews legendary guitarist, composer and bandleader John McLaughlin. December 5, 2016
During the recording of A Love Supreme in 1964, Chuck Stewart caught the jazz legend in his element.
Nelson George writes: On December 9, 1964, saxophonist John Coltrane led a quartet that featured pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison into Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where countless jazz recording sessions were held in the 1950s and ’60s. For photographer Chuck Stewart, Van Gelder’s was a short drive from his home in Teaneck.
That day nearly 50 years ago the band recorded a Coltrane composition titled A Love Supreme, a profound expression of his spiritual awakening divided into four movements—“Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” “Psalm.” For its soaring ambition, flawless execution and raw power, it was hailed as a groundbreaking piece of music when it was released in February 1965, and it has endured as a seminal part of the jazz canon. The work and its composer will be highlighted anew this April during Jazz Appreciation Month, an annual event launched in 2001 by the National Museum of American History, whose collection includes Coltrane’s original manuscript for A Love Supreme.
“I couldn’t shoot during the take because the recording equipment would pick up the clicks. So what I did was meander around the studio. When I saw a picture I thought worked, I’d take it.”
— Photographer Chuck Stewart
For Stewart, whose photographs have graced thousands of album covers, from Ellington to Davis, from Basie to Armstrong, that session with Coltrane—a friend of his since 1949—was no different from countless others. “When I did a session I would go in and shoot the rehearsal before they did any takes,” the 86-year-old photographer recalls, sitting in his cozy, picture-filled living room in Teaneck. “I couldn’t shoot during the take because the recording equipment would pick up the clicks. So what I did was meander around the studio. When I saw a picture I thought worked, I’d take it.”
Stewart still has the Rolleiflex camera he used at the session, and the contact sheets as well. Many of the images he shot have been seen on CDs, as well as in numerous books and magazine articles. But 72 photographs from six rolls of film never made it beyond the contact-sheet stage, and so haven’t been published. Stewart’s son David recently rediscovered those images in his father’s collection, and now Stewart is scheduled to include some of them in a donation to the museum this month. Read the rest of this entry »
Full Album – 50th Anniversary Collectors Edition HQ Audio
Kind of Blue brought together seven now-legendary musicians in the prime of their careers: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and of course, trumpeter Miles Davis.
And just as younger artists looked to Miles for guidance and inspiration, he looked to them for raw, new talent and innovative musical ideas. In the mid-1950s, Davis discovered gold in the subtle sounds of 25-year-old pianist Bill Evans, who he recruited into his late ’50s sextet. Evans would prove an essential contributor to the Kind of Blue sessions. Read the rest of this entry »
How America’s most vibrant music became a relic
The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire By Ted Gioia
Musician, composer, scholar, teacher, perhaps a bit of an operator—albeit of a distinctly nerdy variety—Ted Gioia is also the sort of compulsive, encyclopedically knowledgeable enthusiast the jazz world engenders. Dan Morgenstern, Will Friedwald, and the winningly neurotic savant and broadcaster Phil Schaap immediately come to mind as other examples of the type. The author of eight books on jazz, including West Coast Jazz, a subtle and sweeping masterpiece of historical reconstruction and musical analysis, Gioia here offers a guide to more than 250 key jazz compositions—the “building blocks of the jazz art form,” as he puts it. He intends that this volume, made up of two-to-four-page entries for each song, will serve as a reference work for jazz lovers and as a practical handbook for musicians: “I have picked the compositions that … a musician is most frequently asked to play,” Gioia writes. “Not learning these songs puts a jazz player on a quick path to unemployment.” But in meeting those modest goals, Gioia has done nothing less than define what he considers to be the jazz repertoire—that is, the pieces of enduring popularity and significance that form the basis of most jazz arrangements and improvisations.
Although he suggests in his introduction that this book satisfies an unfilled need, in fact the Web site JazzStandards.com already provides a similar guide, written by a variety of contributors. But The Jazz Standards—issued by Oxford University Press, the world’s preeminent publisher of jazz titles, and informed by a single and esteemed critical sensibility—canonizes the selected works in a fashion that a Web site cannot. The value of such a work, of course, depends on the acumen of the author. In virtually every instance, Gioia delivers.
Take his entry on Billy Strayhorn’s bitter, lovely, transcendent “Lush Life” (1936). It’s clear from Gioia’s out-on-a-limb encomium (“If I were allowed to steal a single song from the twentieth century and make it my own, without a question it would be ‘Lush Life’ ”) that he grasps the singularity of Strayhorn’s triumph (a triumph achieved before the composer was 21), and his characterization of that triumph—“the sheer audacity of … a love song that denounces romance with such vehemence”—is at once spot-on and as eccentric as the song itself. For his handful of recommended recordings, he naturally enough lists the classic covers, the most famous of which are John Coltrane’s two versions, including his celebrated (and to my mind overpraised) recording with the singer Johnny Hartman. But Gioia also astutely selects Carmen McRae’s relatively obscure rendition, one of the finest vocal versions, and in fact rightly elevates it above the far-better-known versions by Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Moreover, with great discernment he singles out Stan Getz’s brief, understated, overlooked recording.
VIDEO: Benjamin Schwarz shares some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time, from Frank Sinatra to Billy Strayhorn.