Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra at Steel Pier, Atlantic City
‘Ella Fitzgerald remained the local favourite but Oscar Peterson has now been accorded a niche alongside her.’ – Billboard review of the Copenhagen concert.
This was the second JATP tour of Europe and Norman Granz promoted his own shows in Germany and Switzerland, which increased the money he made, but it also meant he took the risk. JATP grossed $100,000 in thirty-one cities and fifty concerts. However the tour was not without its problems. After the Malmö concert at the end of February, bad weather forced the cancellation of the party’s flight and they had to take a bus and ferry. It was noticeable that after this experience, Scandinavian dates were set later in the year to avoid the worst of the winter weather.
Included in the thirty-one cities were Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Uppsala, Malmö, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Frankfurt, Rome, Paris and London.
“Lester Young has had one of the strongest effects on other tenor saxophone players – both in technique and in sound, his sound being dry and sophisticated. But always as you can hear swinging.” – From the back cover of ‘Pres’ a 1952 release on Clef
Swing, that’s what Lester Young is all about; even after the traumatic experience of being drafted into the army, the subsequent harsh treatment he received and by this time his failing health could not take the swing away from Pres. This album has the bonus of Teddy Wilson’s beautiful, subtle, swing piano playing; it reunites the two men who had recorded twenty years earlier with Billie Holiday.
Pres & Teddy is a set of wonderful swing standards that’s a joy and it has sometimes been overlooked because it was recorded at the twilight of Young’s career; it is, however, one of the best albums that Granz ever produced. Aside from the emotional intensity of Young’s playing the pairing with Wilson was inspired. Wilson had only recently returned to playing more frequently having been teaching at the Julliard School
“It’s been hard goddam work, man. Feel like I spent 20,000 years on the planes and railroads, like I blowed my chops off. Sure, pops, I like the ovation, but when I’m low, beat down, wonder if maybe I hadn’t of been better off staying home in New Orleans.”
Thelonious Monk made a couple of appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1975 and 1976 but other than that there was silence from the once prolific pianist. During this time he lived in New Jersey with his friend, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter.
Many conflicting stories have been put forward as to why Monk was absent. They range from drug theories, both his own use of them and the inadvertent taking of LSD; others talk of brain damage, most people agreed there were mental health issues. The fact is that he didn’t play in public, and those who appear to be in the know think he didn’t play in private either, after his 1976 Newport appearance, until he died in February 1982 from a stroke.
Whatever the theories, the circumstances or the truth, the one truth is that the world lost a great and gifted musician – a true jazz visionary. But he has left behind a body of work that offers a jazz landscape more diverse and more challenging than most of his contemporaries. Sure there are other jazz artists who played it obscure, but none of them played it half as well or half as interestingly as Thelonious Monk. The world is catching up with Monk. In 1993 he won a posthumous Grammy and in 2002 a Pulitzer Prize special citation. He’s no doubt up there, doing it straight. . .no chaser.