Our new series, Jazz for Dabblers, is all about helping you amaze and astound your pals with your jazz knowledge. It's a roundup of some of the fun and/or oddball little stories behind the great music of jazz, written in retellable ways just for you. Below are three stories to get you started.
Crowning the 'king'
Have you ever wondered how Nat Cole became Nat "King" Cole? When Cole was just a young man, he wanted to simply be a great piano player. But he was playing in a nightclub in L.A. in 1938 when a drinky customer asked him to sing. At first he refused, and then the nightclub owner insisted – or else. So Cole sang and, at the end of the song, he was immediately approached by the nightclub owner, who put a tinsel crown on his head and said, “I now crown you Nat King Cole.” This is the song Cole sang that got him crowned: "Sweet Lorraine."
Green with red breath
When Miles Davis hand-picked his band members; he said he “didn’t care if they were green and had red breath,” just as long as they could play. When Davis hired Bill Evans to play piano, some of his black friends took offense. They wondered why Davis would hire a white piano player over a black piano player but, as Davis knew, the proof was in a musician's ability to play his or her instrument, not in the colour of skin. Here's an example of Davis with Evans at piano: "On Green Dolphin Street."
Winner of best male jazz voice
Who has the best male voice in jazz? When pianist Ralph Sharon goes to work he plays piano for Tony Bennett, and has done so for 40 years. But another singer blew Sharon away even more than Bennett – Johnny Hartman. Sharon recorded in 1955 with Hartman, and never forgot it. He said that Hartman had the best voice he’d ever heard on a male singer. Here’s a sample of the incredible voice of Hartman: the best male voice in jazz.
Got any good jazz anecdotes you'd like to share? Please let me know, in the comments below, and I'll include them in a future instalment of Jazz for Dabblers. (Jabblers?)
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The Baroness: Friend of Charlie Parker
J is for Jazz, and also for Jelly Roll Morton
on Jul 16, 2012