Be Bop, Swing, Drugs and Fusion: Part I

Jelly Roll Morton and his band, discussing their new release BloodSugarSexMagix

I received these by email a little while ago. They are (apparently) quotes from American students in a college jazz history class, extracted from the essay topic, “What I learned over this semester in jazz history.” These are all (apparently) genuine responses, completely unaltered.

They are all 18+ year old students; not high school or middle school age kids. None of them are music students; they all took this class as a gen. ed. credit.


“Free Jazz is an era that I wished I had never learned about.”

“Free Jazz. Wow; what a sound it makes. An awful, horrible sound. I don’t see how that can actually be called a sound. My 5 year old nephew could pound on the piano and make the same sound! He may even make a better sound. To be honest, that sound is one big mess.”

“With swing, it’s kind of up in the air for me. I must say I tried like hell to keep up with it.”

“My favorite jazz has a bluesy, Mexican feel to it.”

“Though Jazz started in New Orleans, it traveled all around the world picking up and dropping off things along the way.”

“One thing that confused me was Jelly Roll Morton. Did he play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? I didn’t think that they were around back then.”

“Jelly Roll (Morton) bridged the gap between piano and ragtime.”

“My grandpa likes it, but I think scat stinks.”

“Chick Corea, Dizzie Gillespie, Bix Biderbeck, and the monk created the first cool group.”

“I wished Don Cherry would put his trumpet back in his pocket.”

“There is not enough space in my head to fit all that I learned.”

“This class taught me about a lot of things that I never knew about.”

“Some of the big jazz musicians we learned about were: Lous Armstrong, Duke, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Cillespic, T. Mark, Ken Barns, Buddy Baldwin, Jellyroll Mortin, Sydney Bichai, Fats Waller, Earl Hines, and many many more.”

“Coming into class on the first day, I assumed there would be a boring professor standing in front of the class droning on and on about jazz. Here’s where it started; this is who played it; and here we are today; blah, blah, blah. I now realize that my assumption wasn’t all that wrong.”

“I assumed that jazz had started in the African-American community only because it fulfilled a multi-cultural course that I was required to take.”

“I really enjoyed hearing the big band, Frank Foster’s Arrangement.”

“I learned in this class that, contrary to my mom’s opinion, Kenny G is a joke. A really non-funny one.”

“I fell in love with that tune, Stablemates. It really hits home.”

“Jazz musicians don’t play for women any more.”

“I learned that going to jazz concerts gets me in good with my girlfriend.”

“I learned a lot about Be Bop, Swing, Drugs, and Fusion.”

“I found new respect for Miles Davis. He was adamant about not using drugs when everyone else was trying to get him to try some.”

“I liked hearing the Original Dixieland (Jazz) Band, and how they were the original Dixieland band.

“You might want to mention to future classes that jazz brings true romance to a scene.”

“I’m glad I took this class, because I feel more comfortable to talk about jazz in its awesomeness.”

Put it back in your pocket, Don.

“Drugs caused many artists their careers in many ways.”

“Jazz is a style of music that is almost very sober.”

“I figured jazz started in the 1960s, but to my surprise, it started back in the late 18th century.”

“Smooth jazz now just plain old angers me.”

“A lot of the things that I learned were facts that I never new about, not only in jazz, but in life as well.”

“I got really excited by the tenor sax, soprano sax, baritone sax, but not so much the alto sax.”

“I can’t believe that blacks had time to invent jazz if they were hanging out in the whorehouses with Jelly Roll Morton.”

“A lot of black jazz musicians were very talented, which probably came from them not having anything else to do.”

“When blacks and whites finally decided to get together to make jazz, it was a big hit.”

“Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz were two guys who would sit down and enjoy cool jazz.”

“Going to the club gave me jazz sensations.”

“I hear the hard-bop jazz influence on bands today such as Matchbox Twenty and Dave Matthews Band.”

“James Crow worked to bring the slaves together with the creoles.”

“Learning jazz has helped me beat my mom at Jeopardy. She had no idea who a blind pianist from Toledo, OH was for $800.”

“I learned the definition of supreme technical virtuosity is to play like Louie Armstrong.”

“Charlie Parker was a famous jazz musician who played saxophonists.”

“Getting 81% (on a test) is all well and good until you see that dumb guy next to you who picks his nose getting 91%. I then started studying and coming to class.”

“I asked the drummer what the names of the names and styles of the tunes that he played but he didn’t seem to know.”

“TV has become more jazzy to me now.”

“Studying jazz has been a coming out party for me.”

“I loved the vibrational solos of Clifford Brown.”

“When I think of tradition and instruments, I think of Fiddler of the Roof.”

“I learned a lot from the different guest speakers in class, whether they were an experienced piano player, a director of music at a major motel, or a guitar player with an oddly placed hankerchief in his pocket.”

Clifford Brown: vibrational

Freddie and Me

Freddie Hubbard, 1938 – 2008

Rochester, NY – 1976 (Image: Tom Marcello)

Freddie Hubbard – Keep Your Soul Together (Excerpt)
From Keep Your Soul Together: CTI [Buy]

There was a time when I didn’t know who Freddie Hubbard was.

I was just starting to learn about jazz. A friend’s father (himself a well-known pianist and jazz broadcaster around town) thrust two dusty cassettes into my hand, which I duly took home and thrashed to death in my bedroom.

One tape was a copy of Miles’ Someday My Prince Will Come. The other was Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles. The Herbie tape had a hastily scribbled playlist and personnel listing: Herbie… Ron … Tony… Freddie. Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, I’d heard of. But this Freddie guy… playing the … cornet?

Pretty soon Freddie Hubbard was a familiar sound in my house. His solos from that album – on One Finger Snap, Oliliquy Valley – were melodies I could sing in the shower. At that time, all trumpet players sounded fresh and exciting to me. Lee Morgan, Wynton Marsalis, Clifford Brown were all early additions to a small trove of cassettes that filled the family home with sound on evenings and weekends and annoyed my sister in her room down the hallway.  Freddie, with his loud-high hard bop style, probably annoyed her more than most.

At university we formed little jazz bands that played cafés around town. Somehow we managed to persuade the owners that we were actually good, and sometimes the owners even paid us.  By that time, we had discovered Freddie’s early 1970s recordings for CTI, and Red Clay inevitably ended up on our setlist.   We played it EVERY gig. Along with Chameleon, Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and a couple of Cole Porter ballads.

And then one January day, one of the band was killed in an accident. He was the youngest of us. Hell, the oldest of us was only 23.  We put together a band that played at his funeral.  Stevie arrived there before us, and we did our soundcheck next to his coffin. We played four songs before the start of the service. One of them was Red Clay.

Now Freddie Hubbard’s gone too, to join the ever-expanding jam session in the sky.  Through his most powerful recorded work (from, say, 1961 to 1975) many of his phrases have spun themselves into the DNA of all young jazz trumpet players today.  I never got to see him play live, but more than most trumpeters, it felt like I knew him a little bit through his records and the way they influenced me and my bandmates.   So, thanks, Freddie.  We’ll remember you.