Jazz, blues & beyond in Amman: Pops, Bird, Diz, Lady Day @ UJordan

I spoke on jazz and blues at the University of Jordan, a modern 45,000-student institution, in an event sponsored by the American Embassy while in Amman on family matters a couple weeks ago. About 50 avid students of music, arts and literature and their informed faculty watched videos of Louis Armstrong at age 32 doing "Dinah," Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie playing "Hot House," Billie Holiday with all-stars singing "Fine and Mellow" and Muddy Waters among other immortals from the American Folk Blues Festival, 1962-69, vol. … [Read more...]

Robert Johnson on speed

Musicologists are convinced blues icon Robert Johnson's recordings as released are 20% faster than he performed in two solo sessions in 1936 and 1937. It's unclear whether they were sped up intentionally (to push their excitement, which seems hardly necessary) or accidentally at some point in the chain between microphone and pressing plant. What is obvious is that since only 11 of the 41 existent Johnson takes were issued by Vocalion on 78 rpm discs during his lifetime (and one posthumously), his complete documented repertoire of 29 tunes … [Read more...]

Blues lyrics: write to win

For tickets to Jazz at Lincoln Center this weekend or a dvd of Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson performing live, try writing a blues. How hard can it be?"Minutes seem like hours, hours seem like days,Seems my baby would stop her lowdown ways" -- Muddy Waters, "Country Blues" "Woke up this morning, looked 'round for my shoesYou know I had those mean old walkin' blues" -- Robert Johnson, "Walkin' Blues" . "Whoa, oh tell me babyWhere did ya stay last night? An' why don't ya hear me cryin'?Whoo hoo, whoo whoo, Whoo who. . . " -- Howlin' Wolf, … [Read more...]