Other Places: Avakian’s Archive, Coltrane’s Horn, Shaw’s Story, A Call For Help

george_avakianNew York City’s Library for the Performing Arts announces that it has received the archives of George Avakian, who supervised some of the most influential jazz recordings of the past 70 years. At first as a student working part time for Columbia Records and then as an executive at Columbia and, later, RCA, Avakian was responsible for recordings by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, among dozens of other artists. The library will catalog his personal papers as well as unissued recordings. It will also have the archives of Mrs. Avakian, the prominent classical violinist Anahid Ajemian. Avakian celebrated his 95th birthday on March 15. For details, see this story in The New York Times.

Coltrane’s Horn

In another important bequest, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane has presented his father’s tenor saxophone to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American National History. It is the instrument that the senior Coltrane most likely used when his quartet recorded A Love Supreme in 1965. The album not only became one of Coltrane’s biggest sellers but also one of the most potent musical statements of the post bebop era, influencing countless musicians to take new directions. In another gift to the museum, photographer Chuck Stewart donated more than two dozen images he made of Coltrane, some at the A Love Supreme session, others never published. You will find a story about Coltrane’s saxophone here, and one about the Stewart pictures here, both on the Smithsonian website. Here are the “Acknowledgement” section of A Love Supreme and Stewart’s cover photograph for the album.

Shaw’s Story

The poignant muted trumpet on “Flamingo” in Charles Mingus’s 1957 album Tijuana Moods was by Clarence Shaw, a Detroiter whose career derailed for a time, in part because of Mingus. More about Shaw in a moment, but first let’s listen to his most famous solo.

By the time RCA finally released that music in 1962, Shaw had rebuilt his career, altered his first name, moved to Chicago and began recording again. There remains a good deal of mystery surrounding his story, which is nicely told by Thomas Cuniffe on his Jazz History Online website. To read it, go here.

One Other Thing: This Is Important

The survivors across the mountains from us in the little community of Oso are hurting, inOso-mudslide-3287936 every conceivable way. The physical and emotional devastation caused by that gigantic mudslide last week has them reeling. They are in need of just about everything. Washington state’s governor, Jay Inslee, is making a plea for help. He says that the best way to provide it is through the American Red Cross. Go here to see the governor’s message—and how you can pitch in. Thank you.

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  1. Bill Benjamin says


    Thanks for the link to Thomas Cunniffe’s piece Gene Shaw. Being a native Chicagoan, I got to hear Shaw and Sherman Morrison at The Wise Fools Pub on Lincoln Avenue in 1970. I can’t recall the rhythm section, but both horn players sounded great.

  2. Frank Roellinger says

    I was not surprised to learn that Clarence Shaw was another alumnus of the incredibly fertile jazz scene of Detroit in the 1940s and 1950s. A lot of his music is on YouTube, including the complete “Debut in Blues”, which I found much to my liking.

    Thanks for this blog post and mentioning the needs of the survivors of Oso, an overwhelming tragedy.

    • David says

      Frank, I’m so glad that you pointed out that Shaw’s 2nd album can be found on youtube. The third album is there also, just posted as separate tracks. The first is the only one to be reissued on cd and it’s a real gem! (Cunniffe’s piece includes a link to this, as well as a link for expensive used LPs of the 2nd album.) I seem to remember reading somewhere that Morrison had recorded with Coltrane (in a trio setting?) but, if so, that doesn’t seem to have ever been issued.

  3. Gerard Daily says

    There was a book published in 1976 entitled What Really Happened to the Class of ’65 by Michael Medved. One of the ladies interviewed was living with Clarence when he died and really had no idea who he was or what kind of music he played.

  4. dave bernard says

    Am I correct in recalling that Mr Avakian was in posession of the unreleased video of the 1958 Newport Jazz Fest? That just sat for years while various parties debated over ultimate rights. I think there are about 40 performances (only 12 in the movie) over four days. Bert Stern asserted that Avakian was the primary impediment to the release of further material. Many years ago, Avakian was reportedly tentatively putting something together. The audio is stereo, too.

  5. dave bernard says

    Just took a look at last years documentary on Bert Stern in which Mr Stern says that the Jazz On A Summer’s Day film is in his collection. Stern still hadn’t decided where he was going to archive all his work as of a year before he died, so lord knows where that stuff is. His comment does differ from a much earlier interview when he said that the Avakian Brothers had the Festival prints. Either way, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a party interested in putting everything in organized form; perhaps even removing a lot of the secondary material such as all the America’s Cup footage, and antics of besotted college kids that digress from the business at hand.

  6. Greg Avakian says

    This is from Greg Avakian, George’s son. My dad just got out of the hospital, so he is not really able to give this any attention, but when I asked him about it, he did tell me that he never had the extra film footage and it isn’t part of the archive. My father also said that he was reasonably sure that Bert Stern had the prints and the rights to them.