Category Archives: Nat King Cole

Playlist #1: A Brief History of Jazz Piano (Part 1, 1900-1945)

Dear Friends,

Here’s the first playlist of audio and video clips from my recent series of talks on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 about the history and development of the piano in jazz. This expanded playlist corresponds to my talk, “From Jelly Roll to Nat King Cole,” covering the dawn of jazz, circa 1900, to the birth of the modern jazz piano trio. It includes fascinating and entertaining performances by Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Fats Waller, and so many more. Enjoy, and I welcome your feedback!

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Filed under Allen Morrison, Blue Note Jazz at Sea, Cunard, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, Nat King Cole, Queen Mary 2, Willie "the Lion" Smith

The Sound of Film to Come (The Guardian)

The Sound of Jazz to Come (Guardian)

Here’s my first piece for The Guardian: a look back on the history of jazz-on-film – the good, the bad and the ugly – pegged to the forthcoming release of two remarkable films about jazz. “Born to be Blue,” with Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker, opens March 25. Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead,” about you-know-who, opens April 1.

The article includes a list of my five favorite films about jazz and jazz musicians. The Guardian didn’t have room for my honorable mentions, but here they are:

  • Keep On Keepin’ On (2014) – poignant, inspirational documentary about the great trumpeter Clark Terry and his star pupil, the blind pianist Justin Kauflin;
  • Mo’ Better Blues (1990) – Spike Lee’s serious attempt to portray the lives of modern jazz musicians, with stirring music by the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Terrence Blanchard);
  • Ray (2004) – Taylor Hackford’s conventional but still exhilarating biopic about Ray Charles, with a pull-all-the-stops-out performance by musician/actor Jamie Foxx; and
  • Robert Altman’s Kansas City (1996) – Despite jazz being somewhat peripheral to the rather hackneyed crime story, it includes one of the best sequences of live jazz ever filmed, a cutting contest between Coleman Hawkins (saxophonist Craig Handy) and Ben Webster (saxophonist James Carter).

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Filed under Bing Crosby, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Clark Terry, Craig Handy, Dexter Gordon, Don Cheadle, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, Robert Glasper