Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Great Satchmo's signature! Posted by Hello

Louis Armstrong

Very few of my autographs weren’t obtained by me getting them from the artist in person. One of these exceptions is shown above – Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong [1901-1971].
Along with Duke Ellington, Armstrong would have to be considered the greatest musician in the music they call jazz. Since his influence is so pervasive, some have even argued that he could be considered the greatest, excluding any category.
My grandfather got this album cover signed when Armstrong and his band swung through Lancaster, California in (I believe) the late 1950s. It’s signed by Armstrong and his vocalist at the time, Jewel Brown.
When he was getting his affairs in order, he called me to come get some things - this album cover was one of the things he wanted to make sure went to me. Why is it only the cover? One of my uncles sat on the LP many years ago and broke it!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Concert Poster Posted by Hello

The autograph of Earl 'Fatha' Hines Posted by Hello

Earl 'Fatha' Hines

One of the reasons I chose UCLA was the large number of jazz concerts they held on campus (at either Royce Hall or Schoenberg Hall).
I saw Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines [1903-1983] on January 29, 1978. I went backstage before the concert to get his autograph. When the door was opened, the assistant told me to come back after the concert. While the door was open, I saw Hines seated at the piano with his back to me. He was warming up with his hands playing above the keyboard, not making a sound.
In collecting autographs, I used to have a special pen that I used. After the concert, I was one of the first ones there and I got my album autographed. The subsequent folks didn’t have pens. Hines asked could he ‘borrow’ my pen for the duration – of course I said yes. Who was I to refuse Earl Hines!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The announcement for Kenny Burrell's Ellingtonia class at UCLA, 1978 Posted by Hello

Kenny Burrell's note to me Posted by Hello

Kenny Burrell at his office at UCLA, c. 1981 (photo by Steve Bowie) Posted by Hello

Kenny Burrell

In the spring of 1978, announcements were made around the UCLA campus that guitar legend Kenny Burrell would be teaching a class on Duke Ellington entitled Ellingtonia. (The poster is shown above) Needless to say, I made sure I got a seat!
The class was being sponsored by the Center for Afro-American Studies rather than the Music Department. At the time, the Music Department had no use for modern classical music, let alone jazz music. Ironically, the Music Department is housed in Schoenberg Hall, named after the great 20th century modernist composer, Arnold Schoenberg [1874-1951], and at one time a teacher at UCLA. [A few years ago, the Music Department began to see the light (pun intended) and brought Mr. Burrell on as head of the Jazz Studies program. He’s brought people like Gerald Wilson and Harold Land onto the campus to teach.]
Kenny has a great knowledge of the music of Duke Ellington and a respect and awe that he is able to communicate to the students. One of the personal experiences he shared with us was having Ellington himself demonstrate some of the ideas he was working on for his Third Sacred Concert. (Ellington named Burrell his favorite guitarist). The classes were supplemented with guests like critic Leonard Feather, Ellington publicist Pat Willard and pianist/arranger Jimmy Jones. Informative and fun!
Not to brag, but I got an "A" in the class. After the quarter was over, Kenny called me into his office to ask me if I would like to be his teaching assistant for the subsequent classes. I don’t think I had to give that one any thought! So for my last 3 years at UCLA, I had a really cool job that added nothing to my engineering resume’. My duties consisted of lugging the record player and some of my albums to the class. I’d play music as the class walked in and during class play songs that illustrated the points Kenny was making. (It’s funny to think that I could do the same thing a whole lot better with my iPod hooked to some external speakers. I’d have access to a lot more music and wouldn’t have needed a dolly. Of course, I shouldn’t complain, it could have been stacks of 78s!) I was also available to answer questions for the students and did a little administrative stuff.
I also had the pleasure of meeting his mother. She came out from Detroit to see her son teach. It was amazing to see this woman, who was almost 90 at the time, climb 3 flights of stairs to a classroom with no effort.
Kenny is a genuinely modest guy. He’s played with literally every giant in the music business (John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, etc.) because he is a giant himself. He won’t go into this unless you ask him. As an example, rather than give me an autographed picture of himself, he gave me a framed picture of Duke Ellington and attached a note from himself to thank me for my efforts.
If there’s anyone that needs to write their autobiography, it’s Kenny Burrell. He has a great story to tell.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My autographed photograph of Sun Ra. This was taken at the Club Lingerie in Hollywood, CA. (photo by Steve Bowie)Posted by Hello

Sun Ra conducting his Arkestra, San Juan Capistrano, CA September, 1986 (photo by Steve Bowie) Posted by Hello

"I have many names. Names of mystery. Names of splendor. Names of shame. Some call me Mister Ra, others call me Mister Ree. But you can call me Mister Mystery." - Sun Ra (photo by Steve Bowie)

Posted by Hello

Sun Ra

Seeing Sun Ra and his Arkestra live was an event like no other. I saw him for the first time in 1981 at a place called Myron’s Grand Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles. It was the first time he had played L.A. in about 14 years. Sun Ra’s line up at that show was very unusual; he had 6 reeds, 1 trumpet, 1 trombone, himself on keyboards and 3 trap drummers! The band played for 3 and a quarter hours without an intermission. Sun Ra came to the LA area fairly regularly after that and I caught him pretty much every time.
You’ll notice that Sun Ra was never seen in any photograph without some kind of intergalactic hat. In the Sun Ra biography "Space Is The Place," the author said that Sun Ra was bald. I was able to go backstage at the Club Lingerie to get him to autograph one of the photographs I had taken of him at a previous engagement there (see above). He was relaxing before the performance and didn’t have a hat on. I can testify that Sun Ra had a full head of hair – and it was dyed the same bright orange as his beard!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dizzy Gillespie (photo by Steve Bowie) Posted by Hello

Dizzy Gillespie

Trumpeter bandleader composer John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie [1917-1993]was one of the founding fathers of the music that was called ‘Be-Bop." Besides being a great musician, he was genuinely funny!
Dizzy played the Los Angeles area fairly often and I was able to see him many times. The picture above was taken at Disneyland in 1983. When I saw him at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in 1985, I got him to autograph it.