Very often with famous entertainers, only the first name is sufficient for identification. This happens particularly in the genres of jazz and standard/popular music. When a hip person wants to say something about a well-known artist, they may refer to that artist as Sarah, Billie, Ella, or Carmen. The latter of course is a reference to Carmen McRae, dubbed by jazz critics, writers and fans, "The Singer’s Singer."
Louis Armstrong was to jazz what Einstein was to physics, King to Civil Rights, Shakespeare to comedy and tragedy, and Oprah to televised entertainment. He taught the trumpet to do things the instrument didn't know it was capable of doing, and he could turn a song upside down with that deep, gravelly voice; Armstrong's contributions to the advancement of jazz as an art form are inestimable. All this, accomplished by a man who was born into abject poverty at Liberty and Perdido streets in New Orleans' Third Ward - better known as "Storyville."
He stood five feet, two inches tall, and his musical colleagues dubbed him “Swee’ Pea,” after the little character in the Popeye cartoons. But Billy Strayhorn ranked with the giants that composed enduring standard popular music. He was also nobody’s cartoon character. The handle was a reverent tease, applied by Strayhorn’s musical associates in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
I don’t recall hearing much about Hank Mobley, until he recorded a certain record album in 1963. But, this was my fault for not listening closely enough to Philly’s all-jazz radio station that prevailed at the time. The station must have played Mobley often, because he was a hot jazz commodity about that time.
Duke Ellington was a fascinating figure—so much so that quite a number of books and shorter profiles of the man came to be during his time, and well after his passing. Writers were always peering over his shoulder, trying to get a fix on how he operated his band and made it so successful; they even attempted to poke into his personal life, which the Duke managed to keep fairly secret.
Mr. Bob Perkins, WRTI jazz host extraordinaire, turns 80 years old today. And for 50 of those years he's been on the radio to the delight of thousands and thousands of listeners. Happy Birthday BP! We love your GM...and you!
Do you have any anecdotes about BP you'd like to share? Any birthday wishes? Please let Bob know in the comments section below. Thanks!
Tommy Potter’s name wouldn’t get much attention in jazz circles these days...unless the gathering were comprised of musicians and jazz fans with high-mileage on their odometers. But there was a time when the mention of his name brought smiles and nods of recognition, along with enthusiastic approval.
A true jazz legend - vocalist Gloria Lynne - passed away on October 15th in Newark, New Jersey of a heart attack. She was 81.
Bob Perkins recalls how Philadelphians loved Gloria Lynne, even though she was a New Yorker, and celebrated her talent. Listen to BP's recollections of a multi-talented chanteuse, best known for her signature song, "I Wish You Love."
Join Bob Perkins as he broadcasts live from the Wiggins Park Sunset Jazz Series in Camden, NJ on Monday, August 5th at 6 pm. BP will bring you the usual GM from his regular summer post, right next to the big stage at Wiggins Park as the crowd awaits the night’s headliner, pianist Danilo Perez, who takes the stage at 8 pm. Expect to hear BP speak to the folks responsible for keeping this series alive for 22 years, and, if we’re lucky, the man himself, Danilo Perez.
Join Bob Perkins as he broadcasts live from the the Wiggins ParkSunset Jazz Seriesin Camden, NJ on Monday, July 15th at 6 pm. BP will bring you the usual GM from his regular summer post, right next to the big stage at Wiggins Park as the crowd awaits the night’s headliner, Lonnie Liston Smith & the Cosmic Echoes.