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NEA Jazz Master Dan Morgenstern Featured in the Harlem Speaks series Dan Morgenstern, Writer Mar. 8, 2007 at 6:30pm-8:30pm.
This discussion series is free to the public.
Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University since 1976, Dan Morgenstern is a jazz historian and archivist, author, editor, and educator active in the jazz field since 1958. As head of the Institute of Jazz Studies, he is responsible for the largest collection of jazz-related materials anywhere.
Hear this recent NEA Jazz Master discuss his life and career in jazz on March 8th at the new location for Harlem Speaks, the Museum of the City of New York, located at 1220 Fifth Avenue, off 104th Street.
Born in Germany and reared in Austria and Denmark, Morgenstern came to the United States in 1947. After editing the periodicals Metronome and Jazz, he became the New York editor of Down Beat in 1964 and served as editor-in-chief from 1967 to 1973. Morgenstern is co-editor of the Annual Review of Jazz Studies and the monograph series Studies in Jazz, published jointly by the IJS and Scarecrow Press, and author of Jazz People (DaCapo Press).
He has been jazz critic for the New York Post, record reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, and New York correspondent and columnist for England's Jazz Journal and Japan's Swing Journal. He has contributed to reference works including the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz and Dictionary of American Music, the African-American Almanac, and the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year; and to such anthologies as Reading Jazz, Setting the Tempo, The Louis Armstrong Companion, The Duke Ellington Reader, The Miles Davis Companion, and The Lester Young Reader.
Morgenstern has taught jazz history at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Brooklyn College (where he was also a visiting professor at the Institute for Studies in American Music), New York University, and the Schweitzer Institute of Music in Idaho. He served on the faculties of the Institutes in Jazz Criticism, jointly sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Music Critics Association, and is on the faculty of the Masters Program in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University.
Trombonist Bill Hughes, guest of Harlem Speaks on February 22, 2007, was born in Texas in 1930 in the midst of the Depression. But his life in jazz has been one of serendipity and joy, as he discussed with interviewer Greg Thomas, co-producer of the Harlem Speaks series.
Hughes's family moved to Washington, DC when he was nine years old. His father, who worked for the Bureau of Engraving, began playing the trombone, and performed in the Elks Club marching band. After attending rehearsals and marching band gigs with his dad, Hughes began playing the trombone at the age of 12 or 13.
His musical skills progressed rapidly, so much so that by 16 he was jamming at a jazz venue called the 7T Club--it was located at 7th and T Street. There he played with many great musicians, including his friend Frank Wess. During his last year in high school, his father took him to New York, where in 1947 or '48 he saw the Count Basie band live for the first time. Although he had heard the band on the radio, this live performance mesmerized him. Although he loved playing music, he didn't think that he would become a professional musician, especially after marrying his college sweetheart. He thought becoming a pharmacist would be his ticket to career stability, so he graduated from the Howard University School of Pharmacy in 1952. Hughes began working at the National Institute of Health under the direction of Dr. Arnold W. Pratt. Interestingly, Dr. Pratt would have the staff take breaks in which they would sight sing! By this time, Hughes was raising a family with his beloved wife Delores.
But in 1953, he got what he described as The Call." At the time, Hughes was still jamming with musicians in DC clubs such as the Howard Theater, and was noted for his prowess at swinging. His homeboy Frank Wess was performing with the renowned Count Basie Orchestra and had told the Count about Hughes when a need surfaced for another brass player for the trombone section. When Basie called and said that he had heard about him, and wanted him to come to try out for the band, Hughes thought it was a prank call. He hung up without committing to audition. Basie called right back for confirmation, and Hughes realized that it was actually the great man himself!
So he joined the Count Basie Orchestra in September 1953. Around this same time Hughes was also invited to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra but chose Basie where he would be more comfortable with friends like Frank, Eddie Jones and Benny Powell.
Hughes played the tenor trombone in a three-man section, which included Henry Coker and Benny. This section was at one time acclaimed as the best trombone section in jazz and their names appeared in several polls then popular in jazz magazines. During this period Hughes traveled the world with Basie, including the very first trip to Europe for the orchestra. It was also during this time period Basie was to record several of his timeless hits including Shiny Stockings", Corner Pocket" and the famous rendition of the classic April In Paris."
From September 1953 until September of 1957 Hughes performed continuously with The Count Basie Orchestra. He took a six year break from touring to help raise his family, working at the U.S. postal service. He returned to the road in July 1963. He took over the directorship of the ensemble in 2004, using the leadership skills he learned from the Count.
During the talk Hughes gave his memories of the 1930s Basie group called the Old Testament band as well as many recollections of the New Testament Basie band of the '50s, plus his thoughts on the mastery of musicians such as J.J. Johnson, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Clark Terry. He also reminisced in tempo about his dear friend and fellow Basie-ite Eric Dixon, the tenor saxophonist (born on the same day in the same year as Hughes) who in the mid-'60s urged Hughes to move his family to Staten Island, where he and his wife raised three children and remain until today.
The Harlem Speaks series, supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem's Executive Director, Loren Schoenberg, Co-Director Christian McBride, and Greg Thomas, host and co-producer of the web's only jazz news and entertainment television series, Jazz it Up! The Harlem Speaks series now will be housed at the Museum of the City of New York, located at 1220 Fifth Avenue (between 103rd and 104th Streets). Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm. This discussion series is free to the public.