When I was growing up in the 40′s and 50′s, I was surrounded by an early exposure of music. My dad, an electronic engineer, had a booth at the NY 1939 Worlds Fair on electronic sound, and was a visionary and innovator in his time. He loved classical music and always wanted to sing opera. Whereby, I was given 8 years of classical piano lessons. This is a short tribute to such a symphonic artistry of jazz, that I was so blessed to be a part of. No matter what I ever went through in my life, deaths to divorces, illness and pain, I received such joy in return from these wonderful artists I’ve loved for 60 years. These legends of this great jazz history are always in my heart, and I know God’s.
By the time I reached 13 years of age, before I even entered high school, I discovered Ella Fitzgerald. I would sing with this lovely lady for hours and hours at time, memorizing all her lyrics. I loved Ella. Then shortly thereafter, I discovered jazz. Eventually in my 20′s I was fortunate to see Ella perform live at least 7 times; the last in the late 60′s at the Americana in New York. Ella never read music, but her voice stayed young, clear and pure til the day she died. I saw no color back then, even though racism was all around us, it was not so prevalent up here in New Hampshire. I only heard the music, and the harmony….sounds. The singers I gravitated to then were not only Ella, but Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, June Christy, Chris Conners, Lena Horne, Mel Torme (the velvet fog). Sass had the widest voice range of any female jazz singer I knew until I heard later on, the English singer, Cleo Laine, singing with her husband, John Dankworth on piano.
About that time, there were several jazz movies that came out in the 50′s. Kirk Douglas starred in a movie “Young Man With A Horn”, about trumpet player Bix Biederbeck. Bix, it was told, like many trumpeters thereafter, always trying to reach that high note as did the Diz and Maynard. Then there also was Jack Webb’s movie, “Pete Kelly’s Blues”, in which Ella also had a part and sang, “Hard Hearted Hannah”. Webb was married to Julie London at that time, who later divorced him and married drummer, Bobbie Troup. I thrived on music. I remember doing a book report in high school on W. C. Handy and one on Louis Armstrong. I hung around with musicians, and bought our 45′s for the record hops that were also played in the gym at lunchtime. Then the unthinkable happened…Elvis , and rock and roll came. I was devastated as were all my young band leader friends and musicians. Whereby, I got fired. And rock came in, while I went out. One of my classmates, Gerry, eventually, went on with his trumpet to play in Vegas and even Woody Herman. If your still out there Gerry, with your daughter and grandkids, I wish you well, as I haven’t heard from you since our last class reunion.
But, the love of jazz all through these years, has never left me. Live in my 20′s I saw Ella as I said at least 7 times, Tony Bennett, Streisand live on Broadway in “Funny Girl”, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Xavior Cugat, Lionel Hampton, Bobby Darren, Anita O’Day, even Eddie Fisher when he could still sing. When I first saw Kenton, it was like an explosion of brass and sound, that was unbelievable. His artistry was so amazing. There was something about that big band sound, that was so awesome. Duke Ellington too, with those unforgetable chords, had such a sound, but, to hear his band play in person, was truly an experience. And the elegant ladies man he was, he came over to our table and kissed my hand. Can you imagine? Two years later, in his 70′s then, he died at 75. What a legacy these great artists and musicians left behind. Ella, later with severe diabetes, and both legs amputated, still wanted to sing, her voice never aging. She started a foundation to help children. Lady Day…the great Billie Holiday. (God Bless the Child). In an age when race was ramped,and cruel, to the KKK, Billie wrote “Strange Fruit”. Then Benny Goodman, vying for new sounds, hired arranger and Black musician Fletcher Henderson in an otherwise all-white band. And stick up for him in hotels they played even in Vegas, else if Fletcher couldn’t have a room they wouldn’t play the gig. I admired that. Some felt Louie sold out doing a lot of “white” tv shows, but no one was more active in civil rights and voiced it, than Louis. Music just radiated in my home growing up, and later as a young woman, then as a single mom; and as now, I saw no color…just those sounds, chords, symphonic interpretation and harmony..like the pieces of a puzzle, each musician knowing when to come in with his own soul…a melding artistry that worked. And their work from the early 1900′s and Fats Waller and Jellyroll Martin, to Wynton Marsalis today..It is timeless. It is not a fad…it has lasted over 100 years now, it IS American music, it IS as apple pie as Tin Pan Alley…AMERICA! As the patriotic days after WWI, with George M. Cohen, jazz has its legitimate place in American arts, and to me, nothing will take it’s place. I hope more than fads, anger, and hates, so obvious in rap, jazz makes a resurgence with youth.
Ten years ago I lost my youngest son, I had at 40, to suicide from depression and bi-polar disorder, failing to get help. I can’t tell anyone here what I went through for nearly 4 years. After he was born in 1980, I got saved, in 1982, having lost my father, another divorce, and no place else to go but up. During my long years in a charismatic church I was in, I was told, Christians and “that kind of music” has no place in the church. So, here is my argument. The Black gospel music came out of jazz and blues, (or visa versa), rock has infiltrated Christian music, classical for decades has been a part of Christian music, now even hip hop, so why not jazz?
For in my mourning, alone here for 3 years and no church…(For I couldn’t snap to …I couldn’t go back to the “norm”…I was broken..) But. even after delving in my oil painting again, and writing my books, I wasn’t ready to be with others. The mourning and pain was too great. My son broke my heart in two. But, little by little on here, and Youtube, God started giving me back the music I loved so deeply, that could say everything that was in my soul….jazz. I played Duke, and Miles Davis, trumpet talked to my soul in such pain. This wonderful American Jazz music IS as American as apple pie. And these artists were brilliant, and they spoke to my soul as nothing else could then.
I started listening to these musicians I loved and singers, from Ella, to Nancy Wilson, and my healing took place. I wasn’t in the praise mode…I’d faced the death of my 19 year old son, who blew himself up with 6 sticks of stolen dynamite in an awful deep depression and no one helped. No one could help me either, but God. I couldn’t go grocery shopping, and I’d go into convulsive tears. I couldn’t talk to friends, for no one knew what to say to me. But, the music of my musicians and singers, that spoke of pain, and loss, as well as joy, spoke to me and my heart. So, preachers your wrong. God is no respecter of persons. He grants some talents that are Christian after they have been saved, and He grants others talents, for unknown reasons…who are we to judge, and why? I am grateful to Winton Marsalas, and other newer young jazz artists, musicians, like pianist Tamir Hendlemen, that it is not dead. It lives on.
Nancy Wilson’s late husband was a preacher and had a church in LA. They both worked hard with the NAACP and aiding the underprivileged as does the foundation Ella Fitzgerald started that her son still runs. Nancy is saved. And no one sang about my Jesus than she, in “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”. Blind pianist and singer Diane Schuur is also saved, and I saw her years back in a Jimmy Swaggart telecast. I know she was told that she needed to give up her jazz as I was years ago when my son was small. She too, works hard with causes and Disabilities Rights. When you see one of my saved videos of her and Ray Charles on two piano’s, both blind. What excuse do we have for not using our talents? But, that music IS her soul. God gave her that music after all. And in one YouTube video I saw Joe Williams praying with Count Basie and the band before a performance. Jazz had a rough beginning. It has however, endured. It helped me heal, when the Christian alternative only drove me deeper in pain. For I wasn’t ready to jump up and down and be happy. My soul had a knife sticking into my heart.
We have Harry Connick, Jr with the Marsalas’s, Chris Botti and other young jazz artists now, breathing new life in this music.So, this and my You Tube site, is for all you jazz lovers out there…this is for you. Jazz is America, our Black culture as well. I saw no color at 13, and I see no color now at 70. So, I want to say this to all the lefty’s out there who are jazz musicians and singers. Look, I love you. I don’t care if your Black, Hispanic, purple, green or orange. I love your music and I love your sounds. You all got me through hell on earth, and did younger through divorces. I don’t agree with your politics, and with this President. I frankly don’t understand. For you, Nancy, your husband was a preacher…yet, you voted for pro choice. What about abortion and what God says? You are saved. I don’t understand the Black community giving $400 Billion dollars to Planned Parenthood, and as Rev. Childress says from New Jersey, it is Black genocide. A Black preacher against what Black’s are doing. So I don’t understand your hearts. I can be blind to the color of your skin, but, I cannot be blind to what the Bible calls us to do, act, and to be accountable. It is called moral absolutes. For Martin Luther King while sitting in a Birmingham jail, called abortion murder. So I don’t understand when even his niece speaks out against this administration.
You have all given me so very much in my lifetime, including the joy and peace I have now. But, I don’t want a Socialist government. I don’t want this health care bill. I’m not your enemy and I’m not a racist, by any way, shape or means. For I love you, just not what you stand for. And while I’m at it? I consider myself too, a Zionist, and love the Jew and Israel. Another peoples I don’t understand. The Left wing Communist Jew, that has voted and worked in this administration, that is turning against your own peoples – Israel. Did not God say you are the chosen peoples? For I believe too, as a Christian, that if America turns against Israel, so will God take His hands of protection off America. I am a patriot, after all. I have a history of ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War, and Civil War. I love my country…But, I don’t understand. The Bible says, “judge not lest ye be judged”, so I will leave it to Him.
For too, when we come to the throne of God, receive salvation, there are no color or race barriers, no Hispanic groups, no Black groups, no German groups, no Italian groups….If we truly come to the CROSS and receive Him as Savior, we are all equal, by the Blood at Calvary. All things passed away, the old man dead. Like when John Newton, a slave trader, who got saved and like Paul on the road to Tarsus, when God got a hold of Newton, he was a new man…..a slave trader no more, in true repentance, to write “Amazing Grace,” How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. For I am nothing without repentance and my Lord. But, through him, have received gifts and wisdom….insight I didn’t have young. So, my jazz artists and singers…know that this white grandma from New Hampshire, still loves your music, and how much it did for me. I love you, but, not your political stances that goes against everything moral I believe in. My prayers be with you….Like Clint Eastwood’s movie to Charlie Parker (the Bird)…I love you all forever. Finally too, there are some Christian jazz artists! Yes! I want you in Heaven with me one day..for Heaven’s going to be filled with music.. …and this here woman, would like some of it to be jazz…For I know that Louis Armstrong is up there now, giving the Archangel Gabrielle a good run on that horn. And one day soon in the not too distant future, I hope to see Ella again.
And when I go home to Jesus, this is one song I hope would be played in joy at my funeral, for it isn’t about death, but a celebration of life, going to the other side…in JOY! JOY! Joy too it will be..a NEW body in Christ…No more arthritic pain…GLORY!!! It will be a joyous place of celebration …and music.
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Louis Armstrong…a Tribute
and then my Ella….
Ella & Mel..no two people could scat like they could..their voices like an instrument….
The jazz piano’s of Michel Legrand and Oscar Peterson..
John Coltrane with Oscar Peterson
Born two years before me, in 1937, she is retired now, and last I’d heard too, suffered with a collapsed lung. One day, I hope I meet you and Ella in Heaven.
And the Duke…
Sarah Vaughn (Sass) doing Gershwin