The Troy Street Observer

The Joe Gordon Story, Part 2: Hard Bop

Joe Gordon replaced Clifford Brown in Art Blakey’s pre-Messengers group in early 1954. That band, with alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce, pianist Walter Bishop, Jr. and bassist Bernie Griggs, recorded the album Blakey for EmArcy in May. Gordon stayed with Blakey for about six months.

Photo of Introducing Joe Gordon album cover
Introducing Joe Gordon, EmArcy MG26046, 1954

In September, with Blakey, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, pianist Junior Mance, and bassist Jimmy Schenck, Joe recorded for the first time as a leader, also for EmArcy. The album, a 10-inch LP, was titled Introducing Joe Gordon.

The album’s reviews were mixed. Down Beat’s Nat Hentoff praised it (April 6, 1955), writing: “Gordon, though still a little unsteady…unleashes a power and a comet-like imagination that heralds one of the exciting newer voices of the year…All in all, a bracing sample of somewhat raw but always moving jazz.”

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Super Tuesday Special: Dizzy for President

Photo of Dizzy Gillespie
“Goldwater was running against Johnson… but at the time, I didn’t think there was any choice. I was the only choice for a thinking man.”

So it’s Super Tuesday and the electoral circus has come to Massachusetts, and this year it’s brought along even more clowns than usual. We can’t keep the clowns out of the circus, but sometimes genuine humorists—Will Rogers, Gracie Allen, Pat Paulsen—make the trip too. Today, though, I’d like to remember one who brought us mirth, but with it a serious platform. That was John Birks Gillespie, and the year was 1964.

Gillespie was asked why he was running for President. His answer: “Because we need one.”

Dizzy’s campaign began when the Associated Booking Agency started passing out “Dizzy Gillespie for President” buttons. When one was visible on a prominent lapel during the 1963 March on Washington, a few people, including Gillespie, saw an opportunity to spread a message. Before long, there was a John Birks Society in California working to get him on the 1964 ballot. He had a campaign manager, Jeannie Gleason, and a campaign publicist, her husband, the journalist Ralph Gleason.

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Oct 19, 1947: The New Jazz Comes to Boston

Symphony Hall was a busy place for jazz in 1947. Lionel Hampton, Jack Teagarden and Max Kaminsky, the orchestras of Jimmie Lunceford and Sy Oliver, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, and Jazz at the Philharmonic were among the shows presented earlier that year. But the night of October 19 brought something entirely new.

Dizzy Gillespie concert program cover
Things to Come: Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra at Symphony Hall

In fact, that’s what the concert was called: “The New Jazz,” and the music was provided by Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra. In addition, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, featuring Charlie Parker, played five tunes. Parker did not perform with the orchestra.

Gillespie had been to Boston before this in his big band days, and perhaps Parker had as well. But this was Gillespie’s first appearance in Boston as a bandleader, and it was the first time Gillespie and Parker were in Boston as the “high priests of bebop,” or whatever label it was that the press slapped on them. But labels aside, this was the first major-venue modern jazz concert in Boston. There would be more shows, and soon.

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