Remembering Bernard Stollman, Founder of ESP-Disk

courtesy/ ESP-Disk
courtesy/ ESP-Disk

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Bernard Stollman. As a New York Times obit by Nate Chinen begins:

Bernard Stollman, whose staunchly independent record label, ESP-Disk, provided an indispensable chronicle of the free jazz of the 1960s, and a series of provocations from the psychedelic counterculture, died on Monday in Great Barrington, Mass. He was 85.

The case was heart failure related to complications of prostate cancer, his brother Steve said.

In tribute, here’s a 2010 piece I did for The Wall Street Journal:

The sign outside the Universal Outreach Ministries of Deliverance on Bedford Road, just off DeKalb Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, quotes Scripture. The one across the street, atop a nondescript storefront, says this: “You never heard such sounds in your life.”

Continue reading “Remembering Bernard Stollman, Founder of ESP-Disk”

At 50, The AACM Keeps Collecting Individuals


The Muhal Richard Abrams Sextet, circa 1972/ courtesy AACM

Greetings from New Orleans, where the annual Jazz & Heritage Festival begins tomorrow. And where, courtesy of something called the “United States Postal Service’s Jazz Fest Postal Cache,” those of us packed into the new (and quite nice) performance space at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center got a three-song set from the original Meters—keyboardist Art Neville, bass player George Porter, Jr., drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste and guitarist Leo Nocentelli.
New Orleans is in Louisiana, a state whose governor, Bobby Jindal, has an Op-Ed. piece in today’s New York Times compelled by his apparent concern for “the musicians, caterers, photographers and others” contracted for same-sex weddings,” because, as he writes “a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses.”
Well, Mr. Jindal, guys like Zigaboo appear to live faith through his business, but that business is about funkiness as a belief system, not bigotry masquerading as religiosity. (But I digress…)
Speaking of faith-based endeavors (faith placed in the power of music and art and education and social justice) below is my piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal honoring the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), which turned 50 this year. If you’re in Chicago, where the group was founded, head to Mandel Hall for a celebratory concert on Sunday.
If you’re in NY, where there’s a notable chapter, try Manhattan’s Bohemian Hall April 28&29 for some notable concerts, including a rare trio of George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell).
Here’s my Wall Street Journal piece marking the AACM’s 50th in The Wall Street Journal: Continue reading “At 50, The AACM Keeps Collecting Individuals”

Old Friends, Deep Truths and New Music at the Annual NEA Jazz Masters Awards

NEA Chairman Jane Chu with 2015 NEA Jazz Masters Charles Lloyd, Carla Bley, George Coleman, and Joe Segal at the NEA Jazz Masters Reunion Luncheon, hosted by BMI. Photo by Michael G. Stewart

I checked neither raincoat nor briefcase on my way into Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall for the annual National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award Ceremony and Concert.
But I did check my cynicism—I always do for this thing.
My thoughts and some excerpts from the acceptance speeches here.

Remembering Dale Fitzgerald, Founder of New York's Jazz Gallery

Dale Fitzgerald/ photo courtesy of Ingrid Hertfelder

Dale Kelley Fitzgerald, who co-founded New York’s prestigious Jazz Gallery in 1995 and was its Executive Director until 2009, died on March 20 at Calvary Hospital in Bronx, N.Y., after a long struggle with cancer. He was 72.

Writer Ted Panken described Dale accurately in an obituary distributed by Fitzgerald’s family:

“A strapping man with a well-trimmed goatee, Mr. Fitzgerald possessed an impeccably cool demeanor, a fiery spirit, ample amounts of personal charisma, and a pedagogical bent that emerged during pre-concert introductions that he delivered in an authoritatively resounding baritone voice.”

(That full obit, which is worth reading, can be found at the end of this post.)

I’ll write at greater length about Dale, probably in connection with what promises to be a large and moving memorial later this Spring at the Jazz Gallery. (Stay tuned: For now, in lieu of flowers or other gifts in the wake of Dale Fitzgerald’s passing, his family is asking that donations be made to his son Gabriel’s education fund, HERE.)
So I’ll just speak a bit from my heart and my archives here, with more to come.
Dale was a major force and influence in my career, on matters both very large and even very tiny. His work transformed the environment for New York City jazz during a formative period in my own jazz life, and a transitional moment in New York’s scene. During my first trip to Cuba, in the late 1990s, Dale was not only  my man on the ground, but he managed to change that place a bit, too. Dale hipped me to what was what in Havana, and he ended up getting me to write the liner notes for Roy Hargrove’s Grammy-winning “Habana” album. Dale was a gentleman and a scholar, a cool cat of a type they don’t really issue anymore. So he taught me important lessons in life. Plus, he was a true basketball head. He loved a lot of things, including people who were for real. And I loved him. Continue reading “Remembering Dale Fitzgerald, Founder of New York's Jazz Gallery”