I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 26 August 2016

Recollections Of Fado And Jazz

Lee Morgan (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
Vagabonde is a blog friend of mine and writes the blog Recollections of a Vagabonde. Recently she made some fascinating comments on my posts about fado and jazz. They were so interesting that I'm reproducing them here with her permission. (I thought many of you may have missed them, and they really are too good to miss.)

Vagabonde lives in Atlanta, Georgia, but was born and raised in Paris. Her mother was a French Parisian and her father an Armenian from Istanbul. She emigrated to the USA, to San Francisco, in the 1960s, and lived there for ten years. She has been back to Paris more than sixty times since then, and has dual citizenship.

I heard Amália Rodrigues in the 1950s and bought many 45 records of hers. She was very famous in France and was often on French TV. I have loved fado music because of her for decades and even studied some Portuguese so I could understand its lyrics. I appreciate saudade and feel it when I miss my other country and original language. I also went to Lisbon specially to hear the music live and visit the fado museum. Another great singer is Maria Teresa de Noronha, a Portuguese aristocrat. If you don’t know her, go on YouTube and you’ll be able to listen to her great voice – she was a traditional fado singer. Portuguese brought me also to Cesária Évora, a great Cape Verde traditional singer. I was able to watch her live in Paris the year before she passed away. 

My, oh my  — to represent jazz it would be hard for me to decide who to include. I started to listen to jazz in the late 1950s and went to jazz clubs in Paris and London at that time. Also being in Paris it was easy to go and watch Duke Ellington, Mile Davis, Sidney Bechet and others when they came there. Also in Paris I used to go and watch Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – I have several records signed by him. One of the main reasons I went to the US was to listen to jazz, live. In New York I listened to several jazz greats at the Village Vanguard.

My first four months in San Francisco were spent, every night, at the Blackhawk Jazz Club in the Tenderloin district, where I saw the MJQ, Lee Morgan, Horace Silver and others. One of my all time favourites is Thelonious Monk, but I also like Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan in the cool jazz style. I spent my first Thanksgiving at the home of Earl 'Fatha' Hines in Oakland - I believe Coltrane was there, and maybe Philly Joe Jones, Charlie Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Paul Chambers, but that was a long time ago – I forget. Then in North Beach there was the Jazz Workshop where I saw Dizzy Gillespie (who tried to pick me up!); Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner and John Coltrane were all regulars there too. Carmen McRae was singing there as well. Then, after that, I think starting in 1965 in San Francisco, both the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom featured both jazz musicians and rock 'n' roll like Janice Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Co. Nice to remember all this (I still have all my Blue Note 33 LPs).

I was raised with music – my father had a player piano in my bedroom and as a child I would listen to Scott Joplin’s rags (in-between Chopin’s waltzes!) Then, later, when I visited London, I would go to all the New Orleans type places in Soho. When I went to school in London I would also go once a week to a pub that had great jazz. Have you read my 2011 blog post A New Year Party to Remember? It mentions jazz in London. 

In Paris at that time there was a radio station, Europe No. 1, that had started a broadcast called Pour Ceux Qui Aiment le Jazz one hour every evening (Monday night modern jazz, Tuesday night New Orleans jazz, Wednesday night a concert, and so on.) That is where I learnt a lot about jazz and all the musicians. It would advertize where you could go and hear jazz musicians in Paris. The show would start with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers playing Blues March for Europe No.1 (I still know it by heart, and my heart jumps when I hear it . . . You can listen to it here.) Lee Morgan played trumpet in this piece. It’s funny that I saw Lee Morgan many times in San Francisco after that, and became friendly with his girlfriend. We would sit together at the club listening to him. In Paris I also had a subscription to the magazine Jazz-Hot, a French magazine on jazz, started in 1935. In my circle then, in Paris and London, I was a lot more into jazz than in the US. France has always been strong on jazz since WWI, when the US black musicians who had been fighting the war stayed in Paris to avoid the racism back home. There are some interesting books about this. I still listen to jazz.

Saudade: A Portuguese term for a state of deep emotional longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.

MJQ: Modern Jazz Quartet.

3 comments:

Vagabonde said...

I am humbled that you would show my comments on a post. At the same time I don’t think your readers will find much interest in the reminiscences of a senior. After a long life, we all have many memories - but thank you.

dritanje said...

Vagabonde - you are so wrong with this reader! It is the older people who have the most fascinating memories, especially if they extend beyond the time of your own life memories or even if not, they are different, and of a different world. I often ask my older friends for their memories, and you are not the first to say something like - oh but you wouldn't be interested in this - but I am, very much so. And I regret now that I did not ask my mother more questions about her life, before she died.

And thank you Robert for posting this. I know next to nothing about jazz music myself. And I have a book of jazz poems to review....

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I agree, Morelle. I love memories and stories, and people with rich long life histories often have the best!