Author Archives: Ratzo B. Harris

The Second Oldest Profession? (Part 2)

The voice of San Francisco native Mary Stallings, who came to national prominence with the 1961 recording Cal Tjader Plays, Mary Stallings Sings, is still a marvel of precision and technique that has been presented for the last 24 years, three nights a week, at the downtown San Francisco restaurant Bix.

The Second Oldest Profession? (Part 1)

Drummer Pete “La Roca” Sims, a man who exemplified a philosophy of music that ran counter to the corporate culture that established and disseminated jazz as America’s music, lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 74 on Monday, November 19. Best known as the original drummer in the John Coltrane Quartet, Sims later also played an important role in jazz history as a lawyer, assisting attorney Paul Chevigny in changing New York City’s oppressive cabaret laws in the 1980s.

Try To Remember

Playing music interpreted from even the most detail-oriented notation includes elements of improvisation (especially when sight reading). So improvisation is ubiquitous; it always comes down to a matter of degree. But we live in a world where things are most easily explained or taught in relation to binaries, such as: good/bad, high/low, left/right, or right/wrong.

Helping Ourselves

Last night, Le Poisson Rouge in New York City’s Greenwich Village staged a benefit concert-revue, Jazz for Hurricane Sandy Relief, to aid musicians in the New York area who lost everything, or nearly everything, during the hurricane’s assault.

That Special Something

I think it’s obvious that ingesting mood- and mind-altering substances has an immediate and noticeable impact on a person’s creative output. I discovered about 17 years ago that my best strategy is to keep it to coffee or tea; even too much sugar has a negative impact on my playing!

Pop Music?

It’s not at all uncommon that the instruments musicians travel to work with become damaged or even lost. The mostly unwritten anthology of musician road stories is loaded with instances where instruments are sat upon, driven over, and misused.

For the Love

This year’s fundraiser for the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund, presented at the Cotton Club’s current incarnation in Harlem, was a finely sculpted presentation featuring some high-energy performances.

Grist for the Mills

Misunderstanding can almost blind us to what is really going on, but it is also a powerful thing and can lead to rhetorical questions that are worth thinking about from time to time.

The Best Laid Plans

The case of Ellingtonian misattribution is an example of professional symbiosis where both parties have something to gain from the obfuscation of authorship, one that only deceives the public and whatever higher power(s) might have something to say about it in the hereafter. It appears to be, or have been, a fairly common practice.

Let’s Go Team!

While the works of Western music are generally credited to specific individuals, it can be said that no music is about a single individual; it’s a team effort. The overlay of that on the musics of subaltern American cultures has opened the door for a variety of phenomena that would not exist otherwise, such as the tradition of authorship misattribution that exists in the history of jazz.