Summer in the City: July with Pops, The King and More

My sincerest thanks go out to all those who offered good wishes during my recent, two-week sojourn at Chestnut Hill Hospital, including “Big Jim” Dofton, Gia Maione Prima, Andy Kahn and many others. The doctors, nurses and various staff members at Chestnut Hill personify the words “care” and compassion. And they laughed at my jokes, as well, which couldn’t have been easy for them (I asked another doctor for a second opinion about my condition and he said, “Okay, you’re ugly, too!”) Other facilities, I’m told, want patients out of the hospital asap. Chestnut Hill is the opposite. No one goes home until they — all of them – say you’re ready. Though I’ll be pitching knuckleballs instead of fastballs for the next few weeks, I’ll be 100 percent shortly, whether you like it or not.

My good colleague of almost 50 years, the pianist/singer Andy Kahn, has been mentioned in this space previously in line with some Philadelphia-based appearances at the Palm and Hedgerow Theatre. Even in late summer, when gigs are tough to get anywhere, Kahn has a slew of appearances lined up, including a return engagement at Hedgerow, and shows at Resorts International Hotel and Casino and the Ocean Club in Atlantic City. Andy’s return to what seems to be leading to steady performing is welcomed. His superior talents as a pianist and singer via his essential, “Music by Intention” program, need to be heard. For dates and great video and audio of Andy, log on to and click on “Music by Intention.”

Andy Kahn’s Atlantic City shows constitute the good news about the locale musicians used to call “Beirut by the Sea.” Because of more and more competition from Philadelphia-area casinos, A.C.’s business is, and has been, off. “Way off,” as Cosmo Kramer might have said it. While it’s sad, it’s no surprise that ads in recent real estate listings have listed Atlantic City’s venerable Steel Pier as up for sale at a bargain rate of—unless I’m reading it wrong–$2.5 million dollars. There were high hopes for the Pier, built in 1898, when casino gaming was legalized in A.C. in 1976, especially when Donald Trump took over ownership in tandem with The Taj Mahal, but nothing much ever came of it, just like Donald, beyond installation of seasonal, second-rate, kiddie rides. What a shame. I saw Krupa there in 1967 as well as Maynard, Count and Duke. Mark my words: the Pier will eventually deteriorate on its own and fall into the sea. Just like the diving bell.

In an industry that so-called experts say is dead or dying – the publishing business – you sure wouldn’t know it by the slew of great titles published over the past several months, including a number of jazz works. One of the best books on jazz I’ve read in recent years is called “What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years,” written by lecturer, jazz pianist and Louis Armstrong House Museum Project Archivist Ricky Riccardi.

Pops’s later years, from 1947 on, have been given less than short shrift over the years, particularly by biographer James Lincoln Collier (what ever happened to him?) even though Armstrong’s contributions as a player, singer, recording artist, ambassador and trumpeter were more than substantial. Riccardi, who had access to a bunch of never-released tapes and manuscripts, tells never-before-heard tales. Of particular interest to Gene Krupa and percussion fans are sections on Eddie Shu, Marty Napoleon, the shenanigans that went on during the filming of “The Glenn Miller Story,” the story of the ill-fated drummer Kenny John, the “real” take behind the aborted Armstrong/Benny Goodman tour of 1953, and much, much more. If, by the way, you didn’t like Benny Goodman personally thus far, Riccardi’s info will like him even less. Let’s put it this way: Goodman was a rotten son of a bitch, and Ol’ Satch let “The King” know about it, and more. The author presents, for the first time, the “real” Satch, who was certainly not the grinning and mugging fellow of television. Pops, by the way, was particularly hard on several of his great drummers, including Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole and Barrett Deems. He wouldn’t have anything to do with Zutty Singleton. Above all, Pops seemed to prize consistency over all. Drummer Danny Barcelona stayed in the All-Stars for 13 years, more than any of them.

Congratulations on Riccardi and on Pantheon Books for publishing this essential work.

Goodman, along with a slew of other jazz players, is proof that one doesn’t have to be a great guy to be a great player. In line with that, our friend, supporter and colleague Chuck Slate has come up with a piece of material that most of us knew existed, but could ever put our hands on…until now.

The legendary Carnegie Hall concert of the original Goodman Quartet, along with Slam Stewart on bass, of June 29, 1973, was the show where Gene Krupa, very ill at the time and so spent by his solo on “Sing Sing Sing,” could not rise from the drums. Chuck assures me the fidelity is superb and hopefully, will be making this available soon.

By the way, a long overdue correction is in order, in line with Chuck’s “Gene Krupa Live at the Chester Inn.” Contrary to what’s listed on the JazzLegends site, Larry Weiss plays cornet and Marv Ross plays clarinet. We stand corrected.

See you, in good health, next time.

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