Various Artists: 'The Sound of Jazz'

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The cover of The Sound of Jazz

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: With A.B. Spellman, I'm Murray Horwitz, and as we continue to build your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library, it may be worth noting that television hasn't contributed a whole lot to the archives of jazz. But one cold December day in 1957, one of the all-time great, all-star jam sessions was televised.


The music was captured on audiotape and that record is the latest addition to your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. A.B., how did it come about?

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Murray, the event was a CBS series called The Seven Lively Arts. This particular segment was called "The Sound of Jazz." They decided to do the show with no script, a free-form jazz session. And it was marvelous. Here's Billie Holiday singing "Fine and Mellow" with a sax line of — get this Murray — Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Lester Young —who was her old best friend. Then, she had just made up with him.


HORWITZ: It's like having an outfield with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. It's unbelievable. In a way of full disclosure, we should say that the audio recording was made four days earlier at Columbia studios, but it's a good facsimile of the television show.


SPELLMAN: The Sound of Jazz mixes up three generations of jazz musicians. On "Wild Man Blues," the Louis Armstrong disciple out of New Orleans, Red Allen, jams with swing giants like Coleman Hawkins, Rex Stewart, and Vic Dickenson.


HORWITZ: And we haven't even talked about Count Basie and his band with Jimmy Rushing singing, or Pee Wee Russell and Mal Waldron — all great musicians, all stimulating each other in friendly competition.

The CD is called The Sound of Jazz. It's on the Columbia label, and it's in your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. And you know, the video is available, so if we ever have an NPR Basic Video Jazz Library, it'll be in there too.

SPELLMAN: For information about this and other selections, visit our Web site.

HORWITZ: The Basic Jazz Record Library is made possible with help from the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.

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