Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Sound Of Jazz

The Sound of Jazz, considered by many to be the best jazz TV program ever, was part of CBS Seven Lively Arts series. The program aired December 8, 1957 live from CBS Studio 54, aka the Town Theater, located at 851 9th Avenue in New York City - now demolished. The show was hosted by John Crosby and produced by Irving Townsend, George Avakian and Michael Brooks.

It featured a stellar cast of the top East Coast Jazz musicians of the day, playing styles from dixieland to bebop and twelve-tone. This dazzling array of musicians included Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing, Red Allen, Roy Eldridge, Gerry Mulligan, 'Papa' Jo Jones, Jimmy Giuffre to name but a few.

Performances were mostly improvised, but then again these musicians were no strangers at doing this, what is interesting here is that the direction of this show was improvised as well, with odd camera angles etc.

According to noted jazz critic Nat Hentoff who was present, during the Billie Holiday number, everyone was crying.

So, to put it in a nutshell, great musicians, great performances, great TV days, sadly not with us anymore, because, and make no mistake, that was mainstream TV.