As a kid growing up in Michigan one of the greatest treats was to lie on your back on a warm summer night and look at the stars. In the forties you could count on the fact that the northern lights were going to show up if you waited long enough. The sky was so filled with stars that you could walk home using the light from the milky way, at least from the edge of our backyard.
Looking up to stars is habit forming.
MAKING THE ALL STAR TEAM
I have never been on an all star team. When I was growing up we didn’t even have sports teams. We chose up. We had different team mates every day and had to adapt and get along with everyone. Everyone made the team and everyone got a chance to play. Getting a chance to play means that you also get a chance to imagine your self as an all-star. I was always certain I was making the same moves that I imagined my heroes made as I listened to play by play on the radio. With only radio to go by I had no doubt that I was almost as good as the pros. With the advent of TV we could see that my heroes were much bigger, much faster and more skilled. My happiest days in sports were before we got that TV.
In music class I was told not to make a sound. I was allowed to listen, and I have learned to be a pretty good listener. I know an all-star when I hear one. Most musicians know an all-star when they hear them and certainly when they play with one. There are people who are really good at putting together all-star groups. Generally they select artists that they would like a chance to play with. All bands need a headliner, someone who has built a well-known name and can draw a crowd. All star groups have a band full of headliners.
ONE GUY WHO KNEW AN ALL-STAR WHEN HE HEARD ONE WAS NORMAN GRANZ.
ELLA FITZGERALD AND NORMAN GRANZ
JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC
One of my first chances to see live jazz played was when I ventured down to the Greystone Ballroom in downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue. Looking back at that evening, it may have set me up as a sucker for jazz music for the rest of my life. The ball room was packed with bodies that swayed to music that was really loud and different. I, by chance, had happened on one of jazz’s greatest events: Norman Granz’s Jazz At the Philharmonic. Norman Granz was not a musician, but through his determination to make jazz visible to everyone he changed jazz and America’s music. He was to become one of the most important producers we have ever had in jazz.
In 1944, he put together the ultimate jazz all-star band, Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic.that toured the country . In the 1950s Jazz was king and Norman Granz helped crown many of the young princes and princesses of jazz.
Over the years, Norman Granz featured many of the era’s preeminent musicians at his concerts including Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Bill Harris, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, J J Johnson, Hank Jones. Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Flip Phillips, Ben Webster, Lester Young and many many more.
I left the Greystone Ballroom with the image of Illinois Jacquet soaring over every other artist. I had never seen energy like that before.
Many of the names that made history in jazz signed with one of Norman Granz’s labels, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie,
Norman Granz cared about and admired all the jazz artists and saw to it that his musicians were well paid. In the segregated society of the 1940s. He insisted on equal pay and accommodation for white and black musicians. He refused to take his hugely popular concerts to places which were segregated, even if he had to cancel concerts.
He was beloved by musicians around the world. Granz has had few equals in the history of popular music.
CHRIS COLLINS PRESIDENT DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL
CHRIS COLLINS KNOWS HOW TO PUT TOGETHER AN ALL STAR JAZZ BAND
It is a pretty easy job to assemble an all star band in Detroit. Most of the artists on any Detroit jazz list are deserving and usually answer their phones. Chris’s primary job is to bring together talented individuals who will best create the style of music that he envisions
Next week the All Stars will celebrate Detroit’s influence on jazz to the Dirty Dog. The all stars will bring together some of our town’s greatest jazz musicians to play for what is always a knowledgeable house. They will not disappoint us.
Norman Granz would be pleased.
AT THE DIRTY DOG AUGUST 9-AUGUST 12
THE DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL ALL STARS
Here are musicians that genuinely think that nothing great will come from stepping on each other. Each will make room for the other on their way to making something hopeful and beautiful.