Last night Brooks Brothers held a Christmas bash at its flagship 346 Madison Avenue store. The event drew hundreds, with shopping proceeds benefitting St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
On the third floor, Wynton Marsalis (pictured at left) and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who are dressed by Brooks Brothers, played swinging renditions of Christmas tunes.
At one point, Marsalis thanked Brooks CEO Claudio del Vecchio and asked him to take a bow. From the middle of the room a tall gentleman gestured cordially.
I cleared my throat, pulled out a business card, meandered through the crowd, and made my pitch.
“Well you know we’re not hiring right now,” del Vecchio said with a chuckle, “and a couple people already like to think of themselves as Chief Historian.”
Del Vecchio and I chatted a bit more and he was actually quite responsive. I’ll see if I can get him to sit for an interview come the new year.
Back to the event: When I entered the store, a jazz trio led by Matt Rybicki was playing “Speak Low,” one of my own favorites to play on the piano (it’s in F: I always forget lyrics and composers, but never the key). Since no one was paying attention to them except me and an old man, I requested a couple more old favorites: “Deep Night” (Em/G). They didn’t know it, and offered “Night And Day,” which must be the tune most requested by people who request tunes. I counter-parried with “All The Things You Are” (A flat). Rybicki, the bassist, looked to his bandmates and said, “In three?” The drummer smiled and said yeah. The pianist looked a little apprehensive, and said, “OK, we can give it a try.” Off they went in 3/4 time and of course it was awesome. Musicians seem to be at their best when challenged. (Continue)
Fifty years after the release of his seminal 1959 album “Time Out” and on the day of his 89th birthday, Dave Brubeck was honored by the Kennedy Center. The gala event, which honors lifetime achievement in the performing arts, will air on CBS December 29.
The Washington Post has a Brubeck profile here, while the Washington Times has coverage here.
In the ’50s, Brubeck largely made his name playing on college campuses. In 1954 his popularity landed him a cover story in Time Magazine, a controversial choice as Brubeck was chosen over more important black jazz artists of the period. The accusation that he can’t swing and is the leading example of White Jazz Lite continues to this day. Click here for a discussion of Brubeck’s music with critic Stanley Crouch and Ted Gioia, author of “West Coast Jazz,” which I read over the summer and recommend to anyone interested in jazz and postwar California. (Continue)
One of the saddest phrases in the English language is “You missed a great party.” Well here’s one we all missed.
In 1957 jazz historian and Harvard/Yale alum Marshall Stearns threw the ultimate jazz-Ivy shindig. Held in honor of sitar player Ravi Shankar, the party juxtaposed Indian music with jazz, and included a jam session with Dizzy Gillespie. LIFE Magazine captured the soirée, which drew the kind of crowd only possible in New York: a dazzling melange of socialites and hipsters, artists and businessmen, with everyone dressed to the nines. Though LIFE only devoted one page to the event in the magazine, the LIFE archives include an extensive photo set entitled “East-West Jam Session.” (Continue)
Miles Davis began his professional career wearing second-hand Brooks Brothers suits from a pawn shop. A dozen years later, ahead of the curve rather than behind, Miles would be wearing, according to Down Beat, “what the well dressed man will wear next year.”
On assignment for issue six of the elegant Singapore-based menswear magazine The Rake, Ivy-Style founder Christian Chensvold examines the two decades Miles spent clad in suits, before he got all freaky.
Miles Ahead: Not just a jazz genius, Miles Davis was also a sartorial chameleon, easily carrying off the Ivy League Look and slim-cut European suits with ass-kicking charm
By Christian Chensvold
Late in his career, Miles Davis stopped playing the stark, haunting ballads that had been one of his trademarks. He loved them too much, he said, to go on playing them when they were no longer in style.
Throughout his four decades in jazz, in which he was at the forefront of every major innovation, Miles Davis always shunned the stale and the hackneyed — what he called “warmed-over turkey.” This artistic integrity, this determination to be unpredictable, to stand for the new and to take risks, is key to understanding Davis’s chameleon-like role as style icon.
Under “The Warlord of the Weejuns,” the headline for the liner notes for a 1965 greatest hits collection, celebrated Esquire writer George Frazier called Davis “a truly well dressed man,” but someone the average man would be foolish to emulate. “I’m not advocating that all men aspire to dress like Davis,” Frazier writes. “That would be unrealistic, for it is this man’s particular charm that he is unique.” (Continue)
In the arts and culture, generally things are either cool or beautiful. Marcello Mastroianni in “La Dolce Vita” is cool, while beauty is what happens between 1:18 and 2:59 in the third movement of Brahms’ Piano Trio in C Minor.
“Cool” didn’t exist before midcentury, while since then the quaint notion that art should be beautiful has increasingly elicited nothing but highbrow ridicule. So if you’re looking for cool, you start in 1954, and if you’re looking for beauty, you go back much farther.
But sometimes the two exist in the same thing, such as in Bill Evan’s 1956 composition “Waltz For Debby.” Most beautiful as an instrumental with Evans gently plunking in the upper register, above is a vocal version sung by Swedeish siren Monica Zetterlund.
Which begs the question: Is Evans providing the beauty with his composition, and Zetterlund the Euro cool? Or is she providing feminine pulchritude against a background aura of cool supplied by Evans?
I think it’s both, which is why I keep coming back to this hauntingly hip clip. — CC