An Interview with Dan Morgenstern

Thurs. 7/14 at noon: Today we will be talking Live via telephone with possibly the pre-imminent scholar on jazz: Dan Morgenstern. Author of several books and thousands of jazz record liner notes and has been on the scene in the greatest jazz city in the world - New York City - throughout some of it's most compelling eras.

Jazz culture is not made up solely by the Big Names and celebrities of the music. Surely, in a gladiatorial art form such as jazz the cream does rise to the top, BUT, jazz culture does not comprise merely those who have made their way to the top. Jazz culture is an anthropology including the jazz fans, the concert promoters, critics, scholars, the jazz students in conservatories and the jazz programs at colleges, the deejays, the scholars, record collectors, club owners, bookers, agents, bootleggers, the jam session warriors, record producers, record stores, the weekend players, jazz magazine editors, and nowadays, the vital system of Jazz Archives housed at institutions around the world.

Dan Morgenstern is the director of The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University
in New Jersey. He was born in and raised in Europe and arrived in the U.S. in 1947. He has seen and heard a lot! I had known he had won various awards for his writings and books but was astounded to find on Wikipedia that he has won eight Grammy Awards for his album liner notes. I know I personally bought the Louis Armstrong box set "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" mostly to have a copy of Dan's great book inside. ( I already had all of these records in other formats.)

Dan was also editor of dOWNBEAT magazine from the mid-60s till 1976 when he left to take over as director of the Institute Jazz Studies. He is also one of the editors of the esteemed Journal of Jazz Studies.

It was Kenny Davern who first put me in direct contact with Dan Morgenstern when after Kenny and I had watched the Pee Wee Russell documentary (Kenny had a preview copy on VHS before it was formally released that Dan had sent him) and we called Dan to tell him that if this film wasn't released soon that we were going to bootleg it! (Dan is one of the talking heads in this superlative documentary.)

I'm hoping we have time to hear Dan's personal remembrances of Lester Young, Ruby Braff, Eddie Condon, Kenny Davern, Ben Webster, Mary Lou Williams, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, the NYC club scene of the 1950s and 60s, Maxine Sullivan, and maybe see what he has to say about the state of current scholarly writings on jazz.

--Mark Weber, Host

Slideshow photo: Dan Morgenstern and Benny Carter at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, 1979 (by Ed Berger)