Friday, May 22, 2009

Today in Music (1959): Ornette Coleman The Shape of Jazz to Come recorded

The Shape of Jazz to Come

Ornette Coleman

Released: November 1959

Recorded: May 22, 1959

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: jazz > avant garde


  1. Lonely Woman
  2. Eventually
  3. Peace
  4. Focus on Sanity
  5. Congeniality
  6. Chronology

Total Running Time: 37:59

The Players:

  • Ornette Coleman (alto saxophone)
  • Don Cherry (cornet)
  • Charlie Haden (bass)
  • Billy Higgins (drums)


4.781 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)


“A watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz” – Steve Huey, All Music Guide


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven’t come to grips with. The record shattered traditional concepts of harmony in jazz, getting rid of not only the piano player but the whole idea of concretely outlined chord changes.” AMG

“The pieces here follow almost no predetermined harmonic structure, which allows Coleman and partner Don Cherry an unprecedented freedom to take the melodies of their solo lines wherever they felt like going in the moment, regardless of what the piece’s tonal center had seemed to be.” AMG

“Plus, this was the first time Coleman recorded with a rhythm section – bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins – that was loose and open-eared enough to follow his already controversial conception. Coleman’s ideals of freedom in jazz made him a feared radical in some quarters; there was much carping about his music flying off in all directions, with little direct relation to the original theme statements. If only those critics could have known how far out things would get in just a few short years; in hindsight, it’s hard to see just what the fuss was about, since this is an accessible, frequently swinging record.” AMG

“It’s true that Coleman’s piercing, wailing alto squeals and vocalized effects weren’t much beholden to conventional technique, and that his themes often followed unpredictable courses, and that the group’s improvisations were very free-associative. But at this point, Coleman’s desire for freedom was directly related to his sense of melody – which was free-flowing, yes, but still very melodic. Of the individual pieces, the haunting Lonely Woman is a stone-cold classic, and Congeniality and Peace aren’t far behind. Any understanding of jazz’s avant-garde should begin here.” AMG

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 5/3/2008; last updated 3/14/2024.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

50 years ago: Gypsy opened on Broadway


Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)

The Musical

Opened on Broadway: May 21, 1959

Number of Performances: 702

Opened at London’s West End: May 29, 1973

Number of Performances: 300

Movie Release: November 1, 1962

Cast Album

Charted: July 20, 1959

Peak: 13 US

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: show tunes


Charted: December 15, 1962

Peak: 10 US

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: show tunes

Songs on Cast Album:

Song Title (Performers)

  1. Overture
  5. Baby June and Her Newsboys
  6. Mr. Goldstone, I Love You (ETHEL MERMAN)
  7. Little Lamb (SANDRA CHURCH)
  8. You’ll Never Get Away from Me (ETHEL MERMAN/ JACK KLUGMAN)
  9. Dainty June and Her Farmboys
  10. If Momma Was Married (SANDRA CHURCH/ LANE BRADBURY)
  11. All I Need Is the Girl (PAUL WALLACE/ SANDRA CHURCH)
  12. Everything’s Coming Up Roses (ETHEL MERMAN)
  15. Let Me Entertain You (SANDRA CHURCH)
  16. Rose’s Turn (ETHEL MERMAN)

Songs on Soundtrack:
  1. Overture
  2. Small World
  3. Some People
  4. Baby June And Her Newsboys (Let Me Entertain You)
  5. Mr. Goldstone, I Love You
  6. Little Lamb
  7. You'll Never Get Away From Me
  8. Dainty June And Her Farm Boys
  9. If Mama Was Married
  10. All I Need Is The Girl
  11. Everything's Coming Up Roses
  12. Together Wherever We Go
  13. You Gotta Have A Gimmick
  14. Let Me Entertain You
  15. Rose's Turn
  16. Finale


4.502 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings for cast album and soundtrack combined)

Quotable: “One of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century’s conventional musical theatre art form” – Wikipedia

Awards (Cast Album and Soundtrack): (Click on award to learn more).

About the Show:

Critic Ben Brantley said Gypsy may be the greatest of all American musicals.” WK-C Frank Rich said it was “Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear.” WK-C This 1959 tribute to burlesque was loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of famed striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The story “casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life” WK-C by following Gypsy’s mother, Rose, and her efforts to raise her daughters as performers.

Producer David Merrick had read a selection of the memoirs in Harper’s Magazine and sought the rights, knowing Ethel Merman was looking for a starring vehicle. Arthur Laurents was tapped to write the book and Stephen Sondheim, with whom Laurents had worked on West Side Story, was brought in to write the lyrics after Irving Berlin and Cole Porter declined. Merman wanted Jule Styne to write the music, but Sondheim initially refused since he wanted to write the music and lyrics – that is, until he was persuaded to take the job by Oscar Hammerstein. WK-C

The talents of Styne, who represented broad show business entertainment, and Sondheim, who symbolized more “modern, dark, psychological drama,” MWR made for a perfect balance. It “was considered the definitive Merman performance and the crowning achievement of her long career.” MWR Theater critic Clive Barnes described Rose as “one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical.” WK-C

The musical, which ran for 702 performances, introduced “the Merman standard Everything’s Coming Up Roses, and the song that is invariably used to introduce anything having to do with the strip tease, Let Me Entertain You.” MWR

In 1962, it was made into a film directed by Mervyn LeRoy. In his book The Musical Film, Douglas McVay said, “Fine as West Side Story is…it is equaled and, arguably, surpassed – in a rather different idiom – by another filmed Broadway hit: Mervyn LeRoy’s Gypsy.” WK-S

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 3/22/2011; last updated 12/23/2021.

Monday, May 18, 2009

50 years ago: Wilbert Harrison “Kansas City” hit #1

Kansas City

Wilbert Harrison

Writer(s): Mike Stoller (music), Jerry Leiber (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 3, 1959

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 3 GR, 12 HR, 17 RB, 13 CN (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.98 video, 9.91 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met as students at Los Angeles City College in 1950. They became “the greatest songwriting team of the 1950s,” DM writing classics for Elvis Presley (“Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock”), Ben E. King (“Stand by Me”), the Drifters (“There Goes My Baby,” “On Broadway”), and the Coasters (“Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” “Yakety Yak”). However, it was “Kansas City” that “was their first defining song.” SS

The pair wrote the “bluesy coming-of-age song” MM in 1952. Stoller said that Kansas City was “the home of swing, jazz, and the blues” MM and “was known as a pretty wild place.” MM Neither had ever been there, but asked R&B musicians for the names of big streets in Kansas City. MM Houston-born singer and pianist Little Willie Littlefield recorded it as “K.C. Lovin’.” It failed to chart but was revived in 1955 by Little Richard as “Kansas City.” Four years later, Wilbert Harrison “made the song a massive crossover smash.” SS

Harrison, born in North Carolina in 1929. After finishing a stint in the Navy in 1950, he recorded for several small labels without a hit. He headed back home to Charlotte in 1956 and didn’t make another record for a couple of years. Bobby Robinson, a Harlem record store owner and blues label owner, then brought him to New York to record some gospel records. Harrison brought “Kansas City,” a song he’d performed since hearing Littlefield’s recording, to the session. The session was held late at night in Manhattan with Ike Turner on piano. In less than 30 minutes and at a cost of less than $40, they recorded the song “as a relaxed stroll with a shuffle beat.” MM

It ranks as “one of the outstanding Number Ones of the rock and roll era” DM and became “a standard in the modern blues repertoire.” DJ “Without having ever set foot in the town they were writing about, Leiber and Stoller had touched something deep in American culture.” SS


First posted 8/8/2023.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Today in Music (1959): Charles Mingus completed recording on Ah Um

Ah Um

Charles Mingus

Released: October 1959

Recorded: May 5-12, 1959

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): 0.17 US, 0.06 UK, 0.23 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: jazz > avant garde


  1. Better Get It in Your Soul
  2. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
  3. Boogie Stop Shuffle
  4. Self-Portait in Three Colors
  5. Open Letter to Duke
  6. Bird Calls
  7. Fables of Faubus
  8. Pussy Cat Dues
  9. Jelly Roll

Total Running Time: 45:53

The Players:

  • Charles Mingus (bass, piano)
  • John Handy (alto sax)
  • Booker Ervin (tenor sax)
  • Shafi Hadi (tenor and alto sax)
  • Willie Dennis (trombone)
  • Jimmy Knepper (trombone)
  • Horace Parlan (piano)
  • Dannie Richmond (drums)


4.241 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Charles Mingus’ debut for Columbia, Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners. While there’s also a strong case for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as his best work overall, it lacks Ah Um’s immediate acccessibility and brilliantly sculpted individual tunes. Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um.” AMG

“The band includes longtime Mingus stalwarts already well versed in his music, like saxophonists John Handy, Shafi Hadi, and Booker Ervin, trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis, pianist Horace Parlan, and drummer Dannie Richmond. Their razor-sharp performances tie together what may well be Mingus’ greatest, most emotionally varied set of compositions.” AMG

At least three became instant classics, starting with the irrepressible spiritual exuberance of signature tune Better Get It in Your Soul, taken in a hard-charging 6/8 and punctuated by joyous gospel shouts. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a slow, graceful elegy for Lester Young, who died not long before the sessions. The sharply contrasting Fables of Faubus is a savage mockery of segregationist Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, portrayed musically as a bumbling vaudeville clown (the scathing lyrics, censored by skittish executives, can be heard on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus).” AMG

“The underrated Boogie Stop Shuffle is bursting with aggressive swing, and elsewhere there are tributes to Mingus' three most revered influences: Open Letter to Duke is a suite of three tunes; Bird Calls is inspired by Charlie Parker; and Jelly Roll is an idiosyncratic yet affectionate nod to jazz’s first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton. It simply isn’t possible to single out one Mingus album as definitive, but Mingus Ah Um comes the closest.” AMG

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 10/7/2008; last updated 3/14/2024.