03 July 2009

Must Read

In The Weekly Standard, Joe Queenan tells a tale of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's days as a jazz musician. Some choice quotes follow. Greenspan brought a distinctive approach to improvisation, as told by Snooky Parnell:
"The Green Man [his nickname at the time] always played his arpeggios back to front, and in the subtonic key, which forced the listener to rethink his assumptions about where a solo should go," recalls Parnell, who played bass with Miles Davis, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk.
He also played well enough to impress Charles Mingus, who invited Greenspan to tour Europe with his octet after sitting in one night in San Francisco. But Greenspan could not handle the thought of not being the best saxophonist around, an insecurity which eventually led him to quit the music business:
It was September 14, 1949, and Greenspan found himself in the same Greenwich Village club as John Coltrane. Coltrane, a convivial sort, went out of his way to be friendly to the youngster, but Greenspan was having none of it. Sax at the ready, he challenged Coltrane to an onstage showdown. It was a mistake he would regret for the rest of his life.

"Trane smoked his ass," Parnell remembers. "Greenie foolishly tore into 'Cherokee,' Charlie Barnet's old standby, but Trane knew that tune inside out from his days in Kansas City. Greenie tried to keep up, but no chance. Trane didn't rile easily, but something about the way Greenie carried himself didn't suit John. Trane took him apart."

Read the full piece here.

h/t: jazz.com


DCW said...

Thanks for posting this. What a wild article. The book referenced in the article sounds cool, yet I wonder if he'd the most trustworthy of sources.

Joshua Bleier said...

Have you had a chance to vet Queenan's article? I tried, but I can't find a reference to Snooky Parnell (I'm not a jazz historian, but I listen to a lot of jazz, and I've never heard of him). I also can't find references for a legendary jazz spot called Cafe Tropicana in San Francisco (There was Kimball's and Keystone Korner) any book called "Ridin' Raunchy on the Chitlin Circuit", or a PBS documentary (recent or otherwise) called "Cut That Rug, Jitterbug".

I also can't help thinking that if Greenspan had ever played in Ferguson's big band, or toured Europe with Mingus for 2 years, someone would have heard of it before now and written about it.

Finally, the last part about Ayn Rand breaking up a fight between 'Trane and Greenspan sounds like some bad B-movie ending. Nothing about this article adds up.

If you can find any original sources for any of this, please let me know.


David said...

The article is probably a farce, but still, I like the thought of Alan Greenspan as a kind of Forrest Gump of jazz...

Raef Black said...

Lol Alan Greenspan tried to blow Coltrane away... The shit never changes.