Ted Panken (who I used to listen to on WKCR all the time) has a great new blog, which has already featured some gems–among them, this classic interview with Kenny G, in which Mr. G advances the curious claim that Charlie Parker was nicknamed “Bird” because his reed squeaked. The jazz Twitterverse jumped on this with a vengeance, and has since been abuzz with hundreds of other surprising #kennygjazzfacts. Arcane jazz-nerdery meets humorous lists? I’m there!
My contributions (so far) to the fact-fiesta:
- They called Louis Armstrong “Pops” because he founded the Boston Pops, and ate Corn Pops, and had so many children.
- They called the album “Kind of Blue” because Miles was suffering from hypothermia.
- “Birdland” was actually named after the movie “The Birds” and Harold Land.
- They call it the saxophone because the first one was actually made out of a phone.
- “Take The A Train” was supposed to be either “Take The Train” or “Take A Train,” not both!
- Few people know that “Songbird” was actually a reharmonization of “Ascension.”
- Who knew that jazz would grow from its beginnings in David Lee Roth’s “Just a Gigolo” to become a worldwide phenomenon?
- No family has done more for jazz than the Jones brothers–Elvin, Thad, Hank, Tom, James Earl, and Barnaby.
- Coltrane called his tune “Giant Steps” in honor of Wilt Chamberlain’s feet.
- Chick Webb was an inspiration to every chick with with webbed feet who dreamed of playing jazz.
- Few people know that Herbie Hancock got his nickname because he Goes Bananas.
- Jazz evolved in the late 1800s when rustic field hollers began to incorporate synth bass, DX-7s, and QuadraVerb.
- WC Handy was such a big sports fan that he named his most famous composition after his favorite hockey team.
- The word “jazz” was a common American slang term meaning “as exciting as basketball in Utah.
- I used to think Charlie Parker was great, until I found out he was just reading all those solos out of the Omnibook.
- Jelly Roll Morton changed his name because “Croissant Morton” sounded too fancy.
- Coltrane took such long solos because he had lockjaw, which is how he got the nickname Eddie “Lockjaw” Coltrane.
- King Oliver’s nickname came from his favorite movie, “Oliver!”
- Joe Henderson wrote “Inner Urge” after waiting in an especially long line for the mens’ room.
- Everyone knows Kenny G invented jazz, but few remember Wynton Marsalis invented classical music.
More of my questionable attempts at internet humor can be found here.
UPDATE: Some of my favorites from other folks:
- Is that the “Jazz Masters Cemetery” up ahead? Good–pull-over. I gotta pee. (@AtmosTrio)
- Tina Brooks is a huge influence on me, both as a saxophone player and as someone who constantly gets mistaken for a woman. (@keithflentge)
- Trumpeter Booker Little was not only a librarian but a dwarf as well. His real name remains a mystery. (@peterhum)
*No really, why have I had more luck getting attention on the web by being funny than by playing jazz? Is the universe trying to tell me something?