Jazz According to G

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)

And I’m grateful to WBGO for giving a shout out to this list! (I’d be even more grateful if they’d give my CD a spin.)*

*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?

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