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Hindsight and the 1959 Randall's Island Jazz Festival (8/26/14)

Hindsight and the 1959 Randall's Island Jazz Festival

Updated February 6, 2017:

I received this e-mail and attachment today -- Thank You so much Michael A. Shook, and deepest condolences about your mother. I wish I'd known her. I'm guessing she had some great memories I would've loved to have heard.


Thank you for posting a flyer for this event, my mother passed away yesterday and she had always told me about this jazz fest. She remembered most of the performers there, I would kid with her and say," No way you saw all of those legendary performers in one weekend." You probably already have one, but if not my contribution to your post will be my mom's mint condition ticket stub. Michael A Shook

Ticket contributed by Gloria E Woodson-Shook, proud attendee of the 1959 festival


Originating as a Facebook post...

OK, there's always a bit of idealizing hindsight at play when we see old gig posters that seem amazing because they include artists that we'd kill to see now, but this reproduction of a poster that just came in an e-mail from Mosaic Records advertizing the 1959 Randall's Island Jazz Festival in NYC is simply breathtaking. One "I'd KILL to see" band after another after another after... (the 1959 Miles David Sextet had Cannonball AND Coltrane). Highest price for the best reserved seats for this entire weekend? $4.50.

And Eric Dolphy was still with Chico Hamilton. Hodges was back with Ellington, Silver's group had just recorded Blowin' the Blues Away, Max Roach had Booker freaking Little (!), Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan (!!!), Monk with big band, and more and more...just hard to believe, all in one place.

And I bet it didn't even sell out.

Friend (literally, from High School days, not just from Facebook) Larry Repass commented: It makes we wonder what we're not seeing right now that will rise to the level of, "I sure wish those guys were around now," in ~40 years?

True Larry -- these are the good ol' days.

Actually, some things I see/hear that I think will be forever legendary can fizzle into oblivion, while other things that seem to come and go inconsequentially later become the super colossal legends. So ya never know.

And even that festival flyer -- how many people even knew the sidemen of Dolphy (for Hamilton) and Little (for Roach), let alone that each would become, yep, legendary, including as collaborators, in part because both were dead (neither from drugs) only a few years later. Who in attendance considered Blakey Messengers Wayne Shorter or Lee Morgan to be giants (OK, possibly Morgan, but Shorter was just at the beginning of his career). It's unlikely many there knew that the Miles Davis tenor player Coltrane would be the next, and arguably last, true jazz giant with his Atlantic and Impulse recordings of the '60s. Many who were there for the boppers undoubtedly considered Ellington old fashioned, and Monk hadn't become the public giant he'd become after he'd passed his prime (1959 being the tail end) but made the cover of Time in 1963. So, even this staggering fest, if exciting, probably was not making most attendees think, "This is simply unbelievable," like we would.

August 26, 2014

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