Take, for instance, the recital of hers that was repeated on Radio 3 last night and which included two jazz compositions, "Round Midnight" and "Good Bait". The composer credits in the Radio Times for both compositions were wrong. "Round Midnight" is listed as having been composed by Thelonius Monk, which is nearly right; he actually spelt his name Thelonious. But "Good Bait" is listed as having been co-written by Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Danson, which is much more curious. No problem with Dizzy Gillespi e; the problem is that there was never any such person as Tadd Danson.
The person with whom Dizzy Gillespie actually co-wrote "Good Bait" was a man called Tadd Dameron, who was the only figure in the New York-based modern jazz revolution of the Forties to become better known as a composer and arranger than as a player. His piano-playing was mundane; his writing was the best there was. He died in 1965, not so very long after marrying the British nurse he met during his last illness. His widow still lives on the south coast of England, and nobody will be more surprised than she to see her late husband called Tadd Danson in the Radio Times.
(Incidentally, isn't there an actor called Ted Danson? Is that how Tadd Dameron became Tadd Danson? Just asking ...)
If I appear to be upset or offended by these mistakes, I have given the wrong impression. Jazz people are always delighted to be able to pick pedantic holes. They love finding fault. It makes their day. When I first noticed that the credits to the South Bank Show on ITV spelt Charlie Parker's name wrong, it really cheered me up. When the director John Boorman chose a bit of Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew" LP for a record on Desert Island Discs, but they actually played a totally different Miles Davis recording from 20 years earlier, I should have been horrified, but I was delighted. It confirmed my crabby old suspicion that nobody up there really knows anything about jazz at all.
This was a suspicion that first dawned when I read the obituary of Meade Lux Lewis in the Times in 1964. Lewis was a veteran boogie-woogie pianist who had learnt much of his art from the even more veteran boogie player, Jimmy Yancey.
That was not what the Times said, however. The Times said that Lewis had learnt much of his art from Jimmy Anthony. I had never heard of Jimmy Anthony. I finally realised that there was no such person and that Jimmy Yancey had somehow become Jimmy Anthony, but I could not for the life of me see how you could mix up Yancey and Anthony until someone more versed in journalistic ways said to me: "Ah, the two names don't look alike, but they sound alike. The piece was obviously dictated over the phone, and the copytaker misheard Anthony for Yancey. End of story."
Of course, what the average jazz lover likes even better than catching out the Radio Times or the Times is catching out someone who should know better. I know. I've done it to others. And I've had it done to me.
A year ago I was working on an anthology of jazz writing for HarperCollins, and my editor cunningly, and no doubt quite rightly, went behind my back to another jazz writer to check my facts and details. This other jazz writer did his best to pick holes in my stuff (as I would have done) and heavily criticised, for instance, my use of the name Charlie Mingus, on the grounds that Mingus always called himself Charles Mingus and didn't like calling himself Charlie, although all his fans did. Hmmm ... A dubious point, I thought.
But this anonymous expert did score a direct hit on my reference to a famous Harlem jazz club of years as "Small's Paradise". He pointed out that the club had been founded by a man called Ed Smalls and that therefore it should be, if anything, "Smalls' "
or "Smalls's", not "Small's". He was right, of course.
However, much to my delight I found an old photograph of Smalls' Paradise and the name painted on the sign was the one I had used, the wrong one, "Small's Paradise". Ed Smalls himself had got it wrong! "If we use the name Mingus preferred," I told my editor, jabbing a triumphant finger at the photo, "then we should also use the name that Smalls preferred, whether it was right or wrong ... "
My editor remained silent and stared out of the window until such time as I should change the subject or go away, which is probably the best thing to do when caught in the crossfire between two jazz pedants.Reuse content