Poet Billy Collins on Jazz & Poetry—part 2

In this episode Bob Hecht and former Poet Laureate Billy Collins continue their conversation about jazz and poetry, and Billy reads poems about Art Blakey, Johnny Hartman, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins and others.


“Three Blind Mice” Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
“Blue Moon” Freddie Hubbard with Art Blakey
“You Are Too Beautiful” Johnny Hartman, John Coltrane
“This I Dig of You” Hank Mobley
“That Face” Jimmy Rowles
“Lucille” Joe Turner with Art Tatum
“I’m an Old Cowhand” Sonny Rollins

Poet Billy Collins on Jazz & Poetry—part 1

Billy Collins is a modern poetry phenomenon. The former U.S., and New York State, Poet Laureate, Collins is one of the most-read poets anywhere—and also happens to be a lifelong jazz fan. In this episode, and in a second to follow next week, he and Bob Hecht talk about the interrelationships of music and poetry, he reads a number of his jazz-related poems, and we hear some of the jazz pieces that have inspired him.

Billy Collins is the author of numerous books of poetry, and in addition to his poet laureate honors, his awards include the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation of the Arts. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


“To Monk, With Love” Barry Harris
“Sing, Sing, Sing” Benny Goodman Orchestra
“Ruby, My Dear” Thelonious Monk
“The Way You Look Tonight” Sonny Rollins with Thelonious Monk

The Many Worlds of Jaki Byard

There was only one Jaki Byard—he was a jazz pianist without peer. No one else combined elements from so many different genres of jazz piano and yet came up with a unique, immediately identifiable style of his own. In this episode we take a look at one of jazz’s complete virtuosos, a man who was always full of enthusiasm, propulsive rhythm, beauty and deep swing.


“Shiny Stockings” Jaki Byard
“Bugle Call Rag” Jaki Byard
“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” Jaki Byard
“Peggy’s Blue Skylight” Jaki Byard
“Seasons” Jaki Byard
“There Are Many Worlds” Jaki Byard
“Orange Was the Color of Her Dress” Jaki Byard with Charles Mingus
“So Long Eric” Jaki Byard with Charles Mingus
“Diane’s Melody” Jaki Byard with Charlie Mariano
“Chandra” Jaki Byard with Charlie Mariano
“Mrs. Parker of K.C.” Jaki Byard with Eric Dolphy and Booker Little
“Ode to Charlie Parker” Jaki Byard with Eric Dolphy and Booker Little
“A Tribute to Jimmy Slyde” Jaki Byard
“The Falling Rains of Life” Jaki Byard
“King David” Jaki Byard with Joe Farrell
“Aluminum Baby” Jaki Byard with Rahsaan Roland Kirk
“Garnerin’ a Bit” Jaki Byard
“Tribute to the Ticklers” Jaki Byard
“Goin’ Home Blues” Jaki Byard

The Sean Jones Interview

Sean Jones is recognized as one of today’s top trumpeters, and in this conversation with Bob Hecht he talks about his formative roots in Ohio, the importance of his early teachers, and his musical and spiritual influences.


“The Ungentrified Blues” Sean Jones
“Better Get It in Your Soul” Charles Mingus
“Walk in the Light” Midwest Regional Choir of the Church of God in Christ
“Come Sunday” Sean Jones
“All Blues” Miles Davis
“Joy Spring” Clifford Brown
“Moto Perpetuo” Wynton Marsalis
“Piscean Dichotomy” Sean Jones
“Forgiveness” Sean Jones
“Not While I’m Around” Sean Jones
“Amazing Grace” Sean Jones

Zoot Sims: Warm Tenor

Zoot Sims was one of the hardest-swinging jazz musicians, who had his own immediately identifiable sound… and that sound was one of the warmest and most human in all of jazz.


“That Ole Devil Called Love” Zoot Sims
“Lover Come Back” Zoot Sims, Al Cohn
“Four Brothers” Woody Herman
“Broadway” Lester Young with Count Basie
“Captain Bligh” Zoot Sims with Count Basie
“Expense Accont” Zoot Sims, Al Cohn
“Sweet Lorraine” Zoot Sims, Red Mitchell
“The Apple Core” Zoot Sims with Gerry Mulligan
“Zoot Walks In” Dave Frishberg
“I’ve Got It Bad” Zoot Sims
“Willow Weep for Me” Zoot Sims

Genius on a Cheap Clarinet

Lester Young is recognized as one of the all-time great tenor saxophonists, and one of the all-around giants of jazz. But in this episode we take a look at another of his unique contributions, on an instrument—the clarinet—that he only played occasionally during a couple of years, but on which he also left an unparalleled legacy.


Lester Young featured on clarinet on:
“Pagin’ the Devil”
“Countless Blues”
“I Want a Little Girl”
“Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”
“Blues with Helen”
“Them There Eyes”
“I Ain’t Got Nobody”
“Goin’ to Chicago”
“Texas Shuffle”
“The Very Thought of You”

Paul Desmond (alto) “Sacre Blues”
Lee Konitz (alto) “Blue Ballad”

Lester Young “I Want a Little Girl” alternate take

Clifford Brown LIVES!

Featuring an interview with jazz trumpeter Charlie Porter, this episode explores the living legacy of trumpet great Clifford Brown. Though gone for over sixty years, Clifford remains a major source of influence and inspiration for today’s trumpet players. Porter helps elucidate the many reasons why Brown’s music remains so important, not just for its technical achievements, but for its humanity.


“I Remember Clifford” George Cables
“Stockholm Sweetnin'” Clifford Brown with Quincy Jones
“Messenger” Charlie Porter
“Joy Spring” Clifford Brown with Max Roach
“I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You” Clifford Brown
“Delilah” Clifford Brown
“I’ll Remember April” Clifford Brown
“Easy Living” Clifford Brown
“Ladybird” Fats Navarro with Tadd Dameron
“Stompin’ at the Savoy” Clifford Brown
“Pent-up House” Clifford Brown
“Once in a While” Clifford Brown with Art Blakey

More Harlem Stride!

It’s rare to be able to hear about the Harlem Stride greats from someone who knew several of them personally, but that’s exactly what Stride jazz pianist Mike Lipskin gives us in part two of his conversation with Bob Hecht as together they delve more deeply into one of the most dynamic and virtuosic styles of piano jazz.


“Riffs” James P. Johnson
“Backwater Blues” Bessie Smith & James P. Johnson
“My Handyman” Ethel Waters & James P. Johnson
“If Dreams Come True” James P. Johnson
“Snowy Morning Blues” Mike Lipskin
“Nothin'” Luckey Roberts
“Pilgrim’s Chorus” Donald Lambert
“Tea for Two” Donald Lambert
“Echo of Spring” Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith
“Sneakaway” Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith
“Just You, Just Me” Mike Lipskin & Dick Hyman

Harlem Stride!

Harlem Stride was one of the most vibrant and sophisticated piano styles in the history of jazz—it was the greatest musical creation of the period known as the Harlem Renaissance beginning in the 1920’s. In this episode, Bob Hecht’s guest is the noted Stride pianist Mike Lipskin, who talks about his early personal experiences with some of the Stride greats and shares his deep knowledge of this unique genre.


“John Arthur” Jaki Byard
“Handful of Keys” Fats Waller
“Sunflower Slow Drag” Scott Joplin
“Pork & Beans” Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith
“Jubilee Stomp” Duke Ellington
“Prince of Wales” Count Basie
“Get Happy” Art Tatum
“Thelonious” Thelonious Monk
“Lady Madonna” Mike Lipskin
“Mister Christopher Columbus” Fats Waller
“Contrary Motion” Willie ‘the Lion’ Smith
“African Ripples” Mike Lipskin
“Carolina Shout” James P. Johnson
“Jeepers Creepers” Mike Lipskin

Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count”

This is the story of one of jazz’s most heart-wrenching compositions, written on his deathbed by one of jazz’s greatest composers. Billy Strayhorn wrote “Blood Count” as he was dying of esophageal cancer in 1967 in New York City, creating lasting beauty from his last moments on earth.


“Blood Count” Art Farmer
“Requiem in D Minor” Mozart, Orchestra des Champs Elysées
“Blood Count” Stan Getz
“Blood Count” Duke Ellington with Johnny Hodges


Lester Young was a true original, and his originality manifested not only in his innovative playing but also in his unique verbal play and wit. In this episode we check out this side of the President of the Tenor Saxophone.


“Lady Be Good” Lester Young with Count Basie
“Body & Soul” Coleman Hawkins
“Body & Soul” Lester Young
“Sometimes I’m Happy” Lester Young
“Blue Lester” Lester Young
“Ding Dong” Lester Young
“No Eyes Blues” Lester Young
“I’ll Never Be the Same” Billie Holiday & Lester Young
“I Left My Baby” Jimmy Rushing, Lester Young with Count Basie
“Preservation” Stan Getz
“I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan” Lester Young
“There’ll Never Be Another You” Lester Young

Woody n’ Me

As a fledgling jazz disc jockey in Newark, New Jersey in the early sixties, the author had an unexpected encounter with a future jazz great.


“Eronel” Stanley Cowell Trio
“Jordu” Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet
“Hi-Fly” Randy Weston Quartet at the Half Note with Coleman Hawkins
“If You Could See Me Now” Sarah Vaughan with Freddie Webster, Tadd Dameron
“My Old Flame” Sonny Rollins with Kenny Dorham
“All the Things You Are” Woody Shaw

Frank & Billie & Lester’s Mutual Admiration Society

In this episode, Bob Hecht explores some of the things that Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Lester Young had in common with one another musically.  In addition to each having made landmark contributions to jazz and popular music, three three giants were huge fans of each other’s artistry.


“Requiem” Lennie Tristano
“Shoe Shine Boy” Lester Young with Count Basie
“Bird of Paradise” Charlie Parker
“Me, Myself & I” Billie Holiday & Lester Young
“One for My Baby” Frank Sinatra
“Angel Eyes” Frank Sinatra
“Only the Lonely” Frank Sinatra
“Only the Lonely” Roy Orbison
“You Go to My Head” Billie Holiday
“You Go to My Head” Frank Sinatra
“There Is No Greater Love” Billie Holiday
“I’ll Never Be the Same” Billie Holiday & Lester Young
“The Man I Love” Lester Young
“Polka Dots & Moonbeams” Frank Sinatra
“Polka Dots & Moonbeams” Lester Young
“I’m a Fool To Want You” Billie Holiday
“Angel Eyes” Frank Sinatra
“Angel Eyes” Tommy Flanagan

The Train in Jazz & Blues

Since the first half of the 19th century, the sounds, symbols and metaphors of the train have cut across the American musical landscape. The significance of the train has been reflected in virtually every musical form: work songs, spirituals, folk, blues, jazz and pop. From the work-gang rhythms of pounding railroad track spikes to the sounds of train whistles and the clickety-clacks of the tracks, the onomatopoeia of the railroad has been a strong presence in American music. Author Albert Murray called the rhythms of trains, “the definitive percussive emphasis in jazz.”

This podcast gives the listener an ear into some of the amazing sounds and symbolisms of the train woven throughout our country’s music.


“All Aboard” Muddy Waters
“Honky Tonk Train Blues” Meade “Lux” Lewis
“Locomotive” Thelonious Monk
“This Train” The Staples Singers
“Move Along Train” The Staples Singers
“Build That Railroad” Duke Ellington, Al Hibbler
“Track 360” Duke Ellington
“B & O Blues” Joe Turner and Pete Johnson
“Mystery Train” Little Junior Parker
“On the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe” Johnny Mercer
“Dixie Flyer Blues” Bessie Smith
“Rock Island Line” Lead Belly
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo” Susannah McCorkle
“Mystery Pacific” Django Reinhardt
“Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” Louis Jordan
“Happy Go Lucky Local” Duke Ellington
“Daybreak Express” Duke Ellington
“Along the Track Blues” Duke Ellington
“Take the ‘A’ Train” Duke Ellington, Betty Roche

Paul Desmond, Original

There weren’t many alto players back in the late forties and early fifties who didn’t attempt to sound like the great Charlie Parker—his influence, on all jazz instruments in fact, was so pervasive that few could escape his gravitational pull. One notable exception was alto man Paul Desmond, who eschewed Bird’s hard-biting virtuosic style for a lighter, more relaxed approach, marked by a highly lyrical melodicism. Yet even Bird himself, and many of the Bird-influenced players of the time, such as Cannonball Adderley, admired Desmond’s playing—Adderley called Desmond “a profoundly beautiful player.” So this episode is the story of a jazzman who went his own way and left a legacy of some of the most beautiful solos in jazz history.


“Somebody Loves Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koko” Charlie Parker
“Out of Nowhere” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“In Your Own Sweet Way” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Blue Rondo a la Turk” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Tangerine” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Indian Summer” Lee Konitz
“You Stepped Out of a Dream” Stan Getz
“Moonlight in Vermont” Pete Brown
“Countless Blues” Lester Young
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington
“Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Here Lies Love” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“This Foolish Things” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Stardust” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“How High the Moon” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“All the Things You Are” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck
“Koto Song” Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck

Farmer’s Art

Art Farmer was one of the jazz world’s all-time great trumpet and flugelhorn players, and one of its most lyrical. In this episode Bob Hecht talks with the noted flugelhorn player Dmitri Matheny about Farmer, who for many years was his mentor and main inspiration.


“Stardust” Art Farmer
“Three Little Words” Art Farmer
“Stormy Weather” Dmitri Matheny
“Goodbye Old Girl” Art Farmer
“I Waited For You” Art Farmer
“I’m Old Fashioned” Art Farmer
“Petite Belle” Art Farmer and Jim Hall
“Stompin’ at the Savoy” Art Farmer and Jim Hall
“Sing Me Softly of the Blues” Art Farmer
“Mox Nix” Art Farmer
“Warm Valley” Dmitri Matheny

My Funny Valentine

In some ways, “My Funny Valentine” is an unlikely song to have endured since the 1930’s… it is a rather atypical love song, imbued as it is with the rich irony and whimsy of its creative lyricist, Lorenz Hart. In this podcast, we celebrate the popularity and longevity of this ubiquitous Rodgers & Hart standard.


“My Funny Valentine” is performed by the following artists:

Charles McPherson
Carmen McRae
Bill Evans & Jim Hall
Miles Davis
Sarah Vaughan
Frank Sinatra
Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan
Kate McGarry

Beatle Jazz

This podcast explores the history of the love-hate relationship of the jazz world and the Beatles. We trace the evolution of the Beatles initial, devastating impact on jazz, to the present day when their music is ubiquitous, and revered.


“Yesterday” Eric Reed
“Can’t Buy Me Love” The Beatles at Shea Stadium
“A Day in the Life” Wes Montgomery
“Imagine” Stanley Cowell
“A Hard Day’s Night” Count Basie
“All My Loving” Duke Ellington
“Blackbird” Brad Mehldau
“For No One” Ken Peplowski
“Let It Be” Joshua Redman
“Eleanor Rigby” Vince Guaraldi
“Mother Nature’s Son” Joel Frahm with Brad Mehldau
“She’s Leaving Home” McCoy Tyner
“Revolution” Bill Frisell
“Yesterday” Eric Reed

Sophisticated Lady

One of Duke Ellington’s most famous compositions, “Sophisticated Lady,” actually had its genesis in two of his band members’ original musical ideas. In this podcast we explore whether Duke’s greatest genius wasn’t perhaps more that of a collaborator than a composer.


“Sophisticated Lady” Coleman Hawkins

“Cotton Tail” Duke Ellington

“I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” Johnny Hodges with Ellington

“Satin Doll” Duke Ellington

“Concerto for Cootie” Cootie Williams with Ellington

“I’m Beginning To See the Light” Johnny Hodges with Ellington

“Sophisticated Lady” Alan Broadbent

“Sophisticated Lady” Duke Ellington

“Mood Indigo” Barney Bigard with Ellington

“Sophisticated Lady” Charles Mingus

“Sophisticated Lady” Sarah Vaughan

Miles Davis, Space Man

Trumpeter Miles Davis was famous for how he used his unique concept of space to create indelible, dramatic solos. In this episode we explore how Miles evolved from a young prototypical bebopper, playing a style in which ‘more’ was often considered hipper than less, to  become a musical minimalist, playing in ways in which ‘less’ is often much more.


“Basin Street Blues” Miles Davis

“Now’s the Time” Miles Davis with Charlie Parker

“Dizzy Atmosphere” Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

“Embraceable You” Miles Davis with Charlie Parker

“Bye Bye Blackbird” Miles Davis with John Coltrane

“I Thought About You” Miles Davis


Solo Flight

Charlie Christian was the first superstar of the electric guitar, ultimately paving the way for future greats like Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix. As his childhood friend Ralph Ellison said, “With Christian, the guitar found its jazz voice!” This is the story of his remarkable rise and fall, and the significance of his contributions.


“Wholly Cats” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Solo Flight” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Blue Devils Blues” Walter Page’s Blue Devils with Hot Lips Page, trumpet

“Swingin’ the Blues” Lester Young with Count Basie

“Good Mornin’ Blues” Charlie Christian and Lester Young, Kansas City Six

“Rose Room” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Flying Home” Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman

“Pagin’ the Devil” Charlie Christian and Lester Young with Kansas City Six

“Swing to Bop (Topsy)” Charlie Christian

Hughes Blues

Langston Hughes’ love of jazz suffused his work as a poet. Hughes was considered a pioneer in jazz poetry, and collaborated with numerous jazz musicians in poetry readings. This podcast features a number of his jazz-influenced poems, along with a number of music selections from Hughes’ personal record collection.


 “How Long Blues” Count Basie

“Blues at Dawn” Langston Hughes reading, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet

“The Mooche” Duke Ellington

“Consider Me” Langston Hughes reading, with Charles Mingus

“Dreams” Langston Hughes reading

“The Pearls” Jelly Roll Morton

“’Round Midnight” Thelonious Monk

“Good Morning Blues” Jimmy Rushing, Count Basie

“Homesick Blues” Langston Hughes reading

“The Weary Blues” Langston Hughes reading

“Scenes in the City” Charles Mingus, Melvin Stewart narrating

“I, Too” Langston Hughes reading

“Night & Morn” Langston Hughes reading, Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet

“After Hours” Avery Parish with Erskine Hawkins

“Backlash Blues” Nina Simone

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” Randy Weston


Strange Fruit

“Strange Fruit” is the iconic lynching protest song written by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx, and immortalized by Billie Holiday. Time Magazine named it “the song of the century.”


“Strange Fruit” Billie Holiday
“Strange Fruit” Billie Holiday
“Strange Fruit” Sidney Bechet
“Strange Fruit” Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller
“Strange Fruit” Caroline Hecht

Whitney Balliett, Jazz Poet

We’ve had many great jazz critics and writers, but perhaps no one whose work rose to the literary, and even poetic, reaches of Whitney Balliett’s. Dan Morgenstern once called him “the greatest prose stylist to ever apply his writing skills to jazz.” In this podcast, we sample some of Balliett’s unique descriptions of the music of a handful of jazz masters.


“Blue Again” Louis Armstrong
“West End Blues” Louis Armstrong
“In a Mellow Tone” Ben Webster
“Fine & Mellow” Doc Cheatham
“Surrey With the Fringe on Top” Blossom Dearie
“Summertime” Sidney Bechet
“These Foolish Things” Lester Young
“Off Minor” Thelonious Monk
“Parker’s Mood” Charlie Parker

Recommended: New Book by Thomas Brothers

Thomas Brothers, who previously wrote the outstanding Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, recently released a new book that delves into the fascinating realms of musical collaboration. HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration, provides insight into how these two protean musical groups relied on the contributions and “help” of their band members for inspiration and musical ideas. For example, the author discusses how the numerous contributions of the Ellington aggregation led to Duke’s success as a composer and bandleader. Did you know that alto star Johnny Hodges was responsible for creating the themes that spawned some of Duke’s biggest hits? Or that Billy Strayhorn’s compositional role was much more extensive than often was credited? Or that Lennon and McCartney shared composer credit even for songs they wrote individually?

Brothers has a captivating writing style that brings life, and reading pleasure, to what might otherwise be arcane music history. Highly recommended!