Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice

In this excellent biography of Impresario/Jazz Fan/Civil Rights Crusader Norman Granz, Tad Hershorn follows Norman Granz’ trail through his concerts, his record labels, tours, his relationship with Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald, and his love and respect for the music and the musicians who created it.

His numerous labels (Clef, Norgran, Down Home, Verve, Pablo) played a crucial role in documenting swing era musicians at a time when their music was relegated to the dustbin by major record labels. His 1940s “Jazz At The Philharmonic” (JATP) tours cultivated the then-new “jazz concert” audience and brought the finest jazz musicians in the world to venues around the world. He developed the art of advance publicity to an effective publicity machine.

Hershorn paints a rich and detailed portrait of his subject. Granz lived in Detroit in the late 1940’s, one of a thousand fascinating facts Tad dug up during his years of research. He manages to keep his narrative flowing, coping well with the large amount of information.

Hershorn carefully follows Granz from his college days at UCLA to his final days in Switzerland, when he’d withdrawn from most of the world. There had been attempts to document Granz’ life, but each attempt (including Hershorn’s first effort) was ignored. Hershorn struck pay dirt after Granz read and approved of his Master’s thesis. This led to numerous phone interviews and culminated in a face-to-face meeting at Granz’ home. Hershorn took full advantage of that help. He brings to the table two critical qualities: His passion for the music, and an obsession with all things Granz. He was a larger than life character and it’s doubtful if any music besides jazz had the necessary depth for his strongly held beliefs and passion for music. At one concert, hecklers went after Ella full speed ahead, which prompted Granz, Benny Carter and Peterson to march to the offenders and assault them. That was Granz’ story – he talked the talk, and walked the walk. He was convinced that racial discrimination was the cause of America’s social ills, and his belief never wavered.

Despite his aversion to would-be biographers, Granz got a lot of press during his fifty years on the scene, and Hershorn makes good use of it. We quickly learn that he wasn’t one to keep quiet – about anything. He had little use for jazz critics, and wasn’t afraid to sue (or threaten to sue) those whom he felt slandered him or his undertakings. Some folks thought JATP pandered to the lowest common denominator of jazz fans, but people loved his concerts, honking saxophones and all. Where else could you hear the likes of Pres, Bird, Billie Holiday and Oscar Peterson jamming?

Even Granz’ projects which didn’t happen sound fantastic: A duet recording with Bird and Art Tatum, or a full-length biographical film about Duke Ellington. Granz didn’t lack ideas, or the chutzpah to champion them. Despite his sometimes abrasive manner, his heart was in the right place, a summary which is reinforced many times in this book.

His “songbooks” featuring Ella Fitzgerald remain high-water marks of American music, and those dozens of solo recordings and small groups featuring Art Tatum contain brilliant jazz. He also launched Oscar Peterson’s American career, recorded Bird with Strings, and captured some beautiful Lester Young sides, to cite only a few of his accomplishments. He was prescient enough to record JATP concerts and issue them – another first.

As his musical heroes died, Granz found himself less interested in contemporary American music and “retired” to Switzerland, but he still remained involved with jazz. Pablo Records, named for his pal Pablo Picasso, continued Granz’ recording mission and ensured great jazz musicians got their due. He destroyed a large number of documents detailing his business dealings, and became more reclusive as he aged.

This is one of the better jazz biographies I’ve read. Chapters flew by, and the wealth of stories and events contained therein kept me engrossed. Hershorn has a solid knowledge of jazz history which benefits his subject and his readers.

It’s an honor to have Tad Hershorn at our festival. He will use many rare and unpublished images, video clips, and music excerpts to flesh out the big-screen story of Norman Granz. This is the first public event marking the publication of his Granz biography. The book will be available for purchase.
Tad Hershorn is Archivist at the Institute Of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.

Norman Granz: Taking Jazz To The World
St. John Providence Health System Jazz Talk Tent
Monday, September 5, 3:00 – 3:45 pm

Hershorn struck pay dirt after Granz read and approved of Hershorn’s Master Thesis.

Book review by Jim Gallert

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment Behind the Scenes

The anticipation and excitement for this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival grows as the crew of prepares all the aspects of broadcast, staging, talent preparation and social media. The producers, editors, graphics specialists, engineers and many others who are contributing to getting the experience of the Detroit Jazz Festival out to the world via web streaming are working hard behind the scenes in preparation for the live broadcast starting on Friday, September 2. Jeff “Tain” Watts’ ensemble of rhythmic innovators inspired by global and classical music along with the Planet After Hours hang with musicians after the close of the first night will kick-off at 7:00 P.M. is proud to be a part of a new chapter in the legacy of music in Detroit.

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The Detroit Jazz Festival: “Bringing you the World”

Yusef Lateef at the Detroit Jazz Fest 2007

Yusef Lateef at the Detroit Jazz Fest 2007

Guest post by: 
Terri Pontremoli, Artistic Director

In our country, jazz can often be dismissed as a “niche” art form.  It can be perceived as being not enough in the mainstream and sometimes too far out and retrospective.  Every now and then, we need to remind ourselves about its impact on the world and how it shines as a symbol of freedom and democracy to people everywhere.  My intent in “bringing you the world” this year at the Detroit Jazz Festival was not to present “world music,” but instead to share global interpretations of jazz and to experience the influence it has had on musicians from other cultures.

What better place to do that than inDetroiton Labor Day Weekend? Detroitis a city whose musicians have wielded such influence that it has been a formidable world stage for jazz through the clubs, radio stations and this festival. And we’re proud that Detroit Jazz Festival was named one of the top three jazz festivals inNorth Americain JazzTimes’ Reader’s and Critic’s polls in 2010.

My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who helped make it possible, including the Detroit Jazz Festival staff, board and volunteers, corporate, media and cultural partners and especially Gretchen Valade.  I invite you to celebrate with me as we listen to Artist in Residence, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo, Lizz Wright, Toots Thielemans, Ivan Lins, Dave Holland, Anat Cohen, Amina Figarova, Paquito D’Rivera and the hundreds of musicians from around the globe – and even other planets, like the Sun Ra Arkestra!  Labor Day Weekend will offer numerous opportunities to experience music both familiar and exotic at HartPlaza and Campus Martius inDetroit,Michigan.

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The staff at is excited about this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival.  We went live on Monday, August 22 at 11:00 A.M. and are streaming live and taped performances, news clips, interviews and behind-the-scenes segments focused on the Detroit Jazz Festival.   We will be broadcasting live from the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival starting at 7:00 P.M. on Friday, September 2 through the end of the festival on Monday, August 5.  We will be featuring the festival artists from around the world, including Jeff “Tain” Watts and his global drum ensemble, Kevin Eubanks, Sean Jones, the Sun Ra Archestra, Vertical Engine, Ivan Lins, Dave Holland, Sammy Figueroa & the Latin Jazz Explosion and other vibrant musicians.  Music fans will also be able to interact through Twitter and Facebook via

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Building upon a successful launch in 2010 that brought the Detroit Jazz Festival to more than 700,000 fans worldwide, announced today that new technology will now allow anyone with a smart phone to access, bringing the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival to even more jazz fans across the globe.

The 32nd Annual Detroit Jazz Festival will be held this Labor Day weekend September 2-5 in downtown Detroit. is an interactive web experience that streams live and taped performances, news flashes, interviews and behind-the-scenes commentary. Last year, fans in 157 countries visited the site.

“Streaming over the Internet brought the Detroit Jazz Festival to jazz fans all over the world, which was wonderful, but people without laptops had to watch the programming from their homes or offices,” said Sheldon Nueman, CEO of Joseph Productions, Inc. and founder of, the home of

“Now, with the ability to watch from a smart phone, we are truly bringing the sights and sounds of the Detroit Jazz Festival to a global, mobile audience. People can literally watch it anywhere now,” he added.

The mission of is to showcase Detroit as an important center for American music, to provide a unique platform for musicians to showcase to the world and to reacquaint the mainstream with jazz through social media.

In partnership with, and Detroit Public Television, the stage at Hart Plaza will stream via the web what is cool about the Detroit Jazz Festival and the city, in real time. Users around the globe – artists as well as fans – will be able to Skype, tweet and Facebook messages to fans, artists and media hosts in Detroit through, and the social media networks of Detroit Jazz Festival and adds several new features this year including “Planet Afterhours” where viewers can enjoy a “virtual hang” at the jam sessions with world renowned musicians at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, the official festival hotel and “JazzPlanet University,” which focuses on jazz education. For 2011, Jazz Planet will feature a larger, more prominently located stage on Hart Plaza, with seating for a live studio audience.

In addition to streaming live performances and interviews from the festival, will present the first-ever live video stream of the infamous Downbeat Blindfold Test. The Blindfold Test challenges an artist to identify and discuss the music and musicians on selected recordings. Hosted by Dan Ouellette, it will feature 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival artist in residence Jeff “Tain” Watts in the hot seat.

“Viewers all over the world will experience the ‘hipness’ of the world’s largest free jazz festival, how it blends urban chic and an informed and diverse audience with some of the best music on the planet,” says festival director Terri Pontremoli.

“For the artists, allows them to share some of their special projects – not only their performances – but what inspired them and what went into their works, with hundreds of thousands of people on the web,” Nueman added.

Detroit Jazz Festival organizers are expecting a big turn-out for this year’s event, according to Pontremoli. With the theme “We Bring You the World,” this year’s event will honor the global melting pot in jazz, showcasing cross-cultural influences and artists from Japan, West Africa, Cuba, Israel, Brazil and northern Europe, as well as from the United States.

Artists include Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo, Regina Carter, Gary Burton, Kevin Eubanks, Chuck Jackson, Dave Holland, Ivan Lins, Paquito D’Rivera, Luciana Souza, Karriem Riggins Ensemble with Common and more. For a complete listing of artists, visit

A complete online and smart phone schedule will be announced late August.

Visit for a sneak preview of what to expect Labor Day weekend.


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RIP Scott “E-dog” Peterson

Scott “E-dog” Peterson

Scott Peterson died Saturday, August 13, after battling an infection related to Cystic Fibrosis, which he’d overcome for 55 years. Born in Cleveland in 1956, Peterson took up the clarinet while in elementary school. He grew up in Cleveland and moved to Detroit in 1976 and matriculated at Oakland University in company with Walt Szymanski, among others, and performing with Sam Sanders. Oakland was a happening place in the 70’s with teachers like saxophonists Marvin “Doc” Holladay and Sam Sanders, pianist Charles Boles, and trumpeter Herbie Williams.

Scott was a real jazzman. He was a fine bluesman, too, and he impressed legendary drummer/bandleader J.C. Heard, who hired Peterson after hearing him play on Mackinac Island. Scott regarded playing in Heard’s orchestra as the best gig of his career, and he really added some fire to that band. We were all looking forward to hearing Scott in the J.C. Heard orchestra reunion this year.
Scott was convinced that music kept him alive, that playing his saxophone strengthened his lungs, and his spirit. He underwent a double lung transplant in 2009 and had to re-develop his sound into a strong, swinging presence, and he succeeded.
Scott was a positive person, always upbeat and strong and his music was filled with joy. He touched many folks, musically and personally, and I’m sure he left a large number of friends in San Francisco, just like here in Detroit.

Jim Gallert

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One of the best drummers on the PLANET!

Jeff "Tain" Watts, Detroit Jazz Festival 2011 Artist in residence

After only two months into his role as artist in residence, Jeff “Tain” Watts has already made an indelible impression on the City of Detroit.

Freedom 2011

“Tain” was introduced to this community in February for Freedom 2011, his curated celebration of inspirational music from the Civil Rights Movement, at the Charles H. Wright MAAH. He led an all-star group featuring Geri Allen, Bob Hurst, Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Nicholas Payton and Mavis SWAN Poole. Prior to this performance, he and vocalist Mavis SWAN Poole conducted master classes with students at the Detroit School of the Arts. The “new and improved” DSA Jazz Ensemble, led by Dennis Wilson (as part of DJF’s Jazz Infusion project funded by the Erb Foundation), performed several pieces for “Tain” who critiqued the group and provided invaluable information to the students. He also held a Q&A and performed with them.

Tain performing with the Wayne State University Jazztet

“Tain” returned in April, national jazz appreciation month, to work with students from Warren Mott, Sterling Heights and Cousino high schools. He also appeared on Fox 2, participated at the festival’s annual press conference, and played at Cliff Bells with Chris Collins and the Wayne State University Big Band.

“Tain” will continue to work with students and perform in unique settings during the summer months leading up to the 32nd annual Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend.

The dynamic drummer will heat things up on opening night, Friday September 2, with a star-studded “Drum Club” featuring Joe Locke, Susie Ibarra, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Pedro Martinez. Throughout the weekend, “Tain” will be seen on several stages – with his own band, with Michigan State University’s Jazz Orchestra, and in the Jazz Talk Tent presented by St. John Providence Health System, telling stories and being in the hot seat for DownBeat’s Blindfold Test.

Stay tuned for “Planet” interviews with Tain.

"Tain" performing with the DSA Jazz Ensemble

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