Friday, June 16, 2023

Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023)

 Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023)

by John Pietaro

BOBBY KAPP, musical sojourner, has made a mission of advancing truth within his art. During childhood, back in Perth Amboy, his natural talents led to the drums and a need to carry this musical message far and wide. As both drummer and vocalist, Kapp’s flights, built of the improvisational moment, guided forays throughout the US, into Cuba, and then Mexico, his base since the 1990s, shredding the soundscape with such legends as Marion Brown, Gato Barbieri, Gene Perla, Matt Shipp, Dave Burrell and Ivo Perlman. His canon is one most empathic.

Kapp’s road-less-traveled is now walked in the company of composer and pianist Richard Sussman, another icon of sounds bold and unique. “I’ve spent most of my career playing free; the “compositions” began with the red light in the studio”, Kapp explained. Yet, in his 81st year, he commissioned Sussman to write an album’s worth of pieces which take orchestration toward its most vexing, compelling the ear toward a deeper listening. With Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman, the veteran improvisor revels in colors reminiscent of Gil Evans’ explorations. But the chordal clouds of another Miles compatriot, pianist/composer Bill Evans, also thrives amid this mesmerizing, expansive ensemble and its leader’s dynamic time machine. Watch carefully and you’ll almost see the sounds draining off the nib of Sussman’s calligraphy pen. Throughout, Bobby Kapp’s course of empathy is matched only by the restless surge of change.

Cast, sojourner, so transient be your berth!

Reportage: Pride Month, Music, and the LGBTQ Community

 Originally published in "Allegro" magazine (the journal of Local 802 AFM)

Pride Month, Music, and the LGBTQ Community

by John Pietaro

At even a precursory glance, the role of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people as leading voices within the arts is immediately evident. Yet this relevance alone has not been enough, particularly in years past, to combat the ignorant fear if not the visceral hatred of far too many toward the LGBTQ community. Personal lives had to remain tightly closeted to avoid government and police persecution, as well as ostracization from producers, arts administrators and, in many cases, fellow artists. The practice of having “marriages of convenience” (really, of necessity) and worse, the denial of one’s lifestyle and actual life partner, amounted to a further ghettoization of some of the greatest creative minds. Pride came only with the boldest activism of the Stonewall Inn uprising of June 28, 1969, and surely during the cruel years of the AIDS crisis.

Cut to the present and LGBTQ+ visibility has increased globally with the work of “out” creatives and “out” characters featured in film, literature, visual art, stage works and on television screens. Perhaps it’s unfathomable here from my office on West 48th Street, but the current hysterical backlash to progressive gains is boiling over not only in rural enclaves but the state houses of Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and other primarily conservative regions.

As of May 23, the Human Rights Campaign’s Year-to-Date Snapshot of Anti-LGBTQ+ State Legislative Activity told the awful truth: so far, over 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, a record; over 220 bills specifically target transgender and non-binary people, also a record; and a record 70 anti-LGBTQ laws have been enacted so far this year, including: 15 laws banning gender affirming care for transgender youth, 7 laws requiring or allowing misgendering of transgender students, 2 laws targeting drag performances, 3 laws creating a license to discriminate, 4 laws censoring school curriculum, including books.

For musicians identifying as LGBTQ, the struggle has often been dire, particularly in genres deemed particularly macho, i.e. jazz and rock. Gary Burton has been acknowledged as one of the most important vibraphonists in the history of the instrument, and his music crosses boundaries between many genres. The endless accolades, however, didn’t allow him to feel safe as a gay man, at least not until the publication of his 2014 autobiography, “Learning to Listen”, which details his experiences in music and life. When asked why he’d chosen to come out at this later stage of his life, he answered inasmuch that it was due time. Burton’s fearlessness allowed others to come forward, happily, but it’s just as important to look back, particularly into the lives and careers of two Local 802 musicians who survived through times more arcane.

Leonard Bernstein conducting at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1963.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918-1990) is perhaps the most celebrated conductor-composer in the canon of American music. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts (itself the site of a vastly important mill strike by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1912), Bernstein studied piano as a child and quickly took to orchestral music. At the age of 14, he attended a concert of Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops which made a profound impact on his life; among the material was Ravel’s “Bolero”. In 1935 he became a student at Harvard, studying with Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston, serving as accompanist to the Harvard Glee Club, performing numerous contemporary pieces and staging a production of gay composer Marc Blitzstein’s “Cradle Will Rock”, among other credits.

His professional baptism by fire was with the renowned New York Philharmonic, taking over the baton for an ailing Artur Rodzinski with scant notice, and drawing international praise. Bernstein’s credits number far too many to list here, but what has been less publicly acknowledged is his life as a gay man.

Though Bernstein married Chilean actress Felicia Cohn Montealegre in 1958 and the couple remained together, successfully raising a family, he continued to see men. She wrote to him: “You are a homosexual and may never change — you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depends on a certain sexual pattern, what can you do?” (from “The Letters of Leonard Bernstein” edited by Nigel Simeone).

They separated in 1975 when Bernstein lived with a boyfriend, but he returned to Felicia when she became terminally ill, only parting after her death some three years later.

As has been quoted often, his West Side Story collaborator Arthur Laurents, stated that Bernstein was “a gay man who got married. He wasn’t conflicted about it at all. He was just gay.” And according to “The New Yorker”, prolifically so. While this was rarely a secret, Bernstein’s passionate, intimate relationship with a young Tokyo man, Kunihiko Hashimoto, has only come to light in recent years. Hashimoto became an important collaborator as well as lover, and the relationship continued across oceans and through the remainder of Maestro’s life.

BERTHA “MADAME SPIVY LEVOE” LEVINE (1906 — 1971) was a celebrated pianist-vocalist, actor and early activist for the LGBTQ community. Born in Brooklyn, as a young woman she began performances in area speakeasies which, by the mid-1930s, led to engagements in major New York nightclubs where she was lauded “the female Noel Coward” due to her satirical, double-entendre-filled lyrics. “The New York Times”, in 1939 wrote: “Spivy’s material, witty, acid, and tragicomic, is better than most of the essays one hears about town, and her delivery is that of a sophisticated artist on her own grounds. She knows the value of surprise in punching a line, she uses understatement unerringly, and her piano accompaniment is superb.”

A special target were the right-wing politicians and especially the Daughters of the American Revolution, who were lampooned in the barely veiled “100 percent American Girls”: “Our country is so fine, it will really be divine, when we get everyone but us to move away.”

In 1940 Levoe opened her own nightclub, Spivy’s Roof, on the penthouse of 139 East 57th Street, which became a highly successful gay and lesbian center of midtown nightlife. Due to the homophobia of the day, the establishment was private and without signage yet attracted major film and Broadway stars in the know, particularly those living closeted lives. A pair of grand pianos across from the bar assured that Spivy could join in with the house pianist, usually Liberace, to the thrill of the crowds. Regulars included Mabel Mercer, Thelma Carpenter, and Martha Raye. “It was the place in those days,” Davis said, “especially for men,” who adored her. Women did too, including her current lover, usually seated at the bar, and friends such as Tallulah Bankhead and Patsy Kelly, whom she entertained at specially reserved tables. Paul Lynde, on the Tonight Show, added: “Judy Garland and Martha Raye and Judy Holliday… they used to come in and Spivy would entertain all night long for them….”.

The writer Ignacio Schwartz reminisced: “She was a plump lady (one writer said that she was “squat like a bulldog.”) She wore her hair in a tight pompadour with a white streak down the middle. She would place a tall glass of what was probably chilled gin on the piano before her. During her time on stage, she would drain a couple, but her singing — her low, throaty voice — would always be perfect.”

A recent blog post on Madame Spivy described her favorite means of introducing a song while capturing attention: “This is VERY sad and we must be VERY quiet, please.” She would then launch into a number that was anything but either of those things.”

So popular had she become, that the entertainer was signed to Commodore Records for a series of 78 RPM sides compiled as “Seven Gay Sophisticated Songs”, which were followed by several albums for other labels. Spivy’s songs, both original and those of other composers, were utterly timely and bravely satirical.

Following her club’s 1951 closure, Spivy focused on acting and was soon cast in several film roles and one noted episode of the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” television program (many will recall “Specialty of the House”). Among her film work was the 1960 adaptation of James T. Farrell’s “Studs Lonigan” and Rod Serling’s powerful “Requiem for a Heavyweight” of 1962.

In closing this Pride article, here is the full lyric of “100 percent American Girls”:

Members of the Daughters, Aunts, Mothers and Second Cousins of the War of 1812, form into double file.

Stop twitching at that bunting Carrie and smile.

Take off that feather boa, Mary Louise this is a parade, not a charade.

Vera, you go right back to Washington, you’re not supposed to be marching at all! You’re supposed to be keeping THOSE people out of Constitution Hall.

Please… you on the float there. Lord Calvin is sagging. Yankee Doodle is flat. Your powder is wet. And your Mayflower is dragging.

Oh thank God here’s George III. Alright Lizzie, stand right there and sneer.

Please Consuela, someone has to be the rabble. You throw the Boston tea right in this little box over here.

Remember the things we said we’d never abandon. Remember we’re still true to Alfred M. Landon.

Remember when the Bill of Rights…. HMMMM ….. tried to get fresh with me!

My Westbook Pegler ‘tis of thee. Ah ha! The bugle! Formation girls:

Nelly pull your belly in — it’s for the U.S.A. We’ve got to be adorable today.

Oh aren’t you excited? And isn’t this a binge? Lets unfurl every curl in our lunatic fringe.

Tilly, Queenie, Magnolia, Hillaire… to arms!

Nelly pull your belly in and hold your chin up high. We’ll give the crowd a treat as we pass by.

The Pricker unit forward, the Bilbo club behind….And Bessie you keep waving what your grandpa signed.

All together now: Comb your hair for California, wash your neck for Io-way.

Our country is so fine, it will really be divine when we get everyone but us to move away.

Take a Benzedrine for old Virginia, where our daddies sniffed their snuff with dukes and earls.

We are for the human race, which is lovely (in its place). We’re 100 percent American Girls!

What? Do I see one of you lag when before you is marching the flag?

Did Washington crossing the Delaware say “Let’s call it off, boys — I’m not in the mood for rowing”?

Did Betsy Ross say “Fold up the banner girls — I hate sewing”?

Hmmm. Really girls! Eyes up! Curls up and away!

Annie pull your fanny in — it’s for the U.S.A. We’ve got to be adorable today.

When Valley Forge was icy and up to here in snow… did Dolly Madison say “No”?

Myrtle, Cissy, Prissy, Mamie — to arms!

Annie pull your fanny in — it’s for the U.S.A. We’re 100 percent American Girls!

–composed by Charlotte Kent for the album “An Evening With Spivy” (Gala Records 1947)

Reportage: Harvey Brownstone Honored at the Stonewall Inn

 Harvey Brownstone Honored at the Stonewall: Canadian Talk Show Host, Activist Kicks Off Pride Month

By John Pietaro

Just who is Harvey Brownstone? For the many residing south of Niagara’s Rainbow Bridge, the celebrity host with an audience of 5 million+ may not be immediately recognizable, but his legend and impact are unmistakable. 2023’s Pride Festivities in New York were given a special commencement with Brownstone’s appearance at the Stonewall Inn, June 5. The birthplace of LGBTQ Liberation anchored Harvey’s New York City debut with in-depth discussion about his life, career, and ‘Interviews’ program, alongside guest speakers and live music. It was produced and hosted by public relations maven Laurie Towers.

The former Canadian judge—that nation’s first openly gay jurist—made history by marrying countless same-sex couples from the provinces as well as throughout this nation. The New York contingent was so numerous that Brownstone’s dedication earned a 2008 Proclamation by NYS State Senator Tom Duane. His marriage officiating occurred continually—and free of charge--around an already full Family Court docket. At the Stonewall, Brownstone offered, “It was always so moving. There were so many desperate to finally hold that legal commitment, I couldn’t turn anyone away.”

Among those he couldn’t turn away were New Yorkers Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, married by Brownstone after 42 years as a couple; their union came to trigger the Supreme Court litigation which ushered in legal marriage for LGBTQ people across the U.S. The latter story was ardently told in documentary Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement which includes footage of the pair’s wedding ceremony at Toronto Pearson Airport. Among the guest speakers at Stonewall was Judith Kasen-Windsor who became the second wife of Edie Windsor following Thea Spyer’s lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis. Kasen-Windsor offered details of the fight, not only for recognition but that which Windsor endured leading up to the Supreme Court decision.

Grammy-nominated songwriter Harriet Schock (“Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”, a massive hit for Helen Reddy), moved by Brownstone’s “coming out” story, composed “I Am Yours”, now released by vocalist and pianist Gary Lynn Floyd on his album Present Schock: The Songs of Harriet Schock. Floyd flew in from Houston to perform a riveting set including this song and Schock’s reworking of “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady”, adding, “This time it’s from the male perspective and it’s actually my own coming out story”. He also performed a rousing original with vocalist Denise Lee, another out-of-towner in for the occasion (“And I also came to see my baby performing in Shuck’d on Broadway!”, she excitedly added). The duo lit the house with Floyd’s classic, warm baritone and Lee’s Mavis Staples-inspired vocal flight. Jim Keaton, president of the Helen Reddy Fan Club, spoke powerfully about the songs of Schock and the relationship he developed with Reddy and her team.

Award-winning mixologist Maria Gentile who’d crafted special libations for the evening including the Marvy Harvey, Love Wins, Justice for All, and the Brownstone (with Canadian Club whiskey, natch), emerged from behind the bar to lend her vocal talents to the goings-on. “If I Was a Boy”, a deeply touching piece recalling Gentile’s own childhood struggles within the LGBTQ reality, was emotionally performed by this veteran cabaret singer with emotive piano accompaniment by Floyd.

Other features of the evening included an address by long-term activist and WBAI radio host David Rothenberg. “I may be older than water”, he joked, nonplussed, “but I can still get up on stage”. Rothenberg, who’d spent decades as a Broadway press agent, was also founder of the Fortune Society. His activism for civil rights, civil liberties and peace expanded in 1973 “when I was asked to be on the David Susskind Show to discuss gay and lesbian issues. That was my coming-out story. I lived across the street from this place in 1969 during the uprising, but was frozen, deep in the closet then. I haven’t looked back since.” Others in the crowd included television, film and stage actor Louise Sorel (whom Rothenberg recalled from his earliest press rep days), and breakthrough TV screenwriter Susan Silver, among many more.

Wendy Stuart, actor, activist, and host of the ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ show, clarified just how fragile the situation is right now, in the face of ultra-conservative legislation stripping human rights through the most extreme of right-wing voices.

During his years on the bench, Brownstone also became a best-selling author with the groundbreaking “Tug of War: A Judge’s Verdict on Separation, Custody Battles and the Bitter Realities of Family Court”, leading to numerous appearances in media, but his lifelong desire to host celebrated actors and writers came to be only following retirement from law.

Since its debut in 2021, ‘Harvey Brownstone Interviews’ has counted Louis Gossett Jr, Linda Evans, Sir Tim Rice, Robert Wagner, Louise Sorel, Ruta Lee, even the elusive 93-year-old Mamie van Doren among his notable guests. The show is broadcast globally on Brownstone’s own YouTube channel as well as XPTV1 throughout the U.K., among other sources. Honoring the show, the Breakfast at Dominique’s fair trade, environmentally friendly coffee company premiered its ‘Talk Show Blend’, suited to Brownstone’s specific taste.

As the Stonewall celebration came to a close and the over-filled glasses were drained down to their rocks, so to speak, the house system played “Oh, Canada”, with host Towers proclaiming, “This is New York’s ‘thank you’ to you, Harvey. For all you’ve done!”



Harvey Brownstone Interviews website:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” youtube channel:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” XPTV1:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” Spotify channel:

“Harvey Brownstone Interviews” Apple:

Gary Lynn Floyd:

Harriet Schock:

Breakfast at Dominique’s Hollywood Blends coffees:


Sunday, April 9, 2023

Album review: Curlew, CBGBs, NYC, 1987

 The NYC Jazz Record, March 2023

Curlew, CBGBs, NYC, 1987

Review by John Pietaro

This historic reach back to 1987, one of the high years of “downtown”, opens in the hallowed crush of CBGB (there was no “s” in the title) with Curlew’s pulsating rendition of “Ray”. The  piece by saxophonist George Cartwright was inspired by novelist Barry Hannah. Like Cartwright, Hannah was an artist stemming from the deep south who thrived in dark humor. But Curlew’s urgency leaves little space for laughter. One reference point is Ornette’s Prime Time, had that ensemble been reared not in a Prince Street loft, but across Bowery and over. The linear work of each member of Curlew reached as far as any band at CBGB would, or could. “Ray”, angular, swinging, funk-infected, is a celebration of musical liberation that lusciously conjoins into a raw Coleman-like piece, the B-section of which will send shivers down the spine of latent listeners. The wonderfully restless electric bass of Ann Rupel, tenaciously seeking news paths through the thicket, pushing the primal-scream solos of Cartwright, guitarist Davey Williams, and especially cellist Tom Cora, as well as the sonic explosions of drummer Pippin Barnet, remains an essential showcase of the downtown sound.

“Kissing Goodbye”, which follows, is perhaps the missing link between Prime Time and the throttling polyrhythms of ‘80s King Crimson, peppered by the essence of stale beer that perfumed Bowery and Bleeker. Ornette’s penchant for folkish melodies is often realized in Cartwright’s compositions, the improvisation’s this inspired are nothing short of legendary. And as an aside, aspects of Crimson’s 1973 “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic” are evident within the ominous pulsations of “To the Summer in Our Hearts”, but then Rupel turns that harmonic structure on its head.

Curlew was founded in 1979 not long after Cartwright arrived in NYC. His biography, intertwined with that of the band, is the stuff of East Village legend, and by the time this set was recorded (directly off the mixing board), the ensemble had found its classic line-up which demonstrated again and again the necessary ingredients. Yet it remains vexing as to why Curlew has so often sat on the music’s periphery. The answer may be found in its interchangeable line-up, even with the downtown A-list on hand. Earlier, Bill Laswell, Fred Frith, Nicky Skopelitis, and Denardo Coleman held chairs, and later Chris Cochrane, Kenny Wolleson, and Sam Bennett, among other notables. The scene overflowed with talent and there was a vast array of venues, encouraging transience for many. Just a year after this performance at CBGB, Ann Rupel founded No Safety with Cochrane, Barnett, Zeena Parkins, and Doug Seidel, thriving on Curlew’s magic. Around the same time, Tom Cora co-led Skeleton Crew with Fred Frith, and Frith continued his own trans-Atlantic foray, including the Golden Palominos and Massacre with Laswell. The cross-pollination was impossible to avoid, but so daring the synthesis that even in casting ‘the shock of the new’, its presence was fleeting, an emulsion. Such a capture as Curlew at CBGB, though remains immortal.


George Cartwright - saxes
Tom Cora - cello
Davey Williams - guitar
Ann Rupel - bass
Pippin Barnett - drums

1. Ray

2. Kissing Goodbye

3.To the Summer in Our Hearts

4. Barking

5. Moonlake

6. One Fried Egg

7.The Hardwood

8. Oklahoma

9. Agitar / The Victim

10. Light Sentence

11. Mink's Dream

12. First Bite

13. Shoats





Performance review: “Jazz Gypsies”: MAC GOLLEHON & OMAR EDWARDS

 The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO, NY@Night column, March 2023


2/7/23, The Hard Swallow, NYC

 The Hard Swallow, a classic East Village bar, swelled throbbingly on this oddly warm Tuesday night (February 7). The duet Jazz Gypsies--Mac Gollehon, trumpet/samples/voice; Omar Edwards, dance/voice--commandeered the atmosphere, their manipulated pre-recorded orchestral hits and rhythm tracks shredding the whisky-soaked night air. Gollehon blared a warning call and Edwards tossed himself into a flurry of tireless movement, part jazz and tap, part hip hop, his syncopated steps ricocheted off the platform with abandon. Edwards’ triplet attacks sprayed the club like tommy gun bullets as Gollehon, a multi-instrumentalist and mean jazz trumpeter whose session work is legendary, improvised bop heads, defying the dancer at each turn. The swing was killing, with Edwards popping quarter-note triplet figures on one foot against 16th-note and 32nd-note triplets in the other, like Gene Krupa or Papa Jo Jones tearing into accented rim shots. By the time the duo took on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”, Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”, or something by Jaco, Omar was drenched in sweat, dancing in odd time like it was common (pun intended). Various Latin and funk pieces had Gollehon rapping and vocalizing over the thunder and then moving throughout the tightly crowded space, trumpet aloft, the crowd dancing and clapping wherever the backbeat may lay. At points, percussionist Jeanne Camo added to the thicket on snare drum, but otherwise the sizzling, soaring music and visuals were owned by this marvelously unlikely pairing. These Jazz Gypsies may be solely responsible for an entirely new genre.

Women’s History Month Profile: HAZEL SCOTT, Allegro Mar '23

 Allegro, the Journal of Local 802 AFM, March 2023

Women’s History Month Profile: HAZEL SCOTT

John Pietaro

By the time Hazel Scott reapplied for membership in Local 802, she’d lived more in her 46 years than most could in a lifetime. From child prodigy to renowned performer, she was a major recording artist and noted film actor, as well as the first African American artist to host her own programs on both radio and television. In a tragic turn, this acclaim was followed in 1950 by a racist, red-baiting campaign by the forces of reaction, particularly the House Un-American Activities Committee. Almost immediately thereafter, her television show was canceled, and Scott suffered the indignity of media blacklisting and a mental breakdown. By the late 1950s, her prominent marriage to Adam Clayton Powell had eroded and she’d left New York for Paris, returning only with her own healing and the racial advances of the next decade. Still, her story is one that has rarely been told.

The Trinidad-born pianist and vocalist began her prodigious career as a child, and in 1924, when she was four years of age, relocated to New York City with her family. Scott’s perfect pitch and outstanding instrumental ability led her mother Alma Scott (also a musician), four years later, to bring her to the attention of Julliard professor Oscar Wagner who provided Hazel advanced musical training. By the age of 11, she’d already made her professional debut.

A performance at Roseland led to a contract with WOR radio and, over the next few years, celebrated gigs at increasingly prestigious nightclubs. When she was 19, Scott began a residency at Café Society, casting an important series of Swinging the Classics, bridging the jazz she loved (and would go on to perform with the likes of Charles Mingus and Max Roach) and the classical music she’d showcased over the years. Barney Josephson, Café Society’s owner and a virulent opponent of segregation, became Scott’s manager and assured that her bookings were for integrated audiences, and supporting her when racist incidents occurred along the way.

In such a climate, with neighborhoods (and the active U.S. military) so coldly separated by race, one might assume that an artist like Scott could never proliferate, yet she was called out to Hollywood and offered a Columbia Pictures contract. Pridefully, she insisted on terms that were shocking at the time, including the control of character and costume, making several movies including one with Lena Horne. Following a successful protest action when she refused for the other Black actresses in a film to be dressed in soiled aprons (holding up production for three days!), Columbia head Harry Cohn threatened to close Scott out of all film work; she returned to New York and resumed her successful music career. Later, she markedly stated: “From Birth of a Nation to Gone with the Wind, from Tennessee Johnson’s to My Old Kentucky Home; from my beloved friend Bill Robinson to Butterfly McQueen; from bad to worse and from degradation to dishonor—so went the story of the Black American in Hollywood.”

In 1944, the FBI opened a file on Scott, citing her involvement in the Civil Rights Congress and the ACLU’s American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born as well as her professional association with the openly left-wing Barney Josephson. Her marriage a year later to the dashing, newly-elected Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr and the headlines they achieved after protesting Scott being barred from performing at Constitution Hall by the notorious Daughter of the American Revolution was apparently what the festering right-wing was seeking. Scott was a force, establishing a 1950 battle against the National Press Club’s racist admission policy and a civil rights lawsuit against a Spokane WA restaurant that refused to serve her (following a USO performance).

That same year, Scott’s successes in television guest appearances led to the premiere of The Hazel Scott Show, a music and variety series, historic as the very first for any African American performer. The slanderous write-up of the pianist’s “communist sympathies” (i.e., her activism) in the pages of archconservative “Red Channels” magazine put Scott into the sites of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee and the myriad neo-fascist organizations who breathed life into it. Voluntarily, Scott agreed to appear before the Committee and made all attempts to separate herself from the Communist Party but used the occasion to speak out against the influence of “Red Channels” on the industry, and the very blacklist she would soon find herself in the midst of. A single week after her appearance before HUAC, the network canceled her television show, meanwhile Scott’s performance schedule was scrutinized and heavily strained. By ’51, the tension evolving in her life led to a total breakdown and the need to be hospitalized.

Though she resumed aspects of her career, the wider exposure of television proved more elusive. In 1957, Scott chose to leave the country, moving to Paris where she continued to speak out against both racism and the McCarthyism and the rightist politics that fuel them. With her marriage to Powell apparently in distress, the couple formally separated by the close of the decade. Yet, she stood strong, appearing with the great writer and voice of liberation James Baldwin in support of civil rights.

In preparation for her relocation back to New York, Scott reactivated her long-held 802 membership in June, ’66. She resumed performances, with a highlight at the New York Paramount in in 1968, and with the blacklist formally broken, she returned briefly to television. Scott endeavored into the Ba’hai faith, performing for its various large events here and abroad with Dizzy Gillespie, and continued being a voice of pride and power.

Hazel Scott died of cancer at Mt. Sinai Hospital in 1981. She was just 61years old. But her legend remains and was recalled by Alicia Keys during the 2019 Grammy Awards, and the latter-day memorials include a Dance Theatre of Harlem celebration in 2022.

Hazel Scott’s FBI file:


Hazel Scott, Discography:

Prelude In C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2 / Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In C Sharp Minor (1940)

Piano Greats - Andre Previn*, Earl Hines, Hazel Scott, Matt Dennis, Barkley Allen, Hazel Scott - Prelude In "C" Sharp Minor / Country Gardens (1941)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In "C" Sharp Minor / Valse In "D" Flat Major (1941)

Ritual Fire Dance / Two Part Invention In "A" Minor (1941)

Hazel's Boogie Woogie / Blues In B Flat (1942)

Her Second Album Of Piano Solos With Drums Acc. (1942)

People Will Say We're In Love / Honeysuckle Rose (1943)

Body And Soul / "C" Jam Blues (1943)

A Piano Recital (1946)

Great Scott! (1947)

Swinging The Classics. Swing Style Piano Solos With Drums - Volume 1 Swinging The Classics. Swing Style Piano Solos With Drums - Volume 1 (1949)

Two Toned Piano Recital (1952)

Hazel Scott's Late Show (1953)

Grand Jazz album (1954)

Relaxed Piano Moods (1955)

 Round Midnight (1957)

The Man I Love / Fascinating Rhythm (1945)

I'm Glad There Is You / Take Me In Your Arms (1945)

Sonata In C Minor / Idyll (1946)

A Rainy Night In G / How High The Moon (1946)

Butterfly Kick / Ich Vil Sich Spielen (1947)

On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1947)

Take Me, Take Me / Carnaval (1957)

Hazel Scott Joue Et Chante (1957)

Im Mantel Der Nacht (1958)

Viens Danser  (1958)

Le Desordre Et La Nuit (1958)

Hazel Scott (1965)

Fantasie Impromptu / Nocturne In B Flat Minor

Brown Bee Boogie

How High The Moon / I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans 

Valse In C Sharp Minor / (A) Sonata In C Minor (B) Toccata 

Round, Fine And Brown / Noages 

Always (1979)


For more information on Hazel Scott:






Performance review: Studio Rivbea Revisited

The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO / NY@Night Column, February 2023

Studio Rivbea Revisited

We Free Strings and Ensemble Rivbea Revisited

Jan 8, 2023, Gene Frankel Theatre, NYC

 Studio Rivbea, founded by Sam Rivers in the Loft Jazz days, remains the stuff of legend. Arts for Art celebrated it over a five-day period, capturing the revolutionary brilliance still ruminating within 24 Bond Street. Creative spirits never die, surely not within current occupant, the Gene Frankel Theatre which played host to this fest (January 8), in particular day five’s overflowing gifts. Violist Melanie Dyer’s We Free Strings harbors the raw radicalism, cultural pride, and multi-media plausibility that filled the Lofts. Dyer’s group swings, burns, sizzles and swoons through the composed and the improvised (and the seemingly composed but improvised) as heard on its latest album. But this concert, a thrilling preview of her “Rebecca”, added Dyer’s rich prose, spoken word, film and photography to the mix. Dedicated to her 90-year-old aunt, the work explored heritage, lineage, the larger family, the self. “A few poems the love of my youth never read in a coat pocket full of tacit apologies, acts of hubris, lint”. The literature stood as vitally as the music, however Charlie Burnham and Gwen Laster (violins), Alex Waterman (cello), Rahsaan Carter (bass), Newman Taylor Baker (percussion), and Dyer herself simply transcended. And then Ensemble Rivbea Revisited, comprised of Loft Jazz vets (William Parker, Juma Sultan, Joe Daley, Daniel Carter, Ted Daniel,) and younger musicians (Ingrid Laubrock, Brandon Lopez), played a transporting improvised set. And a special closer had Parker offering invaluable tutelage on Rivbea and its day as well as the everlasting lesson of both.


Performance review: The Art of Counterpoint

 The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO/NY@Night Column, February 2023

Closing Concert: The Art of Counterpoint

Stephan Haynes, leader

Jan 10, 2023, Zurcher Gallery, NYC

 The very air within Zurcher Gallery (January 10) bred community and spoke fluently of downtown’s thriving. “The Art of Counterpoint”, a high point in Zurcher’s already alluring season, featured inner visions of the music via artwork of several notable musicians, Bill Dixon, Marion Brown, Oliver Lake and legendary poet Ted Joans (grown from the free jazz circle) among them. This closing concert feted not only the stunning visuals, but free improvisation itself with a line-up headed by cornetist Stephen Haynes, and a string ensemble of Joe Morris, Jessica Pavone, Sarah Bernstein, Charlie Burnham, and Lester St. Louis. Well before the downbeat, the room filled with area visionary creatives warmly greeting one another with hugs, laughter, memories, and plans for future collaboration. Once the music began, however, the audience sat in riveted silence. “Fifty years ago, when I was 18, I met Bill Dixon”, Haynes began, redoubling the sense of heritage and family. The ensemble, then, cast a gorgeous atonal mosaic of modal string heterophony, aerial muted cornet, and Morris’ acoustic guitar filling each crevice. Within the prodigious musicianship, violist Pavone stood out, expressing passages lustrous and incendiary, seemingly davening as streams of muscular, pulsating bowing threatened to spark a fire. And with Haynes’ soaring, knowing commentary above and below, Burnham’s and Bernstein’s violins took flight, crafting imagery of the outsider jazz adaptation of Le Sacre du Printemps that never was. Appropriately, cellist St. Louis deftly captured the house with moving, whispery fanfare and a hunter’s bow. Unforgettable.

Reportage: Night of Oh, So Many Stars: Wendy Stuart’s Birthday Feted at Pangea


Night of Oh, So Many Stars: Wendy Stuart’s Birthday Feted at Pangea

By John Pietaro

The scene was unmistakably Pangea, that home of outsider hip, as the bar and club overflowed with a timeless sense of bacchanal. The occasion on Sunday January 15 was the birthday fest of Wendy Stuart, actress, model and comic, tenacious social activist, deliberate night owl, planetary traveler, author, and host of her own television and radio shows. Stuart is also highly active in the Imperial Court of New York, so the opulence of birthday cake and libations paled in comparison to the surplus helpings of camp.

Rapidly, the space filled with well-wishers and others of glitter and glam, including fashionista Nick Lyon, as both front stage and cabaret room swelled with performers from on- and off-Broadway. Joe Preston, a friend of Stuart’s and the official guardian of Jackie Curtis’ estate stated: “There’s no more magnificent place to be than right here, right now”, adding that Pangea alone stands as “the new Max’s” within a sea of venues in the city.

Stuart initially took on MC duties, wryly informing the room, “I’m still trying to figure out why I’m not famous yet.” She then performed an original send-up of Nena’s “99 Luftballons”, exchanging its Cold War disconcert for coronavirus anxieties. But the message was far from grave, in fact, Stuart--who began by assuring all that she’s no singer—burnt through the parody with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Stuart added: “In 2020 we were set to produce a sit-com and it turned out to be covid. So, instead, I wrote a book about not being famous” (her Last Model Standing remains a favorite in such quarters).

Among the performers was powerhouse vocalist Darius Anthony Harper who took time off touring (was that with Kinky Boots?) to set this house on fire. Others on hand included Tym Moss, singer-songwriter and red carpet reporter who is Stuart’s co-host on If These Walls Could Talk, sensational young vocalist AVIVA who belted out Four Non-Blondes, stand-up comic Ike Avelli (also serving as host), vocalist/dancer and a founder of the vogue movement Coby Koehl, celebrated drag artist Gio Michaels lampooning Judy, recent cabaret sensation Cecile Williams and off-Broadway vet Brian Alejandro who sang a dazzling rendition of “That Old Black Magic”. Stuart’s husband, fashion photographer and artist (whose paintings adorn the walls of Pangea) could be seen out front, shooting the performers and surrounding merriment. ICON Magazine’s Lothario DeAmour, commenting on the honoree: “What can I say about Wendy? She’s old school in modern times.” And one pair of revelers, Peter and Zach added that “The range of people Wendy brings together, every shape and face, everyone being themselves, it’s just amazing.”

If These Walls Could Talk, Wendy Stuart and Tym Moss’s weekly one-hour entertainment interview show with celebrities, authors, cabaret artists and personalities, airs Wednesdays at 2pm EST on , and is also broadcast on UBC TV and Glewed TV  

Stuart’s radio program, Triversity Talk can be heard each Wednesday evening at 7pm EST: . For more information on these shows as well as Stuart’s many ongoing projects visit



Sunday, December 18, 2022

BEST OF 2022


THE MUSIC has experienced an expanse over recent years, particularly with spoken word and the other arts moving into a rediscovered place up front. As a poet and organizer, this aspect carries great personal weight. I feel this advancement--seen earlier in NYC strongholds of modernism, The Masses, dada, Mabel Dodge’s salon, the Harlem Renaissance, The New Masses, the Beat Generation, the Black Arts Movement, the New York School, renegade theatre, the cinema of transgression, punk, post-modernism, Art Against AIDS, the hip hop movement and the obvious strength of a united arts front--captures the very best in new music, free jazz, latter-day composition and a bold, Left outspokenness.

2022 produced new artists of a decidedly radical nature and only confirmed our veteran creatives’ stance at the “downtown” vertex. A wide array of ages, cultures, races and gender identities have happily claimed their rightful space on stage and are increasingly seen within the audiences of the hippest venues in this hippest of cities. To that end, we’ve seen a rise in cultural workers organizing, here and across the country, driving campaigns in theatres, colleges, museums and the press. These actions of arts and entertainment unions are occurring as a new generation of rad arts workers recognize the inherent power of collectivism and join within a labor movement that is experiencing an inspiring level of activism, much grown directly from the fight-back of the women’s marches, the BLM movement, and the protests on behalf of trans lives and the fight directly opposing the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the ongoing conservative banning of books. But we need to do even more to create the necessary balance for independent, daring arts to thrive. It requires a knowledge of where we came from as well as the fearless, fully inclusive push forward. It has always been about the advance, the struggle forward within a unified voice. John Reed, for one, called it well over a century ago:

 Muse, you have got a job before you,--

Come, buckle to it, I implore you.

I would embalm in deathless rhyme

The great souls of our little time:

Inglorious Miltons by the score,--

Mute Wagners,--Rembrandts, ten or more,--

And Rodins, one to every floor.

In short, those unknown men of genius

Who dwell in the third-floor gangrenous,

Reft of their rightful heritage

By a commercial, soulless age,

Unwept, I might add—and unsung,

Insolent, but entirely young.

Yet we are free who live in Washington Square,

We dare to think as Uptown wouldn't dare,

Blazing our nights with arguments uproarious;

What care we for a dull old world censorious

When each is sure he'll fashion something glorious?

Blessed art thou, Anarchic Liberty

Who asketh nought but joy of such as we!

-John Reed, “The Day in Bohemia”, 1913

ON, THEN, to my picks for the Best of 2022....

CRITICS POLL 2022: New Music/Jazz/Indie

 John Pietaro



                     Lifetime achievement: Amina Claudine Myers 

 Violin: Gwen Laster

Viola: Melanie Dyer

Cello: Lester St. Louis

Harp: Zeena Parkins


Flute: Nicole Mitchell

Clarinet: Ned Rothenberg

Bassoon: Claire de Brunner


Trumpet: Mac Gollehon

French Horn: Vincent Chancey

Trombone: Steve Swell

Tuba: Joe Daley


Soprano saxophone: Sam Newsome

Alto saxophone: Darius Jones

Tenor saxophone: James Brandon Lewis

Baritone saxophone: Claire Daly


Electric guitar: Chris Cochrane

Acoustic guitar: Marco Cappelli

Various fretted instrument: Cynthia Sayer (plectrum banjo)


Upright bass: Ken Filiano

Electric bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma


Piano: Mara Rosenbloom


Drumset: Michael Wimberly

Percussion: Warren Smith

Vibraphone: Patricia Brennan


Multi-instrumentalist: Scott Robinson


Vocals: Fay Victor (female), Eric Mingus (male)

Spoken Word: Tracie Morris (female),                                                                           George Wallace (male)


DUO: MorriSharp (Elliott Sharp and Tracie Morris) 


SMALL GROUP: Ceramic Dog (Marc Ribot, Shazad Ismally, Ches Smith)


MID-SIZED BAND: Gene Pritsker’s Sonic Liberation


LARGE ENSEMBLE: Ed Palermo Big Band 



1)    John Zorn’s New Masada Quartet, 6/11, the Sultan Room, Brooklyn NY

2)    Elliott Sharp & Eric Mingus with Steve Swell and Andrea Centazzo, 10/10/22, White Box Gallery, NYC 

3)    Catalytic Sound Festival (Zeena Parkins, Ned Rothenberg, Chris Corsano, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Brandon Lopez, Sylvie Courvoisier, Ceceila Lopez, David Watson, Lotte Anker), 12/10/22, Shift 411, Brooklyn NY

4)    Ictus Festival (Andrea Centazzo, Chris Cochrane, Sam Newsome, Michael Foster, Jessica Pavone, Dafna Nephtali, Stephan Haynes, Jeff Schwartz, Wendy Eisenberg, Shazad Ismally), 10/6/22, Shift 411, Brooklyn NY

5)    Christian Mc Bride Three with Greg Tardy and Jonathon Blake, 8/11/22, Village Vanguard


          VENUES: Café Bohemia (Manhattan), Shift 411 (Brooklyn)




 New Releases

1)    Sun Ra Arkestra, Living Sky (Omni Sound) 

2)    Ches Smith, Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic)

3)    Elliott Sharp and Eric Mingus, Songs From the Rogue State (Zoar)

4)    We Free Strings, Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk)

5)    Bi Ba Doom, Graceful Collision (Astral Spirits)

6)    Mac Gollehon, The End is the Beginning (Nefarious Industries)

7)    Heroes Are Gangleaders, LeAutoRoiOgraphy (577)

8)    Gene Pritsker’s Sound Liberation, Let’s Save the World Suite (Composers Concordance)

9)    John Zorn, Meditations on the Tarot (Tzadik)

10)Cint Bahr, Puzzle Box (MoonJune)


        Historical albums:

1)    No Safety, Spill (Cuneiform) 

2)    Cecil Taylor, The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert (Oblivion)

3)    Blondie: Against the Odds, 1974-1982 (Capitol)

4)    Nikki Giovanni, The Way I Feel (Modern Harmonic)

5)    The Dance, Doo Dah Dah (Modern Harmonic)

6)    Jill Kroesen, I Really Want to Bomb You (Modern Harmonic)

Vocal album: Elliott Sharp and Eric Mingus, Songs from the Rogue State (Zoar)


Debut album: Bi Ba Doom, Graceful Collision (Astral Spirits)


Live album: No Safety, Live at the Knitting Factory (Cuneiform)

 Solo album: Ava Mendoza, New Spells (Relative Pitch)

Large ensemble album: Sun Ra Arkestra, Living Sky (Omni Sound)


Record labels of the year:

1)    Cuneiform

2)    577

3)    Shimmy-Disc

4)    ESP-Disk

5)    Modern Harmonic

Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023)

  Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023) by John Pietaro BOBBY KAPP , musical sojourner, has made a mission of a...