This clip from Sept. 25, 1958 is perhaps the crowning moment of Art Ford's Jazz Party (read below for historical info) where tenor sax giants Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young traded fours on the set in the company of Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Willie 'The Lion' Smith on piano, Harry Sheppard on vibes, J. C. Higginbotham on trombone, the fantastic Dickie Thompson on guitar (who played a left-handed instrument NOT restrung,à la Albert King), Vinnie Burke on bass and Sonny Greer on drums.
This clip has appeared now and again on YouTube but NEVER BEFORE in this level of audio fidelity, enjoy.
Art Ford's Jazz Party, was a TV series featuring jazz musicians on WNTA-TV in New York City, and which airedon Thursdays at 9pm ET from May 8, 1958 to December 25, 1958.
The 90-minute shows, hosted by Art Ford (1921-2006), were distributed by the DuMont Television Network. The shows were also aired on Armed Forces Television. All episodes were filmed in a New Jersey studio, except for the final episode,which was recorded August 11, 1958 in New Orleans, and aired on December 25.
The list of Jazz Party performers reads like a Who Is Who of jazz from Dixieland to swing to mainstream, along with a sprinkling of modern players. Giants appeared, as did emerging stars and the obscure. There were blues and folk artists also thrown in the mix. Performers who appeared on the show included Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Buster Bailey, Vinnie Burke, Roy Eldridge, Abbey Lincoln, J. C. Higginbotham, Les Paul, Dick Hyman, Anita O'Day, Mary Osborne, Teddy Charles, Harry Sheppard, Maxine Sullivan, Alec Templeton, and many others.
The show was shot in a relaxed, free-for-all, strictly non-rehearsed atmosphere in those early days of television and it shows. The fact that these musicians tore down the roof every time they hit the set is a testament to their supreme musicianship.
Art Ford, himself a great jazz fan, was proud of the lineups, which, unlike other early TV shows, were integrated. That may have ultimately doomed the show, said jazz historian Dan Morgenstern, in an opinion that was shared by Nat Hentoff, another noted jazz historian.
"I never go into a show with any concern about what's going to happen," Ford once said. "I can always get the best jazz men in the business. That's why I'm completely relaxed.". So are we, Art.