Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Art Ford's Jazz Party

The first decade or so of American network television (approx 1949 to 1960) are also the last Golden Era of Jazz. At the start of era the Swing Bands were on the way out but there were still plenty around, more importantly there was BeBop on the East Coast, Cool Jazz on the West and various Jump Blues, Latin Jazz, Post Bop and Avant Garde Jazz and by the sixties we had Free Jazz. Yet surprisingly little of this made it's way on to TV. Still less has survived. A notable exception is "Art Ford's Jazz Party".

"ART FORD'S JAZZ PARTY" (w/guests Roy Eldridge, Buck Clayton & Stuff Smith);

Buster Bailey ~ Clarinet
Buck Clayton ~ Trumpet
Roy Eldridge ~ Trumpet
Herbie Green ~ Trombonist
Johnny Guarnieri ~ Pianist
Bill Henderson ~ Vocalist
Stuff Smith ~ Violin
Osie Johnson ~ Drums
Harry Sheppard ~ Vibes Player

Art Ford was a New York radio DJ who also had a minor career hosting various TV shows in the 1950's such as "Art Ford On Broadway", "Country Music Holiday", "Who's Whose" (a game show) and "The Art Ford Show". Unlike some other music show hosts of the time (looking at you Dick Clark) Ford had a genuine interest in and knowledge of music. "Art Ford's Dance Party" was his brief 1958 attempt to bring real Jazz to the masses.

"ART FORD'S JAZZ PARTY" (w/Coleman Hawkins and a guest appearance by actor Jackie Cooper (from the Superman movie) on drums!;

Coleman Hawkins ~ Tenor Saxophone
Mary Osborne ~ Guitar
Maxine Sullivan ~ Vocals
Alec Templeton ~ Piano
Teddy Charles ~ Vibes
Hank D'Amico ~ Clarinetist
Morey Field ~ Drummer
Tyree Glenn ~ Trombonist
Johnny Windhurst ~ Trumpet
Art Goldberg ~ Bass Player
Roland Hanna ~ Pianist
Jackie Cooper ~ Drums

The format was barebones simple; a plain stage with simple lighting with a collection of notable jazz figures playing music. And that's it. The show was hosted by Art Ford who was smoothly affable if a little stiff. "Jazz Party" would boast such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins, Kenny Burrell, Teddy Charles, Buck Clayton, Roy Eldridge, Roland Hanna, Billie Holiday, Dick Hyman, Abby Lincoln, Ben Webster, Stuff Smith, George Lewis and Lester Young. Many of these artists made their only known TV appearance on this show which makes it a valuable resource.


George Lewis ~ Clarinet
Punch Miller ~ Trumpet
Alphonse Picou ~ Clarinet
Sweet Emma Barrett ~ Piano
Peter Bocage ~ Violin
Louis Nelson ~ Banjo
Slow Drag Pavageau ~ Bass
Paul Barbarin ~ Drummer

The data on the show is contradictory. Apparently only six episodes were shot, of which three survive. It's listed as being ninety minutes long but two of the three surviving full episodes are a half hour long and the other is fifty minutes. It's possible the episodes were put together for some airings. Wikipedia claims the show was produced by the DuMont Network which is impossible since the show was produced in 1958 and 1959 and DuMont went off the air in 1955. The order the shows went out is also contradictory depending on the source. The "Complete Guide To Network Television" by Tim Brooks does not list the show at all which suggests that it was purely a syndicated show which was probably run late at night and only in certain areas, ie not in the Jim Crow South. Everyone does agree that the show was also broadcast on the Armed Forces Network, both radio and TV. Art Ford died in 2006.

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