February 8, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: The New Jazz Foundation
Monte Kay had been running jam sessions in Greenwich Village and on 52nd Street since the early 1940s.
In 1945 he teamed up with Broadway press agent Mal Braverman and formed The New Jazz Foundation which was an organization dedicated to promoting the young musicians who represented the new sound in jazz.
Kay and Braverman decided to introduce their new organization by putting on a concert at Town Hall. Dizzy Gillespie’s Quintet with Charlie Parker was currently working at The Three Deuces on 52nd street and garnering a tremendous amount of attention.They decided to showcase that group and surround them with other all-star musicians.
The concert was scheduled for May 16 but advance ticket sales started out very slow. To rectify the problem they approached radio disc jockey Symphony Sid Torin who had a Midnight show on WHOM. Sid had been playing a lot of rhythm and blues on his show but was drawn to the new sounds of Bebop when the first Manor’s, and Guilds hit the market.
He even added a special hour to his program on Fridays to feature the new music. Kay and Braverman took him on as a partner and Sid started promoting the concert heavily on the radio. Ticket sales picked up immediately and they ended up nearly filling the place with 1300 fans.
Town Hall had been a regular location for jazz for quite a while at that point but it was primarily Eddie Condon’s weekly Dixieland concerts that the venue was known for. Condon was one of the most outspoken critics of the new music. He was the one that famously exclaimed “they flat their fifths but we drink ours”.
The May concert was a success but got some bad press because most of the artists that were advertised didn’t materialize. That didn’t deter them though as they planned another concert for June 22.
Once again they booked Dizzy’s Quintet with Bird plus Erroll Garner’s trio who was working opposite Bird and Dizzy at the Deuces. The program also included Don Byas, Big Sid Catlett, Buck Clayton, Tony Scott and Pearl Bailey.
Amazingly, recordings of the Dizzy Gillespie portion of the program was discovered a few years ago. We are airing the entire Dizzy set at noon today so be sure and tune in.
In July an article in Metronome Magazine had the headline “Foundation Seeks Support” and reported on the New Jazz Foundation. It said they had plans to expand to a national audience and were starting a national membership drive to gather support.
It never really took off the way they had envisioned but the Town Hall concerts were significant events at the dawn of the Bebop era.
In addition to the two Town Hall concerts, they hosted some Sunday jam sessions at The Fraternal Clubhouse and were involved in the production of a session for Manor Records.
The label read Slam Stewart, Erroll Garner and Harold West, supervision by of New Jazz Foundation.