With a nod to Father's Day, Riverwalk Jazz lifts a toast to 'Jazz Daddies,' as jazz artists tell us what it means to follow in the footsteps of their music-playing fathers.
Whether musical talent is a matter of nature, or nurture, or both—jazz pianist Shelly Berg shares his experiences of growing up under the influence of a strongly musical father.
Virtuoso jazz pianist and a paradigm-shifting educator at Miami's Frost School of Music, Shelly Berg was only eleven when he began to accompany his trumpet-playing dad Jay Berg in jam sessions at home. Berg Sr., who toured with Charlie Parker and other jazz greats, recognized the seeds of talent in his son early—and father and son frequently played together. Shelly Berg performs the challenging Fats Waller piano solo, "Valentine Stomp."
Jim Cullum's dad, Jim Sr., was an accomplished jazz clarinetist and saxophonist who worked professionally in bands led by Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey and others. Growing up in Dallas, Jim recalls a "house filled with music and musicians." After a move to San Antonio, young Jim discovered his father's 78-rpm record collection stored in a bedroom in a big wooden chest.
Jim Cullum talks about how he found himself drawn to the bittersweet, plaintive quality of the cornet playing he heard on discs recorded by Bix Beiderbecke in the 1920s. Jim Sr., encouraged his son's interest, bought him a cornet, and later partnered with him in founding a traditional-styled jazz band and—in 1963—The Landing jazz nightclub on the San Antonio River. Early on, Jim Jr., learned how to recognize that 'the good stuff' in his father's record collection could be identified by flat, grey grooves in the shiny shellac. These flat grooves were the outstanding solos that Jim Sr., and friends listened to over and over, standing studiously over the record player at parties. "Riverboat Shuffle" and "Singin' the Blues" are a couple of the Beiberbecke pieces Jim plays with the Band.
The great Swing-era vibist Lionel Hampton told us this story about his father when he visited The Landing in the early 1990s. Lionel was a little boy living in Birmingham, Alabama when World War I broke out. His father was in the Army and shipped out to France. Within weeks, he was declared Missing in Action. When the news reached his mother, she wrote letters to everyone she could think of to try and find out what happened—the War Department, his regiment, everyone. Although his mother kept trying, she never did find out what happened to her husband. So, Lionel grew up the son of a war hero, and in time his mother re-married.
One day in 1939, after Lionel's rise to fame playing with Benny Goodman, he got word that his father was still alive, living in a VA hospital in Dayton Ohio. Thereafter, followed a reunion with his family, a few months after which his father died peacefully in his sleep. Lionel said,
"...today I’m a little older than he was when he died. When I look in a mirror, I see my father. It’s not that I resemble him, I look identical. I wish I’d had more time with him. But I'm so glad I found him after all those years."
Each week, "Riverwalk Jazz" presents captivating shows that tell the story of jazz in America, covering the genre's early years -- from turn-of-the-century blues and cakewalks to the small swing ensembles of the 1920s and '30s. "Riverwalk Jazz" is produced by Pacific Vista Productions and Jim Cullum for Texas Public Radio, and distributed nationwide by PRI. More "Riverwalk Jazz."