Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The City Of Gabriels

Below is a review of a new book written by St. Louis radio personality Dennis Owsley entitled “City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, from 1895-1973”. I have also included an interview with Mr. Owsley. Listen To Interview Here.
(save the Mp3 to your computers. File will be available on host site only for a limited time)

Great Job by Mr. Owsley to shed some light on the musical legacy of my city. Long overdue.

There are two minor problems that I have with the book. One is that it seems to center on just the Jazz genre. I think he could have expanded it and talked about music from St. Louis in general rather than just Jazz (although i'm a Jazz fan). It doesn’t put emphasis on all the other genres of music that St. Louis has contributed to, such as Soul, and Blues. The other problem was that Mr. Owsley stopped at 1973. Why I don’t know. There was certainly talent going through St. Louis after that time.

There have been several artists of other genres besides Jazz who were either born in St. Louis or who cultivated their careers in the St. Louis area. They include Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, Henry Townsend, Little Milton Campbell, Albert King, Shirley Brown, Fontella Bass, Willie May Ford Smith, Donnie Hathaway, The Montclairs, Michael McDonald, Angela Winbush, Members of the 5th Demension, Ike & Tina Turner, and others. In fact, St. Louis has been the home of key performers and innovators in just about every genre.

Scott Joplin/Tom Turpin- Ragtime (The precurser to Jazz)
Some guy named Miles, Clark Terry, Grant Green, Jimmy Blanton- Jazz
David Sanborn- Contemporary Jazz
Maya Angelou- Spoken word poetry
Willie Mae Ford Smith- Gospel
Chuck Berry/Johnnie Johnson- Rock
Leonard Slatkin- Classical Conductor
Grace Bumbry- Classical Singing
Ike/Tina Turner- Soul/Rock
Donny Hathaway-Male R&B singing (also a great writer)
Little Milton/Albert King- Blues
Lester Bowie- Avant Garde Jazz
Josephine Baker-One of the early dancers, ballroom singers of Jazz…
Katherine Dunham- Dance

--These artists were not just ordinary performers in their respective genres, some were among the leaders, innovators, and founders of the music that they performed. That puts St. Louis in a unique place in history.

St. Louis has a rich musical history that it does not recognize or celebrate enough.

Who were/are the Gabriels (horn players)?

A partial list

Charles Creath
Fate Marable
Pee Wee Russell
Clark Terry
Oliver Lake
Miles Davis
Greg Osby
David Sanborn
Jeremy Davenport
Hamiet Bluiett
Lester Bowie
Russell Gunn
Oliver Sain

Other notable Jazz figures from St. Louis- (partial list)

Josephine Baker
John Hicks
Grant Green
Peter Martin
Jimmy Blanton
Scott Joplin
Oliver Nelson

Review Below


Book Review: City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895 - 1973

Author: Dennis Owsley

Publisher: Reedy Press

Year Published: 2006

Type: Non-Fiction

Format / Pages: / 200 pages


City of Gabriels reveals the wonders that make up the jazz history of St. Louis, Missouri from the years 1895 to 1973. The book contains a fine foreword by Clark Terry. The book is published in collaboration between Reddy Press, and the Sheldon Concert Hall and the Sheldon Art Galleries at St. Louis, Missouri.

Dennis C. Owsley is an engaging writer, his style and approach immensely enjoyable to the reader, and his research given in an open, sharing manner. City of Gabriels is both entertaining and educational. Dennis C. Owsley has the popular "Jazz Unlimited" radio show and has produced a weekly show since 1983. His photographs are internationally-known and in 2002 the Sheldon Art Galleries of St. Louis, Missouri included his work in the exhibition "Festival: Jazz!" City of Gabriels is an oral history that is the author's summation of twenty years into the intricate jazz history of St. Louis, Missouri.
An insightful, well-written book, it gives the reader an accurate look into the world of jazz in St. Louis. The photography in the book is topnotch and fits in nicely with the text.

The material covered includes "The Pre-Jazz Era (1895 - 1919)," "The Riverboats and the 1920s (1919 - 1929)," "St. Louis in the 1930s: The Plantation Club, the Unions, and the Decline of the Riverboats (1930 - 1939)," "The War Years: Jimmy Blanton, Miles Davis's St. Louis Years, and the Inception of Jazz Radio in St. Louis (1939 - 1949)," "The Jazz Scene in St. Louis in the 1950s (1949 - 1960)." "The Rise & Fall of Gaslight Square (1959 - 1967)," "The Polarization of St. Louis Jazz: Traditional Jazz and BAG (1968 - 1973)," followed by an epilogue, appendix ("Charter Members of the St. Louis Jazz Club"), and a comprehensive index.

Grant Green
Grant GreenTo the jazz reading audience, this is a gem of a fine book, and for readers at large it will surprise them with the true importance of St. Louis, Missouri as a vibrant center for jazz musical expression. There are many, many jazz musicians covered, and the author gives an accurate biography of each with accompanying photo where possible. The reader will find such musicians as Thomas Million Turpin, Scott Joplin, Fate Marable, Pee Wee Russell, Gene Rodemich, Frank Trumbauer, Red McKenzie, Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, Elijah "Lige" Shaw," Jesse Johnson, Harold "Shorty" Baker, Eddie Randle, Clark Terry, Druie Bess, Don Stovall, Floyd Smith, Karl George, Forrest Crawford, Leroy Harris, Jr., Talmadge "Tab" Smith," Gordon Jenkins,Jimmy Blanton, Miles Davis, Ernie Wilkins, George Hudson, Singleton Palmer, Jimmy Forrest, John Mixon, Chris Woods, Oliver Nelson, Sammy Gardner, Jeanne Trevor, Clea Bradford, Jeter Thompson,Jean Kittrell, Carolbeth True, David Hines, Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake, J. D. Parran, Hamiet Bluiett, Baikida E. J. Carroll, Julius Hemphill, among others.

Miles Davis
Grant Green City of Gabriels is a feast for readers, both in text and photography. The book comes alive and entertains! This is the type of historical reference which reads like a mystery novel, one incident and one character leading to the next until there is an entire volume of fascinating incidents and characters compiled into one large reading pleasure. When it comes time to giving out awards to exceptional jazz books, City of Gabriels and its story of St. Louis, Missouri jazz should win a big one!

Congratulations to Dennis Owsley on a well-written and entertaining look at jazz in St. Louis, Missouri. Highly recommended. A great book to have in the public library, too! Two words sum up City of Gabriels: superb and imaginative.

If you are looking for a perfect gift for a friend, this is the one. City of Gabriels is a memorable reading experience. As a look at jazz, it is a special and one of a kind book. Excellent!



Miles Was the Coolest Man in America (of his generation).
Performing "So What" with a young Trane & the rest of his legendary band.

Other Video Footage of Miles
(Right click on link & open in new window)

Performing "Footprints" (1966)

Performing "Summertime"


Previous Blog Entry On Miles Davis (Entering Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)

Other Miles Davis Links

Official Homepage

Wiki Entry

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