THE AUTHOR

My father with Earl Hines at the Louis Armstrong party he gave.

The author making a fool of himself, ca. 1957, at Philly Joe Jones’s drums—during intermission for the Miles Davis-John Coltrane band at a South Side joint in Chicago.

My life in jazz

I grew up in Chicago and its suburbs, lucky to have parents who passed on to me their great love of music. In high school (early 1950s), a group of us got very involved in listening to and playing jazz. We made frequent weekend trips to the city to get drunk and hear the great old-timers like Baby Dodds, Chicago veterans like George Brunis and Art Hodes, and of course the Ellington and Basie bands when they played the Blue Note. In 1954, a friend got us into the recording session for Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy, and we sang background on a tune or two.

My parents and another couple had given a celebrated party in 1950 featuring Armstrong’s all-star group: Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Earl Hines, Arvell Shaw, Cozy Cole and Velma Middleton. That event was talked about for years and still provokes pungent, sharp memories: Louis and Hines noodling at the piano; Jack T’s famous trombone case with space for a clean shirt and a bottle of gin; my high-school friends sneaking by the cops and sitting on the lawn.

My businessman father, 6-foot-4-inch Big Jerome, organized other musical functions—Oscar Peterson’s trio at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, pianist Barbara Carroll in our living room, and a few more. He also engineered a series of country-club dance parties which featured the great bands of Duke Ellington, Les Brown and Count Basie—dancing on the terrace with your sweetie, the saxes right in your face, loud and swinging. The guy should have been an impresario, a prototype George Wein.

My mother had regular season tickets to the Chicago Symphony throughout the Fritz Reiner era and earlier, when the orchestra was finally achieving greatness. Hearing performances by soloists like Rubenstein, Heifetz and Dame Myra Hess was unforgettable.

I finally discovered bebop and the new jazz as a freshman at Dartmouth, hearing one afternoon on a Boston radio station the sounds of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker et al. The impact was stunning, and my musical life changed henceforth: I wanted to play piano like Bud Powell.

Weekend trips to New York (and later Chicago, where I was in graduate school) brought me to the live music of Miles, Monk, Mingus, Bud, Bird (heard once, on the stand at the Metropole, not playing well) and many other great musicians at a time when jazz was flowering.

In 1965 I moved to New York to teach English at NYU and City College. And became a music critic—first for The New Leader, a small but influential Leftish monthly which had a great arts section. Then I wrote album and concert reviews for Playboy for nine years, which gave me entrée to much of the music scene in New York—rock, classical and jazz.

How I came to write about Mingus is explained in The Story Behind Mingus Speaks.

 . . . and the rest

I’ve been working in communications—teaching, writing, marketing, public affairs and media consulting—for most of my working life. After grad school (Chicago and Wisconsin) and during the Vietnam years I taught English—and a course in jazz—at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, then at NYU and City College in New York. In the ‘70s I did consulting and contract work for the U.S. Department of Education; in the ‘80s founded and managed two successful marketing communications businesses in New England.

In Washington in the ‘90s, I directed public affairs and marketing for one of the country’s largest unions (the Laborers’ International), wrote an important book for them (Working at the Calling), then worked with Hillary Clinton and Democratic National Committee staff on health care reform in 1993-94.

More writing and consulting followed—for the University of Virginia, LexisNexis and online clients. Then a three-year stint in Navy public affairs at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).

Along the way I did a lot of freelancing gigs, the latest being a blog I wrote daily for three years for CarGurus—an innovative website to get you smart about cars. My handle is jgoods, and my pieces are here.

I’ve written several books and too many articles to list on everything from cell biology to jazz.

If you want a full résumé or more details, God forbid, email john@mingusspeaks.com. I’m now living in Oaxaca, Mexico, where you can call me at 52-951-309-6699, or Skype jfgoods.