... especially the very-tail-end-of-the-Fifties aesthetic of the first shows, you may be as transfixed as I was by "The Subject is Jazz" programs from 1958, on YouTube here. Screenshot below; embedded player at the bottom.
Watch even the first minute and try to imagine an America in which something like this was on TV. This whole consciousness is as remote from today's as Elizabethan drama, but still detectably in touch with early Mad Men. The then-famous Gilbert Seldes is the host, and Billy Taylor, who has just turned 89 and was for many years a fixture at the Kennedy Center, is the pianist and musical star. His surreal but fascinating discussion with Seldes begins at about time 7:30 in the clip.
The music itself is great and beyond any era -- for instance, the last 4+ minutes of the clip, which have a a rendering of what I think is called "Half Nelson." But if you want confirmation of the old adage that we overestimate how much things change in a year, and underestimate how much they change in ten years (let alone 50), give this a look. (Thanks to Jazz on the Tube and reader DM.)
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.