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I learned earlier today Phoebe Jacobs passed away this weekend. Phoebe was unique in every way. She made things happen. As the Executive Vice President of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, she made my book Satchmo (Abrams) happen and as my friend she is responsible for my upcoming book on Duke Ellington (Rizzoli) with his granddaughter Mercedes. She was not only a great champion of Armstrong and jazz but of all those she believed and cared about. It was through her eyes and with her generosity that I got to know Louis, and I dedicated the book to her.

Her early job as a hat check girl at the New York City club Kelly’s Stable brought her into the world of jazz, and she went on to work for Joe Glaser and Oscar Cohen’s Associated Booking Corp Agency, representing all the greats of jazz of the 20th century, such as Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington and Peggy Lee. She was also Louis and Lucille Armstrong’s personal assistant and worked as an editor at Simon and Schuster.

She was responsible for the exhibition: “THE COLLAGE AESTHETIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG – In the Cause of Happiness” currently on view at Flushing Town Hall. If you haven’t seen it you should head on out, it’s great to see Louis’ collages the size of posters.

There’s a terrific interview with Phoebe here”\

Phoebe was in her early 90s. I’m going to miss her inexorable spirit. To paraphrase Duke, I loved her madly.

Photos: Phoebe at Barnes and Noble book signing in NYC, March 2009; Phoebe, Stanley Crouch and myself discussing Satchmo that night; Phoebe with Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.


One Comment

  1. I had the great privelege of designing jazz posters for Lincoln Center’s Classical Jazz program before an actual “Department” was created, in the early nineties. Alina Bloomgarden was the original producer, and many jazz greats were brought in to the august venue for the first time. I had been called in after my illustration in the New York Daily News, based upon my friend Ted Joans African designs on found wood, attracted attention. Ted had actually “roomed” with Charlie Parker in the late forties, at #4 Barrow Street in the village, and created the “Bird Lives” slogan after the untimely passing of his friend. My vertical designs were totally inspired by Ted, one of the great Beatniks of the fifties, author of 29 books and many stories. I was walking with him near the old Barrow street address, when he pointed out that he had once dined with Bird, and James Dean in Via Margita, a restaurant which still looked rematrkably the same as it had in the fifties, at the time of our conversation. “What was James Dean like?” I asked excitedly. “We didn’t care what james Dean was like”, said Ted “he was there to see what we were like!”. Indeed, another Ted friend, Weegee, took a memorable photo of beat lovers kissing (including beret and wine bottle with candle) at a Ted Joans reading, with an intense and singular James Dean watching from the next table. I might add that it was Ted’s dream to construct a “ten story high statue of Bird straddling the Sheridan Square subway exit, blowing his sax”…a very fine idea, indeed.

    I met many jazz greats during my years at Classical Jazz (including the soon to be 91 year old Jon Hendricks, who I ran into recently, and is now recording a new album in London), and I cannot think of anyone who did not impress me as an
    extraordinary human being. I do wish that I had not asked Frank Wess if he was Dizzy’s brother, but he generously informed me that many people had made the very same mistake. He did, at one point recommend that “if one wants to play high, one had better practice high”. Perhaps I should have I had known that the unusual looking gentleman I always said hello to was Doc Cheatham, and it was thrilling to get an actual pat on the back from Max Roach. Jimmy Heath thanked me in a very moving fashion for using an image of his friend Bud Powell in has youthful heyday….a very rare image indeed, which was actrually given to me by Stanley Crouch.

    At one point, I listened to Wynton Marsalis trying out a new custom made trumpet, as his manager described the model name and number. When Wynton walked off the stage, I complimented the trumpet. “How did you know that?”
    ( I never told him.) I think that was the night that my jazz poster was presented to Benny Carter on stage, as a gift for his 83rd birthday….what a night!

    Phoebe Jacobs was a familiar face, but unfortunately, I didn’t know who she was. Her recent obituary explained all of that, and it turns out that here original name was Phoebe Pincus. So, along with the Harry Pincus who worked for Duke Ellington, I had to accept that I was not the only Pincus who loved Jazz…

    Harry Pincus

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