Life is too short for boring music

CHRIS ALBERTSON

Chris AlbertsonChris Albertson is a writer, broadcaster and record producer whose work in Jazz and Blues, especially in his interviews with leading figures, has opened a window on the character of the people that have made the music great. His knowledgeable and unsentimental approach allows real insight to emerge from the hype, and his biography of Bessie Smith is an example of authentically researched writing prevailing over the dramatic tendencies of journalism.

Born in 1931 in Reykjavik, Iceland and educated in Denmark and England, Christiern Gunnar Albertson made his first recordings in 1953, when he taped Chris Barber‘s Band and Lonnie Donegan on tour in Copenhagen and got the results issued on a local label. He worked for US Armed Services Radio back in Iceland, then continued his DJ career in Philadelphia and later in New York. Chris was employed as a producer by Riverside Records in 1961, capturing the final sessions of Ida Cox and Meade Lux Lewis, and supervising the renowned ‘Living Legends’ series. After setting up his own production company, Chris had albums issued by Prestige Records on their Bluesville and New Jazz imprints, including some great sessions with Lonnie Johnson. In the late 60s Chris worked for the BBC in London and, on his return to The States, hosted a weekly TV show on PBS titled ‘The Jazz Set’.

Bessie Smith was the artist who inspired Chris’s interest in Jazz and Blues when he first heard her records on the radio a schoolboy, and in 1971 he took charge of Columbia’s re-issue of her back catalogue. He used the experience to write her definitive biography ‘Bessie’, which chronicled her astonishing life and controversial death. Interviewing Dr. Hugh Smith, who was at the scene of the car crash that took her life, Chris pointed out mistakes in the article John Hammond Sr. had written for DownBeat Magazine at the time. The myth that Bessie died as a result of being refused treatment at a ‘white’ hospital in Memphis, also the subject of Edward Albee’s 1959 play, has passed into Legend, but Chris’s careful research set the record straight. Since then, Chris has worked principally as a writer for magazines, including DownBeat and Stereo Review, for TV documentary films and lately for the internet with his blogs ‘stomp-off‘ and ‘NowThen’, which open doors into his fascinating experiences in Jazz and Blues.