September 30, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: September 30 to October 6

September 30
  • Bassist Oscar Pettiford born 1922 in Okmulgee, OK.
  • Louis Armstrong and vocalist Billie Holiday record “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart,” 1949.
  • Drummer Buddy Rich born 1917 in New York, NY.
October 1
  • Bassist Dave Holland born 1946 in Wolverhampton, W. Midlands, England.
  • Duke Ellington and bassist Jimmy Blanton record “Pitter Panther Patter,” 1940.
  • Pianist/composer Horace Silver records Cape Verdean Blues with trumpeter Woody Shaw and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, 1965.
October 2
  • Guitarist Howard Roberts born 1929 in Phoenix, AZ
  • Composer/pianist Django Bates born 1960 in Beckenham, England.
  • Guitarist Charlie Christian makes his first recording “Flying Home” with the Benny Goodman Sextet, 1939.
October 3
  • Pianist Dave Brubeck records “All The Things We Are” with alto saxophonists Lee Konitz and Anthony Braxton, 1974.
  • Fletcher Henderson records Benny Carter’s arrangement of “Somebody Loves Me,” 1930.
  • Tenor saxophonist Von Freeman born 1922 in Chicago, IL
October 4
  • English tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes records in New York with Clark Terry and Horace Parlan, 1961
  • Vocalist Leon Thomas born 1937 in East St. Louis, IL.
  • Electric/acoustic bassist Steve Swallow born 1940 in Fair Lawn, NJ.
October 5
  • Bassist Jimmy Blanton born 1918 in Chattanooga, TN.
  • Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang record “Jazz Me Blues,” 1927.
  • Trombonist Steve Turre records In The Spur of the Moment with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Jack DeJohnette, 1999.
October 6
  • Ellington records “Black and Tan Fantasy” at first Victor session, 1927.
  • Pianist Norman Simmons born 1929 in Chicago, IL.
  • Pianist Sammy Price born 1908 in Honey Grove, TX.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

September 25, 2010

Curtis Fuller - Live in Chicago

Photo courtesy of T. Leasenby.
While on vacation last week, I had the pleasure of catching legendary hard bop trombonist Curtis Fuller at Andy’s Jazz Club in Chicago on September 16. Andy’s, just north of the Loop, was founded in 1951 by Andy Rizzuto and it is still one of the best places to hear jazz in Chicago, every day of the week. My friend Tim and I were sitting at a table literally abutting the front of the stage, with Fuller and his quintet playing a few feet in front of us.
     Trombonists rarely become famous, as they are not frequently leaders on recording sessions. Fuller, born in 1934, is one of a handful of recognized trombonists in the jazz world and is still going strong. He was born in Detroit and orphaned at a young age. Growing up, he was friends with fellow Detroit musicians Paul Chambers and Donald Byrd. During a stint in the Army in the early 1950s, he played in a band with Nat and Cannonball Adderley. He then was a member of Yusef Lateef’s quintet, made the move from Detroit to New York, and began recording.
     Influenced by J.J. Johnson, among others, Fuller was (and is) known for the lovely sonority of his trombone playing as well as his dexterity and speed. And it seems that 1957 was his breakout year, during which he recorded with a who’s who of jazz greats: Sonny Clark (Dial S for Sonny), John Coltrane (Blue Train), Clifford Jordan (Cliff Jordan), and Bud Powell (Bud! The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 3). Listeners were impressed with this newcomer to the scene, as were his fellow musicians. As Bud Powell exclaimed, “Man, that cat can blow!” He also recorded as a leader that year on New Trombone (with Red Garland) and on my personal favorite of his albums, The Opener.
     Clearly, he was busy. Fuller continued to record prolifically over the next five years, including stints with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet, as well as under his own leadership on Blues-Ette (1959) and Soul Trombone (1961). Later in the 1960s, he played with the big bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Recordings became less frequent in later decades, but he is still heading to the studio, with a new album this year, I Will Tell Her.
     Fuller was obviously enjoying himself at Andy’s, his playing energized by his young rhythm section and the trumpet of Pharez Whitted. The interplay among the musicians, and the concentrated listening that is necessary to play jazz - something often missed in more formal concert settings - was clearly on display in the intimate surroundings of Andy's. Fuller had some terrific solos on the slower ballads and nimble plunging on the fast numbers such as Oscar Pettiford’s “Oscarlypso” (also called Oscalypso; from The Opener). Catch this living legend in action if you get the chance.

September 23, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: September 23 to September 29

September 23
  • Saxophonist/composer John Coltrane born 1926 in Hamlet, NC.
  • Saxophonist/composer Frank Foster born 1928 in Cincinnati OH.
  • Pianist/vocalist Ray Charles born 1930 in Albany, GA.
September 24
  • Trumpeter Fats Navarro born 1923 in Key West, FL.
  • Bassist Charles Mingus records Let My Children Hear Music, 1971.
  • Sarah Vaughan records My Funny Valentine 1973.
September 25
  • Saxophonist Sam Rivers born 1923 in El Reno, OK.
  • Woodwind expert Garvin Bushell born 1902 in Springfield, OH.
  • Saxophonist Lee Konitz records Duets with drummer Elvin Jones, violinist Ray Nance, guitarist Jim Hall and others, 1967.
September 26
  • Ellington and John Coltrane record together 1962.
  • Xylophonist Red Norvo records "Old Fashioned Love" with clarinetist Artie Shaw, trombonist Jack Jenney and pianist Teddy Wilson, 1934.
  • Saxophonist Gary Bartz born 1940 in Baltimore, MD.
September 27
  • Pianist Bud Powell born 1924 in New York, NY.
  • Trumpeter Red Rodney born 1927 in Philadelphia, PA.
  • The Kansas City 6, with clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Lester Young and electric guitarist Eddie Durham record “Countless Blues,” 1938.
September 28
  • Tony Bennett and Bill Evans record Together Again, their second album, 1976.
  • Tenor saxophonist John Gilmore born 1931 in Summit, MS.
  • Pianist Kenny Kirkland born 1955 in Newport, NY.
September 29
  • Coleman Hawkins and Red Allen record “The Day You Came Along,” 1933.
  • Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty born 1942 in Avranches, France.
  • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie plays Carnegie Hall with his big band, with guests Ella Fitzgerald and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, 1947.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

September 16, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: September 16 to September 22

September 16
  • Singer John Hendricks born 1921 in Newark, OH.
  • Violinist Joe Venuti born 1903 in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Guitarist Charlie Byrd born 1925 in Chuckatuck, VA.
September 17
  • Clarinetist Perry Robinson born 1938 in New York, NY.
  • Bandleader Bill McKinney born 1895 in Cynthiana, KY.
  • Duke Ellington, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach record Money Jungle, 1962.
September 18
  • Guitarist Emily Remler born 1957 in New York, NY.
  • Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker records Parker’s Mood with pianist John Lewis.
  • Saxophonists Lester Young and Charlie Parker and trumpeter Roy Eldridge record “Embraceable You” at Carnegie Hall, 1949.
September 19
  • Woody Herman’s band records Ralph Burns’ extended composition “Summer Sequence,” 1946.
  • Pianist/composer Muhal Richard Abrams born 1930 in Chicago, IL.
  • Pianist Erroll Garner records Concert By The Sea with bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil Best, 1955.
September 20
  • Saxophonist Johnny Dankworth born 1927 in London, England.
  • Duke Ellington records “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,” 1937.
  • Saxophonist Steve Coleman born 1956 in Chicago, IL.
September 21
  • Jelly Roll Morton records “Dead Man Blues,” 1926.
  • Drummer Sunny Murray born 1937 in Idabel, OK.
  • Bassist Slam Stewart born 1914 in Englewood, NJ.
September 22
  • Guitarist Wes Montgomery records Unit 7 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb, 1965.
  • Trombonist Roswell Rudd records “Broad Strokes” with vocalist Sheila Jordan, 1999.
  • Vocalist Marlena Shaw born 1942 in New Rochelle, NY.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

September 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Cat Anderson!

Jazz trumpeter William “Cat” Anderson (1916 - 1981) was born in Greenville, South Carolina. His parents died when he was only four years old, so Cat grew up in an orphanage in Charleston. It was here that he learned how to play the trumpet. Fellow orphans gave him the nickname “Cat,” not for his trumpet playing but for the way he fought on the playground.
     He played with various big bands in the late 1930s and early 1940s, including Claude Hopkins’ and Doc Wheeler’s groups, and he recorded with Lionel Hampton. In 1944, he joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra for the first of several long stays, punctuated by short breaks during which he attempted (unsuccessfully) to start his own bands. He was with Duke from 1944 to 1947, the entire decade of the Fifties, and from 1961 to 1967. After 1971, he settled in Los Angeles and mainly did studio work. He died of a brain tumor in 1981.
     Cat was famous for his high-note playing. He had a range of five octaves and could play up to triple C with astonishing power. But he was no mere blaster - he could also play in a swinging and subtle style with the mute, as seen in this video with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1967.

September 9, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: September 9 to September 15

September 9
  • Drummer Elvin Jones born 1927 in Pontiac, MI.
  • Bassist George Mraz born 1944 in Czechoslovakia.
  • Duke Ellington records Indigos, an album of ballads, 1957.
September 10
  • Drummer Cliff Leeman born 1913 in Portland, ME.
  • Trombonist Craig Harris born 1954 in Hempstead, NY.
  • Trumpeter Miles Davis records ’Round Midnight with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, 1956.
September 11
  • Fluegelhornist Stacy Rowles born 1955 in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Lionel Hampton records “When Lights Are Low,” 1939.
  • Pianist/singer Harry Connick, Jr., born 1967 in New Orleans, LA.
September 12
  • Trombonist Steve Turre born 1948 in Omaha, NE.
  • Trumpeter Cat Anderson born 1916 in Greenville, SC.
  • George Russell records Manhattan with a band including John Coltrane, Art Farmer, Bob Brookmeyer and Bill Evans, 1958.
September 13
  • Tenor saxophonist Chu Berry born 1910 in Wheeling, WV.
  • Billie Holiday records “He’s Funny That Way,” 1937.
  • Composer/pianist Tadd Dameron records “Lady Bird,” 1948.
September 14
  • Cecil Taylor makes his first session as a leader 1956. Band includes Steve Lacy, Buell Neidlinger and Dennis Charles.
  • Saxophonist Joseph Jarman born 1937 in Pine Bluff, AR.
  • Trumpeter Bill Berry born 1930 in Benton Harbor, MI.
September 15
  • Saxophonist Cannonball Adderley born 1928 in Tampa, FL.
  • Bassist Arvell Shaw born 1923 in St. Louis, MO.
  • Pianist/composer Jelly Roll Morton records “Black Bottom Stomp,” 1926.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

September 8, 2010

A Fine Vintage Wein

Myself Among Others: A Life In MusicGeorge Wein knew and/or worked with just about everyone in jazz over the last half century. His autobiography, Myself Among Others (Da Capo, 2004), written with Nate Chinen, is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the life of a jazz producer and sometime performer.
     Wein grew up in the Boston area and opened the Storyville Club there in 1950. But he is the creator, most famously, of the Newport Jazz Festival, which helped take the popularity of jazz to a whole new level in the 1950s and launched the careers of numerous jazz greats. Wein’s book shows the struggles, financial and otherwise, in putting on a jazz festival. Local politics, money problems, and artist egos all make for numerous headaches. But Wein’s dedication to jazz and jazz musicians shines through.
     Over the subsequent years, from the 1960s to the present day, Wein also produced the Newport Folk Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Newport Jazz Festival - New York, the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, KOOL Jazz Festivals, the Grande Parade du Jazz (in Nice, France), the JVC Jazz Festival, and more. He also produced the foreign tours of numerous artists, including Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. In many ways, he was a lifeline for jazz musicians (and the jazz tradition itself) during some difficult times, when rock ‘n’ roll was on the rise and jazz was superceded in importance in American culture.
     The later parts of the book become a bit repetitious, as we get yet more lists of musicians at yet another concert. Nevertheless, Myself Among Others is a great look past the stage at the people in the wings putting on the show. Wein has some great anecdotes and insights into many of the musicians he numbered among his friends, and enemies. For example, Wein tried to recruit Josephine Baker for a 1974 tribute concert, and spent several days fruitlessly scouring Manhattan for two Russian wolfhounds, which were stipulated in her contract. She canceled her appearance anyway. Tidbits like this make the book a highly enjoyable read.

September 4, 2010

Jazz Poetry - “Lester Young”

Lester Young by Ted Joans

Sometimes he was cool like an eternal
blue flame burning in the old Kansas
City nunnery
Sometimes he was happy ‘til he’d think
about his birth place and its blood
stained clay hills and crow-filled trees
Most times he was blowin’ on the wonderful
tenor sax of his, preachin’ in very cool
tones, shouting only to remind you of
a certain point in his blue messages
He was our president as well as the minister
of soul stirring Jazz, he knew what he
blew, and he did what a prez should do,
wail, wail, wail. There were many of
them to follow him and most of them were
fair - but they never spoke so eloquently
in so a far out funky air.
Our prez done died, he know'd this would come.
but death has only booked him, alongside
Bird, Art Tatum, and other heavenly wailers.
Angels of Jazz - they don't die - they live
they live - in hipsters like you and I

Note: Ted Joans (1928 - 2003) was a trumpeter, poet, and painter. Born in Cairo, Illinois, he attended Indiana University and was later associated with the Beat writers, particularly Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. After the death of Charlie Parker, Joans created the “Bird Lives” legend, graffiti that appeared around New York City in 1955.

September 2, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: September 2 to September 8

September 2
  • Pianist Horace Silver born 1928 in Norwalk, CT.
  • Tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan born 1931 in Chicago, IL.
  • Saxophonist John Coltrane records “First Meditations For Quartet,” 1965.
September 3
  • Drummer Roy Brooks born 1938 in Detroit, MI.
  • Pianist/musicologist James Dapogny born 1940 in Berwyn, IL.
  • Baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff records “The Fable of Mabel” with pianist Richard Twardzik, 1954.
September 4
  • Miles Davis Nonet opened at Royal Roost 1948.
  • Saxophonist/educator Dave Liebman born 1946 in New York, NY.
  • Composer/arranger Gerald Wilson born 1918 in Shelby, MS.
September 5
  • Count Basie’s Kansas City Seven records “Lester Leaps In” 1939, featuring tenor saxophonist Lester Young.
  • Duke Ellington records “In a Mellotone” 1940.
  • Trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff born 1928 in Frankfurt, Germany.
September 6
  • Cornetist Buddy Bolden born 1877 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Clarinetist Sidney Bechet records “Blues In Thirds” with pianist Earl Hines and drummer Baby Dodds, 1940.
  • Saxophonist/musicologist Andrew White born 1942 in Washington, DC.
September 7
  • Trumpeter Joe Newman born 1922 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins born 1929 in New York, NY.
  • Bennie Moten’s band records South, 1928.
September 8
  • Cornetist’s Bix Beiderbecke’s last session as leader 1930
  • Pianist Elmer Schoebel born 1896 in East St. Louis, Illinois.
  • Bassist Wilbur Ware born 1923 in Chicago, IL.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Gene Harris!

Pianist Gene Harris (1933 - 2000) recorded prolifically during his long career. He started out playing in Army bands during the early 1950s. In 1956, he formed The Three Sounds with Andy Simpkins on bass and Bill Dowdy on drums. (Actually, it was originally The Four Sounds, but saxophonist Lonnie “The Sound” Walker dropped out after a year.) The group recorded exclusively with Blue Note Records from 1958 to 1962, including LPs with the likes of Lou Donaldson and Stanley Turrentine (the quietly grooving Blue Hour). Harris had a very warm, rich-bodied sound to his playing, very bluesy with a gospel tinge, a style that epitomized Blue Note’s soul-jazz of the period.
     The Three Sounds continued recording through the 1960s with Verve, Mercury, and Limelight up until the group disbanded in 1973. Harris was in effect retired in the late 1970s, although he played locally to his home in Boise, Idaho. He returned to touring and playing in the 1980s after Ray Brown convinced him to join his trio. He recorded with Brown and as a leader until his death from kidney failure.
     One of my favorite Gene Harris performances is a Ray Brown LP called Summer Wind (Concord, 1988), a recording of a live date at Santa Monica’s Loa Club. Here, Harris is featured on several numbers, including terrific versions of “Li’l Darlin’” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (from the Broadway classic Show Boat). Here is the same lineup, with the addition of Herb Ellis on guitar, performing “Oh, Lady Be Good” during an appearance in Berlin in 1989.