Archive for the ‘Jazz Birthdays’ Category

Jacky Terrasson with his trio at the Iridium jazz club, New York City, June 25, 2009

Jacky Terrasson with his trio at the Iridium jazz club, New York City, June 25, 2009

It’s jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson’s birthday today.  He is an enormously talented and gifted musician.

Born in Berlin in 1965, his mother was African-American and his father French.  Terrasson grew up in France, starting to learn the piano when he was five, studying, initially, classical piano, then jazz.  He studied music formally at the Berklee College of Music.  He won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Piano Competition in 1993 and started touring with Betty Carter.

Since then, Terrasson has toured widely and often in Europe as well as here in the states.  He makes his home in New York and his newest release, Mother, just came out this year on Impulse! with his long-time partner and friend, the trumpet player Stephane Belmondo.

I first heard of Jacky Terrasson because of my interest in the young and talented vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant.  I happened to come across some wonderful videos of Terrasson’s band accompanying Salvant in concert on youtube.  Here’s one in particular I like: “Gouache,” performed in 2012 at the Saint Emilion Jazz Festival—Jacky Terrasson, piano; Cécile McLorin, vocal; Minino Garay, percussion; Burniss Travis, bass; Justin Faulkner, drums:


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JAM poster 2016

Official 2016 Smithsonian Jazz Appreciation Month Poster

April is one of those months jazz lovers like to salivate over.  Just check out the list of jazz greats who have birthdays in the month of April:  Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Gerry Mulligan, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Ellington, and many, many others.  Too many to name.

Just having the birthdays of Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington alone would be enough to make April a great jazz month, with Billie Holiday’s on the 8th of April and Duke Ellington’s three weeks later on the 29th.

I’ve written earlier posts about Billie Holiday (see esp. Billie Holiday Centennial Birthday) and about Duke Ellington here.  But this week’s All That Jazz program I took the opportunity to play both some of the lesser known jazz artists who have April birthdays as well as perennial favorites like Bessie Smith, who has a birthday tomorrow, April 15.  Here are some of the most notable jazz artists I played:

Walter Bishop, Jr.—Bishop’s piano was a major part of many a bebop recording session.  Here he is leading leading a trio with the brilliant bassist Jimmy Garrison, soon to move to John Coltrane’s band, and bop drummer G.T. Hogan

  • “Blues in the Closet” from Speak Low, 1961; Walter Bishop, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; G.T. Hogan, drums
  • “Alone Together” from Speak Low, 1961; Walter Bishop, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; G.T. Hogan, drums


Joey Defrancesco Trio—Hammond B-3 master Joey Defrancesco is a relatively young guy, born in Springfield, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia) on April 10, 1971, DeFrancesco was the son of another Philly-area jazz organist, Papa John DeFrancesco, and the grandson of multi-instrumentalist Joe DeFrancesco, who worked with the Dorsey Brothers.  “Cherokee” features George Coleman on the tenor. The recording features an introduction to Coleman, who starts playing off-mic, gradually coming in closer and closer.  Interesting.

  • “Cherokee” from Defrancesco Unauthorized Bootleg, 2007, with Joey Defrancesco, Hammond B-3; George Coleman, tenor; guitarist Jake Langley and drummer Byron Landham”

George Freeman—Chicago born jazz guitarist (1927) Freeman has long been associated with the Chicago soul-jazz movement, but as a young man was good enough to record with many of the great territory bands of the forties.  The two selections here are from radically different time periods, but illustrate Freeman’s progression as an older, wiser guitarist, yet still grounded in that Chicago soul-funk jazz sound.

  • “Happy Fingers” from New Improved Funk, 1972 with George Freeman, leader, guitar; Bobby Blevins, B-3; Von Freeman (George’s older brother), tenor; Leroy Jackson, bass; Bob Guthrie, drums”
  • “Time Was” from Rebellion, 1995 with George Freeman, guitar; Von Freeman, this time on piano

John Levy—New Orleans born (1912) bassist has a birthday this week.  What’s remarkable about Levy is, first of all, his remarkable longevity: he lived to be almost 100 years-old (passed in January of 2012 at the age of 99), his longevity granting him the multiple opportunities to contribute his bass artistry to some of the great all-stars of jazz history.  Second of all, Levy had an interest in and a “head” for business.  In Levy’s own words,

I was probably just more organized than most musicians and had my priorities in order. I came to both of those things accidentally. When I was young, I had no idea how to be a personal  manager or manage talent or anything like that. But as a bassist, I had to listen intently to the musicians I played with, which created a more heightened sense of intuition and sharper instincts. (Jazzwax)

Levy played with jazz violinist Stuff Smith in the early forties at New York’s Onyx Club on 52nd Street (Magic Street).  He was also part of the George Shearing Quintet in the late forties, and did a stint with the Don Byas Quintet in 1945. Three selections follow, not in chronological order:

  • Stuff Smith with John Levy, “Desert Sands”from Stuff Smith 1939-1944, 1943 with Stuff Smith, violin; Jimmy Jones, piano; John Levy, bass.
  • George Shearing Quintet, “Conception” from The definitive George Shearing, 1950, with George Shearing, piano; Joe Roland, vibes; Chuck Wayne, guitar; Denzil Best, drums; John Levy, bass.
  • Don Byas Quintet, “Candy” from Savoy Jam Party, 1945, with Don Byas, leader, tenor; Benny Harris, Trumpet; Jimmy Jones, piano; John Levy, Bass Fred Radcliffe, Drums.

Bud Freeman—The genius tenor saxophonist turns 100 years old this week. Freeman is Chicago-born (1906) and is part of a long line of great jazz musicians from Chicago.  He was one of the original Austin City Gang in 1922 and went on to have a lengthy and influential career in jazz, passing away in 1991 at age 84.  Here are three very different tunes from the late thirties.

  • Bud Freeman and his Orchestra, “Craze-O-Logy” from Bud Freeman 1928-1938, 1928, Bud Freeman, tenor; Johnny Mendel, trum; Bud Jacobson, clar; Dave North, piano; Gene Krupa, drums
  • Bud Freeman Trio, “The Blue Room” from Bud Freeman 1928-1938, 1938, Bud Freeman, tenor; Jess Stacy, piano; George Wettling, drums
  • Jess Stacy and Bud Freeman, “She’s funny that way” from Jess Stacy 1935-1939, 1939, Jess Stacy, piano; Bud Freeman, tenor.  This is one of the most beautiful melodies I’ve ever heard.  Certainly my all-time favorite recording.  The piano/sax harmonies are pure, simple, beautiful.  Highly recommended.

Bessie Smith—This week is the 122nd anniversary of Bessie Smith, The Empress of the Blues.  Bessie was extremely popular during the 20s and 30s.  She is undoubtedly one of the most important jazz/blues singers in all of jazz history, right up there with Louis Armstrong.  It’s hard to imagine the evolution into the American jazz as we know and understand it now without the influence of Bessie Smith.  She combined traditional blues singing—an almost shouting, gospel style—with a New Orleans style swing rhythm.  Listen to Charlie Green improvise call and response behind Bessie’s voice on “Empty Bed Blues”; it’s remarkable.  It’s blues, but it’s also swing.  But she keeps a tight grip on that rhythm, in complete control of the pace and tempo of the song.

  • “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” from Bessie Smith Box Set, originally recorded in 1928, with Bessie Smith, vocals; Lincoln Conaway, guitar; Porter Grainger”
  • “Empty Bed Blues” from Bessie Smith Box Set, originally recorded in 1928, with Bessie Smith, vocals; Charlie Green, trombone; Porter Granger, piano




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Chris Gutendorf's poster design for the 2015 Monterey Jazz.

Chris Gutendorf’s poster design for the 2015 Monterey Jazz. Festival.

The month of September is a jazz programmers dream.

It is a month that overflows with the birthdays of jazz musician greats:  Art Pepper, Horace Silver, Buddy Bolden, Sonny Rollins, Elvin Jones, Cannonball Adderley, any many more.

What is it about September that has resulted in the births of so many brilliant jazz musicians?

And then the crowning touch for September jazz is the annual Monterey Jazz Festival—the 58th.

There’s too many to mention, though, too many to adequately acknowledge by playing their music.  So we play what we can.  This week’s birthdays: Ray Charles, Les McCann, Frank Foster, John Coltrane, Fats Navarro, Wayne Henderson and more.

For this week’s show I focused on just a few.  Here’s the playlist for Tuesday night:

—Few would dispute Ray Charles’ genius (and status) as a great R&B singer and performer; that’s how most of us came to know him.  But at the root of his genius lies his ability to adapt and develop as musician.  Clearly he is at home with the blues (sample The Genius Sings the Blues, Atlantic, 1961), but lesser known are his abilities as a jazz improviser, born out by his instrumental jazz recordings for Atlantic in 1956 and ’57.  This is “serious” music.  Lack of vocals pushes these recordings into the realm of the noncommercial, which is a good thing.  His cover of “Black Coffee” is nuanced but not at the expense of holding back David “Fathead” Newman’s hard bop solos:

Ray Charles “Black Coffee” composed by Sonny Burke / Paul Francis Webster from The Great Ray Charles (1956) on Atlantic — Ray Charles, piano; David “Fathead” Newman, tenor; John Hunt, trumpet; Oscar Pettiford, bass; William Peeples, drums

Billy Mitchell “Automation” composed by Dave Burns from This is Billy Mitchell (1962) on smash — Billy Mitchell tenor; Bobby Hutcherson, vibes; Dave Burns, trumpet; Billy Wallace, piano; Herman Wright; bass; and drummer Otis Finch

Hal McKusick “Interim” composed by Triple Exposure from OJC (1957) on Concord — Hal McKusick, alto and leader; Billy Byers, trombone; Eddie Costa, piano; bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Charlie Persip

Serge Chaloff “Blue Serge” composed by The Complete Small Group Bop Sessions from The Complete Small Group Bop Sessions on Jazz Factory — Serge Caloff, baritone and leader

John Coltrane “Like Someone in Love” from Lush Lifew (1957) on Atlantic — John Coltrane, tenor; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Louis Hayes, drums.

—Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie on Roy and Diz: nothing but hot jazz.  It’s interesting to listen to the two very distinctively different trumpet styles somehow work together, though at times it seems Gillespie just can’t be held back from blowing frenetic bop riffs.  But that’s okay: Eldridge’s restraint holds it all together.

Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie “Limehouse Blues” composed by Philip Braham / Douglas Furber from Roy and Diz (1954) on Verve — Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, trumpets; Trumpet – Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge; Oscar Peterson, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Louis Bellson, drums.

Fats Navarro “Everything’s Cool” composed by Navarro from Goin’ To Mintons’ (1946) on Black and Blue

—I first heard Les McCann in early 1970—Swiss Movements’s “Compared to What,” of course.  Yes, “What” is overplayed, but there is something about that tune that is hypnotic—maybe that relentless tempo, or the bitterness and anger of McCann’s delivery of the lyrics (“Tired old lady kissin’ dogs/I hate the human, love that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)”), or maybe that onstage chemistry between McCann’s keyboards and Eddie Harris’ electrified tenor.  In any case, the album became one of the best selling jazz albums of all time.

Les McCann “Compared to What” composed by Gene McDaniels from Swiss Movement (1969) on Atlantic — Les McCann, piano and vocals; Eddie Harris, tenor; Leroy Vinnegar; Donald Dean, drums.



John Coltrane “One and Four” composed by Coltrane from Like Sonny (1960) on Atlantic — John Coltrane, tenor; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums.

—James Clay another tenor player from Texas is a surprising talent.  Clay, like many jazz musicians of the 40’s and 50’s, John Hardee included, fell into obscurity because the recording opportunities were just not there—so many great musicians; too few recording studios. As bizarre politically and religiously Texas may be, they are redeemed in my eyes because Texas loves their tenor men and are rightly proud of all of them.

James Clay, from Texas.

James Clay “Linda Serene” composed by Daniel Jackson from A Double Dose of Soul (1960) on Riverside — James Clay, tenor; Nat Adderley, cornet; Gene Harris, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Louis Hayes, drums.







Another great Texas tenor, Marchel Ivery.

Marchel Ivery and David Fathead Newman “Night in Tunisia” composed by Gillespie from Blue Greens and Beans (1990) on Timeless — Marchel Ivery, tenor; David “Fathead” Newman, tenor and flute; Rein de Graaff, piano; Koos Serierse, bass; Eric Ineke, drums.




Ray Charles “The Ray” composed by Quincy Jones from Black Coffee (1956) on Atlantic — Ray Charles, piano; David “Fathead” Newman, tenor; John Hunt, trumpet; Oscar Pettiford, bass; William Peeples, drums


Another great Texas tenor man, John Hardee, in a NYC recording studio early 40’s. Tiny Grimes in the hat behind him.

John Hardee “Sleep Walking” from A Little Blue (1975) — John Hardee, Tenor Saxophone; Gene “Mighty Flea” Conners, Trombone; Gerry Wiggins, piano; Bass – Bill Pemberton; Drums – Oliver Jackson









Steve Allen “Snacks at Pasternak’s” composed by Allen from Steve Allen’s All Stars (1958) on EmArcy — Steve Allen, piano; Terry Gibbs, vibes; Gus Bivona, clarinet; Al Viola, guitar; Red Mitchell, bass; Frank Divito, drums

John Coltrane “Locomotion” composed by Cotrane from Blue Train (1957) on Blue Note — John Coltrane, tenor; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trom; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums.


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