Wardell Gray


Gray 3Carl Wardell Gray was born in 1921 in Oklahoma City and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1929. Gray attended Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit, which is noted for having Donald Byrd, Lucky Thompson, Howard McGhee, and Gerald Wilson as alumni. He started on the clarinet, but later switched to the tenor saxophone. His main influence on tenor was Lester Young. Through an acquaintance Wardell was recommended to band leader Earl Hines and was hired in 1943. The Earl Hines Orchestra had nurtured the careers of a number of emerging bebop musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Unlike many of his early contemporaries, Hines was sympathetic to the new developments in jazz that were underway. Wardell spent approximately three years with Hines, and became a featured soloist.

Wardell Gray - Episode 1

Gray left the Hines band in July of 1946 and resettled in Los Angeles and became a fixture in the Central Avenue jazz scene. He recorded his 1st session under his own name in 1946. This was a quartet date, known as "One for Prez," for Sunset Records. The other players included Dodo Marmarosa (piano), Red Callender (bass) and Chuck Thompson (drums). Wardell was also a member of Gene Norman's All Stars and successfully toured up and down the West Coast with them in a manner reminiscent of Norman Granz’ JATP concerts. The highlight of most of the concerts was a battle between two leading players, and in the case of the Gene Norman concerts it was usually Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray.
CompositionArtistYear
Groovin' HighWardell Gray/Howard McGhee Sextet1947
Straight LifeWardell Gray/Earl Hines & His Orchestra1946
Let's Get StartedWardell Gray/Earl Hines & His Orchestra1946
BambyWardell Gray/Earl Hines & His Orchestra1946
Dell's BellsWardell Gray Quartet1946
One for PrezWardell Gray Quartet1946
Easy SwingWardell Gray Quartet1946
Blue LouWardell Gray/Errol Garner GNP1947
BebopWardell and Friends/Howard McGhee Sextet1947

Wardell Gray - Episode 2

The successful pairing of the two tenor players led to the recording of "The Chase" on Dial Records in June, 1947. This was released as a "battle of the tenors" affair over the two sides of a 78 rpm record and received much attention among jazz fans at the time. They both exhibited great technical prowess on their instruments, but were stylistically quite different with Gray's lighter touch complementing Gordon's more forceful attack. In 1948 Wardell relocated to New York and became a regular at the Royal Roost on Broadway. The Roost was home to the Tadd Dameron/Fats Navarro group, the Miles Davis Nonet, and for a period, the Count Basie Orchestra. While Gray was with the Benny Goodman Septet in 1948, he still had opportunities to participate in his own recording sessions and to appear with other groups including Tadd Dameron.
CompositionArtistYear
The ChaseWardell Gray/Dexter Gordon1947
Light GrayWardell Gray Quartet1948
Cookin' On UpBenny Goodman Septet1948
Bye Bye Blues BopBenny Goodman Septet1948
Stealin' ApplesBenny Goodman Septet1948
SymphonetteTadd Dameron Sextet1948
ShawnWardell Gray Quintet1948

Wardell Gray - Episode 3

And after leaving Benny Goodman in late September of 1949, he was based mainly in the mid-west, especially Chicago, appearing with a variety of artists including Billie Holiday. One of Wardell’s recording sessions produced the medium tempo blues "Twisted." A few years later vocalist Annie Ross put some very clever words to his solo and recorded a best-selling vocalese version of "Twisted." Count Basie was not immune to the pressures that Goodman faced and was forced to disband his full orchestra. In August of 1950 he decided to form a smaller group with Clark Terry (trumpet), Buddy DeFranco (clarinet) and Gray (tenor sax) as the front horn line. Gray soon established himself as the lead solo tenor player, thus assuming the role as one of Lester Young's successors with the Basie orchestra. He can be heard on "Little Pony" and "Every Tub" where he is prominently featured. In 1952 Wardell moved back to Los Angeles and would never return to the east coast. Gray participated in a number of memorable sessions in 1952 including work with Art Famer and drummer Louis Bellson.
CompositionArtistYear
Sugar Hill BopWardell Gray Quartet1949
In A PinchWardell Gray Quartet1949
TwistedWardell Gray Quartet1949
TwistedLambert, Hendricks and Ross1959
Little PonyCount Basie & His Orchestra1951
Farmer's MarketWardell Gray w/Art Farmer1952
The Jeep is Jumpin'Louis Bellson and The Just Jazz All Stars1952
Punkin'Louis Bellson and The Just Jazz All Stars1952

Thad Jones


thad-jones-during-the-magnificent-thad-jones-session-3Thaddeus Joseph Jones was born in Pontiac, MI on March 28, 1923. He was the younger brother of pianist Hank Jones and older brother of drummer Elvin Jones. There were seven Jones children in all, and both parents were musical. An uncle gave him a trumpet, and he taught himself to play it. He does not fall into any of the easy classifications in jazz history. Jones is difficult to pigeonhole partly because of his varied activities—he played the trumpet (and cornet and flugelhorn), wrote arrangements and original music, and was the co-founder and co-leader of one of New York’s most influential bands in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Thad Jones - Episode 1

Thad Jones's early career gained momentum rapidly in Detroit's fertile jazz scene. He played with his brother Elvin in a house band at the Blue Bird Inn from 1952 to 1954, sat in with top Detroit jazz players such as pianist Tommy Flanagan, and also led a quintet of his own. Jones impressed nationally famous jazz artists who came through town, such as bassist Charles Mingus. In 1954 he joined the Count Basie Orchestra and remained with Basie until 1963. He also contributed a number of outstanding arrangements to the Basie library. He was influenced by a number of great trumpet players including Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, and Clark Terry. The recordings on this podcast will feature excerpts from those trumpet players and Thad’s 1st recordings from the mid 1950’s, many with bassist Charles Mingus.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
April in ParisCount BasieApril in Paris1955
Salt PeanutsDizzy Gillespie Sextet1945
Hollering at WatkinsHarry Edison/Ben WebsterSweets: Edison and his Orchestra1956
Mack the KnifeClark Terry/Oscar PetersonOscar Peterson Trio Plus One1964
What is This Thing…Thad Jones/Charles MingusJazzical Moods, Vol. 11954
Get Out of TownThad JonesThe Fabulous Thad Jones1955
I Can’t Get StartedThad JonesThe Fabulous Thad Jones1955
ZecThad JonesDetroit-New York Junction1956

Thad Jones - Episode 2

On this podcast I will highlight a number of his important small group recordings from the 2nd half of the 1950’s including a number of his original compositions. His style of melodic writing takes many unexpected turns and can be quite angular at times. His take on rhythm is also unpredictable--- which foreshadows his later big band compositions/arrangements written for his Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
April in ParisThad JonesThe Magnificent Thad Jones1956
Let’sThad JonesThe Magnificent Thad Jones1956
TiptoeThad Jones All-StarsMinor Strain1960
Like Old TimesThad JonesMotor City Scene1959
I Mean YouThad Jones/Thelonious MonkFive by Monk by Five1959

Thad Jones - Episode 3

By the latter part of the 1950’s Thad began to contribute arrangements to the Count Basie library. His big break came with the recording of the album, Chairman of the Board, in 1958 where Thad wrote four outstanding arrangements for Basie’s recording session. Thad writes strong melodies and has the saxes doubling on flutes to add great color and texture. His method of voicing for the saxophone section was also unique and a bit unusual for the Basie band of the late 1950’s. While these arrangements were well suited to the Basie Orchestra, there are many Thad Jones trademark devices used. His arrangement of his composition “To You,” is one of the most beautiful in all big band writing.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
Her Royal HighnessCount Basie OrchestraChairman of the Board1958
April in ParisThad Jones/Count BasieApril in Paris1955
Corner PocketThad Jones/Count BasieApril in Paris1955
Speaking of SoundsCount Basie OrchestraChairman of the Board1958
The DeaconCount Basie OrchestraChairman of the Board1958
To YouCount Basie and Duke EllingtonRoulette Live Recordings1961
Mutt and JeffCount Basie OrchestraChairman of the Board1958

Thad Jones - Episode 4

When Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis formed their big band 1965, neither musician could predict the great impact that the group would have on big band jazz. It started out as what is referred to as a rehearsal band comprised of the best studio and jazz musicians in New York. There was a great cross section of young, and older more experienced musicians, in the band. The group played every Monday night at the Village Vanguard in New York City. The band quickly developed a reputation as one of the best in the world featuring arrangements by not only Thad Jones, but other band members as well. All of the recordings from this podcast were recorded by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra live or in a studio between 1966 and 1970. These arrangements were published and bands are still performing them today almost 50 years later. They remain as fresh and challenging as they did back in the 1960’s. One of the challenges with this discography is that many of the recordings have been re-issued dozens of times under different album titles.
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
Mean What You SayThad JonesComplete Solid State Vol.11966
Three and OneThad JonesPresenting the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra1966
A Child is BornThad JonesDedication1970
Tip ToeThad JonesDedication1970
Little PixieThad JonesVillage Vanguard Live Sessions1967

thad-jones-during-the-magnificent-thad-jones-session-3

Stan Getz


stan-getz-nyc-[stg01]-1949Stan Getz has often been associated with the west coast cool sound, but he was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1927, and raised in the East Bronx. His main influences on the tenor sax were Lester Young and Tex Beneke and later alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. His early professional career brought him to California in 1945 where he was hired by Stan Kenton to play in his orchestra. Kenton enjoyed great popularity and worked with Bob Hope on his popular radio show. Getz left Kenton after a year and then performed with Jimmy Dorsey and later Benny Goodman. As the big band era was coming to a close Getz settled back on the east coast and became part of the bebop scene in New York.

Stan Getz - Episode 1

Savoy Records signed Stan to lead a recording session in 1946. For his first job as a leader, he formed a "Swing-Bop Quartet" and recorded four tunes with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Curly Russell and drummer Max Roach. The titles were: "Opus De Bop," "Running Water," "Don't Worry 'Bout Me," and "And The Angels Swing."
CompositionArtistYear
Lester Leaps inLester Young/Count Basie1939
KokoCharlie Parker1945
AlwaysStan Getz/Kai Winding1945
Opus de BopStan Getz Quartet1946
And the Angels SwingStan Getz Quartet1946

Stan Getz - Episode 2

In late 1946 Stan was playing with a group of young, like-minded saxophone players in L.A., all influenced strongly by Lester Young. They were: Herb Steward, Zoot Sims and Jimmy Giuffre. Ralph Burns, the staff arranger for Woody Herman's new bop-based band, came to hear them playing with a local band and was so impressed that he recommended that Herman hire them for his band. The group was to be known as Herman's Second Herd. Between December 22 and 31, 1947, this band recorded fourteen songs, releasing eleven of them. Five of these eleven became hit singles: "I've Got News For You", "Keen and Peachy", "The Goof and I", "Four Brothers" (named after the saxophone players of Stan Getz, Serge Chaloff, Zoot Sims and Herb Steward) and "Summer Sequence." All of Stan's influences are at play in his work by now: notably Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon.
CompositionArtistYear
Four BrothersStan Getz/Woody Herman1947
Early AutumnStan Getz/Woody Herman1948
Early Autumn (Live)Stan Getz/Woody Herman1949
Keeper of the FlameStan Getz/Woody Herman1948
Pennies From HeavenStan Getz/Al Haig1949

Stan Getz - Episode 3

CompositionArtistAlbumYear
WeeStan Getz/Dizzy GillespieDizzy Gillespie All-Stars1956
Parker 51Stan GetzLive at Storyville Vol 1-21951
Moonlight in VermontStan Getz/Johnny SmithJohnny Smith Quintet1952
Stella By StarlightStan GetzStan Getz Plays1952
It Don’t Mean a ThingStan Getz/Dizzy GillespieDiz and Getz1953
Little PonyStan Getz/Count BasieLive at Birdland1954
ShineStan GetzWest Coast Jazz1955
Dark EyesStan Getz/Dizzy GilliespieDizzy Gillespie All-Stars1956

Stan Getz - Episode 4

Getz lived in Europe in the late 1950’s and moved back to the states in 1960 and began a new period of creativity. He recorded one of his best albums, Focus, with arrangements by Eddie Sauter in 1961. Sauter provided the lush string backgrounds and no written music for him; Getz improvised over all of the arrangements. In 1962 Stan met guitarist Charlie Byrd who had recently returned from a trip to Brazil and brought back tapes of a jazz-samba hybrid called bossa nova. Getz was immediately interested in the sound and asked producer Creed Taylor to set up a recording session, which was eventually released as Jazz Samba in 1962. The record was a hit and prompted a follow up album released in 1964 entitled Getz/Gilberto that contained the Grammy winning track, “The Girl From Ipanema.”
CompositionArtistAlbumYear
I’m LateStan GetzFocus1961
HerStan GetzFocus1961
DesafinadoStan GetzJazz Samba1962
The Girl From IpanemaStan GetzGetz/Gilberto1964

The Rules of Basie


Count-Basie 02The Count Basie rhythm section from the latter part of the 1930’s provided jazz with the modern rhythm section. The roots of this style go back to the Benny Moten Orchestra and Walter Page’s Blue Devils. Basie, together with drummer Joe Jones, bassist Walter Page, and guitarist Eddie Durham (later Freddie Green) helped bring about this monumental change. Modern jazz could not have evolved had it not been for Basie rhythm section. This rhythm section played in a light, yet propulsive manner that left ample space for the improvisers. Count Basie played in an abbreviated manner, unlike in the stride piano style. This allowed the bassist to maintain the pulse and become the primary timekeeper. Jo Jones’ use of the cymbals further lightened the sound and texture. Together with the rhythm guitar Basie’s rhythm section sounded as if was floating compared to many of his contemporaries.

CompositionArtistYear
1:00 JumpCount Basie Orchestra1937
Mule Walk StompJames P. Johnsonca. 1938
Lester Leaps InLester Young1939
Taxi War DanceCount Basie Orchestra1939
Doggin’ AroundCount Basie Orchestra1938

Kansas City Jazz


RayMillerOrchBainKansas City jazz began as a synthesis of ragtime, marching bands, blues performers, and vaudeville. There were many theaters, dance hall, cabarets, night clubs, and ballrooms where this music flourished. Another key element was a strong economy coupled with a corruption that ran so deep that Kansas City felt few repercussions from the great depression. There were many opportunities to perform and hear live music.

Kansas City Jazz - Episode 1

On this podcast I will play some examples of the type of music heard in Kansas City in the early 20th century including recordings of two of the most successful early band leaders from this area.
CompositionArtistYear
12th Street RagSonny Stitt1956
Canhanibalmo RagArthur Pryor’s Band1911
Frog Legs RagJames Scottca. 1910
12th Street RagWillie the Lion Smithca. 1950
Night Hawk BluesCoon Sanders Night Hawks1924
Cater Street RagBenny Moten Orchestra1925

Kansas City Jazz - Episode 2

Benny Moten was a pianist, who at one time, was pupil of Scott Joplin. He became a successful band leader in the early 1920’s and between 1923-1925 recorded 20 titles in a competent energetic New Orleans style. Jesse Stone was also a popular band leader, but was unable to compete with the other leaders and eventually joined George E. Lee’s group as a pianist and arranger. As great as Walter Page and the Blue Devils were they suffered a similar a fate and were later subsumed by Benny Moten by the early 1930’s. Part of Benny Moten’s success in the early 1930’s came in the form of a number of new arrangements purchased from Benny Carter. Band member Eddie Durham (guitarist and trombonist) was also writing arrangements for the group. The other key element to their success was manner in which this rhythm section played in such a smooth and supporting manner for the soloists. This fact is made amply clear by the 1932 Camden recordings.
CompositionArtistYear
New Vine Street BluesBenny Moten Orchestra1929
Oh! EddieBenny Moten Orchestra1930
Moten SwingBenny Moten Orchestra1932
Prince of WailsBenny Moten Orchestra1932
Starvation BluesJesse Stone and Blues Serenaders1927
Blue Devil BluesWalter Page and the Blue Devils1929

Kansas City Jazz - Episode 3

George E. Lee and Jesse Stone were Moten’s chief competitors and enjoyed moderate success and popularity in Kansas. Andy Kirk was another successful Kansas City bandleader in the late 1920’s. He had the good fortune to hire the highly talented and versatile pianist Mary Lou Williams in 1929. Williams taught herself how to arrange and began writing for Kirk. Andy Kirk enjoyed great success during the swing era due in part to Mary Lou’s modern arrangements. Pete Johnson was a very popular boogie woogie pianist in Kansas City who often worked with singer Joe Turner. Together they recorded a number of big hits that paved the way for the popularity of rhythm and blues in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
CompositionArtistYear
St. James InfirmaryGeorge E. Lee Novelty Orchestra1929
Come Over to My HouseGeorge E. Lee Novelty Orchestra1929
Mess a StompAndy Kirk and 12 Clouds of Joy1929
Until the Real Thing Comes AlongAndy Kirk and 12 Clouds of Joy1936
Walkin’ and Swingin’Andy Kirk and 12 Clouds of Joy1929
Little Joe From ChicagoMary Lou Williams1939
Roll’em PetePete Johnson and Big Joe Turner1938
Baby Look at YouPete Johnson and Big Joe Turner1939

Kansas City Jazz - Episode 4

Harlan Leonard was a very popular band leader in Kansas City who got his start playing clarinet and saxophone with Benny Moten in the 1920’s. Many fine Kansas City area musicians played with Rockets including Charlie Parker and Buster Smith. Tadd Dameron and Eddie Durham wrote arrangements for the group. The Rockets occupy a niche between late swing and bebop. Count Basie formed his famous 9-piece band in late 1935 from the remnants of the Benny Moten Orchestra, the Blue Devils and a number of great KC area musicians. Basie had unsuccessfully attempted to form a band a few years before. The producer John Hammond convinced Basie to leave Kansas City and go to New York---the band would not consider Kansas City home after 1936. Basie enlarged the group and made key personnel changes after the relocation to New York. The eastern audiences were not used to the Basie style and it took several months before the band found success. The rhythm section style that the Basie Orchestra brought to New York together with Lester Young’s saxophone playing helped revolutionize jazz in the 1940’s.
CompositionArtistYear
I Don’t Want to Set the World on FireHarlan Leonard Rockets1940
Hairy Joe JumpHarlan Leonard Rockets1940
1:00 JumpCount Basie Orchestra1937
Doggin’ AroundCount Basie Orchestra1938
SwingmatismJay McShann Orchestra1941