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.
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.
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.
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

Miles Davis – 1948 & 1949

charlie-parker-miles-davis-nyc-1947-wiliam-gottlieb-photo-9By late 1947 trumpet player Miles Davis was ready to leave the Charlie Parker Quintet and strike out on his own. His playing had improved immensely and he was no longer in the shadow of Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro. Miles was looking for an altogether different approach to modern jazz that utilized more space, color, and texture balanced with modern arrangements.

Miles Davis 1948-1949 - Episode 1

The recordings from this period are probably the least listened to, but are incredibly rich and poignant. His group from this period, often referred to as the Nonet or Roost Band, was groundbreaking in many respects---Miles surrounded himself with creative and forward thinking musicians. The recordings on this podcast are all live air checks from the Royal Roost Jazz Club in New York. These recordings pre-date the Birth of the Cool recordings made for Capitol Records in 1949 and 1950.
Be BopDizzy Gillespie All-Stars1945
AnthropologyFats Navarro/Tadd Dameron1947
Budo (Hallucinations)Miles Davis NonetLive Roost Sessions1948
Move #1Miles Davis NonetLive Roost Sessions1948
Move #2Miles Davis NonetLive Roost Sessions1948
Half NelsonMiles Davis QuintetLive Roost Sessions1948
52nd Street ThemeMiles Davis QuintetLive Roost Sessions1948

Miles Davis 1948-1949 - Episode 2

By 1949 Miles’ trumpet playing had reached new heights. His abilities could be compared to those of the other famous bop trumpeters like Howie McGee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Fats Navarro. In addition to leading the famous Nonet, Miles spent quite a bit of time collaborating with pianist, composer, and arranger Tadd Dameron in 1949. Miles travelled to Paris in May 1949 with Tadd and played brilliantly on the live recordings from the Salle Pleyel. These are Miles’ finest recordings in the bop style. After their return from Paris both Tadd and Miles were disillusioned about the lack of respect for jazz in the states after the overwhelming reception they had received in Europe.
Composition ArtistAlbumYear 
Wah HooMiles Davis & Tadd DameronQuintet in Paris1949
Overtime (long version)Miles Daviswith the Metronome All-Stars1949
FocusMiles Davis with Tadd Dameron's Big Ten1949
Webb’s DelightMiles Davis with Tadd Dameron's Big Ten1949
Good BaitMiles Davis & Tadd DameronQuintet in Paris1949
Don’t Blame MeMiles Davis & Tadd DameronQuintet in Paris1949
All the Things You AreMiles Davis & Tadd DameronQuintet in Paris1949
OrnithologyMiles Davis & Tadd DameronQuintet in Paris1949

Tadd Dameron

Portrait_of_Tadd_Dameron_New_York_N_Y__between_1946_and_1948_GottliebTadd Dameron (1917-1965) was a highly respected composer and pianist of the bebop era and without a doubt the most important arranger of that period. He was able to take the new bop language and apply it to composition and arranging. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he started his career in the early 1940s and by the mid-1940s was an integral part of the New York jazz scene.

Tadd Dameron - Episode 1

Dameron performed with the most important musicians of the period, in addition to leading his own bands. He wrote arrangements for almost every big band post 1945 including Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Georgie Auld and many others. His band that performed at the Royal Roost in the late 1940’s included the great jazz trumpet virtuoso Fats Navarro. Dameron had an affinity for strong melody and composed many jazz standards.
DuskThe Duke Ellington Orchestra1941
DameroniaTadd Dameron Orchestra1947
Good BaitTadd Dameron Orchestra1948
Hot HouseDizzy Gillespie Quintet1945
JhaberoTadd Dameron Sextet1948
Our DelightTadd Dameron Orchestra1948

Tadd Dameron - Episode 2

This podcast will feature some of best his recordings from the Royal Roost Club with his Big Ten Orchestra from late 1948 and 1949. These are primarily live radio air-checks. The arrangements from this period exhibit many of the characteristics of the cool style made popular in the early 1950’s. There is an emphasis on texture, color, and balance between written music and improvised solos. Tadd’s Big 10 and the Miles Davis Nonet (Birth of the Cool) bear striking resemblance in arranging style; both groups were performing at the Roost between 1948 and 1949. The big difference in the two groups is that Tadd wrote and arranged all of his music whereas Miles Davis had at least 4 people writing arrangements for him. Tadd was constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional jazz arranging and some of his work was beginning to foreshadow the 3rd Stream movement of the late 1950s. Listen carefully to the very modern Study in Soulphony.
Lady BirdTadd Dameron Sextet1948
John's DelightTadd Dameron Orchestra1949
Sid's DelightTadd Dameron Orchestra1949
FocusTadd Dameron Orchestra1949
Study in SoulphonyDizzy Gillespie Big Band1949

Tadd Dameron - Episode 3

The works from the mid-1950s are featured in this podcast. The 1953 recordings featured a little known trumpet player by the name of Clifford Brown who would by 1956 be celebrated as the greatest of the hard bop trumpeters. The medium tempo and ballad compositions featured here are some of most beautiful and lush in the Dameron songbook. Check out the work on the 1956 album Mating Call that featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane.
Theme of No RepeatTadd Dameron Nonet1953
Dial B for BeautyTadd Dameron Nonet1953
FountainbleauTadd Dameron Octet1956
On a Misty NightTadd DameronMating Call1956
SoultraneTadd DameronMating Call1956

Tadd Dameron - Episode 4

Tadd Dameron had an affinity for vocalists and many great ones recorded his compositions. He is one of the few jazz composers who understood how to write a vocally-conceived jazz composition; most jazz composers of the period were writing instrumentally conceived melodies that did not necessarily lend themselves to vocal interpretation. Some of the recordings feature his original compositions and arrangements; some are arrangements of other composers’ work. The arrangements all display Dameron’s magic touch with orchestration and the original compositions show the romantic side of his ballad writing that was so attractive to many great vocalists (and instrumentalists).
I'd Rather Have a Memory than a DreamSarah Vaughn and Dizzy Gillespie1945
If You Could See Me NowSarah Vaughn and Tadd Dameron1946
I Think I'll Go AwayKenny Hagood and Tadd Dameron1948
What's NewKay Penton and Tadd Dameron1949
You're a JoyBarbara Winfield and Tadd DameronThe Magic Touch1962
What Ever Possessed MeChet BakerThe Most Important Record of 1964-19651965

Fats Navarro

fats-navarro-nyc-new-york-1948-herman-leonardTheodore Navarro was born in Key West, Florida in 1923. He learned to play a variety of instruments, but settled on the trumpet. His early trumpet influences were Roy Eldridge, Harry James, and Charlie Shavers. Navarro started his career in the early 1940’s playing with a number of bands in the Midwest where he befriended trumpeter Howie McGhee. He replaced Dizzy Gillespie in the Billy Eckstine Orchestra in 1945. Navarro played so well that it was said you could not tell that Gillespie had left Eckstine’s band. Navarro decided to stay in New York and by 1946 was a regular on the jazz scene. Dizzy Gillespie showed us a new way to play, but Fats Navarro perfected it and by the latter half of the 1940’s became the prototypical bebop trumpet player. Well liked and admired, Navarro made many recordings with the bop musicians in the 1940’s that stand as a testament to his legacy.

AnthropologyFats Navarro/Tadd Dameron1948
King Porter StompHarry Jamesca. 1945
Heckler’s HopRoy Eldridge1937
Blue SkiesCharlie Shavers/ John Kirby Sextet1939
Dizzy AtmosphereDizzy Gillespie Quintet1947
The SquirrelFats Navarro/Tadd Dameron1948