One thing they all have in common is the important legacy they have left for posterity. I have also examined a number of genres, or subcategories of jazz and shed a light on important innovators and groups. A number of podcasts are titled “How Jazz Works,” where I demonstrate how jazz phrasing and improvisation work in a very accessible and clear way.
Woody ShawJuly 28, 2011
Woody Herman Shaw was born on December 24, 1944 in Laurinburg, NC, and raised in Newark, NJ. He started playing the trumpet at age 11 and two years later he began his professional career, playing with a variety of local bands in Newark. Woody never finished high school, but received valuable musical schooling through his work with local jazzmen like organist Larry Young and saxophonist Tyrone Washington. At 18, he had a chance to perform with Latin-jazz pioneer Willie Bobo at a club called the Blue Coronet in Brooklyn---other members of the band included Chick Corea and Joe Farrell.
Wilbur SweatmanJune 16, 2011
Wilbur Sweatman was born in Missouri in 1882. He was a gifted clarinetist, bandleader, and composer. By 1902 he was living in Minneapolis---already having toured with circus/concert bands of Professor Clark Smith Band of Kansas, the P. G. Lowery Band, and W. C. Handy's Musical Spillers. He moved to Chicago in 1907 and spent time as an orchestra conductor before leaving for New York and the vaudeville stage in 1911. Sweatman gained notoriety as a popular vaudeville performer; he often ended his act by playing three clarinets at once. He also contributed to the popularity of ragtime during its "second wave" via his compositions "Down Home Rag" and "Old Folks Rag." Sweatman and his band also recorded a series of discs for the Emerson and Pathé label
Wes MontgomeryApril 22, 2010
Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) is one of the greatest jazz guitarists, emerging after such figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian. Montgomery has influenced all subsequent guitarists. Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He came from a musical family; his brothers, Monk (bass) and Buddy (vibraphone and piano), were jazz musicians. Montgomery started playing guitar relatively late, at the age of 19, by listening to recordings of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He developed an unusual technique where he used his thumb to pick notes, hence the nickname, “The Thumb.”
Weather ReportOctober 15, 2009
The origins of this innovative group started in late 1969. The 3 founding members, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, and bassist Miroslav Vitous had performed with world renowned bands and had recorded with some of the most important artists in jazz. They had all played together on a series of recordings together in 1969-1970, including the albums Zawinul, Super Nova, and Bitches Brew. Shorter and Zawinul had established themselves as two of the most influential jazz composers of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The original group included Alphonse Mouzon on drums and percussionist DomUm Romao. Weather Report, in essence, was a band that had three leaders and they had to figure out how to make it work. The group had a conventional lineup in terms of instrumentation, but used it in unconventional ways. The group abandoned traditional time keeping in favor of integrated group interaction. This often included modality or no conventional chord changes. Much of the music had no strict meter or traditional harmonic organization. There was much emphasis on the creation of color and texture. This was a band that fused together many different styles with non-traditional approaches.
Wayne ShorterNovember 7, 2013
Wayne Shorter was born in Newark, NJ in 1933. He began playing clarinet in high school and later switched to the tenor saxophone. From 1952 to 1956 he studied music at New York University and played in a local bands, including a short stint with pianist Horace Silver before being drafted in 1956. Following his discharge in October 1958 he was recruited by Art Blakey to join his band, the Jazz Messengers. He stayed with Messengers until 1963, contributing much of the band’s repertoire and acting as the musical director. It is this period from 1959 through 1961 that is the subject of this series of podcasts on Wayne Shorter.
Wardell GrayFebruary 13, 2014
Carl 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.
Tito PuenteJune 12, 2013
Tito Puente was born in New York City in 1923 and became one of the America’s most popular band leaders in the 1950’s until his death in 2000. His Puerto Rican background and familiarity with Afro-Cuban music made his jazz/mambo music of the 1950’s extremely popular. Some little known facts about Tito include the fact that he was also a saxophonist, pianist, vibraphonist, composer, and arranger in addition to being s successful band leader and drummer. He studied composition at Juilliard Conservatory in the 1940 after the Second World War and arranged most of the music for his orchestra.
The Year Was 1959March 23, 2009
1959 was possibly the most important year in the history of jazz. It was the year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue, Ornette Coleman released the Shape of Jazz of Come, John Coltrane released Giant Steps, and peripherally Dave Brubeck released Time Out, and Charles Mingus released Mingus Ah Um. Without a doubt the releases by Davis, Coleman, and Coltrane would forever change the direction of jazz forever. Davis introduces modal jazz, Coltrane introduces one of the most complex hard bop compositions, Giant Steps, and Ornette Coleman introduces a new way to play with no preset harmony. In hindsight you could say that of the three approaches Ornette had the greatest impact and John Coltrane was its first major recipient.
The Rules of BasieOctober 8, 2009
The 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.
Thad JonesMarch 10, 2011
Thaddeus 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.
Tadd DameronMarch 1, 2012
Tadd 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.
Stan GetzDecember 2, 2010
Stan 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.
Serge ChaloffJune 5, 2014
I take a look at the work of baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff (1923-1957) starting with his musical influences. Perhaps best known for his work with Woody Herman, Chaloff is considered the first bebop baritone saxophonist and paved the way for other important baritone saxophonists in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He played this unwieldy instrument with the grace and fluency of the smaller alto saxophone.
Scott LaFaroJanuary 27, 2011
Scott LaFaro (1936-1961) was a groundbreaking and innovative bassist. He performed and recorded with some of the most influential jazz musicians from 1957 until his untimely death in 1961 in an automobile accident. Originally a clarinetist, his story is unusual in that he did not begin playing the bass until he was almost 18 years old. He left college after his 1st year and quickly gained notoriety as a bassist on the west coast. The success and attention garnered by these early recordings attracted much attention in the jazz community. His playing shows the influence of the master bassists of the 1940s and 1950s, but he quickly separated himself from the pack. His playing is characterized by near perfect intonation, good harmonic understanding, full round sound, and a different approach to technique that utilized all four fingers on his right hand. This allowed him to literally dance across the strings and play in a much more acrobatic manner that his predecessors and many of his peers.
Raymond ScottApril 21, 2011
Born Harry Warnow in 1908, he was a 1931 graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied piano, theory and composition. He later changed his name to Raymond Scott, and began his professional career as a pianist for the CBS Radio Orchestra. In late 1936, Scott recruited a band from among his CBS colleagues, calling it the "Raymond Scott Quintette." It was a six-piece group and the original members were Pete Pumiglio, clarinet; Bunny Berigan, trumpet, soon replaced by Dave Wade; Louis Shoobe, upright bass; Dave Harris, tenor sax; and Johnny Williams, drums. They made their first recordings in New York in 1937. The Quintette represented Scott's attempt to revitalize swing music through tight, busy arrangements and reduced reliance on improvisation. He called this musical style "descriptive jazz," and gave his works unusual titles like "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House," "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals,” and "Bumpy Weather Over Newark." While popular with the public, jazz critics disdained it as novelty music. Although Scott rigidly controlled the band's repertoire and style, he rarely took piano solos, preferring to direct the band from the piano and leaving solos to his sidemen. He
Phineas NewbornJune 21, 2012
Phineas Newborn, Jr. is from Memphis TN. Born in 1931 into a musical family, his talent as a pianist was recognized at an early age. In addition to being influenced by some of the greatest jazz pianists (Tatum, Powell, and Peterson) he had a strong dose of the classics also. He was brought to the attention of record producers by pianist and band leader Count Basie.
Pepper AdamsAugust 9, 2012
Born in Highland Park and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Pepper grew up playing with a number of jazz legends including Donald Byrd and the legendary Jones brothers (Elvin, Thad, and Hank) before moving to New York City. In his career, Adams played on over 600 sessions including notable dates with Charles Mingus, Stan Kenton, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.
Paul ChambersMay 6, 2010
Oscar Pettiford is the bassist generally assumed to have picked up where Jimmy Blanton left off, with Ray Brown, Red Mitchell, Percy Heath and others following in his footsteps. Paul Chambers (1935-1969) was the star of the next generation of bassists who came of age in the mid 1950’s. Among other achievements, Chambers is the first jazz bassist to earn dual renown as an arco and pizzicato soloist. Born in Pittsburgh, he grew up in Detroit and took up the double bass around 1949. While he was studying at Cass Tech (1952 to 1955), he had opportunities to interact with Thad Jones and Barry Harris. His formal bass training started in 1952, when he began taking lessons with a bassist in the Detroit Symphony. By the time he left for New York at the invitation of Paul Quinichette, he was already greatly experienced.
Oscar PetersonJuly 16, 2009
Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Montreal, Canada. Peterson studied piano as a child with Hungarian-born pianist Paul de Marky, a student of Istvan Thomán who was himself a pupil of Franz Liszt. His training was predominantly classical, but he was always interested in jazz. In 1940 Peterson won the national music competition organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and became a professional pianist working for a weekly radio show and playing at local hotels. Peterson’s earliest jazz influences include Teddy Wilson, Nat "King" Cole, James P. Johnson, and Art Tatum. Tatum was a model for Peterson's musicianship during the 1940s and 1950s and they eventually became good friends. An important step in his career was joining impresario Norman Granz's "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert series. In 1949, Granz introduced Peterson at a Carnegie Hall Jazz at the Philharmonic show in New York. The trio quickly became Oscar’s preferred setting and his 1st important trio featured bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Barney Kessel.
Nat Cole TrioJanuary 17, 2013
Nathaniel Cole was born in Birmingham 1919 and grew up in Chicago--his father was a travelling preacher. Nat was surrounded by the great Chicago musicians of late 1920s. His innovative piano playing has often been overshadowed by his popularity as a singer/entertainer. He should also be remembered as a pianist whose playing style in the late 1930’s helped to usher in the modern bebop style of the 1940s.
Miles Davis – 1948 & 1949August 8, 2013
By 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.
Max RoachSeptember 6, 2010
Max Roach (1924-2007) was born in North Carolina and raised in New York City. A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered one of the most important drummers in jazz history. He worked with many famous jazz musicians, including Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Clifford Brown.
Mathias EickNovember 6, 2014
Norwegian trumpet player/composer Mathias Eick was born in 1979. He plays primarily in Europe and is not that well known in the U.S. yet. In Europe, Eick has toured and performed with jazz bands like the Erlend Skomsvolls project with Chick Corea, Motif, and the Norwegian electronica group Jaga Jazzist. He has also worked with pop and rock acts like Motorpsycho and Big Bang. His main influences are Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Dave Douglas, and Kenny Wheeler. In addition to being and excellent trumpet player, Eick has the widest tonal palette of any trumpet player I have ever heard. He can make the horn crackle like a hard bop player and also play with the softest whisper and make the trumpet sound like a flute.
LovermanMay 26, 2011
“Lover Man” is one of the torchiest and bluesy of all ballads. It is not a true blues, but it has many elements of the blues and a set of lyrics that portrays a great deal of sadness and longing. It has been recorded primarily by female vocalists, but there are many great instrumental recordings of this ballad. The alto sax falls in the range of many female vocalists and this is probably why is has been recorded by so many great alto players.
Louis Armstrong’s First RecordingsFebruary 25, 2010
Louis Armstrong’s recording career started in 1923 while playing 2nd cornet with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. The young Armstrong can be heard playing a primarily supportive role to his mentor, but upon careful examination you can hear his first solos in these early recordings. He would stay with Oliver for about a year before moving to New York in the fall of 1924. These recording represent the first time we hear Armstrong. From the recordings it is hard to predict that this young musician would change jazz and American popular music forever.
Lenny BreauJanuary 8, 2015
Leonard Harold Breau (1941-1984) was born in Maine to musician parents and spent his early life surrounded by the country/western music that they performed. As a teenager, Lenny’s natural musical ability allowed him to figure out the licks of his favorite guitarists including Chet Atkins and Django Reinhardt, as well as jazz greats of the day like Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, and pianist Bill Evans.
Lennie TristanoOctober 3, 2013
Lennie Tristano (1919-1978) was a pioneering jazz pianist and composer in Chicago in the early 1940s. A respected performer and teacher, the extremely gifted Tristano was often critical of his contemporaries leading him to be disliked by much of the jazz community while simultaneously respected for his abilities. Although his music tended to defy labels, his recordings from the 1940s and 1950s were extremely influential in the subgenres of cool jazz, bebop, post-bop, and avant-garde jazz.
Lee MorganDecember 17, 2009
Lee Morgan was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1938. He was a leading trumpeter and composer recording prolifically from 1956 until 1972. He started playing the trumpet at 13 and his primary stylistic influence was Clifford Brown, with whom he took a few lessons as a teenager. His other major influences included Fats Navarro and Dizzy Gillespie. He joined the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band at age 18 and remained a member for a year and a half until 1958. He began recording for Blue Note Records in 1956, eventually recording 25 albums as a leader for the company. He was also a featured sideman on several early Hank Mobley records. His playing was technically, melodically, and harmonically advanced. The record buying public and audiences were receptive to his powerful style that exuded the essence of hard bop.
Kind of BlueJuly 30, 2009
Kind of Blue is the biggest selling jazz recording ever released and Miles Davis’s most famous recording. It has influenced generations of not only jazz musicians, but performers in many of other musical genres including rock and soul music of the 1960’s.
Kenny DorhamApril 19, 2012
Originally from Texas, McKinley Dorham (1924-1972), better known at Kenny or KD left a giant mark on jazz trumpet from the late 1940s through the late 1960s. His prodigious skills included not only trumpet playing but also as a pianist, composer, and arranger. In the 2nd half of the 1940s he had opportunities to perform with the greatest bebop musicians.
Kansas City JazzAugust 6, 2009
Kansas 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.
John Kirby SextetMarch 6, 2011
John Kirby was a well-respected bassist during the swing era who started his own small band in 1937. The group was originally under the leadership of the well-known clarinetist Buster Bailey, but a after a few changes in instrumentation and personnel it became the John Kirby Sextet. Kirby used trumpet, alto sax, and clarinet as the front horn line. Kirby’s intention was to establish a polite, refined, jazz chamber group that could also retain the sound of hot jazz. The hot jazz came in the form of outstanding trumpeter, composer, and arranger Charlie Shavers. Shavers wrote most of the arrangements and composed a number of original works for the group. The Kirby Sextet has often been compared to Raymond Scott’s Quintette. Kirby also used very creative and descriptive titles for works the group recorded. The band enjoyed great popularity in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
John Coltrane’s TranstionJuly 6, 2012
On this podcast I look at John Coltrane’s transition from the epitome of a hard bop tenor saxophonist to a player who embraced modal and free form jazz. The transition took literally less than 2 years. He recorded 2 groundbreaking albums in 1959: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and his own Giant Steps. His work in the 1950’s featured the type of hard bop playing that was strictly tied to improvising over sophisticated and often difficult harmonic progressions. The composition “Giant Steps” is the epitome of harmonic complexity packed into a short form and played at a very fast tempo. The same year Kind of Blue introduced modal jazz into the mainstream and Ornette Coleman released the album, The Shape of Jazz to Come, which introduced a new free approach to jazz. Moving away from compositions with densely packed chord progressions to compositions with few or no chords was an epiphany for John. All these changes in jazz had a profound effect on him. His music post 1960 displayed the influence of Ornette Coleman, modal music, and an increased spiritual awareness.
Joey DefrancescoApril 24, 2014
Joey Defrancesco is perhaps the greatest living disciple of the jazz organ. Having released over 30 albums, Joey D has played with legends like Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis. Perhaps the most amazing part of his story is how young he was when he started his journey. In this conversation we learn how he mastered Jimmy Smith’s classic “The Sermon” verbatim at age 4, led a band with Hank Mobley and Sonny Stitt at age 10, and joined Miles Davis’ group before he was old enough to vote.
JJ JohnsonJune 17, 2010
Arguably the greatest bebop/hard bop trombonist post 1945, J.J. Johnson's work defied both musicians’ and the public's perception that the slide trombone could not keep up in modern jazz (bebop). Gifted as a composer and arranger Johnson had a long career as both a performer, bandleader, and composer.
Jimmy SmithFebruary 23, 2010
Originally a pianist, Jimmy Smith switched to organ in 1953 after hearing organist Wild Bill Davis. Before Jimmy released his albums in the mid 1950’s the organ was used only sporadically in jazz. After Smith purchased his first Hammond organ he rented a warehouse to practice in and emerged a year later with a new sound that revolutionized the way in which the instrument could be played.
Jazz RockDecember 8, 2011
These episodes examine the influence of jazz structures on rock music in the 1960s. By the late 1950s, the emergence of free jazz isolated much of the public and began to fall out of favor as rock music began winning the hearts of listeners worldwide. During that time, musicians in England began experimenting not only with the blues, but also with elements of jazz. Musicians like Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, who later went on to form Cream, melded their love of blues, rock and jazz into what is today known as jazz rock fusion.
Jackie McLeanMay 19, 2011
Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean (1931-2006) was raised in a musical family and also a New York neighborhood full of well-respected musicians. As a young musician he was mentored by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. He possessed a distinctive tone, closer to the tenor saxophone and sometimes described as piercing or searing. He was also a great interpreter of the blues. His earliest recordings were made when he was still in his teens.
Jack PurvisJuly 18, 2013
Jack Purvis was one of the most interesting and least known of the 1920s and 1930s era jazz trumpet players. Little is known about his early life and he is surrounded by myth. He was one of the few white trumpet players whose ability could challenge Louis Armstrong in the late 1920s and together with Jabbo Smith was one of the most celebrated trumpet virtuosos of that era. The myths surrounding Purvis are the stuff of legends. He was accused of being a bank robber, petty thief, con man, pilot, and did spend time in prison. The prison time is a fact---everything else is subject to greater scrutiny. One incontrovertible fact is that his black and white contemporaries revered him and all attest to his prodigious talent as a jazz trumpet player.
International Sweethearts of RhythmSeptember 24, 2009
This podcast is devoted to the first fully-integrated all-female jazz band, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Originally from Mississippi, the group got its start as a choir in the 1920’s and later came to prominence as a swing band in the early 1940’s. They performed in the 1930’s and 40’s alongside the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. Their prowess on their instruments and stage show was equally stunning. The role that women have played in jazz is often overlooked and not enough attention has been given to their numerous and notable contributions to jazz starting in the 1920s. These recordings of the International Sweethearts dispel any myths that women were not excellent jazz musicians.
Howie McGheeFebruary 28, 2013
Although not a household name in jazz, Howard (Howie) McGhee (1918-1987) is one of the most important transitional trumpet players in early bebop. Approximately the same age as Dizzy Gillespie, McGhee was active in the Harlem jam session scene in the early 1940’s. He bridges that gap between late swing and bebop
History of Jazz GuitarMay 6, 2009
The banjo was more popular than the guitar in the late 19th century and first decades of the 20th century. The banjo could project more sound and be heard more easily than the guitar. Most early guitarists started out on the banjo and many were inventors who constantly modified their instruments. The early banjo style is based largely on the ragtime and marches that were so popular at the turn of the century. The Hawaiian style of slide or pedal guitar became very popular amongst blues and Texas swing guitarists of the 1930s.
History of Big BandsApril 28, 2009
When someone mentions big bands the first thought is often the period from 1935 to 1945, referred to as the “Swing Era.” Big bands or orchestras that played ragtime or other types of syncopated popular music for dancing have been around since the late 19th century. The history of the bands from the “swing era” goes back at least this far. James Reese Europe’s Clef Club Orchestra is probably the earliest of the popular dance orchestras that provided the blue print for the evolution of the big dance (jazz) band of the 1920’s. Europe’s group did not play jazz, but a ragtime version of syncopated music./h7>
Hampton HawesAugust 14, 2014
Contrary to popular belief there were great bebop musicians performing in Los Angeles in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Wardell Gray, Sonny Criss, Charles Mingus, and Howie McGhee all broke into the music business on the west coast. There were many jazz clubs on Central Avenue in L.A. that presented bop oriented groups. That brings us to the subject of this series of podcasts, the pianist Hampton Hawes (1928-1977).
Guy Barker – The Amadeus ProjectJanuary 9, 2014
Guy Barker is a British trumpet player and composer/arranger. He is probably best known for his score and trumpet playing from the soundtrack to the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley. The music from the Amadeus Project was recording in 2007 by a big band in Europe---I don’t think there are any U.S. born musicians performing on the project. Contrary to popular belief big bands have not disappeared, they have just re-invented themselves. The modern music written for these groups sounds quite different from the traditional music of 1940’s and 1950’s big bands. In many ways the new music is an extension of the groundwork laid down by Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Gil Evans. There are a number of talented composer/arrangers writing for large ensemble today in the U.S. and Europe; that is what drew me to Guy Barker and this suite of recordings. The performers are outstanding and the compositions, while very modern, are accessible and there is an underlying theme throughout the work.
Gordon Vernick’s DestinationJanuary 23, 2014
On this podcast I discuss the process of making my latest CD, Destination: what goes into selecting material, composing new works, sidemen, and other intangibles. Everything has to be in place before the recording takes place and the ambient mood has to be right. Playing in a recording studio is much different than live performance. Often you can’t even see the other musicians--only hear them through headphones. It can be a sterile, unnerving experience, but with good preparation and rehearsal it can be made easier. Given this experience it helps one to appreciate all the live in-studio jazz recordings made prior to the digital age.
Freddie HubbardJune 29, 2009
Hubbard’s trumpet playing is a combination of all the greats that came before him including Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie, and some contemporaries including Booker Little and Lee Morgan. His astounding technique, great range, beautiful sound, and seemingly endless creativity made him one of the most sought after trumpet players of his generation.
Fats NavarroMay 31, 2009
Theodore 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.
Evolution of Jazz BassDecember 3, 2009
On this podcast I examine the history of the bass in jazz from the 1925 through 1930. Most bassists came from the brass traditions--they were originally tuba players. The string bass could not be heard in brass bands or in outdoor venues, nor could it be heard on acoustic recordings. The double bass was used in the string or salon ensembles of the early 20th century. The introduction of the electric microphone in the mid 1920’s was a revelation for listeners and made it possible to record using a double bass. Because most double bassists were originally tuba players, when they played the string bass they would often mimic the 2/2 style of the tuba in the traditional marching band. You can hear the “slap” bass technique used by many bassists of this period--its percussive sound helps drive the band. Occasionally a bassist from this period might play in 4/4 time, but that would evolve later in the 1930’s.
Eddie DanielsApril 18, 2013
Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Eddie Daniels was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He became interested in jazz as a teenager when he was impressed by the musicians accompanying singers, such as Frank Sinatra, on recordings. Daniels' first instrument was the alto saxophone, and by the age of 15 he had played at the Newport Jazz Festival youth competition. At the age of 13, he was also playing clarinet. Eddie played tenor sax with The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in the mid 1960’s where he earned a Downbeat Award for the Best New Star on the clarinet. Daniels has toured and recorded with a variety of bands, small groups and orchestras, and appeared on television many times. Since the 1980s, he has focused mainly on the clarinet. He has been able to blend a quasi-classical style music with swinging jazz and never ceases to astound listeners all over the world. In 1989, he won a Grammy Award for his contribution to the Roger Kellaway arrangement of Memos from Paradise. He has also played with artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Richard Davis, Don Patterson, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many other notables. On the podcast
Early Jazz PianoMay 20, 2009
Jazz piano has a long and interesting history, which actually goes back to the mid-19th century American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Gottschalk’s syncopated works, influenced by the Cuban habanera rhythm, were popular in North America and Europe. These syncopated compositions of the mid-19th century led to the development of the popular cakewalk dance of the late 19th century and later to the ragtime compositions of Scott Joplin and other ragtime composers.
Duke PearsonJuly 5, 2010
Born Columbus Calvin Pearson, Jr. in Atlanta, GA, Duke Pearson (1932-1980) started on the trumpet then later switched to the piano. He was soon given the nickname Duke, a reference to Duke Ellington. He attended Clark College in the early 1950’s, and later joined the Army. Pearson performed locally in the south with a number of bands before moving to New York in 1959. He joined Benny Golson’s Jazztet, but was quickly recruited by trumpeter Donald Byrd to join his newly formed quintet with baritone saxophonist, Pepper Adams (not Art Pepper). He recorded with Donald Byrd and quite a few other artists in the early 1960’s and was beginning to make a name for himself as composer and arranger. He was an accomplished lyrical pianist and as a producer at Blue Note records played a crucial role in shaping its hard bop sound in the 1960’s. He is best remembered for writing several compositions such at Jeannine, Big Bertha, New Girl, Sweet Honey Bee, and Cristo Redentor.
Duke Ellington’s Train SongsMarch 22, 2012
The train (or the image of trains) has been a metaphor for the road to freedom in African American culture. Going back to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, the train has represented a road to freedom and a better life. In the early 20th century one of the few high paying (and glamorous for the time) jobs available to African Americans was working on the railroad in a variety of capacities. Duke Ellington was fascinated with the railroad from early in his career and often made literary and musical reference to trains in his compositions for his orchestra. He often used the word in titles and was able to create the image of slow of fast moving trains in music. Very clever indeed---he is not the first composer to do this, but this was one often an underlying theme in his work. In the mid 1930’s the Ellington Orchestra travelled in two Pullman cars, thus avoiding drafty and uncomfortable busses and avoiding the indignity of not being able to check into certain hotels. On the podcast I will examine his most memorable train related works.
Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker SuiteDecember 13, 2012
In 1960 Duke Ellington recorded an album titled Three Suites, which featured a jazz interpretation of "The Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky. The works on the album were arranged by both Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. This is not the first time that “classics” were given a jazz treatment and selections of the Nutcracker had been arranged and recorded previously by a number of big bands starting in the 1930’s. The Ellington/Strayhorn version is the most often performed jazz version today. Selections from the suite have enjoyed widespread popularity around the holidays (as has the original by Tchaikovsky). EPISODES:
Dr. Michael WhiteFebruary 14, 2013
Clarinetist and jazz historian Michael White began his jazz musical career as a teenager playing for Doc Paulin's Brass Band in New Orleans. He was a member of an incarnation of the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, established by banjoist Danny Barker. He was discovered by Kid Sheik Colar, who heard him onstage performing in Jackson Square in the French Quarter. He began working with the musician regularly following the encounter. A staunch jazz traditionalist, White can be heard on the 1989 album The Majesty of the Blues by Wynton Marsalis. Wynton also appears on White's 1990 album titled Crescent City Serenade, along with musicians Wendell Brunious and Walter Payton. White has led several bands in the New Orleans area, and has accompanied various artists on other recording projects. Since 1979 he has played in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, founded by clarinetist John Casimir sometime in the 1940s. During the 1980s he also led a band called The New Orleans Hot Seven. Performing "A Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton" in concert with them at the Lincoln Center in New York City in 1989 led to a favorable review by Jon Pareles in the New York Times shortly after. On
Django ReinhardtSeptember 27, 2012
Guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) was the first non-U.S. born jazz legend. Born to a Gyspy family in Belgium he spent most of his life in France and is often claimed as French. Influenced by the eastern European exotic sound of gypsy music, he was able to combine it with American jazz to establish a unique and original style that rivaled any American jazz musician. Together with violinist Stephane Grappelli, they formed what would be the most important European jazz group prior to 1950, the Quintet of the Hot Club of France in 1934. Originally starting out on the banjo he switched to the guitar as a teenager. He was burned in a fire when he was 18, which resulted in a disfigured left hand. It was thought that he would never play again.
Dexter GordonJune 9, 2009
Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (1923-1990) started his career in Los Angeles in the early 1940’s. He was a product of what was referred to as the Central Avenue jazz scene. His first important job was playing with the Lionel Hampton band in the early 1940s and by 1944 he was performing with the bebop incubator known as the Billy Eckstine Orchestra. His early influences on the saxophone include Lester Young, Don Byas, and Charlie Parker. Dexter was one of the first true bebop tenor players and set the standard for the instrument throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s.
Dave DouglasMarch 8, 2010
Dave Douglas is one of the most innovative trumpet players and composers on the music scene. He has been actively performing in New York since the 1980s and has since come into his own as one of the most eclectic musicians in jazz today. Much of his music does not fall into the traditional categories of swing, bop, cool, modal, etc. Douglas does not hesitate to look at the world around him and borrow anything he finds interesting and then transform it into something new and original. The traditional music of Eastern Europe, the music of Bartok and Stravinsky, brass bands, free form, hard bop, and 20th century string quartets can all be found in his music.
Cool JazzApril 1, 2009
One of least clearly defined jazz styles, cool jazz is really a combination of a number of different approaches to jazz that all emanate from bebop. The cool style was not so much a response to bebop, but a logical extension of it started by musicians who were involved in the bop movement. Bop performance was centered on improvisation and so was cool, but one of the most striking differences was the manner in which solos were framed within an arrangement that often featured changes in texture.
Clifford BrownMarch 23, 2009
Born in Wilmington Delaware in 1930, Clifford Brown was possibly the most influential jazz trumpeter of his generation. His life was cut short in an auto accident in 1956 when he was 26 years old. Even with such a short career his legacy is huge and he left a large body of recorded work starting in the early 1950’s until the day before his tragic death. He possessed great technique, a beautiful big sound, and was a great admirer of both Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro.
Classic TenorsMarch 23, 2009
The saxophone is a relatively new instrument invented in the 1840’s by a Belgian instrument maker by the name of Adolphe Sax. The instrument emerged in the United States at the turn of 20th century and was popular in the large marching and concert bands of the period. The dance/jazz band musicians adopted the instrument in the early 1920’s. The saxophone represented everything that was new and different and became a symbol for American popular music in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Cannonball AdderleyJuly 9, 2009
Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was one of the most distinctive alto saxophonists post Charlie Parker. Originally from Florida, he was a high school band director in Ft. Lauderdale before moving to New York in 1955 with his brother Nat. After sitting in with Oscar Pettiford's band at the Cafe Bohemia in New York in the summer of 1955, the alto saxophonist became an instant sensation.
Buster SmithMarch 2, 2014
This podcast is devoted to a relatively unknown alto saxophonist active in Kansas City in the 1930s. Although not as well-remembered as the more famous alto men like Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, or Willie Smith from the swing era, Buster left a huge musical legacy for jazz saxophone playing. Together with Lester Young he was a primary influence on the young Charlie Parker when Parker was coming of age in Kansas City in the 1930s. Charlie Parker copied Buster’s sound and vibrato to such a degree that it was difficult to tell the difference between them when they were both playing with the Jay McShann Orchestra in the early 1940s. Buster’s last years were spent in relative obscurity living in Texas while Charlie Parker went on to become one of the greatest performers and innovators in jazz.
Bunny BerriganJune 30, 2010
Trumpet player Rowland Bernard "Bunny" Berigan was born in 1908 in Fox Lake, Wisconsin. A virtuoso, he rose to fame during the swing era and performed with many of the most important bands of that era including Benny Goodman, Hal Kemp, Paul Whiteman, Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey before forming his own big band in the late 1930s. He was also a composer and his 1937 classic jazz recording "I Can't Get Started with You" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.
Booker LittleOctober 21, 2010
In an all-to-short life of 23 years, Booker Little established himself as one of the greatest jazz trumpet players of the 2nd half of the 20th century. He possessed blazing technique, unsurpassed melodic gifts, deep harmonic understanding, and a fearless approach to improvisation.
Booker ErvinMay 2, 2013
Originally from Texas, Booker Ervin started out on the trombone and later taught himself how to play the tenor saxophone while he was in the air force. He later studied in Boston from 1953 to 1954. His 1st important playing opportunities came in 1958 when he joined the Charles Mingus group—he performed with Mingus off and on through the mid-1960s. Here are some of his early significant recordings with Mingus.
Bob WillsSeptember 5, 2013
Bob Wills was able to combine a variety of styles in the mid-1930s to bring about an infectious style called Texas swing. He combined hillbilly, bluegrass, Mexican music, the blues and big band swing. He also featured a number of important guitarists that must have influenced a young Charlie Christian. His band, The Playboys, was unusual because of the inclusion of a drummer and a horn section. This combination of musicians and the energy they brought to their music made it infectious.
Blue MitchellApril 10, 2014
Unlike many jazz players, Blue Mitchell was able to move back and forth between jazz field and rhythm and blues during his career. His 1st recording with Cannonball Adderley introduced him to the public and his late 1950’s albums as leader established him as one of the most lyrical of the hard bop trumpet players. His resume includes playing in bands led by Earl Bostic and Horace Silver. He also recorded 100’s of tracks with important hard bop musicians throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s.
Bill Evans TrioJanuary 20, 2011
Bill Evans’ influences include Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, and European keyboard music. Bill’s first important work was with band leader George Russell. Russell was one of the most forward thinking musicians of the 1940’s and 1950’s who was always looking for new modes of expression in jazz. Russell started thinking about improvising on modes 10 years before Miles Davis’s album Kind of Blue. Evans was also thinking about modal music before he joined Miles Davis in 1958---it’s probable that he and George Russell (Gil Evans, too) had discussed it. In hindsight the track “Peace Piece” from the 1958 album Everybody Digs Bill Evans is a major turning point in modern jazz. It does not really fit the mood the album even though he includes some other reflective unaccompanied ballads; “Peace Piece” bears little or no similarity to the other tracks--- you be the judge. Bill Evans is probably best known for the albums recorded with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian between late 1959 and 1961. The playing on those trio albums helped re-define modern jazz rhythm section playing.
Benny CarterSeptember 2, 2010
Born 1907 NYC, arranger, composer, bandleader, alto saxophonist, and trumpet player, Benny Carter had one of the longest and most celebrated careers in jazz that spanned some 70 years until his death in 2003. A true original, he was a pioneer alto sax soloist and one of the most important and innovative arrangers in all of jazz.
Ahmad JamalOctober 20, 2011
Ahmad Jamal (born 1930) was one of the important jazz pianists and trio leaders of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA this “underexposed” musician had a unique approach to improvisation, form, and leading a jazz trio. He was one of the most iconic figures of the last 60 years. His use of space and silence, tension and release, and dynamics were as unique as was the manner in which he utilized his trio in “orchestral” terms.