In memory of jazz ambassador Billy Taylor, who died this week at age 89. A connection to the genre’s earliest days — worked with Ben Webster when he came to New York in 1943, protegee of Art Tatum. Voice of the music on NPR and TV, and started the Jazzmobile. Also wrote more than 300 compositions and earned a doctorate in music education. “His greatest asset is a sense of jazz as entertainment,” said a critic.
Born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky in 1910, died Artie Shaw on this day in 2004. Hired Billie Holiday as vocalist in 1938 and dared to tour the South. Married 8 times, including Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Accomplished marksman and author. Walked away from music in 1954, never played another note on stage. Said Shaw: “I’ve done things that nobody has ever done before. And if you think that’s easy, try it.”
Fletcher Henderson studied chemistry in college; on graduating his options were limited. His band morphed from a typical dance band of the 20s to the first great jazz band. Hired Louis Armstrong to play trumpet, Coleman Hawkins, the first great tenor saxophonist, and Lester Young. Financial problems forced him to sell his best arrangements to Benny Goodman, whose band he later led. Died on Dec. 28, 1952 at 55.