Archive | December, 2010

RIP Billy Taylor

31 Dec

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.


Artie Shaw: “Begin The Beguine Final”

30 Dec

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: “Sugarfoot Stomp”

29 Dec

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.

Earl Hines: The real Piano Man

28 Dec

Born on this day in 1903, Earl Hines was one of the first great pianists. Played at a Chicago club partly owned by Al Capone. Nicknamed “Fatha” after he lectured a broadcaster on his drinking; wasn’t fond of nickname. His tombstone — sorry Billy Joel — says: “Piano Man.” Died in 1983. “Most jazz pianists were either blues performers or stride pianists. Hines filled the space between these approaches.”

Steve Tibbetts: “Ur”

27 Dec

Steve Tibbetts released his first album by himself — when ECM discovered him, they re-released it, and everything since. Tibbetts plays guitar, but also all kinds of percussion instruments as well. He calls his music “post-modern neo-primitivism.” His website is one of the few that has a link to “bad reviews.” Said Tibbetts: ““I am partial to silence, breaks, decay, full stops in music.”

Cab Calloway: “Blues in the Night”

26 Dec

Born Dec. 25, 1907, Cab Calloway’s family hoped he would be a lawyer, like his father; he attended law school in Chicago. But he spent nights in clubs, where he met Louie Armstrong. In 1930, his band replaced Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club in Harlem, and became nationally popular. Said Gunther Schuller: “Calloway was the most unusual and broadly gifted male singer, of the ’30s.” Cab died in 1994 at age 86.

Lester Lanin: “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”

25 Dec

Born in 1907 in Philly, youngest of 10 boys. Lester Lanin was band leader of high society; played at Queen Elizabeth’s 60th birthday, Joel-Brinkley wedding and every inauguration from Eisenhower-Clinton but for Carter (too expensive). Famous for never leaving the stand — Kennedy asked when he went to the bathroom, “according to many reports, all of which seem to neglect to give the answer.” Died at 97 in 2004.

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