Jazz and Blues

News about jazz, blues, Studio Sessions, and music samplings from jazz artists in the northwest and around the world.

Library of Congress

One of the most influential figures in American music and one of the twentieth century's best known African-American personalities, pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington was, to use one of his signature phrases, "beyond category."

Bo Diddley may not have had the commercial success of some other performers, but his contributions to American musical culture are huge.

Besides his trademark "Bo Diddley beat," he had a brash sense of style, dressing in outlandish outfits, playing custom-made square guitars and generally having a lot of fun on stage. In fact, he was a key player in the transition from blues to rock and roll, using a hard-edged guitar sound that would influence Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

Bo Diddley recorded "Before You Accuse Me" in 1957.

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Jazz April birthday celebrations continue on Jazz Caliente!

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The "first lady of song" Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the U.S. for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold more than 40 million albums.

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Influenced by Lester Young initially, then by Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, Joe Henderson created his own unique sound. 

William Gottlieb / The Library of Congress

The advent of bebop added a fresh sound to American music. It also added new voices to some metropolitan radio stations: the late-night jazz DJs who specialized in presenting this new music to their fellow hipster nightflies. To recognize the work of the groundbreaking DJs who lent them critical exposure, jazz musicians of the period would occasionally write songs in their honor. Here are five of those songs.

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Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer.  Influenced both by church choirs and Duke Ellington, he studied double bass and composition with classical masters.

Repression of African Americans didn’t stop at the end of the Civil War, and prisons and chain gangs were full of black people arrested for minor violations. This song, “Another Man Done Gone”, tells of the death of a man on one of those chain gangs.

Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Vera Hall singing “Another Man Done Gone” in 1940, and praised her as having the "loveliest untrained voice [he] had ever recorded."

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We've been celebrating Jazz April (Jazz Appreciation Month + International Jazz Day April 30) by posting birthday remembrances of the legendary jazz artists who were born this month.

Latin Jazz innovators, percussionists and bandleaders are well-represented in April too: 

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Bassist Buster Williams is a living legend of jazz,who has worked with Miles Davis, Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Chet Baker, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, Benny Golson, and Kenny Baron, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson.

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Herbie Mann was among the first jazz musicians to specialize on the flute and was jazz music's preeminent flautist during the 1960s, an early pioneer of the fusion of jazz and world music.

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Bessie Smith started out as a street musician in Chattanooga.  She was mentored in traveling shows and vaudeville by Ma Rainey.

By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville.

Lonnie Johnson was one of the first American guitar masters, with a style that bridged jazz and blues, as well as country styles. Though often labeled as a “blues” player, he was versatile and accomplished enough to be a guest artist with Louis Armstong’s Hot Five in 1927, and with Duke Ellington in 1928.

Among his many contributions, he is considered the first to play single-string guitar solos and was a major influence on jazz guitar pioneers Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He recorded “Somebody’s Got To Go” in 1941.

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Pianist, bandleader, composer and producer Herbie Hancock has had a career that's lasted five decades and garnered 14 Grammy® Awards.

(Credit: Alejandro Perez/HiRes)

Ry Cooder called him a "guitar wizard."

Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 2003:  “Mr. Galbán was one of the wonders of Cuban music in the 1960s.  His playing pulled together two almost contradictory approaches: the floating reverb of surf guitar and the percussive, snapping sound of the tres, the small guitar that’s a fulcrum between rhythm and melody in Cuban son groups.”

The 12th official Jazz Appreciation Month began when April did. But today, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which founded the JAM campaign, kick started its own celebration with a series of performances, discussions and ceremonies.

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The incredibly talented organist Joey DeFrancesco comes from a musical family, brought up in the rich Philadelphia jazz scene: his grandfather played reeds, his dad Papa John DeFrancesco is a fine jazz organist.  Joey went to jazz clubs with his father and learned the piano and the B-3, and by age 6, he was sitting in on his father's gigs.

Ron Hudson

Singer, composer, pianist, and actress Carmen McRae was considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. 

Willie Dixon didn’t make his career writing songs about people who behaved themselves, and “Back Door Man” is no exception — it’s about a guy who cheats and then brags about it.

Songs like this were well suited to the larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf, who was already a well-established, middle-aged bluesman when he recorded it in 1961.

Francis Wolff / Mosiac Records

His unmistakable big warm sound was based in the blues, and he polished it on the road as a 17 year-old addition to bluesman Lowell Fulson's band in the early 1950s.  That band also included Ray Charles.

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Paulinho da Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and like many master percussionists, started exploring rhythms at a very early age.

Playing over two hundred percussion instruments, he has participated in thousands of recording sessions, Grammy Award-winning albums, hit songs, movie soundtracks, radio and television commercials.  He's collaborated with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones to Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

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One of the most popular jazz and blues organists, Jimmy McGriff was born in Philadelphia, a city which was known for its many great Hammond B-3 players:   Jimmy Smith, Trudy Pitts and Charles Earland, to name just a few.

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Jazz April has begun! 

Many influential jazz musicians were born in this month, and we'll be celebrating both the legendary and the lesser-known by telling you a little more about their lives and music on their birthdays.

Booker Little was one of a handful of trumpeters born in 1938 (the list includes Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard) who were touched by Clifford Brown’s genius and ready to take be-bop to the next level.

Sleepy John Estes was a master of country blues with a “down-home” feeling. A little rough around the edges, but loaded with emotion. Though his music wasn’t complex, his songs have lasted through the years, and have been sung by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

In his 1935 recording of “Someday Baby Blues”, the guitar is barely heard, the mix dominated by Hammie Nixon’s harmonica and Estes’ plaintive voice.

Celebrate Jazz April!

Mar 29, 2013
Jazz Journalists Association

Jazz April is the combination of Jazz Appreciation Month and the second annual International Jazz Day, April 30, 2013.

FOTOSONS.COM

Bebo Valdes, Cuban pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader died Friday March 22, 2013.  He was 94.

It’s one of the defining songs of the Blues, written by one of its formative figures, Son House. The opening lyric “Woke up this morning…” would be considered trite today, but its 1930 recording date makes it more iconic than anything.

With its simple but insistent guitar rhythm and mournful lyrics, “Walkin’ Blues” is a virtual blueprint for Delta Blues, and a powerful influence on the development of modern blues.

kuumbwajazz.org

A protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, a founding member of the innovative Cuban group Irakere, a renowned classical musician who performs regularly with symphony orchestras around the world:  trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval returns to Seattle's Jazz Alley this week.

Verve Records

Over the past few years, Take 5’s theme-based music lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We’ve covered all the seasons of the year, all the holidays, different types of weather, the careers of jazz legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming jazz artists and have gotten into the musical minutiae of things like flowers, birds, baseball, prohibition and civil rights.  And now it’s time for Take 5 to go meta and present a five-song list of songs about….LISTS.  It had to happen sooner or later.

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

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