Henry “Red.” Born in Algiers, Louisiana, in
1908, Allen first played trumpet in his father’s brass band.
In 1927 he joined King Oliver, as had Louis Armstrong before him.
After working with the already well-known leader Luis Russell, he
worked with Fletcher Henderson, the Mills Blue Rhythm Band, and
with Luis Russell’s band again, now fronted by Armstrong.
He recorded several wonderful 78s with his own band in the late
Twenties and early Thirties. His period of greatest influence was
in the late Thirties, when perhaps only Armstrong and Roy Eldridge
were more popular and more critically acclaimed. His powerful style,
though derived at first from Armstrong, later developed idiosyncratically
to the point where his long, melodic lines and original ideas were
admired by many modern players as well as devotees of older styles.
In the Forties he formed his own sextet and worked at prominent
clubs in New York into the Fifties. He was featured in the epochal
CBS-TV show “The Sound Of Jazz,” which aired not long
before the Big Picture was taken. Later he was still a very powerful
mainstream player, though he often performed in Dixieland groups.
Allen died in 1967.
Buster. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1902, Bailey played
clarinet. He was a pivotal member of many bands in the early swing
days, and was a welcome friend to the young Louis Armstrong when
Armstrong joined the Fletcher Henderson Band in 1924. Bailey and
Benny Goodman were among the few early academically trained clarinetists,
having both studied in their early years with the prominent Chicago
symphonic clarinetist Franz Schoepp. By the Twenties, Bailey became
well-known in jazz circles through his work in the Henderson band.
He toured Europe with Noble Sissle and worked with many other prominent
bands, including those of Carroll Dickerson, King Oliver and Lucky
Millinder. He then became a long-term member of the phenomenally
successful Biggest Little Band in the Land, a sextet led by bassist
John Kirby from 1937 through 1946. Thereafter he played in orchestras
led by Wilbur DeParis, Red Allen and others. He even made a few
symphonic appearances and played in the Broadway pit band for “Porgy
and Bess” in 1953 and 1954. Bailey died in New York in 1967
William “Count.” Born in Red Bank, New Jersey,
in 1904, Basie was a pianist, leader, composer and leading figure
in the swing era with a long string of successful releases. After
studying piano with his mother, he went as a young man to New York
where he met and learned from James P. Johnson, Fats Waller (from
whom he also learned to play the organ) and other stride piano giants.
By the time Basie was 20 he was touring vaudeville circuits as a
solo performer and working as an accompanist for blues singers,
dancers and comedians. Stranded in the late Twenties in Kansas City
with an out-of-work touring group, he decided to stay there, playing
piano in a silent-film theatre. In July 1928 he joined Walter Page’s
Blue Devils, which included another sometime pianist, blues shouter
Jimmy Rushing. About two years later Basie left the Blue Devils
with others to join the Bennie Moten Orchestra. When Moten died
suddenly in 1935, Basie left and organized a band with several former
members of the Moten band, including Jo Jones and Lester Young,
calling themselves the Barons of Rhythm. It was this band which
legendary record producer and talent finder John Hammond heard on
the radio. Hammond went to Kansas City to scout, and brought the
band to New York for eventual stardom as the Count Basie Orchestra.
Basie came to New York in 1936 with a small band which he soon enlarged
to the standard swing band size of five or six brass, four or five
saxophones, and four rhythm. The band continued to thrive during
World War II as one of the greatest of swing bands. Despite many
personnel changes, it dropped down to a septet for only two years,
1950 through 1952. The band’s recordings and radio broadcasts
from New York and other big cities brought Basie international fame
for “One O’Clock Jump,” “Jumping at the
Woodside” and many other classics. The band was particularly
successful with its use of arrangements featuring Basie’s
minimalist piano style (often using only one or two fingers) and
the spectacular playing of its stars. Among them were saxophonists
Lester Young, Herschel Evans and Buddy Tate; trumpeters Oran “Hot
Lips” Page, Harry Edison and Buck Clayton; trombonists Dickie
Wells and Benny Morton; and the legendary rhythm section of Jo Jones
on drums, Freddy Green on guitar and Walter Page on bass. During
and after the War Basie recruited younger, inspired soloists, including
saxophonists Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, Paul Gonsalves and Illinois
Jacquet; trombone players J.J. Johnson and Vic Dickenson; and trumpeters
Al Killian, Joe Newman and Emmett Berry. In 1954 the band made its
first tour of Europe. In 1955, Basie’s 20th year as a leader,
it repeated the European tour. The band featured new stars Thad
Jones and Joe Wilder on trumpets; Benny Powell and Henry Coker on
trombones; and arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, Neal Hefti, Johnny
Mandel and Manny Albam. In September 1957 the band became the first
black group to play the Waldorf-Astoria, working there a record-setting
13 weeks. It began to make yearly overseas tours and appeared at
major clubs. In addition to the many Basie band recordings, Basie
made a number of records as a sideman, starting in 1929 with Walter
Page and Bennie Moten and with blues singer Joe Turner. Basie remained
a popular and permanent institution on the national and international
scene until his death. Even today his band continues to play under
the leadership of longtime veteran Frank Foster. The Basie band
and its stars have garnered many awards, including several from
the readers of Down Beat and Metronome. Basie died in 1984.
Emmet. Born in Macon, Georgia, in 1915, Berry was a trumpeter
who worked in Chicago with the Chicago Nightingales before moving
to New York. His first big-time work was with Fletcher Henderson,
followed by collaborations with Horace Henderson, Earl Hines, Teddy
Wilson, Lionel Hampton, John Kirby and Eddie Heywood. He was with
Count Basie for five years in the late Forties and then with other
prominent leaders. His broad tone and excellent technique were influenced
first by Louis Armstrong and later by Roy Eldridge and Buck Clayton.
Berry retired in the Eighties due to illness, and died in 1993.
Art. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1919, this drummer
and bandleader was an important figure in the history of modern
jazz, particularly hard bop. Blakey was known to many musicians
by his Muslim name “Buhaina.” Early in his career he
was a sideman in the later years of the famous Fletcher Henderson
Orchestra (1939-1944). He also led his own big band briefly in the
Boston area. In 1944 he joined the seminal Billy Eckstine band,
an incubator of bop which sprang from the Earl Hines big band. It
included many innovative musicians, notably Charlie Parker, Dizzy
Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and Fats Navarro. In 1947, when the Eckstine
group disbanded, Blakey formed a big rehearsal band he called the
Jazz Messengers. The many incarnations of Jazz Messengers were proving
grounds for a long list of important musicians, including Donald
Byrd, Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett,
Woody Shaw, and Branford and Wynton Marsalis. His later Messenger
groups were smaller, usually quintets. Blakey’s first band,
co-led with Horace Silver, featured trumpeter Kenny Dorham and tenor
saxophonist Hank Mobley. When Silver left to form his own band,
Blakey took over the group. In 1971-1972 he toured in the Giants
of Jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt and Kai
Winding. Blakey, an innovative and influential drummer, fronted
an unbroken series of Jazz Messengers until his death in 1990.
Lawrence. Brown was a trombonist, born in Kansas in 1905.
He was raised in Pasadena, California, where he studied piano, violin,
tuba, alto and trombone. At the age of 16 he performed before 6,000
people at Aimee Semple McPherson’s temple. He played with
Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders from 1927 through 1930, then
with Les Hite, Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong in 1931. He then
joined Duke Ellington in what would be his most important association.
Brown later left, with Johnny Hodges, and freelanced in New York
until 1956. In 1957 he joined the CBS staff band where he remained
for three years. He rejoined Ellington in 1960. Brown won many awards,
including Silver Awards from Metronome in 1944 and 1945. He had
a strong, pure, lyrical tone and was known for his solo on Ellington’s
“Rose of the Rio Grande.” A solemn, taciturn man, Brown
was also known throughout his life for his effect on ladies, young
and old. He was briefly married to the famous actress Fredi Washington.
Brown died in 1988.
Scoville. Browne was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1915.
He played saxophones and clarinet, and first worked professionally
for Junie Cobb’s band in Chicago as a teenager in 1929. He
played with the Midnight Ramblers in Chicago for the next two years,
then with drummer Fred Avendthorp for two years. In 1933 and 1935
Browne joined a band fronted by Louis Armstrong. He then played
for Jesse Stone (1934), Jack Butler (1935), Claude Hopkins (1936)
and Blanche Calloway (1937). Browne studied at the Chicago College
of Music in 1938-1939 and later played with Don Redman, Slim Gaillard,
Fats Waller, Buddy Johnson and Hot Lips Page (1939-1941). In 1942
he joined the Lucky Millinder Blue Rhythm Orchestra, and left in
1958 to form his own quartet. He later returned to play with Page,
then Eddie Heywood, and again with Millinder. He continued gigging
around New York through the Seventies and Eighties, when he retired
from music. Browne died in 1994.
Buck. Born in Parsons, Kansas, in 1911, Clayton was a trumpet
player, composer and arranger. He learned piano from his father,
who taught various instruments. He moved to California at 21, but
left shortly thereafter to take a 21-piece band to Shanghai for
two years. Back in the U.S. he replaced the prominent Hot Lips Page
in Count Basie’s band in 1936, when promoter Joe Glaser attempted
to make Page into another Louis Armstrong. Clayton is best known
for his work with Basie from 1936 through 1943, as well as his excellent
arrangements in mainstream swing style. His trumpet work was always
inventive and inspired, showing great range and taste. As a result,
he was chosen to play on many of the important Teddy Wilson-led
Billie Holiday recordings of the late Thirties and early Forties.
As an exciting but thoroughly logical and lyrical trumpeter, he
was rivaled only by his contemporaries Roy Eldridge and Red Allen.
After seven years with the Basie band as it rose to fame in the
late Thirties and early Forties, Clayton joined the army in 1943.
Discharged in 1946, he became a member of Norman Granz’ Jazz
At The Philharmonic, touring France in 1949 and again in 1953. He
was a member of Joe Bushkin’s quartet in New York from 1951
through 1953 and later made numerous records with bands assembled
for specific occasions. He worked with Benny Goodman at the Brussels
World’s Fair in 1958 and with Eddie Condon’s groups
beginning in 1959. He toured Japan and Australia and made several
annual tours of Europe in the Sixties, appearing at jazz festivals.
In the mid-Sixties lip problems curtailed his trumpet playing, but
he continued to arrange and compose, and fronted his own bands frequently
into the late Eighties. Clayton died in New York in 1993.
Bill. Born in 1919 in Okaloosa, Iowa, Crump was a true
mystery man. Even into the 1990s few people except Frank Driggs
actually recognized him. Registered from Buffalo in 1958 and 1959
in New York City’s Local 802 as a reed and flute player, Crump
was actually in New York City looking for work. Not long after the
Big Picture was taken he worked in Las Vegas, where his daughter
was a dancer. He then moved to Los Angeles, where in 1977 pianist
and singer Nellie Lutcher got him admitted to Local 47. He is believed
to have died in Los Angeles in the late Eighties.
Vic. Born in Xenia, Ohio, in 1906, Dickenson was a trombonist
who came up with Midwestern territory bands in the Thirties and
Forties. He played with Bennie Moten, Blanche Calloway and Claude
Hopkins in the late Thirties, joined the Count Basie Band in 1940,
and later toured with Benny Carter. From the Fifties onward he often
played with Bobby Hackett and Ruby Braff or led his own groups.
In the Sixties he played in The World’s Greatest Jazz Band
and, later, frequently performed in small groups with Bobby Hackett.
Admired for his witty, unusual phrasing and inventive sound, he
was a major instrumentalist with an instantly recognizable style.
Dickenson died in 1984.
Roy. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1911, Eldridge
was a bridge between Louis Armstrong’s style and bop, and
one of the most significant trumpet players and leaders of the Thirties
and Forties. He was self-taught except for some instruction in theory
from his elder brother Joe. He started playing semi-professionally
at the age of 16, and within a couple of years was on the road with
well-known bands, including those of Horace Henderson, Speed Webb,
Zack Whyte and Elmer Snowden. Eldridge worked with Teddy Hill’s
band in New York in 1935, where he teamed up with tenor star Chu
Berry (Coleman Hawkins’ main challenger). Next, he joined
Fletcher Henderson, one of the premier swing bands of its time,
where he followed Red Allen as the principal trumpet soloist. Eldridge
left Henderson in 1936 to lead his own explosive little band—three
saxophones, four rhythm—in a famous extended stay at the historic
Three Deuces Club in Chicago. For many months the band broadcast
nightly at 1:00 A.M. During this period Eldridge says he “left
the band business to study radio engineering for eight months,”
a claim which turned out to be only wishful rewriting of history.
(“I know because I was his electronics mentor for the rest
of his life,” reports Charles Graham.) After a second stint
with his band at the Three Deuces, Eldridge went on to national
prominence both as horn player and vocalist with Gene Krupa’s
big band, where he replaced his friend and admirer, the phenomenal
trumpet player Shorty Sherock. He made memorable recordings with
Krupa, two of which would be identified with him for the rest of
his life: “Let Me Off Uptown” and “Rockin’
Chair.” Later Eldridge formed a larger band which played at
the Arcadia Ballroom in New York and at Kelly’s Stable. He
subsequently worked with many popular big bands, including those
of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, and was on staff at CBS. During
this time he toured for more than a year in Europe. In the Fifties
he frequently performed with Jazz At The Philharmonic where he teamed
with Coleman Hawkins, an association that continued as long as he
traveled. Eldridge worked briefly with Count Basie’s band
but found it too confining. Finally in 1970 he settled, for the
rest of his performing life, at Jimmy Ryan’s club in New York.
Even in this format, he managed to remain the surging, vital swing
star he had always been. The Ryan’s job lasted for about 10
years, and though the club had been known as a 52nd Street Dixieland
stronghold, during Eldridge’s long tenure it became a home
of swing. Eventually doctor’s orders forced him to stop playing
the trumpet. However, he continued to appear throughout the Eighties,
singing on occasion and playing a little drums and piano (a role
he had frequently filled while with Gene Krupa) and at school clinics.
In 1989, three weeks after his wife of 52 years died, Eldridge stopped
eating and was taken to a hospital where, according to the medical
diagnosis, he died of malnutrition. Many who knew him consider loneliness
to be the cause of his death.
Art. Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1928, this trumpet
and flügelhorn player first worked with Horace Henderson, Floyd
Ray and Johnny Otis. Farmer came to prominence as a member of the
Gerry Mulligan Quartet in the late Fifties, appearing in the movies
“I Want to Live” and “The Subterraneans,”
and on many recordings with Mulligan. Known as one of the more lyrical
of trumpeters, he was elected in Down Beat magazine’s 1958
poll as the best trumpet player of the year. Still active internationally
in his later years, Farmer had lived in Europe for several decades.
He died in New York in 2003.
Bud. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1906, Freeman was a
tenor saxophonist most often associated with Chicago-style jazz.
Although the tenor saxophone had previously not been considered
a proper instrument in Dixieland music, he made it acceptable. His
style derived partly from the sound of prominent C-melody saxophonist
Frank Trumbauer, longtime partner of Bix Beiderbecke. Lester Young
often cited Freeman as one of his influences. Freeman’s solos
were usually bouncy, as demonstrated in his original composition
“The Eel,” which he recorded several times. He was part
of the famous Austin High School Gang of Chicago, which often included
guitarist, raconteur and promoter Eddie Condon as well as Gene Krupa,
Pee Wee Russell and Jimmy and Dick McPartland. As early as 1928
Freeman played in Paris with his close friend, drummer Dave Tough.
Later he was part of the saxophone sections of many famous big bands,
led by such notables as Paul Whiteman, Ray Noble, Art Kassell, Roger
Wolfe Kahn, Ben Pollack, Red Nichols, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.
In 1939 Freeman formed a small recording band which he called the
Summa Cum Laude Orchestra. After a relatively brief stint on the
road with this group, he worked primarily as a soloist. Beginning
in 1969 he played in The World’s Greatest Jazz Band. Freeman
died in Chicago in 1988.
John Birks “Dizzy.” Born in Cheraw, South Carolina,
in 1917, Gillespie was a trumpeter, leader and composer. At the
time of the Big Picture, he was well on his way to becoming one
of the premier jazz musicians in the world. He studied trombone
in his early teens but soon switched to trumpet. Gillespie first
came to prominence in the late Thirties when he was hired by Teddy
Hill to replace Roy Eldridge. Lionel Hampton’s first recording
for RCA Victor in 1939 starred Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Chu
Berry and Benny Carter on saxophones, Cozy Cole and Milt Hinton
in the rhythm section, and a 22-year-old Gillespie on trumpet. He
was in the Cab Calloway band for more than two years before being
fired for cutting up—both figuratively and literally. When
he was about 26 or 27, Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious
Monk, along with a few other musicians, began to evolve swing into
the complicated music called bebop (later bop). Gillespie worked
for a while in the big band of Earl Hines and later with singer
Billy Eckstine’s band, where he was the musical director.
Both bands were strongly influenced by his ideas. After that he
led his own groups, several radical large bands in the late Forties
and early Fifties. Upon discovering that big bands were economically
impractical, he spent the rest of his life leading small groups,
although he often fronted big bands on special occasions. He had
an unusually outgoing personality that radiated good humor, mimicry
and self-parody in equal parts. His humorous stage manner, incredible
trumpet improvisations and innovative compositions were the basis
of his fame. At the time of his death, Gillespie was the most popular—and
the most important—jazz musician in the world. His numerous
works include “A Night in Tunisia,” “Manteca,”
“Groovin’ High,” “Woody ‘n You”
and many others among today’s jazz standards. Although he
had joined the Baha’i religion, his wife Lorraine was a devout
Catholic and kept a small Catholic chapel in their home. When he
died in 1993, two major memorial ceremonies were held in New York.
The first was in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at 53rd Street
in Manhattan (where Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and scores of
other musicians’ final rites had taken place) attended by
an overflow congregation of several hundred mourners. The second,
a few days later, was held in the huge Cathedral of St. John the
Divine, in upper Manhattan, attended by several thousand people.
Tyree. Born in Corsicana, Texas, in 1912, Glenn played
trombone and vibraphone. His professional career began in Washington,
D.C., where he played with the Tommy Mills band from 1934 through
1936. By 1937 he was playing in New York City with Eddie Barefield,
then Eddie Mallory and later Benny Carter (1937-1939). He joined
Cab Calloway’s orchestra in 1940, where he remained until
1946. He toured Europe with Don Redman in 1946, and in 1947 joined
Duke Ellington’s orchestra for five years. In 1953 he went
to WPIX in New York as a staff musician. Next, he joined CBS radio,
where he appeared daily on the Jack Sterling show and later on Arthur
Godfrey’s daily radio show. Subsequently he worked at New
York Studios and again for Ellington. While playing with Eddie Mallory,
Glenn accompanied Ethel Walters on her U.S. tour. It was she who
encouraged him to take up the vibes by giving him his first set,
which he kept and used for the rest of his life. Soon after joining
Ellington, Glenn added to his repertoire the growl and wah-wah sounds
featured on many Ellington numbers, and used them in all his playing
thereafter to great effect. In addition to his exceptionally clear
ringing tone, special effects and fine vibraphone solos, Glenn’s
easy, outgoing personality made him very popular in his frequent
night club and radio appearances. During his last years (1965-1968)
Glenn performed with Louis Armstrong & his All-Stars. While
on the road with Armstrong, Glenn served as the band’s musical
director, often going on ahead of the group to rehearse local rhythm
sections for the band. Glenn died in New Jersey in 1972.
Benny. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1929, Golson
is known as a tenor saxophonist, arranger and composer. He first
performed in his late teens in Bull Moose Jackson’s band and
later in bop pioneer Tadd Dameron’s band. Golson joined Lionel
Hampton’s big band in 1953, then worked with other groups
before joining Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1956. Shortly
after the Big Picture was made, Golson and Art Farmer joined forces
to co-lead The Jazztet, making several recordings. Golson wrote
an extended composition, “Portrait of Coleman Hawkins,”
which he conducted with Hawkins as soloist with the American Symphony
Orchestra in 1959 and later recorded for release by Columbia Records.
He headed to the West Coast in the early Sixties to work in movies
and commercials, returning to New York in the late Seventies. He
was a strong tenor saxophonist in the mainstream style. His compositions,
many now jazz standards, include “I Remember Clifford,”
“Stablemates,” “Whisper Not” and “Killer
Joe.” In the Nineties he was still active on the East Coast.
Sonny. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, in 1903, Greer
was a drummer who worked in local New Jersey bands in his teens.
In 1919 he headed to Washington, D.C., where he met Duke Ellington.
They first played together as the Washingtonians, with Greer as
the nominal leader. The two then went to New York and stayed together
until 1951. Ellington’s orchestra was featured annually at
the Cotton Club in New York from 1927 through 1932. Greer’s
elaborate percussion set, which included woodblocks, gongs and chimes,
was essential to the “jungle” sound of the orchestra.
After leaving Ellington he worked with many small groups, including
those of Johnny Hodges, Red Allen and Tyree Glenn. Not known primarily
as a soloist, Greer was nevertheless an important member of any
group he played with. He was a master percussionist and one of the
finest swinging brush drummers. Greer died in 1982.
Johnny. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928, Griffin played
tenor saxophone with Lionel Hampton’s big band in the mid-Forties,
then moved on to play with Joe Morris and later Joe Jones. After
a stint with an army band in the early Fifties, Griffin went to
New York to play with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and with
Thelonious Monk. He later co-led a quintet with Eddie “Lockjaw”
Davis. By the mid-Sixties he had moved to Europe, where he has remained,
coming back to the U.S. once a year to play.
Gigi. Born in Pensacola, Florida, in 1927, Gryce was a
composer and arranger who also played alto sax and flute. He studied
at the Boston Conservatory before obtaining a Fulbright Scholarship
to study classical composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and
Arthur Honegger. In 1953 he started playing bop with Max Roach,
Howard McGhee, Tadd Dameron and Clifford Brown. By the mid-Fifties
he had recorded with such notables as Thelonious Monk, Donald Byrd
and Lee Morgan. He also co-led the Jazz Lab Quintet with Donald
Byrd. His classical compositions include three symphonies and various
chamber works. Shortly after the Big Picture was made, Gryce left
jazz performing and worked primarily as a teacher. He died in 1983.
Coleman. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1904, this great
tenor saxophonist went on the road with Mamie Smith’s Jazz
Hounds in 1922 while still in his teens. In 1923 he joined Fletcher
Henderson, at that time one of the hottest bands in the country,
and stayed there for 10 years. Believing there was nowhere else
for him to go in the U.S., Hawkins sent the leading English bandleader,
Jack Hylton, a telegram saying, “I would like to come to England.”
Hylton wired back at once, hiring him. Hawkins intended to stay
only a year or so but stayed almost five. By the time he returned
to the States, he was widely acknowledged to be one of the best
tenor players in the world. In late 1939 Hawkins made his famous
recording of “Body and Soul.” It was a runaway hit that
remains a favorite of musicians. Consisting of a four-bar piano
intro followed by several choruses of tenor sax and a protracted
ending, it had no vocal chorus and was not arranged. Less than three
minutes long, it is arguably the most admired saxophone solo of
all time and a true masterpiece. Hawkins was associated with that
tune for the rest of his life. After the record’s success,
he quickly assembled a nine-piece band and went on the road for
several years. He never again worked under any leader. At the time
of the Big Picture, he was one of the best-regarded older jazzmen,
reigning as “The Champ” until his decline in the mid-Sixties.
Some assume that Lester Young had long ago challenged him and even
toppled him from preeminence, but the two were exponents of widely
differing schools—Hawkins “hot” and Young “cool”—and
were never really in competition. Hawkins died in 1969.
J.C. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1917, Heard was a drummer
who worked for Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter and then Cab Calloway
in the mid-Forties. He toured in the late Forties and early Fifties
with Jazz At The Philharmonic. In the mid-Fifties he worked in Japan
and Australia, and from then on he freelanced with many prominent
groups. His drumming was widely admired and often compared to that
of his mentors Sid Catlett and Jo Jones. Heard died in 1988.
J.C. Born in Social Circle, Georgia, in 1906, Higginbotham
played trombone in the early Thirties in the bands of Chick Webb,
Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter and others. In the late Thirties,
at Louis Armstrong’s urging, he joined the Luis Russell band,
then fronted by Armstrong. Thereafter he often worked in partnership
with his buddy from the Russell band, Red Allen, and played at innumerable
recording sessions. His strongly swinging, extroverted trombone
style was widely respected by fellow musicians, including Tommy
Dorsey and Armstrong. He won many awards from Esquire and Metronome,
among others, and was always busy during his 50-year playing career.
Higginbotham died in 1973.
Milt. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1910, Hinton was
an excellent amateur photographer as well as a consummate bass player.
Hinton grew up in Chicago and started playing with prominent bands
in the Thirties. In the mid-Thirties he worked for Zutty Singleton
at the Three Deuces Club in Chicago, until he was hired away in
1936 by Cab Calloway, with whom he stayed until 1951. From then
on he freelanced extensively, working with such top leaders as Count
Basie, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. One of the most sought-after
bassists in jazz, Hinton has appeared on innumerable recordings,
often under his own name. Many of his thousands of photographs,
taken over the course of 50 years, have been published in two books
coauthored with his friend David Berger, Bass Line and Overtime,
where some of the pictures in this film first appeared. Though active
into the Nineties, Hinton was slowing down by 1997. His health continued
to fail until he died in the year 2000.
Chubby. Born in New York City in 1918, bass player Jackson
was playing bass in popular bands by 1937, including those of Mike
Reilly (“The Music Goes Down and Around”), Johnny Messner,
Raymond Scott, Jan Savitt and Henry Busse. From 1941 through 1943
he was with Charlie Barnet before starting his greatest association,
the first of several stints with various Woody Herman “herds.”
As a key member of Herman bands, Jackson was widely regarded to
be their spark plug. He composed several of the bands’ hits,
including “Northwest Passage.” Jackson went to Europe
with his own quintet in 1947 and led a band in New York in 1949.
His ebullient personality and great drive made him a valuable addition
to any group he played with during the bop era. He won numerous
awards, including Esquire’s New Star award in 1945, its Gold
Award in 1946 and 1947, and the Down Beat poll in 1945. It is interesting
to note that Jackson’s son Duffy is an outstanding drummer
who worked for years with various Count Basie bands and other bands
around the world. Chubby died in 2003.
Hilton. Born in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1903, Jefferson
was a universally admired alto saxophone lead and soloist in many
big bands of the swing era, including those of Claude Hopkins (1927-1929),
Chick Webb (1929-1930) and Fletcher Henderson (1932-1933). From
1940 through 1951 Jefferson performed with the Cab Calloway orchestra.
He also played with King Oliver, Red Allen and Benny Carter and
was with the Duke Ellington and Noble Sissle orchestras at various
times. Jefferson was an important member of recording groups backing
Ella Fitzgerald in 1938 and 1939, and was also in a large band led
by Don Redman which backed Pearl Bailey in 1953. Jefferson died
in New York in November 1968.
Osie. Born in 1923 in New York City, Johnson grew up in
Washington, D.C., and began his professional career as a drummer,
singer and arranger at age 18. During World War II he was a member
of the famous Great Lakes Navy Band, where his orchestra mates included
Clark Terry and famed saxophonist Willie Smith. He arranged recording
sessions for Dinah Washington and toured with Earl Hines in 1952-1953,
as well as with groups led by Tony Scott, Illinois Jacquet and Dorothy
Donegan in 1954. Settling in New York he became a very busy freelance
musician, appearing on countless recordings. In 1957 he played at
the Newport Jazz Festival with Erroll Garner, performed with the
Cleveland Symphony, and appeared on the CBS-TV show “The Sound
of Jazz.” He was named the Down Beat Critics’ Poll “New
Star” in 1954. Among his arrangements for Dinah Washington
were the hit recordings “Fool That I Am” and “It’s
Too Soon to Know.” Johnson died in New York in 1968.
Hank. Born in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1918, pianist Jones
was the elder brother of jazz musicians Thad (trumpet) and Elvin
(drums). He started playing in Michigan and later moved to Buffalo,
New York. He arrived in New York in 1944 and played in the groups
of Hot Lips Page, Andy Kirk and John Kirby, and he also accompanied
Billy Eckstine. In addition, Jones worked with Coleman Hawkins,
and in 1947 was on one of the first Jazz At The Philharmonic tours.
He accompanied Ella Fitzgerald from 1948 through 1953, including
a tour of Europe, and made several great recordings with Charlie
Parker for Norman Granz. He freelanced in New York until 1956, then
joined with Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. He did more freelancing
until 1958, just before the Big Picture was taken. After that he
joined the CBS network orchestra and stayed there until it disbanded
17 years later. Jones is the epitome of “session” musicians
because he can readily fit into any musical style—old or new,
traditional, swing or modern. He can read anything with great precision,
a must in top professional work. He performed on the Ed Sullivan
Show many times, and has played on hundreds of recordings. In the
Seventies he was pianist and assistant to the conductor for the
Broadway show “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” In recent
years he has appeared and toured with innumerable prominent groups
and has been a longtime member of a group called the New York Rhythm
Section, consisting of Milt Hinton (bass), Barry Galbraith (guitar)
and Osie Johnson (drums).
Jimmy. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1918, this pianist,
arranger and composer grew up in Chicago. He started on guitar,
then switched to piano in his teens, studying music at Kentucky
State College. He first gained notice in Chicago working with Stuff
Smith, and later moved to New York with Smith’s trio. He became
Sarah Vaughan’s accompanist in 1947 for five years. After
a long hiatus due to illness, he rejoined her in 1952, and they
toured extensively. In the Sixties and Seventies he devoted much
time to writing and conducting, including work on Duke Ellington’s
“My People.” He toured Europe as Ella Fitzgerald’s
accompanist in 1966. Thereafter he worked with many prominent musicians,
including Joe Williams, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas,
Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Clark Terry and Rex Stewart. Jones died
in California in 1982.
Jo (Jonathan). Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1911, Jones
was a drummer known primarily for his almost continuous work with
the Count Basie band from 1934 until 1948. He was a charter member
of the legendary All-American Rhythm Section, which included Basie
on piano, Walter Page on bass and Freddie Green on guitar. He advanced
the art of jazz drumming considerably with a style he developed
early in his Basie career. His drumming innovations helped set the
foundations of modern drumming as later exemplified by Kenny Clarke,
Max Roach and many others. He rarely soloed at length, in contrast
to his famous contemporaries Gene Krupa, Cozy Cole and Chick Webb.
After leaving Basie he began a long freelance career which included
several Jazz At The Philharmonic tours in the U.S. and Europe. He
recorded prolifically with many mainstream stars and leaders, including
Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson, Lester
Young, Johnny Hodges and Art Tatum. Jones died in New York in 1985.
Taft. Born in Florence, South Carolina, in 1915, Jordan
was a trumpeter in Chick Webb’s band for nine years starting
in 1933, and became its actual leader when Ella Fitzgerald assumed
the front spot after Webb’s early death. He then joined popular
singing group The Modernaires and was with Steve Lawrence in 1954.
Later that year he joined Benny Goodman and toured with him in Europe.
By 1964 he was in New York in the pit band backing Carol Channing
in “Hello Dolly.” On the day of the Big Picture his
son and wife were also present. Young Taft can be seen sitting on
the curb next to Count Basie. Jordan died in New York in 1981.
Max. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1908, this trumpet
player was working by the time he was 20 with George Wettling and
legendary clarinetist Frank Teschemacher in Chicago. He then played
briefly with Red Nichols and recorded with Benny Carter, Eddie Condon
and Mezz Mezzrow. In 1936 he joined Tommy Dorsey and later Artie
Shaw. Kaminsky is mostly identified with the so-called Chicago jazz
school (as exemplified by Condon, Gene Krupa, Pee Wee Russell, et
al.), but he was also a good swing trumpeter and a favorite of Roy
Eldridge, for whom he often subbed at Jimmy Ryan’s club. He
played with a wide variety of leaders, including Sidney Bechet,
George Brunis, Willie “the Lion” Smith and Jack Teagarden.
Kaminsky died in the mid-Nineties.
Gene. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1909, Krupa is probably
the most famous drummer ever, certainly in the era of swing music,
starting with his place in the Benny Goodman band of the late Thirties
and later with his own band. Apart from the many records he made
with his own band and with Goodman, he was the nominal leader of
an extraordinary 1935 recording called “Swing Is Here,”
featuring Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry and Goodman. Supplementing Krupa’s
own solid musical style was his superb showmanship. His remarkable
work with Goodman at the beginning of the swing era and Goodman’s
own meteoric rise to stardom combined to propel Krupa to a similar
stardom himself. It is unfortunate that he is better remembered
for his heavy drumming in “Sing, Sing, Sing” with Goodman
than for his superb drumming with his own band. Hollywood made “The
Gene Krupa Story” based loosely on his career, with the actor
Sal Mineo as Krupa. When the picture failed to include Roy Eldridge,
through no fault of Krupa’s, he gave Eldridge an expensive
set of drums. Krupa’s group disbanded permanently in 1951
whereupon he performed with Jazz At The Philharmonic and later with
his own small groups. In 1951 Krupa and Cozy Cole started a drum
school in New York. He continued teaching, studying classical drumming
and playing in small groups intermittently for the next 12 years.
Krupa died in 1973.
Eddie. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1930, this jazz drummer
joked, “I didn’t really belong in the picture that day.
I was just following Jo Jones around, carrying his cymbals and stuff
like that.” He performed in and around Detroit as a duo with
fellow drummer Oliver Jackson in a variety act which they called
Bop and Locke from 1948 through 1953. Arriving in New York in 1954,
Locke worked with pianist Dick Wellstood and later with New Orleans
clarinetist Tony Parenti. Afterward, he joined Roy Eldridge for
more than a dozen years, then later worked with Coleman Hawkins.
He became an important part of the freelance scene in New York,
working with Teddy Wilson, Willie “the Lion” Smith and
Red Allen. He’s still active as a freelance drummer.
Marian. Born in Windsor, England, in 1920, this fine pianist
came from a family of musicians, including a great-uncle, Sir Frederick
Dyson (Mayor of the City of Windsor), who played cello. McPartland
debuted as part of a traveling four-piano group, then, just before
World War II, she formed a duo with the prominent British pianist
Billy Mayerl. She married trumpeter Jimmy McPartland during World
War II, and the couple came to the U.S. after the war in 1946 to
start a group led by Jimmy. This band broke up in 1951. Marian then
formed her first trio and worked at many popular spots, starting
with The Hickory House. Gradually that club became a well-known
musicians’ hangout and was Duke Ellington’s regular
dining spot whenever he was in New York. McPartland became widely
known, continuing to lead her trio as the house band there for a
number of years. She also worked at The Composer in New York and
at the London House in Chicago. She has appeared widely at jazz
festivals and concerts all over the world and has made many recordings
on her own label. She is currently known for her weekly radio program,
“Piano Jazz,” on which she interviews and plays with
pianists and other musicians. The program has been heard regularly
for many years on hundreds of public radio stations throughout the
Charles. Born in Nogales, Arizona, in 1922, Mingus was
an extremely creative and innovative composer as well as a bass
player, leader and pianist. His compositions were recorded on his
own short-lived labels as well as on Columbia and Atlantic. He first
came to national attention as a member of Red Norvo’s trio
with guitarist Tal Farlow in 1950-1951. He also participated in
the memorable Massey Hall concert in Toronto with Charlie Parker
and Dizzy Gillespie. In the mid-Fifties Mingus ran the Jazz Composers’
Workshop and was a key member, with Max Roach, of the Jazz Composers’
Guild, a successor to the Rebels’ Festival in Newport in the
summer of 1960. He was noted for his egocentric yet generous personality,
his habit of admonishing audiences and his self-destructive tendencies.
In 1971 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship award and published
his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog. “Goodbye Pork Pie
Hat” and “Better Git Your Soul” are two of the
best-known titles among his immense body of original work. His life
was stormy, and his legacy, carried on musically by The Mingus Dynasty
and other orchestras in the Eighties and Nineties, continues to
grow. Mingus died in 1979.
Miff. Born in Roosevelt, New York, in 1898, Mole was the
second-oldest musician in the Big Picture (after Luckey Roberts).
He played trombone with many top groups, starting with the Original
Memphis Five and Red Nichols & his Five Pennies in 1920. He
was the first really influential trombonist, known for his very
clean, non-smeary, non-tailgate style. In 1929 he joined the NBC
house orchestra and stayed there for most of the Thirties. He played
with Paul Whiteman and many other orchestras, including Benny Goodman’s
in 1943. Returning to small groups after that, Mole worked only
sporadically in the Fifties due to illness. He died in 1961.
Thelonious Sphere. Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina,
in 1917, this pianist, composer and leader moved to New York at
a young age. At first a disciple of the great stride pianist James
P. Johnson, he later became an early experimenter in what was to
become bop, along with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell
and others at Minton’s and other uptown hangouts. He led his
own quartet in relative obscurity for years, finally achieving recognition
in the Fifties. His eccentric speech and onstage persona, combined
with his unique, jagged piano style and offbeat titles for compositions,
gained him much notice, even notoriety, for years. He was scheduled
to appear on the cover of Time magazine in late November 1963, but
was bumped from there by coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s
assassination. (He did make the cover several months later, however.)
Monk made many overseas tours with his quartet and traveled around
the world with other leaders as The Giants of Jazz in the Seventies.
He wrote numerous compositions, including “Epistrophy,”
“Well You Needn’t” and “Crepuscule with
Nellie.” In the Seventies he gradually faded from public view
and became a recluse, living at the home of his most prominent champion,
Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. Since his death, his work has
attracted ever-increasing attention. Many of his compositions have
become jazz standards, most notably “Round Midnight.”
Monk died in 1982.
Gerry. Born in New York City in 1927, Mulligan was a baritone
saxophonist, composer and arranger. He joined Gene Krupa at age
19, worked with Miles Davis at the Royal Roost in 1946, and wrote
several arrangements for the great recording sessions, “Birth
of the Cool,” led by Miles Davis in 1949. Mulligan recorded
with his own groups in 1951, 1952 and 1972. In 1953 he wrote for
Stan Kenton’s big orchestra, then went to the West Coast where
he organized his legendary piano-less quartets from 1955 through
the Seventies. He also played with Dave Brubeck’s quartet,
replacing altoist Paul Desmond. From the mid-Fifties on he dominated
jazz polls on baritone, deposing Duke Ellington’s Harry Carney.
He was one of the central figures in the development of West Coast
jazz and cool jazz and was active as a composer until illness in
the early Nineties forced him to retrench. Mulligan died in 1995.
Oscar. Born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in 1922, this noted
bass and cello player, leader and composer was part of a large musical
family. He learned to play several instruments at an early age,
and by 1943, when he was not yet 20, had worked with Charlie Barnet’s
big band and Roy Eldridge’s quintet. Soon afterward he joined
the emerging bop scene in New York as co-leader with Dizzy Gillespie
of a group on 52nd Street. From 1944 onward he was in many groups,
large and small, including those of Woody Herman and Duke Ellington.
By the mid-Fifties he had his own band but was not temperamentally
suited to be a leader. A very important musician on bass as well
as cello, he introduced much innovation to the playing of both instruments.
More than anyone except perhaps the very short-lived Jimmy Blanton
(and later Charles Mingus and Ray Brown), Pettiford established
the bass as a solo instrument in addition to its role in the rhythm
section. Pettiford in 1960.
Rudy. Born in New York City in 1907, Powell played various
reed instruments and was known for his clarinet work with Fats Waller
as well as his lead alto saxophone in bigger bands. The records
he made with Waller beginning in 1934 were very popular in the middle
and late Thirties, as were the frequent late-night radio broadcasts
the two made as Fats Waller & his Rhythm Club. After stints
with Waller, Powell worked with other, usually full-sized, swing
bands in Europe as well as the U.S., including those of Edgar Hayes,
Claude Hopkins, Teddy Wilson, Andy Kirk, Fletcher Henderson, Don
Redman, Cab Calloway and Lucky Millinder. He also worked with Jimmy
Rushing after Rushing left Basie’s band to go out on his own,
and with Erskine Hawkins, who’d had a big hit record, “After
Hours,” in the late Thirties. At other times Powell worked
with bands headed by pioneering hot violinist Eddie South, Buddy
Tate and Ray Charles. Powell died in 1976.
Luckey. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1887, Roberts
was a pianist and composer. He was a founder of the stride school
of piano playing, along with Willie “the Lion” Smith
(who stood next to him almost all day for the Big Picture). Roberts
led the orchestra that accompanied Vernon and Irene Castle and was
a very successful leader of society bands, as well. He performed
at Carnegie Hall in 1939, just after Benny Goodman’s historic
concert. He was a technically gifted pianist and recorded many player
piano rolls. His compositions include a fast display piece, “Moonlight
Cocktail,” which became a huge hit for Glenn Miller in the
early Forties. Duke Ellington declared him, along with Willie “the
Lion” Smith, to be among the most important stride pianists.
Roberts later owned a popular bar in Harlem called Luckey’s.
He died in 1968.
Sonny. Born in New York City in 1929, Rollins was a tenor
saxophonist, leader and composer. By 1947 he was already playing
with leading members of the bop movement, including Bud Powell,
J.J. Johnson and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. By the mid-Fifties
he was playing with the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, after
which he started leading; he has led his own groups ever since.
Although he frequently mentions Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young
as his early influences, he himself had become the leading saxophonist
in jazz by the mid-Fifties, following altoist Charlie Parker and
preceding tenor player John Coltrane. His often unorthodox appearance,
concert demeanor and occasional protracted absences from the music
scene threatened, at first, to make more of an impression on the
public than his innovations in music. By the Nineties he had curtailed
his appearances, but he continues to appear frequently on the concert
stage here and abroad. He has probably influenced more post-bop
tenor saxophonists than anyone except Coltrane.
Jimmy. Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1902, Rushing
was a singer and pianist. He began singing in after-hours clubs
in the mid-Twenties, and first met with success in and around Kansas
City with Walter Page and his Blue Devils (1927-1928) and Bennie
Moten’s band (1929-1934). In 1935 Rushing joined Count Basie
and accompanied him to New York. It was as a member of that orchestra
in the late Thirties that he came to national prominence. Known
as “Mr. Five-by-Five” because of his girth, he was an
entirely original and forceful blues singer and was greatly responsible
for the popularity of the Basie band in its early years. Due to
the exposure that band gave him, he was able to go out on his own
in the Fifties, being replaced in Basie’s band by vocalist
Joe Williams. Rushing toured and recorded solo and with his own
groups, and appeared at many jazz festivals and on overseas tours,
including one with Benny Goodman in 1958. He later performed with
Eddie Condon and Buck Clayton. He recorded prolifically with the
Basie band and one time with Goodman. His distinctive, high-pitched
blues-shouting style was as instantly recognizable as Louis Armstrong’s.
Among Basie’s many stars, none was more responsible for its
early popular success than Rushing. He died in 1972.
Pee Wee. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, Russell
was a clarinetist with the Austin High School Gang in Chicago in
the early Twenties, and with numerous Dixieland groups thereafter.
During the Twenties he also played with Jack Teagarden in Texas
and with Bix Beiderbecke in St. Louis. In 1927 he moved to New York
to play with Red Nichols & his Five Pennies, and from 1935 through
1937 he was with trumpeter Louis Prima. From the mid-Forties onward
he played most often in groups led by Eddie Condon, frequently at
New York Dixieland hangouts like Nick’s and Condon’s.
Russell was famous for his plaintive tone smears, very unusual timbres
and wandering melody lines. His unique, complex and inimitable style
included a great variety of odd squeaks and growls, alternating
soft and hard notes, rasping attacks and soaring, long-held or abruptly
terminated phrases and notes. He played greatly contrasting rhythms,
often widely varying the time values as well as the notes. Almost
no one has attempted to emulate him, nor consciously demonstrated
being influenced by his style. Nevertheless Russell was one of the
best-known and widely admired clarinet players for years. He died
Sahib. Born Edmund Gregory in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia,
Shihab was a tenor saxophonist and one of the first reedmen to play
flute in bop groups, as well as one of the first musicians to become
a Muslim. He worked with many prominent bands starting in the late
Thirties, was lead alto with Fletcher Henderson from 1944 to 1946
and later played with such modern leaders as Tadd Dameron, Thelonious
Monk, Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie. From the late Sixties onward
he worked in Europe, where he was in the famous Kenny Clarke-Francy
Boland big band. Shihab died in 1993.
Horace. Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1928, Silver has
been a pianist, composer and leader of his own quintets since the
early Fifties. He started playing tenor saxophone in high school
but gave it up when he heard Lester Young on records. He is recognized
as one of the most important founders of the hard bop school. When
Stan Getz made an appearance in 1950 in Hartford, Silver’s
hometown, he heard Horace and his trio play and offered them a job
then and there. The job lasted about a year and launched Silver’s
career. In 1951 he moved to New York and worked with such important
and prominent musicians as Lester Young, Oscar Pettiford and Coleman
Hawkins. From 1953 until 1955 he was with Art Blakey and the Jazz
Messengers. In addition to his importance in establishing hard bop,
he fused elements of rhythm & blues, gospel music and jazz,
influencing pianists such as Ramsey Lewis, Bobby Timmons and Les
McCann. He was largely responsible for setting what would become
the standard instrumentation of bop groups in the late Fifties and
Sixties: trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass and drums. He also nurtured
many important younger players who joined his groups, including
Art Farmer, Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, Benny Golson
and Joe Henderson. He carried his piano style, hard “comping”
(accompaniment), to a high level of musicianship while developing
his own style of composing and arranging. He is one of the few musicians
in jazz who records his own compositions almost exclusively. He
has had numerous hit records and a number of his compositions have
become jazz standards, including “The Preacher,” “Doodlin’,”
“Sister Sadie” and “Song for My Father.”
Since the mid-Sixties he has experimented with large ensembles,
including voices, woodwinds, strings and other combinations. Although
frequently plagued with arthritis of the hands, he has maintained
a busy schedule well into the 21st century.
Zutty. Born in Bunkie, Louisiana, in 1898, this drummer
first worked with significant bands in New Orleans clubs and on
riverboats. He went to Chicago in the late Twenties and recorded
with Louis Armstrong in 1928. In the mid- and late Thirties he became
the drummer and leader of the house band at Chicago’s Three
Deuces Club. He was later featured there on drums in Roy Eldridge’s
famous broadcasting band. Singleton provided a bridge from the old
drumming style of Baby Dodds to the more modern styles of Jo Jones
and Big Sid Catlett. He introduced the widespread use of wire brushes,
among other innovations. He was a favorite of Louis Armstrong, with
whom he worked on many of the seminal “Hot Five” and
“Hot Seven” recordings. Singleton died in New York in
Stuff. Born in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1909, Smith learned
violin from his father and played for a while in the family band.
He earned a scholarship to attend Johnson Smith University but opted
instead to join a touring revue. He was with the Alphonso Trent
band from 1926 to 1928 and then toured with Jelly Roll Morton. In
1936 he moved to New York where he joined Jonah Jones and Cozy Cole
at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street. That group had a nationwide hit
with the nonsense tune “I’se A Muggin.” When Fats
Waller died in 1943, Smith took over leadership of Waller’s
band. In 1947 he joined Jazz At The Philharmonic. Finally, he settled
in Copenhagen in 1965. Well known for a raucous, powerful style
with an adventurous sense of melody, he gave added meaning to the
word swing. Dizzy Gillespie once said that Smith, along with Roy
Eldridge, was one of his strongest early influences. Smith died
Willie “the Lion.” Born in Goshen, New York,
in 1897, Smith was a pianist. Though he’s not in the Big Picture—he
was tired and had sat down on steps next door—he appears in
many other pictures taken that day. “The Lion” was almost
always seen, as he was on that day, with a cigar clenched firmly
in his teeth and wearing his derby hat. A most colorful individual,
he sometimes bragged that he was Hebrew and even a cantor. He was
one of the best known of the Harlem stride school, along with James
P. Johnson, Fats Waller and Luckey Roberts. His style was particularly
individual in that he adapted the flavor of 19th century impressionist
composers Ravel and Debussy, whom he greatly admired, to stride
piano. He penned many beautiful miniatures that combined impressionism
with stride. In the late Thirties Smith became known to a wider
public through several recordings. Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey performed
memorable arrangements of his compositions, especially “Echo
of Spring.” Smith was an early mentor to Ralph Sutton, Mel
Powell and Duke Ellington, the latter of whom composed and recorded
“Portrait of the Lion” in tribute to Smith. In the Fifties
Smith performed often at the Central Plaza and elsewhere in New
York. He toured Europe several times and appeared at many jazz festivals.
His life was documented in an autobiography (with George Hoefer),
Music on My Mind, published in 1964. Smith died in 1973.
Rex. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1907, Stewart
played cornet and trumpet. In his early years he played several
instruments, but cornet was always his main focus. His most important
early work was with Fletcher Henderson’s band as the replacement
for Louis Armstrong (at Armstrong’s suggestion), who was leaving
to form his own band. Initially Stewart felt uneasy about his ability
to fill the shoes of his idol, and soon left Fletcher to join the
band of Fletcher’s younger brother Horace. After a year or
so with Horace, the now better-prepared Stewart rejoined Fletcher
Henderson. He stayed with Fletcher more than four years this time,
until 1934 when he left to join Duke Ellington’s band. By
that time Ellington was in his golden era, well on his way to becoming
what he would be ever after: the most original and longest-playing
band leader ever. Stewart, a true master, stayed 10 years with the
band for what would be his longest and most important job. There
he invented the unique growling, almost human, half-valve sound
featured nightly in the extended piece “Boy Meets Horn.”
This was also the title of Stewart’s autobiography, published
posthumously by Claire Gordon in 1982. Stewart wrote a number of
other well-known Ellington numbers, but he remained forever identified
with “Boy Meets Horn.” After Ellington, Stewart worked
primarily with his own groups and made several U.S. and worldwide
appearances, including Jazz At The Philharmonic. In the late Forties
he stayed in France long enough to study at the famous cooking school,
Le Cordon Bleu. While there, he also delivered several lectures
on jazz at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Later he delivered similar
ones at the University of Melbourne, Australia. In 1957 and 1958
he became musical director for a festival at Great South Bay, Long
Island, celebrating the music of Fletcher Henderson with the Henderson
Alumni Orchestra. He also played for two years at Eddie Condon’s
jazz club in New York. Stewart went into semi-retirement in the
Sixties, though he wrote frequently for Down Beat magazine and often
appeared briefly at night spots blowing his incomparable cornet.
A number of extremely interesting articles on music and musicians
by Stewart were collected in Jazz Masters of the 30s, published
by MacMillan as part of a series. Stewart died in 1972 in Los Angeles.
Maxine. Born in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1911, Sullivan
came to prominence in the late Thirties with the Claude Thornhill
band, especially for her Thornhill-arranged hit song, “Loch
Lomond.” Later she joined the band of bassist John Kirby at
the Onyx Club on 52nd Street and married Kirby. In spite of her
magnificently cool, clear, perfectly pitched voice, Sullivan was
forever typecast by her “Loch Lomond” performance. She
appeared in at least two movies and made brief appearances on stage.
For two years she was heard on the CBS radio show “Flow Gently,
Sweet Rhythm.” She later sang for varying periods with Benny
Goodman, Glen Gray and others. Sullivan left music for some time
to study nursing—and the valve trombone!—but around
the time of the Esquire photograph she had returned to music. She
was one of the very best and least egotistical of popular jazz singers.
Her clear enunciation and relaxed style notwithstanding, she could
swing like mad. Her second husband was stride pianist Cliff Jackson.
Sullivan died in 1987.
Joe. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1909, this trumpet
player should not be confused with the excellent tenor man of the
same name who played with Jimmy Lunceford’s orchestra. At
age 19, Thomas played in Cecil Scott’s band and with several
lesser-known groups. In 1934 he joined Fletcher Henderson’s
famed orchestra, later playing with Willie Bryant, Claude Hopkins,
Benny Carter, James P. Johnson, Teddy Wilson and Barney Bigard.
During the late Forties and early Fifties he freelanced with drummer
Cozy Cole, tenor star Bud Freeman and pianist-composer Claude Hopkins,
among others, while sometimes leading his own groups. Admired by
musicians for his robust trumpet style (influenced directly by Louis
Armstrong’s sound), he appeared on many recordings, including
one in 1937 with Armstrong’s first wife, Lil. He was later
in a group that produced a memorable recording in 1944, “Thru
for the Night,” which featured Coleman Hawkins’ tenor
led by Earl Hines on piano. Thomas died in 1984.
Wilbur. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1923, Ware
was an extraordinary bass player whose strong tone and harmonic
inventiveness made him much sought-after by a wide variety of groups,
small and large. Even in his later years he worked with experimental
groups while continuing to play in established mainstream and bop
groups. Beginning in the mid-Forties he worked with such prominent
leaders as Roy Eldridge, Joe Williams and Eddie “Cleanhead”
Vinson. By the Fifties he had worked with Johnny Griffin, Art Blakey’s
Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk. Later, as house bassist at
Riverside Records, Ware could be heard on many important recordings.
In New York he played with John Coltrane in Monk’s quartet
at the Five Spot. He also led his own small groups and played with
the Sonny Rollins trio at the Village Vanguard. Being in great demand,
he worked steadily in a wide variety of groups. In the early Sixties
he joined Max Roach, Charles Mingus and others in the Newport Rebels,
a group formed in protest against the Newport Jazz Festival. A number
of significant recordings by this group and associated musicians
were released later. In the mid-Sixties illness forced him to return
to Chicago, but in the Seventies he returned to New York, where
he was active with mainstream as well as avant-garde groups. Ware
died in 1979.
Dickie. Born in Centerville, Texas, in 1909, Wells was
a trombonist who worked with many prominent bandleaders, including
Count Basie for eight years in the late Thirties and early Forties.
In 1959 and again in 1961 he toured Europe with Buck Clayton’s
band. He was one of the outstanding trombonists of the Thirties
and a great favorite in France, where he won numerous awards. A
fascinating analysis of his playing style, titled “The Romantic
Imagination of Dickie Wells,” can be found in jazz critic
Andre Hodeir’s book, Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence. Wells
died in 1985.
George. Born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1907, Wettling was a
drummer. After performing with the U.S. band of visiting English
bandleader Jack Hylton in 1935, Wettling stayed in New York and
worked in Artie Shaw’s first band. He then worked for a succession
of other famous leaders, including Bunny Berigan, Red Norvo and
Paul Whiteman. For most of the Forties and into the Fifties he was
on staff at ABC-TV in New York. From then on he was in a variety
of prominent small combos but played mainly Dixieland with Eddie
Condon. He was also a competent abstract painter and a friend of
the well-known artist Stuart Davis. Wettling wrote a number of articles
for Down Beat magazine. He died in 1968.
Ernie. Born in St. Louis in 1922, Wilkins is recognized
as a saxophonist, composer and arranger. He is best known for his
arrangements for big bands, including those of Dizzy Gillespie,
Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Count Basie. He began playing professionally
in a famous Navy band during World War II with such budding stars
as Clark Terry, Gerald Wilson, Major Holley and earlier stars like
alto saxophonist Willie Smith. In 1949 he was in the last Earl Hines
big band. In 1951 he joined the Count Basie band, playing both alto
and tenor saxophones. He gained prominence in the Fifties for his
compositions and arrangements. He performed and arranged for Dizzy
Gillespie’s big band and went overseas with it for the U.S.
State Department in 1956. He then wrote for Harry James and was
greatly instrumental in modernizing that band. His arrangements
were largely responsible for the success of the Count Basie band
in the Fifties. After that he worked for Earl Hines and others,
concentrating mainly on arranging, and served as musical director
for A & R Records. In the late Sixties Wilkins went to Europe
with Clark Terry’s big band as musical director, and he settled
in Copenhagen. In his later years, he was confined to a wheelchair
after suffering a stroke, finally passing away in 1999.
Mary Lou. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1910, Williams
was a pianist, arranger and composer. She started in a group led
by her husband, saxophonist John Williams. When she was 18, she
joined Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy as pianist and arranger.
She later arranged for Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines and
others, and wrote scores for musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie.
In the Fifties she conducted informal piano lessons in her home
in Harlem. Thelonious Monk was among the unofficial “students”
who gathered there. She was an important influence on Monk, Bud
Powell and other pioneers of bop. Williams died in 1981.
Lester “Pres.” Born in Woodville, Mississippi,
in 1909, Young played tenor saxophone. By 1930 he was playing with
various Midwest bands and in 1934 worked briefly with Count Basie.
After short stays with several other bands he rejoined Basie, where
he remained until he became a solo star. During his time with Basie
he developed a very wide following among tenor men. He was perceived
as the founder of a new, light, soaring way of playing tenor. It
was very different from the husky, aggressive, punchy playing style
of Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry and Ben Webster, the most widely admired
tenor players in the Thirties and early Forties. In the late Thirties
Young made a number of historic recordings with Billie Holiday.
In late 1944 he was drafted into the Army for what turned out to
be a very harsh period in his life. He was released about a year
later after months of Army confinement for using drugs. He then
returned to playing music, and made his first solo recordings in
addition to working every year with Jazz At The Philharmonic. Between
his discharge from the Army in 1945 and the taking of the Big Picture,
late 1958, he continued to drink and use drugs heavily, and in the
late Fifties he was rarely at the peak of his powers. During and
after the early years of bebop, Young continued to win admirers,
most notably Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Zoot Sims.
Ultimately he developed even more adherents to his lyrical style
of legato tenor. Although never really a bebop musician, Young was
an important transitional figure between swing and bop, along with
Roy Eldridge, Charlie Christian and others. He died in early 1959.