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 Home>Behind the music - the tragic, bizarre and amusing  
Behind the music - the tragic, bizarre and amusing  Printer Friendly

A look at some of the more amusing, amazing, unusual, sad, entertaining, tragic and often bizarre events that were part of the lives of some of the prominent men and women from the unique world of Jazz.

The following extracts have been taken in part from the publication ”West Coast Jazz” by Ted Gioia (University of California Press) see ”Jazz in Print”

 The Loneliest Man I ever knew
 Death in the Desert
 Modern jazz players were “just faking” (Benny Goodman)
 Twelve Fingered Pianist
 Buddy Rich – “as evil as Adolf Hitler”!
 Brubeck - dead in Hawaii!
 Cool Sound – Hot Head!
 The Well Dressed Jazz Musician
 The Wit of the Jazz Artist
 Listen – or Shut-Up!
 What’s in a Nickname?
 The Hottest Jazz Gig - Ever!
 “Jazz Joints” that created Legends
 Up Close and Personal – “The Man who met Sinatra”
 How to win Women – Duke Ellington Style!
 Who was Chester Babcock?
 “They don’t write ‘em like that Anymore!”
 Death by Un-Natural Causes
 Jazz and Racism
 Jazz Speak – “Talk the Talk”
 Did You Know….?
 Jazz and the Classics
 American Indian Jazz Greats

The Loneliest Man I ever knew
Paul DesmondPaul Desmond (pictured right) the lyrical alto saxophonist who made his name with the Dave Brubeck Quartet of the early 1950s was described by Gene Lees jazz writer, commentator and lyricist as “….the loneliest man I ever knew”.
Desmond was attracted most to his friends’ wives. He found solace by fixating on women who were unobtainable often wrecking havoc with his closest friends.

Paul Desmond was briefly married but details of his marriage and early life remain somewhat of a mystery. Apart from this very short lived marriage Desmond remained a bachelor for the rest of his life.

Paul Desmond often referred to Dave Brubeck as “The Indian” because Brubeck’s father was most likely of Native American descent.

On May 30- 1977 Paul Desmond died, a victim of lung cancer.

The picture above is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties” by Leonard Feather and published by Bonanza Books.

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Death in the Desert
Wardell GrayeA lot of mystery surrounds saxophonist Wardell Gray who they called “The Thin Man.”

On one hand he read books written by Sartre and Shakespeare, and was an articulate, even eloquent speaker who talked with conviction on, among other things, politics and the NAACP (National Associating for the Advancement of Coloured People). On the other hand he was a heroin addict, an unpredictable character, one who would borrow a friend’s horn and hock it for drug money.

In May of 1955 renowned bandleader and alto saxophonist Benny Carter was in Las Vegas with his band to open the “Moulin Rouge” a $3million racially integrated hotel, theatre, and restaurant complex.

One of the star members of the saxophone section was tenor player Wardell Gray who at 34 years of age.

Wardell failed to appear for the band’s Wednesday night late show on May 25th. The following afternoon his body was found in a weed patch in a desert area about four miles from Vegas.

Gray’s neck was broken and his head had injuries, presumably from a beating with a blunt instrument.

To this day Wardell Gray’s death remains a mystery – was he murdered for failing to make a payment to a drug dealer, had he overdosed and somehow ended up (with the help of other addicts) so far out of town, or was his death racially motivated. A post mortem was apparently never carried out – why?

The photograph of Wardell Gray (above) is from the back cover of the LP album “Wardell Gray” on The Giants of Jazz label LPJT 27.

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Modern jazz players were “just faking” (Benny Goodman)
Benny Goodman“The King of Swing” Benny Goodman had not welcomed the end of the swing era, and had earlier asserted that that modern jazz players were “just faking” and “not real musicians”.

A short time later he did an about–face and formed his own bebop septet in the spring of 1948, employing tenor player Wardell Gray.

The picture on the right is from “Jazz History” 2001 calendar printed in Germany by Tushita Verlags GmbH.

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Twelve Fingered Pianist
Hampton HawesHampton Hawes was one of the few black musicians involved in the development of the “West Coast” jazz scene during the late 1940s – early ‘50s.

Like Ann Boleyn, Henry V111’s unfortunate second wife, Hawes was born with six fingers on each hand. Although such accessories may have been of more benefit to a pianist than to a queen.

Hawes’s extra digits were clipped off with a nylon string on November 16, 1928, three days after his birth. The remaining ten managed to serve Hampton exceptionally well over the next half century.

The photograph of Hampton Hawes (right) is by William Claxton taken in Los Angeles in 1955 and comes from “West Coast Jazz -Modern Jazz in California 1945 -1960” by Ted Gioia and published by University of California Press. See “Jazz in Print.”

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Buddy Rich – “as evil as Adolf Hitler”!
Buddy RichDrummer Buddy Rich was known for his furious personality and explosive temper. He was a firm disciplinarian and a hard task master who expected only the highest standard of musicianship from every member of his band(s).

Legend has it that during his time with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra when Frank Sinatra (whose temper equaled that of Rich’s) was the band’s big draw-card both had a head to head clash, where Rich threw a cymbal at the singer.

Fortunately Sinatra managed to duck in time to avoid a possible decapitation.

Tommy Dorsey apparently once remembered that “there are three evil people in the world - Adolf Hitler, Buddy Rich and Alvin Stoller- and I’ve had two of them in my band”.

Alvin Stoller was the drummer on many of the classic albums recorded by Frank Sinatra he also toured with Sinatra through out the singers career.

Many accounts from musicians who worked in bands that included Stoller have not had high praise for him. Stoller although an excellent drummer, was considered by many to have been very opinionated and critical of other musicians, particularly new, younger musicians.

The above information on Buddy Rich has in part come from ”Richard Cook’s Jazz Encyclopedia” and published by Penguin Books.

The photograph (above) of Buddy Rich is by Bob Klein and is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies” by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler published by Quartet Books.

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Brubeck - dead in Hawaii!
David BrubeckIn 1951 pianist Dave Brubeck seriously injured himself when in Hawaii, he dived into what appeared to be a large wave; instead he crashed into a hidden sand bar.

The injuries were so severe that on the way to hospital, Brubeck recalls the guys in the ambulance on the phone saying "we've got a DOA" (dead-on-arrival)

For a few hours Dave Brubeck was almost paralyzed, causing him to lose a certain amount of dexterity. For years he experienced muscle spasms that would come and go.

At the time he had to rely on playing chords during performances, and there was a period where he couldn't get up from the piano., and had to wait until the stage blacked out, when he had to pull himself up with the support.

The accident proved to be decisive in a number of ways. It demanded an adaptation of Brubeck's playing, forcing him to make greater use of his block chord style and less of the fast single-note lines common among his peers.

It's Dave Brubeck's unique block chord style that is synonymous with the Brubeck "sound".

The photograph of Dave Brubeck by Val Wilmer is from "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz" by Brian Case and Stan Britt published by Salamandar Books Limited. See "Jazz in Print".

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Cool Sound – Hot Head!
Ben WebsterBen Webster was the tenor saxophonist who helped bring a new style to the saxophone section of Duke Ellington’s orchestra with his “breathy” sound. His trademark breathy style was most affective on bluesy ballads.

Webster had the reputation of sometimes being charming and sometimes curtly rude to his employers.

Ben was prone to enjoying a drink or two so this no doubt played a part in his “personality”.

Legend has it that one night during his time with Ellington, he was allowed to play piano with the orchestra (Ben started out on violin and piano), however he stayed too long at the keyboard. When Duke took offence, Webster cut one of Ellington’s suits to threads.

Ah – “showbiz tantrums” – nothing’s really changed, has it!

The upside to this little story is that Duke, being the “cool” calm individual that he was, would have most likely dismissed it as another “tantrum” by one of his star musicians.

Webster wasn’t the only member of Ellington’s superb orchestra who strayed off the main highway.

The picture (above) of Ben Webster is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties” by Leonard Feather and published by Bonanza Books.

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The Well Dressed Jazz Musician
Duke Ellington Down BeatMost early jazzmen were conscious of the way they dressed – sharp clothes represented maturity and success.

Duke Ellington was a very sharp dresser and had an extensive wardrobe of tailor made clothes. He had suits made to order from the best tailors in London - so one suit destroyed by Ben Webster would not have been a great loss to Duke – he probably sat down at the piano and composed a new song!

Duke also appreciated elegant shoes.

He had a theatrical shoe firm in Chicago make a dozen pair of shoes that he designed. They were feather light, thin soled and square toed. His way-out footwear became a conversation piece.

Duke used to order them by the dozen! He used to change shoes between sets.

The picture of Duke Ellington on the cover of "Down Beat” (Dec. 26-1956) is from “The Guinness Jazz A-Z” by Peter Clayton and Peter Gammond published by Guinness Books.



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Miles DavisOne of the sharpest on the scene was Miles Davis. He refused to be told by anybody what he should wear.

On an appearance at New York’s legendary “Birdland” the management requested that Miles and his band (a sextet) dress in uniforms.

The story goes (according to cornet played Nat Adderley) that the next night when the band appeared they were dressed in the same cloths that they had worn the previous night. Miles walked on stage pulling a rack of uniforms he had obtained from a nearby cloths store.

Miles said to the audience that the management wanted to see uniforms on stage and “if that’s what you came for, to look at uniforms instead of music, that’s what you got. Now were going to leave so you can enjoy these uniforms”

The outcome: the management quickly backed down on their demand and the group played in their usual cloths.

The photograph (above) of Miles Davis by Roberto Polillo is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties” by Leonard Feather and published by Bonanza Books.

Dizzy GillespieDizzy Gillespie's goatee, beret and horn rim glasses became symbolic of the new generation (beboppers) of jazz musicians.

But the truth is the bop musicians did not wear wild cloths and dark glasses at night.

The fashions of the late 1940s included long coats and full trousers which were worn by the average leading man of the day.

Dizzy’s beret came about because he liked hats (which were very popular duing the period) – but he was always leaving them behind, and according to him he bought a beret (from having seen them in France) as he could fold it up and put it in his pocket. Sounds reasonable to me!

Other myths – the horn rim glasses - according to Dizzy his first glasses were rimless and kept breaking all the time – so he went to the stronger horn rim models – also a logical move!

Wearing dark glasses on stage – not so, because as leader he needed to read sheet music.

The photograph (above) of Dizzy Gillespie is by Val Wilmar and is from “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Brian Case and Stan Britt published by Salamander Books Limited.

Billy Eckstine the vocalist and bandleader accentuated his good looks with an extremely sharp wardrobe. He favoured wide shirt collars which came to be known as ”Mr. B. Collars"

The Wit of the Jazz Artist
Eubie BlakeA number of prominent jazz musicians are known for their quick and witty off-the-cuff responses. Some can however be a little offensive particularly to the person the response is directed at – however they can also raise a laugh!

Pianist Eubie Blake was asked when he was ninety seven, “How old do you have to be before the sex drive goes?” Eubie replied, “You’ll have to ask somebody older than me.”

On turning 100 years old Eubie was asked about his longevity. Eubie shrugged his shoulders and said “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself!” Guess the question of sex wasn’t raised on this occasion!

The photograph (right) of Urbie Blake is by Randi Hultin and is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies” by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler published by Quartet Books.

Trumpeter Bobby Hackett was passing through Canadian Customs when a customs officer pointed to his trumpet case and said “is that a musical instrument” to which Bobby replied “ sometimes.”

Band leader Jimmy Dorsey was listening to the way a new member of his band played one of his (Jimmy’s) arrangements and said “Kid, you’ve got a perfect ear. No hole in it.”

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Pepper Adams

At a meeting of jazz musicians where the subject of grants and public funding had been raised, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams prefaced his remarks with: “I’m all in favour of getting Grant’s for jazz musicians, or any other good brand of Scotch.”

The photograph (right) of Pepper Adams by Veryl Oakland is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies” by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler published by Quartet Books.

Art Farmer
Jazz writer and lyricist Gene Lees asked flugelhorn player Art Farmer about his twin brother bass player Addison. Gene said: “How do you tell yourselves apart?” Without a trace of a smile Art replied, “When I get up in the morning I pick up the bass, and if I can’t play it, I must be Art.”

The photograph (right) of Art Farmer is by Val Wilmar and is from “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Brian Case and Stan Britt published by Salamander Books Limited.

When tenor saxophonist Phil Urso joined the Woody Herman band, Woody inquired, “How well do you read (music)?” Phil answered “Just enough so it doesn’t screw up my jazz.”

Sonny Stitt

When saxophonist Sonny Stitt asked Miles Davis for a raise and was told there was no more money, Sonny said, “No money, no Sonny!” and left the band.

The photograph (right) of Sonny Stitt by Veryl Oakland is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies” by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler published by Quartet Books.





Ronnie ScottRonnie Scott the tenor saxophonist and co-founder of one of the world’s best known jazz clubs “Ronnie Scott’s” (established in London in1959) was renowned for his on stage one-liners (well, some were several liners) which he tended to repeat on different nights.

Here’s a sample of the Scott wit:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Ronnie Scott. Thank you for your applause. We’re particularly impressed by the way some of you are controlling yourselves. Not keeping you up, am I Sir? No, don’t move, I want to forget you just as you are.

Martin is also our sound man. He’s the greatest sound man in the country; in the city…useless. No, I’m only kidding about Martin. He does a wonderful job. Badly.

Yes, I love this club, it’s just like home. Filthy and full of strangers. Last night vandals broke in and re-decorated it. What have you been drinking, Sir. Cement? These are the jokes…

You should’ve been here last night. Somebody should’ve been here last night. We had the bouncers chucking them in. The band played “Tea for One”. Someone ‘phoned up and asked, “What time does the show start?” I said, “What time can you get here?” Don’t go away Sir, we get worse.

Ronnie Scott was an accomplished modern tenor player however his reluctance to make records is disappointing. Apart from a few live recordings, he left us with only a handful of studio dates by which to remember him by.

Off stage Ronnie Scott was a lonely man who suffered from depression. Sadly he took his own life on December, 23rd – 1996 at the age of 69.

The above information on Ronnie Scott along with the photograph (by Val Wilmar) came from “Jazz at Ronnie Scott’s" by Kitty Grime, published by Robert Hale Limited.

Zoot Sims and Al CohnTenor saxophonists Zoot Sims and Al Cohn were two of the most popular reed players of their generation . They also become close friends, professionally and socially, their families often getting together for social events.

Both Zoot and Al were known for their wit.

Zoot was rarely at a loss for words. When a fan once asked him how he could play so well when loaded (inebriated) Zoot replied, “I practice when I’m loaded!”

Zoot and Al were often booked to play at the famous “Half Note” (New York City) club on New Years Eve.

Both men were partial to a drink and during the course of the evening many patrons were buying them rounds.

One year as the second hand on the clock approached 12 midnight one of the club owners shouted up to the bandstand “It’s 12 o’clock!” Al nudged Zoot and repeated “Twelve o’clock!” Zoot stopped the tune they were playing and launched straight into “Happy Birthday.” Zoot took several hot choruses right into the new year oblivious to the fact that he was playing the wrong tune.

Al was just as keen on funny lines as Zoot.

At a bus terminal a rather disheveled man came up to Al and asked for a dollar to buy a drink. Al started to hand him some money then hesitated, and said, “Wait a minute, how do I know you won’t spend this on food?”

When a bartender asked Al “What’ll you have?” Al responded “One too many.”

The photograph of Zoot Sims (left) and Al Cohn (right) was taken by Chuck Stewart and is from the CD “The Al Cohn-Zoot Sims Quintet You and Me” on the Verve label number 589 318-2

Billy Hyde – “Chook Fight”
Many older Australian music fans and musicians will recall Billy Hyde the renowned percussionist.

The following amusing anecdote is from “Tales of a City Slicker” written by guitarist, banjo and vibes player Jack Varney (see ”The Final Curtain”)

He (Billy Hyde)had a long friendship with bassist Frank Walsh, also now deceased, and occasionally they played cards out at Frank’s Farm at Berwick where they would go through a fair amount of grog. Billy’s wife Jean used to worry about him driving back to Melbourne so late, and sometimes a bit the worse for wear. The next time it came up she said she wouldn’t let him go unless he promised to come home early and sober.

He promised, but arrived back in the city at about 3 am, feeling no pain and aware that he was in trouble at home. He decided to stop at the all night café at the top of Bourke Street and buy a cooked chook as a good-will present for Jean. When he got there the café owner was engaged in fisticuffs at the front door with a guy who refused to pay his bill. Billy said he wanted a cooked chook and the owner said “Can’t you see I’m busy fighting this character?” Undaunted, Billy said “Look, you get my chook and I’ll fight him for you”. So while the man was off getting the chook and our Billy was shaping up to the man in the doorway, along came the police who announced their intention of running them both in.

The shop man came back with the chook and got Bill off the hook, so that was that. What happened when he got home could only be told by Jean.

He was a great guy, a great percussionist and everyone in the profession loved him”.


We thank Glen, Jack Varney’s widow for providing us with the above.

Listen – or Shut-Up!
Charles MingusThe enjoyment and appreciation of jazz is enhanced by experiencing jazz musicians performing “live”.
Outside the concert hall and the festival open-air environment there is the “jazz club” where most jazz artists tend to perform at their best, mainly due to the more relaxed and intimate atmosphere. There are also less restraints/restrictions put on them, such as time limits.

However the negative as far as the artists are concerned is rude and inconsiderate patrons who insist on holding conversations during a performance. This can be distracting to performers and is offensive.

Most jazz artists would have experienced such distractions during their club dates.

The eminent bass player Charles Mingus was a man who was known for his hot temper and his no-holds-barred comments on everything from politics to racial issues.

Fed up with continual audience chatter when his band was playing Mingus turned to the crowd and announced: ”As long as nobody wants to listen, we might as well get something to eat.” He had the waiter bring food to the bandstand, and he and his band sat down and ate for half an hour instead of playing.

The photograph (right) of Charles Mingus by Val Wilmar is from “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Brian Case and Stan Britt published by Salamander Books Limited. See “Jazz in Print.”

The Jazz Man like many other club patrons has sat through audience chatter at many clubs.

The offensive habit is not only annoying to the musicians but also to the patrons who have come to enjoy the music. The Jazz Man has observed that the “chatter” problem seems to be more prevalent in clubs in the U.S. than in Europe.

British jazz audiences seem to show a lot more appreciation and respect for the performers when they are on stage.

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Benny CarterThe Jazz Man was in the audience at a New York City club where the legendary alto saxophonist Benny Carter and his band were appearing.

The audience was enjoying the performance when suddenly a camera flash went off – Benny finished the tune and in a calm but authoritative tone addressed the audience, criticizing the camera person for using a “flash” when there were cameras that could shoot in low light conditions without using a flash.

Benny said it was very disturbing to the musicians causing them to lose concentration.

During the course of the reprimand one could hear a “pin drop” - or it may have been the Japanese couple trying to hide under the table (near The Jazz Man’s table) where the flash appeared to have come from!

But, where there’s Japanese, one has to expect a camera – or several!

The performance continued without any more flashes.

The photograph (right) of Benny Carter by Val Wilmar is from “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Brian Case and Stan Britt published by Salamander Books Limited. See “Jazz in Print.”

What’s in a Nickname?
Duke EllingtonMany of the jazz greats had nicknames which became household names – the origins of some of the nicknames can however be can be questionable.

Here’s what is believed to be the origins of some of the better known jazz nicknames, in no particular order.

Duke Ellington piano/ composer/bandleader
Real name: Edward Kennedy Ellington
Ellington was given the name Duke long before he got on the jazz scene. As a boy he was even an elegant dresser and the name given to him by his school-friends.

However according the Duke himself he had many alternative nicknames including Otto, Cutey, Stinkpot, Wucker, Dumplin’, Dumpy, Big Red, Piano Red and others.

Jazz history may not have been the same if “Duke” had ended up as “Stinkpot” Ellington!

The photograph of Duke Ellington by Ole Brask is from “Jazz People” by Dan Morgenstern, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York.

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Count BasieCount Basie piano/organ/bandleader
Real name: William Basie
Legend has it that is was a radio announcer at WHB in Kansas City, from which Basie broadcast some organ solos in 1930 who elevated plain “Bill” to the jazz aristocracy.

“Count” probably came into regular use only when he joined the hierarchy of bandleaders such as Duke Ellington.

The photograph of Count Basie by Ole Brask is from “Jazz People” by Dan Morgenstern, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York.aders where one, Duke Ellington was firmly established.

Louis ArmstrongSatchmo Louis Armstrong trumpet/vocal
Real name: Louis Armstrong
With their habit of abbreviations some musicians referred to Armstrong as Satchmo, however Louis was not aware of this himself until he came to England and was greeted as “Satchmo”.

In England some advertising material for the first Selmer trumpet used by Armstrong had been nicknamed “Satch-Mo” – however Louis did not use this nickname form himself until he came to England in July – 1932.

The photograph of Louis Armstrong appeared by permission of David Redfern in the publication “Jazz The Essential Companion” by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather and Brian Priestley. The book is published by Grafton Book

A Comment from The Jazz Man

It’s interesting to note that nearly every verbal reference to Louis Armstrong, the name Louis is pronounced as Louie and not Lewis.

However, in the epic television series “JAZZ” the presenter, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis refers to him as Lewis as do the immediate members of his family who are interviewed for the series.

Also in the song “Hello Dolly” (sung by Armstrong) Louis sings the lyrics “…this is Lewis, Dolly…..” (not Louie)

So, is it “Lewis or “Louie”?

Ken from Richmond, Victoria a trad jazz trumpeter and subscriber to The Newsletter responded to The Jazz Man’s comment with the following:

I am a member of the Louis Armstrong House and Archives - a great non-profit organization dedicated to Satchmo. Their home page is: http://www.satchmo.net/ Here is what the FAQ section of their website says about the two items in your newsletter:

Is Louis's name pronounced "Lewis" or "Louie"?

Judging from home recorded tapes now in the Archives, Louis pronounced his own name as "Lewis." On his 1964 record "Hello, Dolly," he sings, "This is Lewis, Dolly" but in 1933 he made a record called "Laughin' Louie." Many broadcast announcers, fans, and acquaintances called him "Louie" and the Armstrong Archives has a 1983 videotape of Lucille Armstrong in which she calls her late husband "Louie." Musicians and close friends usually called him "Pops."

How did Louis Armstrong get the nickname "Satchmo?"
Louis had many nicknames as a child, all of which referred to the size of his mouth: "Gatemouth," "Dippermouth," and "Satchelmouth." During a visit to Great Britain, Louis was met by Percy Brooks, the editor of Melody Maker magazine, who greeted him by saying, "Hello, Satchmo!" (He inadvertently contracted "Satchelmouth" into "Satchmo.") Louis loved the new name and adopted it for his own. It provides the title to Louis's second autobiography, is inscribed on at least two of Louis's trumpets, and is on Louis's stationery.


Thanks Ken. So it could be either Lewis or Louie. No matter which I’m sure Satchmo wouldn’t mind.

Milt Jackson“Bags” Milt Jackson vibraphone
Real name: Milton Jackson.
Interestingly this nickname always appears on its own as either “Bags” but never “Bags” Jackson.

According to Milt himself it dates from the monumental bags which appeared under his eyes the day after he celebrated his demobilization from the U.S. armed services.

However due to lack of evidence one must accept Milt’s claim. Milt Jackson was a co-founder of The Modern Jazz Quartet.

Many of you reading this may no doubt relate to “bags under the eyes” – probably from late nights/early mornings spent at a jazz club – of course the refreshments you may have consumed could very well come into the equation!

The photograph of Milt Jackson by Veryl Oakland is from “The Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies” by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler published by Quartet Books.

Dizzy Gillespie trumpet/composer
Real name: John Birks Gillespie
It’s generally accepted that Dizzy came about because of Gillespie’s clownish behavior during his early years – so let’s go along with it!

Lester Young Lester Prez or Pres Young tenor sax.
Real name: Lester Willis Young
Short for President the name was given to Lester by Billie Holiday, who had enormous admiration for the tenor player (like nearly every musician who went on to take up the tenor sax).

Tradition has it that a president was the most important person Billie could think of at the time.

However, pianist Jimmy Rowles claimed in a BBC interview that during his time with Lester in the early 1940s he didn’t hear anyone refer to prez or pres but called Lester Young “Bubber”

So, you can decide which you think may be the case. The Billie Holiday explanation does add an element of cool romanticism to the claim!

The photograph of Lester Young by Ole Brask is from “Jazz People” by Dan Morgenstern, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York.

Billie HolidayLady Day Billie Holiday vocal
Real name: Eleanora Holiday
Holiday changed her given name Eleanora to Billie after the actress Billie Dove who she admired.

It was at her first singing job at “The Patagonia” in New York that she was nicknamed Duchess or Lady because as legend has it, she acted that way.

The photograph of Billie Holiday appeared by permission of David Redfern in the publication “Jazz The Essential Companion” by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather and Brian Priestley. The book is published by Grafton Book.

Charlie “Bird” Parker alto sax
Real name: Charles Christopher Parker
The story goes back to when Parker was a member of Jay McShann’s band.

The band was on its way to play a job at the University of Nebraska (in Lincoln) when the car that Charlie was in hit a chicken near a farm.

Charlie told the driver “Man, go back you hit a yardbird.” They went back, and Charlie got out of the car and picked up the dead bird. When they got to Lincoln Parker asked the lady who ran the boarding house where the band were staying to cook it for dinner.
Charlie Parker

From that point on the musicians in the band started referring to Parker as, “Yardbird” – ‘Yard” or “Bird” a nickname that quickly spread.

The photograph of Charlie Parker by Ole Brask is from “Jazz People” by Dan Morgenstern, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York.

If you would like to add to our list of jazz nicknames then e-mail us at bs@thejazzman.com.au
The Hottest Jazz Gig - Ever!
Was probably the one that Charlie Barnet outfit played at the L.A. Palomar in 1939. Barnett had all the band scores brought into the ballroom, in readiness for the band's departure. But, in the intermission, during which all the instruments were left on stage, the curtains snagged on the lighting system and burst into flames, creating a fireball. Barnett and his musicians headed for the nearest exit. The fire brigade were called but headed for the wrong address, the Barnet book and instruments were reduced to ashes, as was the ballroom.

Meanwhile the Basie band was on its way to play the Palomar, and were the first black band to do so. They were met by an agency representative, Basie kidded "Don't tell me the Palomar has burned down. The guy was amazed. "That's right', he confirmed, “but how the hell did you know?"

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“Jazz Joints” that created Legends
History, Scandals and More!
“Beefsteak Charlie's” west off Broadway on 50th Street (N.Y.C.) was a popular place for musicians to hang out, especially if they were not working steadily, it served as a sort of "booking office". Anybody in a hurry and in need of a trombonist or a drummer could just phone Charlie's and the request and offer would be shouted into the room. When Ben Webster moved to New York from the West Coast in the hope of finding work in the Big Apple, time and public taste were not on Ben's side, however, and his big soulful tone wasn't always what a studio or a TV show had in mind, Ben got few jobs, I remember he got a week in Harlem in a small place called the Shalimar. Few came to listen and those who did were either friends or fellow musicians. I saw Miles there once.
The above by Ole Brask (U.S. photographer who caught on celluloid some of the biggest names from the world of jazz)

”Slug’s” – bang, bang, she shot me dead!
This New York City club was sadly very aptly named for the tragic event that took place on the premises on a cold winter’s night on February, 19th – 1972.
Described as “the most extravagantly talented trumpeter of his generation” 34 year old Lee Morgan’s promising music career was snuffed out when he was shot dead by his own pistol. The shot was fired by a long standing female friend who found Lee in the company of another woman at the club.

The lesson here is - “discretion before bravado!” (The Jazz Man)

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Up Close and Personal – “The Man who met Sinatra”
“It was a rare and indeed important few minutes of my life when I was invited to meet Mr. Sinatra in his dressing room prior to him going on stage at the Melbourne Tennis Centre for the Ultimate Event. I was President of the International Sinatra Society that year and we had an ongoing good relationship with Sinatra Enterprises throughout our existence, Frank Sinatra was aware of our Society and when he knew he was coming to Melbourne that year, his Secretary invited myself and the Society Secretary to meet with him in his dressing room prior to the concert.

It was arranged like clockwork, a Security guard came for us in the audience and during the interval he took us backstage at the Tennis Centre to Frank Sinatra’s dressing room. Before our audience with Mr. Sinatra, we met briefly with Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra Jr., who was conducting the orchestra. It was like a dream come true, there he was immaculately dressed to go on stage, he approached us with a smile and handshake after we were introduced.

We presented him with six bottles of Australian Wine and a book of Australian Poetry by Henry Lawson which he really appreciated then after some light talk about Melbourne, the tour and his music, it was time for him to go on stage, but he said most graciously "Wait a minute, I won’t be back again for a while, we must have a photo taken together as a memento of the occasion.”

What a thrill, the photo was taken and then on his return home, he sent us each a copy, autographed in gold ink, and that photograph hangs proudly in our home.

My right hand shook the hand of Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra.”

Gordon Onans
Balwyn North, Victoria, Australia.

Gordon is an Honourary Member and Foundation Member of The International Sinatra Society, Melbourne, Australia.

Gordon - the man who met Sinatra

(Gordon is pictured (far right) with Frank Sinatra)

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How to win Women – Duke Ellington Style!
Duke possibly out-Gabled Gable and out-bedroomed Valentino and was certainly one of the great Lotharios of the twentieth century. A lot of men who are womanizers don’t like women, but Duke was a womanizer who liked them as well as loved them. He didn’t physically chase women they chased him!

The first question Duke would ask on arriving in a hotel was ”Do you have king-size beds?”

Duke’s way of responding was very subtle (gentlemen, take note-TJM)

When he met a lady and she looked at him with those eyes, as they always did, he’d join the chase by painting his standard verbal pictures of ”I know you’re an angel, because I see your halo reflected on the ceiling.”
Duke Ellington


Other classic Ellington lines when moving in on a lady who he fancied were, “My mother taught me to gravitate toward beauty, so here I am” and “I picture you lying on a crescent moon, bathed in roses.”

For more than 30 years Don George was a close friend, companion, collaborator and buddy of Duke Ellington. Don wrote the popular song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” along with many other songs for the movies. He and Duke also wrote together “Hit me with a hot Note” and "Watch me Bounce” and “I’m beginning to see the Light”.

The above information about Duke Ellington is taken from Don’s book “Sweet Man – The Real Duke Ellington” (see “Jazz in Print”).

Here’s another personal memory of Duke related by Don George from the his book:

In Boston after a concert, Duke latched onto a weirdly dressed, wildly attractive gal and disappeared with her. The promoter asked me, “What’s Duke going to do with her?”

I replied, “The usual thing, I suppose, I wonder if he knows her right leg is a prosthesis.”

Pictured above ”Duke admiring an admirer. Bert Parry photo

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Who was Chester Babcock?
He was one of America’s premier songwriters, and wrote such classics as “Darn that Dream” -“It could happen to You”-“Like someone in Love”- “Nancy with the laughing Face”- “ But Beautiful” and “Here’s that rainy Day”- to name just a handful.

Name still doesn’t ring a bell? What about Jimmy Van Heusen (pronounced “Van Hughes-n”)

Born Chester Babcock, legend has it that as an early tune-smith trying to sell his compositions, he was told by a music publisher the first thing to do was to change his name (Babcock) as it sounded obscene!

This evidently happened when he was around 15 years of age. The young composer took the advice on-board.

The story goes that Chester saw an advertising billboard for “Van Heusen” shirts, and as they say - the rest is history.

However, there was a lot more to Jimmy Van Heusen than a being an exceptional music talent.

During World War 2 he was a military test pilot, however because of the obvious risks involved in such a profession he never mentioned this when flogging his tunes to publishers.

But there’s more! Van Heusen pursued a debauched bachelor lifestyle. An inveterate ladies man, the moon faced Van Heusen populated his house with an endless supply of prostitutes, starlets and air stewardesses

The house was on the property named "Rattlesnake Ranch” (aptly named one would think) overlooking the Californian dessert town of Palm Springs.

Early 1940s – enter one - Frank Sinatra who was also a Palm Springs resident and property owner.

When Frank’s relationship with Ava Gardner hit the rocks it was Van Heusen who (being a music associate as well) soon became part of Sinatra’s “inner circle”. Van Heusen included Frank in the never ending parties at “Rattlesnake Ranch”. Frank occasionally reciprocated at his own house.

When Sinatra was on tour brothel connoisseur Van Heusen would often accompany him, simply to round up the girls for the usual tour party, or to start his own.

It must be said the “girls” involved would have been of the “high class” variety – so as to put it.

So next time you hear one of Jimmy Van Heusen’s music gems, you’ll realize that there was another side to the composer’s talent - (don’t forget the test pilot side!)

Chester Babcock with Sinatra at the piano

Pictured above Jimmy Van Heusen left with Frank Sinatra.
Photograph - Corbis

The above information on Jimmy Van Heusen was in part taken from “The Rough Guide to Frank Sinatra” by Chris Ingham and published by Rough Guides The Penguin Group.

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“They don’t write ‘em like that Anymore!”
Cole PorterHow many times have you heard, said or read the above?

The point is that the vast majority of us reading this article would agree with the statement.

The reference is to the sophisticated “popular” songs that were written between the early 1900s and the ‘50s. Many of these songs became part of “The Great American Songbook.”

They became “standards”- enduring, timeless creations that never seem to go out of style, all written by some of the most talented composers and lyricists of the 20th century, and the majority of them American, although not all are of American birth.

What makes such songs so timeless and unique?

The two main elements are a melodic composition (music) combined with clever, meaningful lyrics.

Why are the “standards” always a major part of a jazz musician’s repertoire?”

Tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims when asked this question said that the harmonic structure of such songs was a very good vehicle for improvisation (which is one of the essential elements of jazz)

The great tenor sax stylist Sonny Rollins (who turned 78 on September 7th) has also made similar comments about “standards”

So, who were the “original” creators of “The Great American Songbook?” – Not a difficult question because they are household names, particularly to “our” generation.

Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser and Cole Porter – and that’s just to name nine of them.

Some were lyricists, some were composers and some were both – but the latter were in the minority.

One such composer/lyricist was Cole Porter – who wrote the lyrics to all of his own compositions.

Born into an exceptionally wealthy family Cole Albert Porter came into the world on June, 9 -1891 in Peru, Indiana.

By the age of six Cole was practicing the piano daily and learning to play the violin.

The first work he composed was in 1901, it was called “The song of the Birds” dedicated to his mother.

Porter wanted for nothing, and even as a boy growing up he dressed in the attire of a “dandy”, which on many occasions had other children making fun of him.

Porter’s formal education included Yale University, where his talents on the piano were very quickly recognized, leading to invitations (to play) at private social events. This was his introduction to the elegant, extravagant and indulgent world of “café society” and all that went with it.

The lyrics to many of Porter’s songs were a reflection of the period in which they were written, and included references to the social scene in which Cole frequented, which (depending how you look at it) was never dull or without controversy.

Porter’s lyrics in some cases were considered “risqué” an example being the song “Love for Sale” (1930) which can be interpreted as “sex” for sale, that is -prostitution.

The song was initially banned!

One of Porter’s most popular songs is “I get a kick out of You” (1934) which contained the following lyrics: “I get no kick from cocaine.”

Many singers did use the original lyrics. Frank Sinatra however substituted cocaine with “champagne.”
.
Bear in mind cocaine was in common use during the ‘20s and ‘30s among the “café society” set. Nothing seems to have changed really except today such substances are not just confined to the “well heeled” party-goers.

Some of Cole Porter’s classics include;
“I’ve got you under my Skin”-“You do something to Me”-“What is this thing called Love”-“Begin the Beguine”-“Just one of those Things”-“Easy to Love”-“In the still of the Night”-“I concentrate on You”-“You’d be so nice to come home To”-“I love You” and the brilliant “Night and Day.”

Cole Porter led an exceptional life however behind the super talented song writer was a man who experienced the pain and passion of a life which mixed devotion to his wife and numerous homosexual affairs.

Cole Porter passed away on October 15, 1964 at the age of 73.

Pictured is Cole Porter on the cover of William McBrien’s “Cole Porter the Definitive Biography” published by Harper Collins.

“A fascinating book about the man and his music based on frank interviews with friends and colleagues of this musical genius. It also exposes the darker side of his life and the “café society set. Highly recommended.”
The Jazz Man

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Death by Un-Natural Causes
Susannah MccorkleA look at the jazz identities whose deaths are not a result of drug or alcohol abuse (which there are many) but death as a result of other means/circumstances.

Among the jazz identities who died by “un-natural” causes are the following:

J J Johnson one of the forefathers of bebop jazz trombone took his own life due to depression brought about by a worsening illness. Nine years earlier (1992) a cloud was cast over JJ with the illness and subsequent death of his wife Vivian. JJ was 77 at the time of his death.

Jacki Byard the prolific pianist who once toured Europe with bass player Charles Mingus has been described as “one of the jazz world’s most enduring and eclectic musicians”.

Jaki Byrd was killed by a single bullet that entered his nose.
Detectives said that Mr. Byard had been killed about four hours after last being seen by his family, at the home he shared with his two of his daughters.

Investigators found no weapon, no motive or no suspects in the slaying. There was no signs of forced entry or a struggle or signs of robbery.
Another mysterious, unexplained death!

Jaki Byard died on Thursday, February, 10-1999 at the age of 77.

Lee Morgan who was born in 1938 was the most extravagantly talented trumpeters of his generation.

On a cold winter’s night in 1972 at a New York club called “Slug’s” a long standing female friend found him with another woman in the club, and shot him dead with his own pistol.

Wardell Gray the tenor saxophonist played with the who’s who of jazz from Lionel Hampton to Benny Goodman, Count Basie and the modernists.

His was another life shadowed by narcotics, and he died in rather mysterious circumstances, possibly from a heroin overdose. In May 1955 Wardell’s body was found in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. He had injuries to his head. A post mortem was never carried out and to this day the cause of death never officially stated. Wardell was 34 years of age at the time of his death

Chet Baker the trumpeter with the smooth delicate sound and the movie star “looks” was to many what “cool” jazz was all about

Despite his natural talent on the trumpet and flugelhorn some insisted that he was technically incompetent. However, this certainly didn’t come through on his many recordings.

Baker like so many of his peers of the 1950s was cursed by drug addiction. He could never kick his habit, and on May 13th – 1988 at the age of 59 his body was found in a sleazy area of Amsterdam, The Netherlands outside an hotel where he was renting a room.

Whether he fell from his room or was pushed still remains a mystery.

Clifford Brown the exceptionally talented trumpeter and composer was unlike other figures of the bebop era not attracted to drugs or alcohol.

His short but wonderful contribution to jazz was cruelly cut short at the age of 26 when on June 26th - 1956 he was killed in a car accident.

The pianist in his group, Richie Powell (brother of Bud) and also Richie’s wife who was driving the car also died in the accident,

Susannah McCorkle was a jazz and cabaret singer who had a repertoire of over 2,000 songs.

She spoke several languages and was an accomplished writer who wrote for New York magazine, Newsday and Cosmopolitan.

Throughout her life Susannah suffered on and off form depression, and on May 19 -2001 she jumped to her death from her Manhattan apartment. She was 55.

Pictured is Susannah’s award winning album “Dream”. Click on “The Albums” for more details.

Sonny Criss the alto saxophonist was in 1977 diagnosed with stomach cancer. This combined with a career in the doldrums led him to take his own life. Sonny was 50 years of age.

Jaki Byard was a pianist who knew European music as thoroughly as anyone in jazz. He liked teaching, and passed on wisdom to many younger pianists.

In February of 1999 the jazz community was shocked at the announcement of Jaki’s death, from gunshot wounds at his home in New York. He was 77.

Eddie Costa the talented pianist and vibes player was in high demand as a studio musician and recording artist. His death in a car accident at the age of 32 robbed the music world of a talent which was undoubtedly going places

Frank Rosolino was exceptionally adept on the trombone and easily found work, playing in bands led by Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton as well as doing Hollywood studio work during the ‘50s.

Sadly, the end of his life was awful due to deep depression. On November 26 – 1978 Rosolino at the age of 52 shot his two children and then took his own life.

Brew Moore was a tenor saxophonist who unashamedly worshipped Lester Young and emulated his mentor’s playing.

In the early 1960s he settled in Denmark. On August 19 – 1973 he died after falling down some stairs in his Danish home. He was 49.

Scott LaFaro the exceptionally talented bass player was touring professionally at the age of 19. He played with Chet Baker and Hampton Hawes going on to be a member of the Bills Evans Trio.

Instead of mere timekeeping and simple counterpoint, he drove the bass into an ensemble prominence which no other player had dared execute.

It was a terrible blow to Bill Evans and the rest of the jazz community when at the age of 25 on July 6 – 1961 Scott was killed in a car accident.

Ronnie Scott the London born tenor player was co – founder of one the world’s most famous jazz club’s, “Ronnie Scott’s in 1959.

On stage he was an engaging musician who also drew the laughs with his “one-liners”. Sadly, off stage he was a loner whose life was marked by serious spells of depression.

On December 23-1996 Ronnie took his own life. He was 69.

Dinah Washington the gospel influenced vocalist who was often referred to as “The Queen of the Blues” had an amazing personality. She was capable of handling all styles of music from gospel, to blues, middle of the road and jazz. However her straight-ahead “jazz” records were comparatively rare.

Dinah got through a lot of marriages and a lot a drinking. She was a large woman whose death came as a result of a seeming mix up over sleeping pills. She died on December 17 – 1963 aged 39.

Lem Winchester took up the vibes whilst studying, mixing a haphazard career as a musician with a regular job as a police officer.

After appearing on few recordings he gave up the police work to focus on a playing career. However this only lasted a year as on January 13 - 1961 he died, apparently having shot himself. It has never disclosed whether by accident or not. Lem was 33.

The information above has in part been taken from the publication “Jazz Encyclopedia” by Richard Cook and published by Penguin.

Click on “Jazz in Print” for more details on this and other jazz related books.

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Jazz and Racism
The term “Uncle Tom” goes back to the days of slavery and basically refers to a “Negro” (as African Americans were referred to) who accepts the old slave or servant relationship as being the normal one between black and white.
One who allows himself/herself to appear inferior to white people. One who curries favour with whites for gain.

In relation to music and the popularity of radio (in the U.S.A.) during the 1940s a report in 1946 maintained that “ the few Negro groups which are hired steadily by radio stations across the country are not hired for their musicianship but because they are “Uncle Toms”.

The following year the (black) singer/actress Lena Horne, an outspoken critic of racial discrimination, suggested, “a million dollars worth of talent is being kept from the American public because of the “Jim Crow” practices of radio.”

This “lily-white policy” was extensive, she insisted, and said:“Almost every (radio) network is guilty of discrimination against the coloured performer.

Over the next decade, conditions for African Americans in the music business only worsened.

In the late ‘40s and into the ‘50s not one of the eight radio stations in the New York metropolitan area had a Negro staff member.

Similar situations were being repeated in the field of jazz, where white imitators were becoming more popular than Black originators.

Many night club owners blamed the jazz musicians for the negative image they supposedly presented.

Sadly jazz musicians were often stereotyped as undependable, which went along with them (inevitably) being drug addicts, alcoholics, or simply incapable of looking after business details.

Considering the problems facing musicians of the late’ 40s and early 1950s it is hardly surprising that many did become alcoholics – including many who are labeled “legends” such as Lester Young and fellow saxophonists Ben Webster and Don Byas.

The trombone player Dicky Wells who drank constantly, maintained that during his year of travel on the road, especially in the segregated South, alcohol eased the hard life of touring.

Impresario and producer Norman Granz was a Los Angeles jazz fan who began organizing Sunday jam sessions in 1942 at a Beverley Hills Club.
This developed into full scale concert promoting.

In July1944 Granz held one of his first JATP (“Jazz at the Philharmonic”) concerts. This was the first time that jazz concerts were held in what had been the exclusive domain of classical music.

Granz’s beliefs concerning racial equality served him well, as jazz became for him an instrument by which to help those who were victimized by racism.

Granz’s politics and his aggressiveness, made him an anathema to some in the music business. His straight- forwardness was welcomed by many musicians, and it worked!

Southern racists had to capitulate to his demands or lose the opportunity to hear the premier jazz artists in the nation. When bookers in Houston, Texas reneged on their part of the deal, Granz hired lawyers and fought and won in court.

The JATP concerts which soon spread to the major cities of the world, became grueling and hard on the health of the musicians and their entourage. In 1953 JATP covered 58 cities world wide, including Australia, in a period of three months.

Norman Granz was also involved in record production and established the Clef label (1946) Verve (1956) and Pablo (1973).

Granz also managed such artists as Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald and enjoy long associations with them as well as Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie.

Pictured is Norman Granz with Ella Fitzgerald 1970s (Phil Stern)

Without Norman Granz there would probably be a lot missing from jazz documentation from the ‘50s onwards.

Oscar Peterson said of Granz : "He’s not a performer, he’s not a composer, he’s not even a musician, but Norman Granz is Mr. Jazz.."

Norman Granz passed away on November 22- 2002 at the age of 84.

The above information has in part come from the book "Lester Leaps In" by Douglas Henry Daniels published by Beacon Press Boston. Click on Jazz in Print for a preview of the book.

Bill Evans - white boy in a Black Band
When Bill Evans took over the piano role from Red Garland in the Miles Davis's group he was uncomfortable for a number of reasons, not the least being his status as a racial (white) minority of one.

It was hard to endure the racial teasing from this established gang. Davis who loved Evans, could nonetheless be cruel and (tenor player) John Coltrane never quite approved of Evans's presence.

In the black Davis band Evans cut an incongruous figure, but Davis's criterion for selecting his colleagues was always precisely musical. In fact his list of white members included Lee Konitz, Victor Feldman and Dave Holland, among others, to say nothing of his deep friendship and close association with arranger Gil Evans (whose parents were Australian and Canadian).

When Evans left the band Miles Davis said "Some of the things that caused Bill to leave the band hurt me, like that shit some black people put on him about being a white boy in our band. Many blacks felt that since I had the top small group in jazz and was paying the most money that I should have a black piano player. Now, I don't go for that kind of shit; I have always wanted the best players in my group and I don't care about whether they're black, white, blue, red or yellow. Bill was a very sensitive person and it didn't take much to set him off"

In a caustic twist, Davis later accused Evans of not hiring black musicians which would come as something of a surprise to Philly Joe Jones, Alan Dawson and Jack DeJohnette, to name only drummers in Evans's trios.

The above has been taken from the book "How my Heart Sings" by Peter Pettinger, published by NB Yale University Press. For more details click on "Jazz in Print".

Pictured at a 1959 studio session (left to right) John Coltrane, Jullian "Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Bill Evans. The photo is by Don Hunstein and is from the above book.

John Coltrane, Jullian Adderley, Miles Davis and Bill Evans

Surviving on fried rats, seeing a dead man hanging from a pole. The battle fields of World War One? No, 1940s America!

Not even a teenager however this was part of daily life for many poor (particularly black) kids growing up in 1940s America. Not to mention the loss of a loving mother who was locked away in a mental asylum.

From such unbelievable childhood experiences to one of the most talented and influential pioneers in music history that was the early life of Quincy Jones.

Born in 1933 he grew up on the mean streets of Southside Chicago where feeling the pain of a mother's descent into madness he brushed with the law, ran with gangs and ran from them.

But when his struggling father moved to Seattle, Washington, Quincy discovered music, which literally saved him.

"Q the autobiography of Quincy Jones" is a remarkable self-portrait of one of the master makers of American culture, a complex, many faceted man with far more than his talents and unparallel vision, but also some entirely human flaws.

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Quincy JonesQuincy Jones musician, composer, producer, arranger and entrepreneur worked for five decades alongside the superstars of music and entertainment including Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Charles, Will Smith and dozens of others.

Quincy Jones is one of the most successful black business figures in the United States whose jazz career was far out - stripped by his work in popular music. His jazz background has become somewhat neglected.

At 15 he learnt trumpet and got a job with Ray Charles. In 1951 after studying in Boston he joined Lionel Hanpton's band before going on to play with Dizzy Gillespie's groups.

Jones's talent was however as an arranger/composer writing for everyone from Tommy Dorsey to Count Basie (and Basie/Frank Sinatra). His super "pop" project was on Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall".

From a background that included a grandmother born into slavery (who taught him how to catch river rats to survive on) to witnessing as a pre-teenager a man hanging from a telephone pole with an ice pick in the back of his neck to being one of the formidable figures of American music of the last half of the 20th Century, and a redoubtable icon to more than one generation of black performers in particular, this is the remarkable Quincy Jones.

For details of "Q the autobiography of Quincy Jones" click on Jazz in Print The photograph of Quincy Jones is from the back cover of the above publication.

The book is highly recommended by The jazz Man

Jazz Speak – “Talk the Talk”
Lester Leaps In - Book CoverGoing back to the 1920s jazz musicians started to develop their own “vocabulary” creating words (mainly nouns and adjectives) that became part of the jazzman’s image.

Such words were created by black musicians who were (in the main) modern jazz artists.

One such personality was tenor saxophonist Lester (“Prez”) Young (27/08/1909 – 15/03/1959) who in the early 1930s referred to his sax as “Pound Cake” which was also Lester’s favourite nickname for anything or anyone he liked.

Lester Young was considered very “hip” (see below for a description) and a stylish dresser.

Young’s fellow tenor saxophonist, Johnny Griffin ( born 24/03/1928) liked to tell young aspiring musicians who thought they were hip that “I’ve only met two hip people in my life, and the rest were pretenders,” The two in question were Lester Young and pianist Thelonious Monk (10/10/1917 – 17/02/1982)

Pictured right is the highly recommended "Lester Leaps In" published by Beacon Press. For a review of the book click on "Jazz in Print".

Following are some of the hip word’s that became part of the jazz man’s vocabulary and part of jazz history. Some of the following are also used “outside” jazz circles.

The descriptions have come from ”The Guinness Jazz A-Z” published by Guinness Books, and written by Peter Clayton and Peter Gammond. You may vies the book by clicking on Jazz in Print.

All-In
The equivalent of the classical ensemble or “tutti” – all playing together. Also another name for a jam session (see below).

Apple, Big Apple
The Big Apple was one of the many party dances which were popular during the public-dancing craze years of the 1920s and 1930s.
The name derived from the Big Apple Club in Columbia, South Carolina where the dance was invented.
Popular slang term for any big city which spread to New York City. It’s possibly derived from the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden, a symbol of temptation which is how N.Y.C. appeared to an aspiring young jazz musician.

Baby
Nickname generally applied to the younger or youngest of the family where two or more were active in jazz. Since c.1900 referring to a girl.

Baby Doll
Attractive young girl. Implies, generally, one who is kept as the mistress of an older well-to-do man.

Bad
One of the commonest of inverted jazz slang jazz words – now meaning good to extreme – excellent, wonderful. In a musical term, being well played or arranged in an appropriate and tasteful way.

Bad Health
The state one is reduced to by anybody else who can do something better than oneself. In music terms a band out swinging another resulting in bad health to the out swung.

Bag
Denotes a musician’s personal style or preference. “He’s into a blues bag now” –the musician prefers to concentrate on playing blues.

Ball
As a noun, slang for a good time, as a verb “to ball” – to have a good time. Like many words it is used in a sexual context – “he was balling this chick” – meaning he was in the habit of having sex with this young lady.

Barbecue
A sexually attractive young girl. Not necessarily an occasion to eat sausages in the open air. Louis Armstrong’s number “Struttin’ with some Barbecue” – “strut” meaning to dance.

Bari, Barry
Abbreviated slang for the baritone saxophone.

Barrelhouse
Popular name for a low-class, usually black, drinking dive where beer, wine and home brewed brandy were served at a crude bar, straight form the barrel.
Also functioned as a betting shop and for other illicit trades. Music played there came from a knocked out piano played very loudly – known as barrelhouse music.

Battleaxe
Early slang for one of the front line wind instruments. Now referred to as axe.

Beard
An intellectual, egghead, cool, far out, beat kind of person, avant garde, hipster.
The bop musicians of the 1940s popularized beards, which was a symbol of non-conformity.

Bells
Possibly introduced by the hip Lester Young – a friendly greeting or acknowledgement . “Bells man” – Lester would respond with “bells” or ding-dong”

Bend
A deliberate impure tone on brass instrument resulting in a slight upward or downward variation pf pitch. One of the devices that distinguishes jazz form straight playing.

Biff
To muff a high note on a brass instrument. Not exclusively jazz, but occasionally used by all musicians.


Small, minor jazz engagement. Sometimes similar to a gig - from theatre usage – a bit part, small acting roll.

Bitch
Something difficult to achieve or perform, applied to music and jazz from c. 1935.
Thence applied to one who was capable of handling such matters, did impossible things on his instrument. Uttered in admiration.

Black and Tan
A slang name for a mulatto (a person of mixed black and white parentage) derived form the Spanish word for mule, hence one of mixed breed and tawny colour. In England the reference is for a mixture of port and ale.

Blackstick
Often used to refer to the clarinet. Probably used more than the often quoted “liquorice stick”.

Blow, blowing
To play a musical instrument, but especially to play jazz. Not only wind instruments, but any instrument. Commonly used from well before the 1920s. More recently it has come to imply not only playing but playing well.
“To blow up a storm” – to play jazz in an exciting and activating way.
“A blowing cat” is a jazz musician in 1950s parlance.

Bone
Commonest musician’ slang for a trombone.

Bone orchard
A cemetry. Likewise Bone orchard – a hospital.

Boot
To play an instrument in aforceful, “kicking” manner; to get or boot others into action. A “Booting” tone applied mainly to saxophones.

Box
An old timers slang term for piano. Very rarely heard these days.

Bread
American slang for money associated with the swing era jive of the mid 1930s. Long bred referred to a large amount of money.

Bull fiddle
Slang term for the double bass.

Burn
To play with intensity and impact, also to play well and efficiently. The term “Cook” is similar and more frequently used.

Canary
A female singer with a band.

Cat
A jazz musician, or practically any man, when spoken of by a jazz musician. In regular jazz use by the late 1930s.

Chick
Familiar slang for one of the female sex. Became popular in Harlem in the mid 1930s. The word suggests that the lady in question is attractive, lively and young – hence. Pretty hip. Unlike hen or crow. A “hip chick” referred to a girl who was somewhat snooty in character.

Chippie
A prostitute, dance-hall hostess, female bartender (professionally) or simply a promiscuous female. The term was in use form c. 1915.

Chops
Literally the lips, and thus quite logically, the embrouchure of the player on any wind instrument. Also extended to performers on all instruments,. A pianist may be said to have good chops if he or she can execute duifficult passages with accuracy and apparent ease.

Clinker
Slang term for an unwanted noise applied to a squeak or other extraneous noise produced by a reed player. Any error, a false or bum note.


In use particularly in black U.S. communities during the 1920s to mean broks, having no money.

Cook
When inspiration is flowing well a musician is said to be “cooking” or to be a “cooker” or to “cook.”

Cool
Some time ago somebody decided to term early jazz “hot” – with the advent of so called “modern” jazz where the harmonics and structure took over from the excitement of simple, emphatic rhythms, a cooler, quieter tone became the desirable norm.
“Cool” referred to the West Coast musicians who tended to be better schooled in the musically academic sense. The word quickly became a vogue word, taken up by advertisers. An aging hipster may be heard to say to you as you depart “Stay Cool” when all he means is “goodbye.”

Crazy
Adjective that came in with te ‘cool” era of jazz. A term of high praise indicationg good, unique, outstanding, generally exciting, thrilling, satisfying. The word spread out the jazz arena from the 1960s.

Dad, daddy, daddy-o
A form of address, similar to pops, papa, in the older form. Daddy, a male lover, a provider of the goods. Big daddy a rich one of this variety. Also used as a term of adulation or admiration – “the daddy of them all”.

Date
Arranged time – lovers’ meeting. More specifically used in jazz and music circles to mean a recording session.

Dig
Usually implies to look with appreciation. “Dig that chick over here.” To appreciate- “I really dig your music”. In past tense the word is dug.

Doghouse
Musician’s slang for the double bass. Plucking the strings is referred to “slapping the doghouse”.

Flip
To become excited by something, turned on by, overwhelmed by a performance. “To flip one’s lid” – that is to “blow one’s top”. “Flip Side” – the reverse side or other side of a record, generally referring to the B side or commercially less important side. “Flip” is more common in pop music than jazz.

Front line
The melody instruments of the band; trumpet, trombone, clarinet etc., who generally sit or stand in front of the rhythm section.

Gas
From c. 1945 anything considered exceptional, successful, - “a real gas”. From the 1950s used in jazz, verbally. To gas or be gassed; as a noun, gasser. A word that came in with the modern jazz era.

Gig
Used In jazz and other musical fields to mean an engagement, particularly a one-night stand for a musician. It has also spread out from music to mean a job, or gainful employment.

Gitbox
Musicians’ slang for a guitar.

Harp
In jazz refers to the blues musician’s mouth harp or harmonica, not the seven pedaled concert variety.

Head arrangements
Ensembles, riffs, etc, worked out at rehearsal but not written down. The Ellington band was famed fro working by this method, hence the lack of written scores.

Hep, hip
Similar in meaning. Hep, was in wide use from c. 1915 but in jazz from c.1925, particularly in the swing or jive areas.
By 1938 “hepcat” was in use for a devotee of jazz ans swing.
By c. 1948 hep had been replaced by “hip” which basically meant the same .The word was specifically applied to the jazz aficionado.
“Hippie” took on more political and sociological undertones: a hipster or hippie was a member of the beat generation, coll and protesting – not associated with jazz.

Hep too jive
In common terms, aware, worldly – wise. In jazz, but now archaic, having an appreciation of jazz – particularly the swing era c. 1935 – 1942.

Hides
Another musicians’ name for drums, particularly the drum sets (or traps) used in jazz and dance bands.

Hip chick
A with-it young lady, especially one who is into jazz, particularly modern jazz.

Hokum
Anything done in music, or other fields of entertainment. Purely to please the lowest tastes.

Hooked
An addiction to something especially narcotics, also used in a wider sense. Hooker, one who gets hooked. Also a prostitute form hookshop – a brothel.

Hop head
An opium addict, hop meaning opium, a term used since c. 1887. Also refers to any other narcotic drug. Hopjoint- an opium den. Hopped-up – under ther influence.

Hot
Adjective in early jazz-based music of an exciting, emotionally charged fast kind.
“The hottest band in town” – something novel and exciting. A hot tone was achieved pre-eminently on the trumpet, by a fast vibrato, full blooded approach. The word refers to the hot jazz of the 1920s and 1930s.

Jam, jam session
Described as “an informal gathering of temperamentally congenial jazz musicians who play unrehearsed and unscored music for their own enjoyment” – George Frazier.

Jive
Around 1935 or ’36 “jive” was noun which meant the music (jazz) itself while the verb to jive meant to dance. For a while it was slang for marijuana, or a cigarette made from it. Britain’s Victor Sylvester, the arbiter of strict tempo dance music, found it politic (in 1944) to organize a Jive Band.

Kicks
Pleasurable experience, a thrill. Excitement of a satisfying kind. By no means confined to jazz, e.g., Cole Porter’s “I get a kick out of You.”
To play for kicks in the jazz sense is to play for pleasure. As a verb quite separate connotation, to kick is to conquer, (the drug habit).

Kill
To please an audience beyond the point of possible criticism. Benny Goodman was fond of the phrase – “killer-driller” used to introduce his next number.

Lame
Square but curable.

Lead
To take the lead part or solo. Lead-man, first chair of a section. Lead sheet, simple version or outline of a song on which to improvise.

Legit, legitimate
To play in the straight way, not jazzed. Classical MUSIC.

Lick
An alternative term for a break, a short improvised solo or section insertion, usually with the rhythm silent. By around 1938 it was used to mean a short improvised phrase hot lick, solid lick, etc.

Line – up
Popular term for the personnel in a jazz group.

Long hair
Popular and jazz world’s adjective fro serious or academic music and those who play it.

Loose wig
An exceptionally uninhibited performer; a way –out musician. One whose wig has flipped beyond the norm.

Low down
Jazz, particularly blues orientated, slow, intense and sad in nature – with soul and feeling.

Moldy fig
A derisive term for those whose tastes were outmoded, particularly one who preferred the older forms of jazz to the bebop innovations.

Out of this world
Superlative praise, ungrudging admiration, inspired, perfect, heavenly. In general use from around 1920, and not necessarily confined to jazz.

Pad
Originally form the world of narcotics – a bed or couch on which one reclined while taking opium. Later referred to any room, lodging, hotel apartment or short term accommodation - particularly used by jazz musicians.
Literally means the felt, leather pads that are used on various keys of instruments. One early specific use of “pad” referred to the room used by a prostitute.

Piece
Widely used in jazz slang as an instrument. Collectively – as in “ten piece band.”

Pipe
Musician’s slang for the saxophonist, generally referring to the tenor sax, the alto saxophone “small pipe” – baritone sax. “the big pipe.”

Red not mamma
A short-lived term title for a female singer of the large, bosomy, earthy type. Generally relating to the classic blues singer.

Ride out
The final, flowing, abandoned and musically excited chorus of a jazz performance. A kind of swinging free-for-all.

Riff
Originally a repeated, brief and distinctive phrase used as an accompanying motif, usually played by the other lead instruments in effective riff number.

Salty dog
In its own right – on the other hand it means either a sexy , teasing sort of girl or a sexy but rather untrustworthy kind of man.

Scat
A way of jazz singing, which uses wordless phrases or sounds instead of lyrics, in an improvised imitation of instrumental performance.

Scream
To play high and loud, particularly on the trumpet; sometimes a long held version of the rip. Screamers – high notes.

Section
A group of the same instruments within a band, e.g., a trumpet section, a reed section.

Send, sent
Move, excite, to be sent, to be transported with delight, exhilarated by such things as jazz, to be inspired to play.

Session
Activities in a recording studio, that is a recording session.

Set of threads
Bebop era’s musicians’ parlance for a suit of clothes, particularly if stylish or new, in use in the 1950s – during the 1940s – phrase used was “set of drapes.”

Sideman
Any member of a band or orchestra other than the leader.

Sit in
Being allowed to join a band or unit of which the musician is not a regular member. To enjoy an improvisational blow, or to sit in at a jam session.

Smear
Jazz term for a glissando, generally applicabl to the trombone, which used the effect liberally in early jazz.

Soul
The inner quality of feeling. Sincerity, warmth. A vogue word in modern jazz rather than traditional. Playing with a rooted jazz feeling. To play with a blues feeling ina funky way. The term did find its way into pop music.

Square
Person not in the know, out-of-fashion, behind the times. Not with it, not hip. A derogatory term in jazz implied to those not able or willing to appreciate the finer aspects of cool, modern or far-out music.

Straight
Music in a legitimate, classical manner without jazz inflection.

Strain
Popular music equivalent of section, theme, chorus.

Street The
In jazz literature 52nd Street in New York City especially the section between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. (Sixth Ave. is now “Avenue of the Americas”) The stretch contined a remarkable concentration of jazz clubs. During the 1930s known as “Swing Street.”

Take five
To take a five minute break from recording. Also the title of the tune written by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Talk
To play with depth and meaning, to literally make the instrument speak.

Tub
A drum.

Walk
To play jazz, especially to play jazz well - to really walk. Usually refers to an ensemble,

Walking bass
Ambling up and down the keyboard of the double bass in leaping octaves or tenths.

Zoot
One who is dressed, attractive and in fashion. Zootie, Zooty or Zuty – a with-it, dressy person, from around c. 1935, but had become outdated by the 1950s. Zoot suit – a style of dress in fashion during the ‘30s and ‘40s with padded shoulders, large lapels, high waisted pants, full cut and sharply pleated.

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Did You Know….?
Ray Charles became blind at the age of six. His mother was determined that her son would never hold a tin cup and beg. She made Ray cook meals, dress himself, haul water even chop wood with an axe.

Berklee the renowned college of music in Boston was originally called Schillinger House. It was later named Berklee after its founders Larry Berks and Lee Daniels.

Dizzy Gillespie’s trademark turned up trumpet became that way when
Dizzy Gillespie
someone accidentally sat on it at a New York club called “Snookies”. Dizzy played it, liked the sound so much that from that then on he had all his trumpets made with the bell pointing skywards. Photograph of Dizzy Gillespie 1960s (Charles Frizzell)

Janet Thurlow was the first white singer to sing jazz with a black band. The band was Lionel Hampton’s.

Segregation was an eye opening experience for many of the black musicians who toured the south. Singer Jimmy Scott (who Billie Holiday said was her favourite vocalist) had to sleep in a funeral home in a room full of caskets – caskets with bodies in them!

Nadia Barclay was a business genius who owned the French company Barclay Records with her husband. She was also one of the greatest teachers of 20th Century composition and the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic.

Some of the greatest composers of the twentieth century studied with her including Michel Legrand, Igor Stravinsky (who admired jazz), Leonard Bernstein and Darius Milhaud. One of Nadia’s star students was Quincy Jones.

Nadia wouldn’t take anyone as a student. She turned down George Gershwin because she said he had already perfected his style in the short song form and didn’t want to mess him up with long term studies.

Nadia Barclay loved jazz and had many early jazz names on the Barclay record label.

Sarah Vaughnhad the honour of being the very first vocalist to record the Errol Garner classic “Misty”. It appeared on the album “Vaughn with Violins”

Quincy Jones was given the nick name “Q” by Frank Sinatra.
Click on “Jazz in Print” for a review of Quincy’s book “Q the autobiography of Quincy Jones”. Photograph of Quincy Jones 1960s (Mercury Records)

Ella Fitzgerald and Norman

Norman Granz was officially jazz’s first millionaire. He established the famous JAPT “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concerts series which was the first time that jazz was performed in concert halls that were the exclusive domains of classical performers.

Granz managed such artists as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. He also established and owned the acclaimed Verve jazz record label, which he sold in 1960.

"He’s not a performer, he’s not a composer, he’s not even a musician, but Norman Granz is Mr. Jazz." - Oscar Peterson

Pictured is Ella Fitzgerald with Norman Granz (1970s) photograph Phil Stern.

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Jazz and the Classics
The following are from interviews during the late 1940s to the mid ‘50s.
Darius Milhaud (September 4, 1892 – June 22, 1974) was one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are particularly noted as being influenced by jazz and for their use of polytonality (music in more than one key at once).

On a trip to the United States in 1922, French born Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, which left a great impact on his musical outlook. Using some jazz movements, the following year, he finished composing "La création du monde" ("The Creation of the World"), which was cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.
He left France in 1939 and emigrated to America in 1940.

Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck arguably became Milhaud's most famous student when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s (he named his eldest son Darius).

Dave recalled in an interview that it was Milhaud who encouraged him in playing jazz. Milhaud felt that that playing jazz was an expression of American culture.
At the beginning of every composition class each semester at Mills, the first thing that Milhaud would ask was, “Are there any jazz musicians here?”

Kenny Clarke drums
When I was playing in Paris in 1949 Milhaud invited me to his home. It happened through trumpeter Dick Collins (who was with Woody Herman) Collins was a student of Milhaud.

Milhaud began to take notes as we talked and while Dick and I played. He’d ask us to stop in the middle of something, and he’d note it down. He’d ask things like “what is swing?” and I’d tell him it was a feeling, more or less and we’d illustrate it. He was interested in the cymbal beat, in what I did with my left hand. He seemed to know quite a lot about jazz

He was in his wheelchair and he’d roll around the room, very enthusiastic
The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s famed alto saxophonist Paul Desmond once said “ When Dave is playing his best, it’s a profoundly moving thing to experience, emotionally and intellectually. It’s completely free, live improvisation in which you can find all the qualities about music I love – the vigor and force of simple jazz, the harmonic complexities of Bartok and Milhaud, the form (and much of the dignity) of Bach, and, at times, the lyrical romanticism of Rachmaninoff. You see, a lot of us ijn contemporary jazz look for these qualities you find in certain classical musicians – but in an evolving jazz context.

Charlie Parker alto saxophonist
First I heard Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”. In the vernacular of the streets, I guess I flipped. I guess Bartok has become my favourite. I dig all the moderns. And also the classical men - Bach, Beethoven, et cetera.

Lee Konitz alto saxophonist
I’m particularly fond of Bartok’s string quartets. In fact they’re some of the swinginest music I’ve ever heard, outside Bach, in the classical form.

Andre Previn jazz and classical pianist, symphony orchestra conductor
More and more classical musicians are interested in jazz. I know that whenever I play with symphony orchestras it’s kind of a pleasant shock to have the French bassoon player who still speaks with a strong accent come up and ask me where Bird (Charlie Parker) is playing. It’s a good sign.

More and more people are interested in jazz like Copland and Bernstein.
.
Woody Hermanclarinet player, band leader
There were the wonderful kicks of working with Stravinsky
when he wrote “Ebony Concerto” for us. He was the most patient. He’d hum and sing the parts to us. A very great gentleman. It was a rather exceptional experience and a lot of kicks.

The above has been taken from the publication “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya” by Nat Shaprio and Nat Hentoff, published by Souvenir Press. For a review of the book click on ”Jazz in Print”

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American Indian Jazz Greats
U.S. Indian Head Quarter It is generally recognized that jazz is first and foremost a black American music.

However, unknown to many is the fact that some of the jazz greats are of Native American ancestry, in fact some are pure American Indian.

There was Indian in Duke Ellington’s family. Ellington’s sister Ruth, told Dave Brubeck “All the credit’s gone to the African for the wonderful rhythm in jazz, but I think a lot of it should go to the American Indian.”

Probably the best known jazz musician who has Indian blood is pianist Dave Brubeck who is quarter Modoc.
Dave Brubeck

First from top - photograph of Dave Brubeck by David D. Spitzer

Singer Kay Starr was three quarters Indian - including Choctaw and Cherokee and one quarter Irish.
She once said “The American people would like us to just disappear …and we almost have done it.”

The Modern Jazz Quartet’s pianist John Lewis was part Cherokee and Comanche.
Second from top - photograph of John Lewis by David D. Spitzer.

Vocalist Joe Williams was part Seminole.
John Lewis

Trumpeter Doc Cheatham’s maternal grandparents were full blooded Cherokee.

Flugelhorn player Art Farmer and his twin brother Addison (bassist) were part Blackfoot, as was singer Lena Horne.
Third from top - photograph of Art Farmer by Val Wilmer.

Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson and drummer Ed Thigpen who played with Oscar Peterson have Indian backgrounds.

Guitarist Jim Hall is part Cherokee.
Fourth from top - photograph of Jim Hall by Veryl Oakland
Art Farmer

Bass player Joe Mondragon was possibly full blooded Apache, and was often teased about it: Once when he was looking for a light for a cigarette drummer Shelly Manne offered him two drumsticks.

Singers Mildred Bailey and Lee Wiley along with bassist Oscar Pettiford (pictured) were part Indian.
Fifth from top - photograph of Oscar Pettiford is by Herman Leonard www.hermanleonard.com

Pianist Horace Silver and trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison were also part Indian.
Jim Hall

Carl Fisher the pianist and arranger who wrote the melody “We’ll be together Again” was full-blooded Indian.

Archaeologists have established that the Chumash Indians were living in California by 8000BC.

They lived continuously in the state for 9000 years before the Spanish brought them to the edge of extinction in just sixty years and destroyed their culture forever – there are no pure blooded Chumash left.

”We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children.”
Oscar Pettiford

- William Tecumseh Sherman to President U.S. Grant.

“This war of civilization…admits of but one solution… the extermination of the red man.”
- Rocky Mountain News, July 24, 1865.

He above information is from “Cats of any Color” by Gene Lees published by Da Capo Press. Click on “Jazz in Print” for a review of the book.

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