August birthday artist, Jeannie Cheatham with The Sweet Baby Blues Band!
It may be because I was born in August that I feel this way, but this month does seem to be particularly rich in big name jazz birthdays. Among the legends are Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Count Basie, Buddy Collette, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker—each of whom were stylists and made a huge impact on the music.
Ten-time Grammy-award-winner Wayne Shorter was born on August 25th. He has composed numerous tunes which have become jazz standards, such as “Speak No Evil,” “Footprints,” “Tom Thumb,” and “Infant Eyes,” and was a prominent member of three famous ensembles: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the second Miles Davis Quintet, and Weather Report.
Only April, with its impressive front line of Duke, Ella, Billie, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Percy Heath, and Mongo Santamaria, can boast such a large number of ground breakers.
And while Billie may have been born in April, two of her accompanists (three, if you count Oscar Peterson, but he only worked with her occasionally) were born in August: Mal Waldron and Jimmy Rowles. Waldron was her last accompanist, from ’57 until her death in ‘59. He was also in bands led by Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy. In fact, he may be best remembered for having composed “Soul Eyes” for Trane. Jimmy Rowles, composer of the beautiful tune, “The Peacocks,” was also a big influence on Diana Krall, whom he mentored after she moved to L.A.
John Coltrane playing "Soul Eyes," composed by Mal Waldron.
August boasts its own array of great vocalists: Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Jimmy Rushing, Abbey Lincoln, Lorez Alexandria, and Eddie Jefferson! Tony just turned 90 this month!
Tony Bennett and Bill Evans...both born in August! "When in Rome."
Among other notables born this month are:
- Trumpet player Art Farmer (and, for that matter, his twin brother, bassist Addison Farmer), who moved to L.A. in 1945, and attended the now-famous Jefferson High School, where many other young musicians studied, including Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, and Chico Hamilton. He played in bands led by Mingus, Benny Carter, and Gerald Wilson, but really came to prominence after he composed “Farmer’s Market” for a group he was in and that was led by Wardell Gray. The song later became an even bigger hit for the vocal group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, with lyrics by Annie Ross. Art toured Europe as a member of Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, in the trumpet section with Quincy Jones, Clifford Brown, and Benny Bailey (who was also born in August)! As a member of Gerry Mulligan’s band, he appeared in two films, I Want to Live and The Subterraneans. He is among the musicians pictured in the famous photo, “A Great Day in Harlem.”
"Farmer's Market," played by Wardell Gray and Art Farmer.
- Duke Pearson, who was for a time the pianist for Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet, and also accompanist for Nancy Wilson, is now perhaps best remembered for having composed “Jeannine,” which has been covered by countless people, both as an instrumental and later, after Oscar Brown, Jr. wrote lyrics for it, as a vocal. He also arranged “Cristo Redentor” for Donald Byrd’s classic A New Perspective album, which was a major hit. His album of Christmas jazz music, Merry Ole Soul, is my personal favorite holiday record.
"Cristo Redentor" by Donald Byrd (arranged by Duke Pearson)
- Herb Ellis, the guitarist with Oscar Peterson’s trio (with Ray Brown on bass), was not only featured regularly on Norman Granz’s Verve recordings with Ella, Billie, Louis Armstrong, and others, but was also a regular in the rhythm section for the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. He also formed a popular trio called The Soft Winds, with Lou Carter on piano and Johnny Frigo on violin, and together they composed “Detour Ahead,” which has become a standard. Along with Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd, he made several records for Concord as “The Great Guitars.” In 1988, he made a Concord record with bassist Red Mitchell called Doggin’ Around, for which The Far Side creator, cartoonist Gary Larson, did the cover in exchange for guitar lessons from Herb.
"Detour Ahead" (sung by Billie Holiday)
- Charlie Haden was a member of Ornette Coleman’s historic Quartet of the 1950s. He, along with Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, and Charles Mingus, helped the evolution of the jazz bass, from strictly rhythm, to a lead and solo instrument. He also founded the jazz studies program at the California Institute of the Arts. His Quartet West celebrated Los Angeles in jazz the way Raymond Chandler did in literature, with the gritty and the sweet, mixing complicated bop with lyrical pop tunes. He received the 2012 NEA Jazz Master Award.
Charlie Haden's Quartet West playing "Haunted Heart."
- Two of the Jazz Crusaders, Stix Hooper and Wilton Felder, were born in August.
The Jazz Crusaders, Live at the Lighthouse '68, with "Eleanor Rigby."
There are many others! So many, in fact, that I’ll save them for next year: Mulgrew Miller, Arnett Cobb, Kenny Dorham, Claude Thornhill, Jess Stacy, Jack Teagarden, Frank Rosolino, Charles Fambrough, Kenny Drew, and one of our local heroes, Herman Riley.
Not to mention the brightest stars in our present jazz galaxy that were born in this month, including John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, Branford Marsalis, Terri Lyne Carrington, Larry Goldings, Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Marcus Roberts, Tim Hagans, and Pat Metheny!
AUGUST IS TRULY A JAZZY MONTH! Please support the station that brings you these giants every day! Become a member of KJazz right now...on line!