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On this day in jazz (July 08)

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On this day in 1975, pianist Mary Lou Williams recorded the album Free Spirits. Joining Mary on the album were Buster Williams on bass and Mickey Rocker on the drums. Although Mary recorded over 100 records in her career, this was only the ninth that she recorded as a leader.

Mary was born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, GA, but grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. She taught herself to play the piano and made her first public performance at six years old. She started playing professionally with Duke Ellington at the age of 12, and once at the ripe old age of 15, Louis Armstrong heard her playing in Harlem, and after the song he went up to her, picked her up and gave her a kiss. At 17, she married saxophonist John Williams and moved to Memphis, TN. In 1942, divorced from her husband, she returned to Pittsburgh for a while before moving to Europe for two years in 1952. In 1956 she became a Roman Catholic, quit performing and dedicated her time to the Bel Canto Foundation which helped musicians with drug addictions quit and return to performing. However, two priests and Duke Ellington convinced her to start performing again...and that brings you up with her history leading into yesterday's profiled album, Ellington at Newport.

Some of the awards and honors she received over her career were the following:

  • Guggenheim Fellowships in both 1972 and 1977
  • Nominee in the 1971 Grammy's for Best Jazz Performance - Group
  • Founded the Mary Lou Williams Foundation in 1980
  • Duke University's Duke's Trinity Award for service to the university in 1981; in 1983 Duke established the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
  • In 1996, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. established the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

Another interesting bit of trivia for this's the day I published my last blog post for On this day in jazz. I started a year ago, profiling Miles Davis and Charles Mingus' Blue Moods. While I admit the first few points left something to be desired, I think that I hit my stride by the end of the first month. I hope that you have enjoyed the journey and have learned a thing or two about this great art form.

Here's Mary with "Ode to St. Cecile":

Track listing:

  1. Dat Dere (Bobby Timmons) 4:48
  2. Baby Man, No.2 (John Stubblefield) 7:56
  3. Baby Man (John Stubblefield) 8:31
  4. All Blues (Miles Davis) 6:59
  5. Tempatation (Lew Brown) 5:08
  6. Pale Blue (Buster Williams) 4:27
  7. Free Spirits #2 (John Stubblefield) 5:04
  8. Free Spirits (John Stubblefield) 5:25
  9. Blues for Timme (Mary Lou Williams) 5:37
  10. Ode to Saint Cecile (Mary Lou Williams) 5:55
  11. Surrey With the Fringe on Top (Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers) 2:58
  12. Gloria (Mary Lou Williams) 5:31
Last Updated on Monday, 16 April 2018 17:47

On this day in jazz (June 25)

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On this day in 1972, Rahsaan Roland Kirk was recorded in concert for the album I, Eye, Aye: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 1972. During the concert, you can hear Rahsaan playing the tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, clarinet and flute. His rhythm section was composed of Ron Burton at the piano, Henry "Pete" Pearson on bass, Robert Shy on the drums and Joe Habad Texidor with additional percussion.

Continuing with the avant-garde theme from yesterday, I thought that Rahsaan was a perfect follow up--plus I think that I have only featured him one other time on my blog. Like several other jazz giants of the 60s and 70s, Kirk was outspoken when it cam to both black history and civil rights--often breaking into monologue between songs. Jay Leno who opened for Rahsaan on one of his tours said that Kirk would introduce him by saying, "I want to introduce a young brother who knows the black experience and knows all about the white devils .... Please welcome Jay Leno!". I wonder who was the better comedian? One other bit of trivia: Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest rock guitarist of all time, had hoped to record with Rahsaan but unfortunately would die before that could happen.

Thom Jurek in his review for said the following about the album:

This live recording is a companion to a documentary called The One Man Twins...The set is absolutely electrifying. From the few short raps Kirk offers the crowd, one cannot be prepared for the honking, shouting, funky, gritty sets that follow... This is a hell of an introduction to one of the least-understood figures in jazz history, and an absolute necessity for fans.

Here's Rahsaan with "Volunteered Slavery":

Track listing:


  1. "Rahsaantalk, No. 1" - 0:38
  2. "Seasons" - 6:00
  3. "Rahsaantalk, No. 2" - 1:12
  4. "Balm in Gilead" (Traditional) - 7:05
  5. "Volunteered Slavery" - 10:20
  6. "Rahsaantalk, No. 3" - 0:24
  7. "Blue Rol, No. 2" - 9:04
  8. "Solo Piece: Satin Doll/Improvisation" (Duke Ellington/Kirk) - 4:19
  9. "Serenade to a Cuckoo" - 3:28
  10. "Pedal Up" - 6:11


On this day in 1964, pianist Andrew Hill recorded the album Andrew!!! at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Hackensack, NJ. Also appearing on the album were John Gilmore on the tenor saxophone, the great Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone, Richard Davis on bass and Joe Chambers on the drums. This was Andrew's sixth album and features six songs of avant-garde & modal post-bop and is one of his least accessible albums for most casual jazz fans.


Stephen Thomas Erlewine reviewed the album for, saying "Andrew!!! is just as adventurous and challenging as any of his other albums, which is to Hill's credit.... Often, the music has a floating, hypnotic quality, which only makes Hill's dissonance, unusual voicings, and complex arrangements more compelling than usual.

If this album seems to be a little too much for you, then check out some of his other more accessible recordings such as "So In Love", "Smoke Stack" or "Judgement!"


Here's Andrew with "Black Monday":

Track listing:

  1. "The Groits" - 6:04
  2. "Black Monday" - 8:55
  3. "Duplicity" - 6:11
  4. "Le Serpent Qui Danse" - 6:55
  5. "No Doubt" - 4:23
  6. "Symmetry" - 7:08


On this day in jazz (July 07)

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On this day in 1956, Duke Ellington played at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The performance can be found on the album Ellington at Newport. The concert was very important as it is credited as revitalizing the big band leaders' diminishing career. George Wein described the concert as "the greatest performance of [Ellington's] career... It stood for everything that jazz had been and could be." The concert is also featured in the Ken Burns' Jazz documentary (link).

Specifically, the song featured in Burn's documentary was "Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue".  The reason is because this is probably the song that saved Duke's career. The song features a very long solo by Gonsalves — with Ellington yelling "Come on, Paul — dig in! Dig in!". The crowd, which had been filing out of the festival, quickly turned around and came back in. Some ended up dancing in the aisles--possibly due to the platinum blonde woman in a black evening dress (Elaine Anderson) getting up and dancing enthusiastically. When the solo ended, Gonsalves collapsed in exhaustion, but Ellington took over for two choruses before the full band returned for the "Crescendo in Blue" portion of the song.

Here's Duke with "Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue":

Track listing:

  1. "The Star Spangled Banner" - 1:10
  2. Father Norman O'Connor Introduces Duke & the Orchestra / Duke Introduces Tune & Anderson, Jackson & Procope - 3:36
  3. "Black and Tan Fantasy" - 6:21
  4. Duke Introduces Cook & Tune - 0:26
  5. "Tea for Two" - 3:34
  6. Duke & Band Leave Stage / Father Norman Talks About The Festival - 2:30
  7. "Take the 'A' Train" - 4:27
  8. Duke Announces Strayhorn's A Train & Nance / Duke Introduces Festival Suite, Part I & Hamilton - 0:41
  9. "Part I - Festival Junction" - 8:10
  10. Duke Announces Soloists; Introduces Part II - 0:38
  11. "Part II - Blues to Be There" - 7:09
  12. Duke Announces Nance & Procope; Introduces Part III - 0:19
  13. "Part III - Newport Up" - 5:33
  14. Duke Announces Hamilton, Gonsalves & Terry / Duke Introduces Carney & Tune - 0:25
  15. "Sophisticated Lady" - 3:52
  16. Duke Announces Grissom & Tune - 0:17
  17. "Day In, Day Out" - 3:50
  18. Duke Introduces Tune(s) and Paul Gonsalves Interludes - 0:23
  19. "Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue" - 14:20
  20. Announcements, Pandemonium - 0:44
  21. Pause Track - 0:06
  22. Duke Introduces Johnny Hodges - 0:18
  23. "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)" - 3:38
  24. "Jeep's Blues" - 4:36
  25. Duke Calms Crowd; Introduces Nance & Tune - 0:42
  26. "Tulip or Turnip" - 2:49
  27. Riot Prevention - 1:08
  28. "Skin Deep" - 9:13
  29. "Mood Indigo" - 1:30
Last Updated on Monday, 16 April 2018 17:44

On this day in jazz (July 06)

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On this day in 1957, trumpet virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie played the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The performance can be found on the album Dizzy Gillespie at Newport. Dizzy led a large band in this one (about 15 or so players) which included jazz greats such as Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, and Wynton Kelly. Scott Yanow reviewed the album for saying:

This CD features Dizzy Gillespie's second great big band at the peak of its powers. On the rapid "Dizzy's Blues" and a truly blazing "Cool Breeze," the orchestra really roars; the latter performance features extraordinary solos...This brilliant CD captures one of the high points of Dizzy Gillespie's remarkable career and is highly recommended.

The album features the song "Manteca" which is considered to be foundational to Afro-Cuban jazz. It was written by Dizzy, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller in 1947. Gary Giddens of the Village Voice calls it "one of the most important records ever made in the United States". The song was the first tune based on the clave rhythmic pattern to become a jazz standard. If you listen closely, you can hear the band chant, "I'll never go back to Georgia", during the song. This chant was in reference to racial prejudice that the band had experienced there in 1945.

Here's Dizzy with "Manteca":

Track listing:


  1. "Dizzy's Blues" (Ahmad Kharab Salim) – 11:51
  2. "School Days" (Will D. Cobb, Gus Edwards) – 5:47
  3. "Doodlin'" (Horace Silver) – 7:56
  4. "Manteca" (Gil Fuller, Gillespie, Chano Pozo) – 7:11
  5. "I Remember Clifford" (Benny Golson) – 4:48
  6. "Cool Breeze" (Tadd Dameron, Billy Eckstine, Gillespie)
  7. "Zodiac Suite: Virgo/Libra/Aries" (Mary Lou Williams) – 10:28 Bonus track on CD reissue
  8. "Carioca" (Edward Eliscu, Gus Kahn, Vincent Youmans) – 3:41 Bonus track on CD reissue
  9. "A Night in Tunisia" (Gillespie, Frank Paparelli) – 10:00 Bonus track on CD reissue


Last Updated on Monday, 16 April 2018 17:48
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