This Week in Jazz History

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra celebrates the history of Jazz with daily posts on the important people and events that made Jazz the exciting musical form it is today.
18 Jul

July 18: Trombonist Carl Fontana is Born

July 18, 1928 - Trombonist Carl Fontana is born in Monroe, LA (1928-2003). Carl was undoubtably one of the few brass players to successfully play while chewing gum - it's true! He maneuvered around the trombone as quick as any have, and always had gum in his mouth. Because of the pressure brass players generate, for most folks this is unthinkable. 

Carl conducted himself w/o an ego - though he was the first real master of 'doodle tonguing' and could play beautiful, fluid, swinging solos, he didn't even record a solo album until later in life (1985). Instead he was a sideman on countless recordings and for 1000's of shows in his native Las Vegas. He also had the habit of trying out everyone's trombone when introduced to them - when Carl played w/ the CJO in the late 1980's he tried all of our instruments, and invariably said the same thing after each jaw dropping trial run ... 'pretty nice.'

Carl's career began in 1951 in the Woody Herman Orchestra as a replacement for Urbie Green (who had taken a 3 week leave of absence to be home for the birth of a child). Carl played so well that instead of leaving the band when Urbie returned, Woody kept them both. Fontana then joined Lionel Hampton _ Verve Records for a span before joining the powerhouse mid-50's Stan Kenton Orchestra and became one of the band's featured soloists in a band chocked full of who's who's. 

The 1960's found him chiefly in Vegas, working w/ Paul Anka (where he shared the trombone duties w/ fellow Kenton alum Frank Rosolino) and backing up Frank SinatraTony BennettWayne Newton and Benny Goodman. Carl can also be found on recordings by Med Flory & Supersax, multi-trombone recordings by Kai Winding and JJ Johnson.

17 Jul

July 17: Jelly Roll Morton records with The New Orleans Rhythm Kings

July 17, 1923 - Creole Pianist/Composer Jelly Roll Morton records with The New Orleans Rhythm Kings This has historical importance as being one of the very first integrated recording sessions.

Morton was jazz's first great composer, writing such songs as "King Porter Stomp," "Grandpa's Spells," "Wolverine Blues," "The Pearls," "Mr. Jelly Roll," "Shreveport Stomp," "Milenburg Joys," "Black Bottom Stomp," "The Chant," "Original Jelly Roll Blues," "Doctor Jazz," "Wild Man Blues," "Winin' Boy Blues," "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say," "Don't You Leave Me Here," and "Sweet Substitute." He was also a talented arranger, getting the most out of the three-minute limitations of the 78 record by emphasizing changing instrumentation, concise solos and dynamics. He was an underrated pianist and though he only took one vocal on records in the 1920s ("Doctor Jazz"), Morton proved to be an effective vocalist in his late-'30s recordings.

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) were considered to be the finest jazz group to be on record in 1922, and proved early on that all-white bands could play jazz with individuality and integrity as much as their African-American counterparts.  

Pairing the two jazz giants on record in 1923 was a monumental attestment to the cross-culturalization of interest in Jazz as a musical form.


16 Jul

July 16: Vibraphonist Cal Tjader is Born

July 16, 1925 - Vibraphonist Cal Tjader is born. Tjader had the distinction of being known as the most successful non-Latin player of Latin music, and much of his musical involvements cross pollinated jazz genres successfully and influentially. Born to vaudevillian Swedish parents, Cal was first a tap dance sensation and even appeared alongside bill "bojangles" robinson as a child. After serving as a medic in WWII, Tjader hooked up w/ fellow, budding Bay area players Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond and served as Brubeck's drummer for several years. In 1953, he joined George Shearing's quintet as a vibist and percussionist. Through the early 1950's he played and picked the brains of Latin jazz music's illuminati, including Mongo SantamariaWillie Bobo, and Alvino Rey. These gents ended up being part of Tjader's ensembles (he led his own groups since 1954) during the mambo craze in the 1950's. Other sidemen in his ensemble included younger players that later became stars on their own, such as Vince GuaraldiChick Corea, and others that had already established themselves, like Clare FischerJimmy HeathKenny Burrell - Verve RecordsAnita O'Day - Verve Records and Kenny Burrell - Verve Records. His later works included dabbling in jazz fusion, in Brazilian music, and Asian music. Below is a link to his greatest hit "Soul Sauce" from the 1960's that was a cover of a Dizzy Gillespie tune.

15 Jul

July 15: Philly Joe Jones is Born

July 15, 1923 - Drummer Philly Joe Jones is born. Jones performed on some of the most lauded sides in jazz history and was said to be the favorite drummer of the likes of Miles Davis and Bill Evans
Joseph Rudolph Jones (called Philly for his birthplace and to distinguish himself from famed Count Basie Orchestra drummer "Papa" Jo Jones) began performing as a tap dancer first as a child. After serving in WWII, he moved to NYC and played w/a great number of important figures - Charlie ParkerDizzy GillespieFats NavarroBen Webster _ Verve Records and Lionel Hampton _ Verve Records. His time in the early 50's w/ Clevelander Tadd Dameron was especially influential for him w/ regards to playing big band music. The time he spent w/ Miles from 1953-1958 secured his lasting fame as a member of "The Quintet" w/ Miles, John ColtranePaul Chambers, and Red Garland. Among the classic recordings that one finds Jones' tasty playing are "Cookin," "Workin," "Relaxin," "Steamin," "Porgy and Bess," "Milestones," and "Someday My Prince Will Come." 
His work did not end there, as he also appears on Coltrane's "Blue Train," Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness", Bill Evans' "California Here We Come," "Everybody Digs Bill Evans," "Interplay" and "Quintessence." He is also heard on LP's by Clifford Brown - Verve RecordsChet BakerThe Dexter Gordon SocietyBenny GolsonFreddie Hubbard Music, and numerous sides as a leader. Later in life he formed the group Dameronia, which was dedicated to the music of Tadd Dameron.

14 Jul

July 14: Drummer Alan Dawson & Pianist Billy Kyle

July 14, 1929 - Drummer Alan Dawson is born in Marietta, PA. Alan Dawson is considered to be a “musician’s musician” – a solid, highly professional mainstream jazz musician who played with everyone, yet never attained widespread notoriety from the public at large. Dawson began his career in Boston in the 1950’s with the Sabby Lewis band. He toured with Lionel Hampton from 1953-56. It was around 1954 that the father of young drummer Clifford Jarvis approached Dawson about teaching his son, which started his long career as an educator. He would go on to teach many significant artists, most notably, Tony Williams, and in 1957 he joined the faculty of Berklee school of Music, where he remained for 18 years. He played in Boston regularly throughout his career with big name players such as the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1968-74), and Dexter Gordon
July 14, 1914 - Pianist Billy Kyle born in Philadelphia, PA. Kyle was a fluent pianist known for his light touch. He never achieved much fame but worked steadily throughout his music career. Kyle played professionally from the age of 18 years old, in big bands Tiny Bradshaw and Lucky Millinder. In 1938, he joined the John Kirby Sextet where he perfected his style. He was drafted by the army and served until 1945, when he then began to work with Sy Oliver. In 1953, he joined Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars and remained there for almost 13 years until his death.

13 Jul

July 13: Tenor Saxophonist Albert Ayler & Pianist Art Tatum

July 13, 1936 - Tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler is born in Cleveland, OH. Albert Ayler is recognized as a pivotal figure of 1960s avant garde jazz. Unlike John Coltrane or Eric DolphyAlbert Ayler was not a virtuoso who had come up through the bebop ranks. Instead, he began his musical career in R&B bands, including one led by Little Walter. Due to his uncompromising style, Ayler was unable to find work in the U.S. so instead spent time in Sweden and Denmark during 1962-1963, making his first recordings and working with Cecil Taylor. Ayler's prime period was during 1964-1967. In 1964, he toured Europe with a quartet that included Don Cherry. Later his music evolved to include folk melodies and collective improvisation while also still playing in the free style.In November 1970, he was found drowned in New York's East River.
July 13, 1949 - Art Tatum records Willow Weep for Me. Numerous jazz instrumentalists have recorded versions of this jazz standard ballad, but innovative jazz pianist Art Tatum is known to be the song’s “foremost interpreter.” Tatum recorded this song on six different occasions before his death in 1956, but this 1949 performance is considered his greatest.

12 Jul

July 12: Trumpeter Conte Candoli is Born

July 12, 1927 - Trumpeter Conte Candoli is born in Mishawaka, IN. Conte Candoli is best known as the trumpet section leader in Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Band. He is known as being an all-around jazz stylist who is most at home in the worlds of bop and West Coast cool jazz. Candoli retired from the Tonight Show along with Johnny Carson in 1992, and continued to play until a battle with cancer slowed his activities. He passed away December 14, 2001.

11 Jul

July 11: McKinney's Cotton Pickers & John Coltrane

July 11, 1928 - McKinney's Cotton Pickers record their first session. Retired Big Band Drummer William McKinney started the group in 1926. In 1927, the band hired arranger/altoist/vocalist Don Redman away from Fletcher Henderson. The lineup of musicians by the time they started recording in 1928 included Langston Curl, Claude Jones, George Thomas, and Dave Wilborn. The group was well known for its advanced arrangements, tight ensembles, and high musicianship.
July 11, 1958 Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane records The Stardust Session, with flugelhornist Wilbur Harden. John Coltrane is considered to be among the most important, and most controversial, figures in jazz, and has been called the “pioneer of jazz without limits.” The Stardust Session was one of the first with Coltrane as band leader, whereas in the past he was known as a sideman for greats such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. The album is considered the finale of Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” period.