2019 marks 60 years since the most important year in jazz history, 1959.
In 1959 Miles Davis released Kind of Blue (the best selling jazz album of all time), John Coltrane (who plays tenor sax on Kind of Blue) recorded his seminal Giant Steps album and Ornette Coleman pointed to the direction of jazz in the 1960’s with The Shape of Jazz to Come. One also must not forget the contributions of Dave Brubeck and his Time Out album, (featuring Paul Desmond’s ‘Take Five’), Charles Mingus with his amazing Ah Um & amazing contributions by Cannonball Adderley, Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Oscar Peterson, (who released 8 albums in this year!)
1959 also saw the death of two of the most important artists in the development of jazz both before the Second World War and after it, Billie Holliday and Lester Young, great friends off the band stand, an amazing partnership on it and died within weeks of each other.
So listen to the playlists below and be sure to come along to one of our concerts celebrating this amazing year in jazz history. We’re at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on Sunday, 3rd March and the Cockpit London on Monday, 15th April with more dates to come!
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Wayne Shorter is one of the most unique saxophonists on our Advent List.
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Wayne Shorter first shot to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, becoming the bands musical director in the later 1950’s. When John Coltrane left Miles Davis’ band, it was Wayne Shorter that he recommended to Miles, but Miles couldn’t get Shorter to leave Art Blakey until 1964. Wayne joined Miles’ ‘second quintet’ alongside Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums.
Wayne also made some significant recordings as a band leader on Blue Note records during this time, before leaving Miles to form the fusion group Weather Report in 1971.
Shorter remains one of the greatest composers and most important saxophonists as he continues to perform in his ninth decade.
Walter Theodore Rollins, ‘Sonny’ was born on the 7th September 1930 and is without doubt, the ‘Saxophone Colussus.’
Sonny grew up in Harlem, New York to parents of Caribbean heritage. He started on the piano, then the alto saxophone, before moving onto the tenor in his teens. His saxophone idol was Coleman Hawkins and he used to hang out near ‘Hawk’s’ home in order to meet the great man and pick up tips!
Have a watch of my 300th Vlog Episode and check out the special, Sonny Rollins Advent Playlists below.
We’ve two amazing contemporary saxophonists for Day 20 of our saxophone advent calendar, Joshua Redman & Chris Potter.
Joshua Redman was born in 1969 and is the son of free jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer librarian Renee Shedroff. He grew up in California, graduating from Berkley High School in 1986. He graduated from Harvard and had a place at Yale Law School, which he deferred in order to enter the Theolonius Monk competition in 1991, which he won, (and never went to Law School!) Redman signed for Warner Bros records after the competition and his career has flourished since.
Chris Potter was born in 1971 in Chicago, but grew up in South Carolina. Very much a child prodigy, Potter was picking up gigs aged 14 and moved to New York aged 18, attending the Manhattan School of Music. Whilst studying in New York, Chris joined BeBop legend and former Charlie Parker trumpet player, Red Rodney. He also played with Dave Holland, Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano and Paul Motion. He’s probably one of the most copied saxophonists today and his YouTube videos often go viral amongst saxophone nerds!
Enjoy this joint playlist of two of our best contemporary saxophonists.
Julian, ‘Cannonball’ Adderley moved the Alto Sax on after Charlie Parker, straddling Bop, Modal and Funk Jazz.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Adderley moved to New York in 1955. His nickname derived from “cannibal”, a title imposed on him by high school colleagues as a tribute to his voracious appetite.
Cannonball moved to Tallahassee, when his parents obtained teaching positions at Florida A&M University. Both Cannonball and brother Nat played with Ray Charles when Charles lived in Tallahassee during the early 1940s. Adderley moved to Broward County, Florida, in 1948 after finishing his music studies at Florida A&M and became the band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, a position which he held until 1950. Cannonball was a local legend in Southeast Florida until he moved to New York City in 1955.
Cannonball played on the seminal Kind of Blue album and his forays into Funk with the Joey Zawinul piece, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ opened his music up to a new generation of fans.
Sonny Stitt was born in 1924 into a musical family. His biological father was a baritone singer and music professor and his mother was a piano teacher.
Sonny was given up for adoption in 1924 by his father. No one seems to know why Sonny was
given away, but the child was adopted by the Stitt family, who raised him in Saginaw. He later began calling himself “Sonny”. While in high school in Saginaw, Stitt played in the Len Francke Band, a local popular swing band.
In 1943, Stitt first met Charlie Parker, and as he often later recalled, the two men found that their styles had an extraordinary similarity that was partly coincidental and not merely due to Stitt’s emulation. Parker is alleged to have remarked, “Well, I’ll be damned, you sound just like me”, to which Stitt responded: “Well, I can’t help the way I sound. It’s the only way I know how to play.” Kenny Clarke remarked of Stitt’s approach: “Even if there had not been a Bird, there would have been a Sonny Stitt”.
Sitt played Alto Sax alongside Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons in Billy Eckstien’s Big Band, but spent time in prison for selling drugs at the end of the 1940’s. Stitt switched to tenor saxophone as the comparisons to Charlie Parker started to affect him. His command of the Bebop language on both tenor and alto could only be said to be second to Parker, and on tenor he, (in my opinion) sounds better than the handful of recordings we have of Bird dabbling on the larger saxophone!
In 1957, Stitt recorded Sonny Side Up with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins, it is still considered one of the finest ‘two tenor’ battle recordings out there. Stitt replaced Coltrane in Miles Davis’ band in 1960. Stitt was not a good fit. Some stories are that he and Miles didn’t see eye to eye musically, others say Stitt’s drinking annoyed Miles so much that he fired him.
Stitt recorded a number of memorable records with his friend and fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons, interrupted by Ammons’ own imprisonment for narcotics possession. The records recorded by these two saxophonists are regarded by many as some of both Ammons and Stitt’s best work, thus the Ammons/Stitt partnership went down in posterity as one of the best duelling partnerships in jazz, alongside Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Johnny Griffin with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Stitt would venture into soul jazz, and he recorded with fellow tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin in 1964 on the Soul People album. Stitt also recorded with Duke Ellington alumnus Paul Gonsalves in 1963 for Impulse! on the Salt And Pepper album in 1963. Around that time he also appeared regularly at Ronnie Scott’sin London, a live 1964 encounter with Ronnie Scott, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, eventually surfaced, and another in 1966 with resident guitarist Ernest Ranglin and British tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey.