It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of the great Jimmy Heath on Sunday, 19th January 2020. Jimmy was a personal friend and played alongside John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. He wrote over 100 jazz compositions and appeared on over 125 albums in his life.
If you’re on Spotify or another music service please use the ‘Song Shift‘ App (I will paste the Spotify playlist into this when I can get it working)!
Ben Webster is one of the three most important tenor players of the pre-war era alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
Webster started on violin as a child, moving to the piano where he later played in a number of bands before finding himself playing for silent movies in Amarillo, Texas. Whilst in Texas the sax player Budd Johnson introduced him to the saxophone and gave ‘Bean’ his first lesson. Shortly afterwards Ben Webster was invited to join the ‘Young Family Band’ by Lester’s father Willis. After this he toured with some of the best swing orchestras of the time including Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Andy Kirk and others. In 1940 he joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra becoming a permanent fixture and the featured tenor soloist.
In the late 1940s he went out on his own and could be found playing in many of the legendary 52nd St Clubs in New York City. In the early 1950s he returned to Kansas and recorded with Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holliday and Oscar Peterson.
By the 1960s Ben Webster’s sound and style had fallen out of fashion and he moved to Europe. He died in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1973.
Joe Henderson was one of the few jazz musicians able to navigate the tightrope from the mainstream jazz of the 1950s and 60s to the Avant Garde of the 70s – right back to the Neo Bop school of the 80s and 90s. That he did it with such skill and flair is to his credit, and is well worth studying!
Henderson was born in Lima OH, USA – one of fifteen children! After a two year spell in the army (1960-62) he moved to New York City. Soon after he made his recording debut with Kenny Dorham on Blue Note. From 64-66 he was a member of Horace Silver’s quintet, following this he went freelance and made nearly thirty recordings for the Blue Note label. In 1967 he briefly joined Miles Davis’ second great quintet, (alongside Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter.)
Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman is a saxophone player who can certainly divide opinion! Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930 he was one of the pioneers of the Free Jazz movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. His album The Shape of Jazz to Come still sounds modern and hip some sixty years after it was recorded and released.
The late, great Mike Brecker is regarded by many, (including myself) as probably the greatest virtuoso on the saxophone. Brecker’s contribution to the jazz cannon is well noted, but it was his work as a session musician throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the arguably allowed him to explore jazz saxophone later in his career.
Mike didn’t release a solo album under his own name until he was 37, (Charlie Parker was dead at 35 and Coltrane died at 40) and whilst we also lost Brecker too young, (Mike died aged just 57 in 2007) – his over 700 recording credits are a testament to his outstanding skill as a musician. We’ve briefly covered Brecker’s music in this Vlog post from my ‘Sax Advent Calendar‘ but here is a more focused pop music playlist.
1958 was a pivotal year in John Coltrane’s development as one of the most important ‘voices’ in jazz. In 1957 he had undergone what was in his own words a ‘spiritual awakening’ which had led him to getting REALLY serious about his music and saxophone playing.
Coltrane ’58 features 37 tracks, all of which have been remastered from the original tapes, such as ‘Lush Life’, ‘Lover Come Back to Me’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Good Bait’, and ‘Little Melonae’, plus first recordings of ‘Nakatini Serenade’, ‘The Believer’, ‘Black Pearls’, ‘Theme for Ernie’, ‘Russian Lullaby’, ‘Sweet Sapphire Blues’ and ‘I Want to Talk About You’.
All of the recordings took place in New Jersey at Rudy Van Gelder’s home studio, created during a series of 3-hour sessions…