Welcome to Musings, a gathering spot for semi-regular postings about Detroit jazz musicians
Few jazz musicians have ever been as fast out of the blocks as the Detroit-born trombonist Curtis Fuller. He arrived in New York in April 1957 at age 22. After nine months he had recorded eight LPs as a leader or co- leader for Prestige, Blue Note, and Savoy and appeared on 15 other sessions as a sideman with John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Jackie McLean, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Clark, Jimmy Smith
June 12 is an important day in the cosmology of Detroit jazz: Marcus Belgrave and Geri Allen were both born on this day 21 years apart -- the former in Chester, Pa., in 1936, the later in Pontiac, just north of Detroit, in 1957. Belgrave, a trumpeter and teacher, was the griot of contemporary Detroit jazz, training multiple generations of students, the most famous of which -- Allen, Kenny Garre
Modern Drummer has posted an excerpt from my chapter about Elvin Jones. You can read it here:
Kenny Barron was the pianist in Detroiter Yusef Lateef's finest working band, a quartet that lasted from 1971-75 with bassist Bob Cunningham and drummer Albert (Tootie) Heath. But the musical relationship between Lateef and Barron, who celebrates his 76th birthday today, actually stretches back to 1960, when the pianist was a precocious teenager in his native Philadelphia.
Lateef was get
Oh, for a time machine! Advertisement appearing in the Detroit Free Press on June 10, 1960
Geri Allen spoke at length with me about how critical her work with singer Betty Carter (pictured) was in the early '90s in terms of honing the pianist's versatility and introducing her to the broader mainstream jazz community. Remember, Allen had made her early splash in the the 1980s in left-of-center circles with Oliver Lake, Steve Coleman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian and others.&nbs
Happy 82nd birthday to one of the all-time great swingers -- Detroit-born drummer Louis Hayes, born May 31, 1937. I spent a memorable couple of days with Louis in the summer of New York in 2002 that included a trip down to Altantic City to hear him perform with his Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band. That trip provides the narrative spine of the chapter about Louis in "Jazz from Detroit." He
One of the heroes of "Jazz from Detroit" is trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who died four years ago today. Part 5 of the book is titled "Marcus Belgrave and is Children" and focuses on his defining influence in the city with chapters about many of the musicians who came up under his wing -- Geri Allen, Kenny Garrett, Regina Carter, Gerald Cleaver, Robert Hurst, Rodney Whitaker, James Carter, and Kar
In "Jazz from Detroit," I go deep on the city's influential cooperatives and self-determination efforts in the 1960s and '70s -- Detroit Artists Workshop, Detroit Creative Musicians Association, Strata Corporation, and Tribe. The key leaders, musicians, and ensembles associated with these groups included John Sinclair, Doug Hammond, Kenn Cox, Charles Moore, Phil Ranelin, Wendell Harrison,
I never really got to know the great Detroit drummer Roy Brooks. His story is tragic -- musical brilliance, jack-rabbit start to his career by joining pianist-composer Horace Silver at age 21 in 1959. His subsequnt resume was deep (Mingus, Roach, Yusef, Dexter, Stitt, etc.), and he recorded widely. Brooks was super swinging and fiery, and he matured into a creative conceptualist as the le
Detroit-born bassist Doug Watkins, who died in an auto accident at age 27 in early 1962, appeared on roughtly 100 LPs in his short life. But he made just two as a leader. The first "Watkins at Large," was taped in 1956 for the Transition label. The second, "Soulnik," was recorded on this day, May 17, in 1960. It's an unusual session in that Watkins is heard on cello for the first -- and o
Sources disagree whether the immortal Betty Carter was born in 1929 or 1930, but there is no discrepancy when it comes to these facts: The singer was born on May 16 in Flint, Mich., raised in Detroit, and comprised a category of one -- and among the most spontaneous musicians we've ever had in jazz. Here's an epic version of one of her signature pieces, "Sounds," from what for many remain
Most people don't think of trumpeter Howard McGhee (1918-1987) as a Detroiter, but he grew up here, after having been born in Oklahoma. He was one of the first trumpeters to pick up on Dizzy Gillespie and the emerging bebop style. McGhee's comfort with modern harmony and rhythm, authoritative command of the trumpet, and brashly charismatic personality made him an especially important figure in
Like everyone else in the jazz community, I was heartbroken to learn in recent days that the influential and beloved Detroit-born guitarist Kenny Burrell, who turned 87 last year, was in dire financial straits. The issues are complicated but boil down to medical expenses following an accident and other troubles that include identity theft. Burrell’s wife, Katherine, detailed these woes in
The Detroit-born drummer Gerald Cleaver turns 56 years old today. Here's the opening paragraph of the chapter about him in "Jazz from Detroit."
"More than any other Detroit jazz export of his generation, drummer Gerald Cleaver has earned his reputation on the cutting edge. But if you ask Cleaver, who turned 55 in 2018, the secret of his originality, the first thing he’ll tell you i
Happy 82nd birthday to Ron Carter, one of the most influential bassists in jazz history. Actually, Ron's birthday isn't until tomorrow -- May 4 -- but I've got another Detroit jazz birthday to celebrate tomorrow, so I figured I'd anticipate the beat and give Ron his moment a day early. When Ron was the artist-in-residence of the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival, I asked him to pick 10 of his fa
Sixty years ago today on May 1, 1959, the Detroit-born vibraphonist Milt Jackson completed the first of three studio sessions for "The Ballad Artistry of Milt Jackson" (Atlantic). This was the first time that Bags recorded with strings. Most of the arrangements were written by his close friend Quincy Jones, with a handful also contributed by Jimmy Jones. I wouldn't call it an essential record,
Drummer Kenny Clarke, a native of Pittsburgh, was an early champion of many of the Detroit musicians that flooded the New York scene starting in the middle '50s. On this day, April 30, in 1956, Clarke led a gaggle of young Detroiters into the studio and recorded "Jazzmen: Detroit" for Savoy Records. This was one of the first LPs that alerted jazz fans that there was something special going on i
Today marks what would have been Duke Ellington's 120th birthday. Here's the Pontiac-bred Hank Jones playing Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" in 1976. It comes from a tremendous solo piano LP, "Satin Doll," issued on the Trio label in Japan. The record is an Ellington tribute with half the selections by Duke, though the title track was co-written with Billy Strayhorn. Note perfect -- which you
Happy birthday to drummer Oliver Jackson, born in Detroit on April 28, 1933. The brother of bassist Ali Jackson, Oliver had a long and varied career. He could swing in any idiom, and he worked and recorded with pre-bop stars like Earl Hines, Buck Clayton and Coleman Hawkins as well as modernists Yusef Lateef, Will Davis, Kenny Burrell, Gene Ammons, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and others. He also was a
The John Coltrane Quartet recorded one of its greatest masterpieces, "Crescent," 55 years today on April 27, 1964. The quartet's drummer, Elvin Jones, is one of my greatest heroes, and it's incredibly meaningful to me that I was able to use a picture of him on the cover of "Jazz from Detroit."
Here's what Jones once told Whitney Balliett of the New Yorker about working with Coltrane.
In honor of what would have been Ella Fitzgerald's 102nd birthday today, here's some film of the singer with Detroiter Tommy Flanagan on piano in 1965. Tommy worked two major stretches with Ella for a total of 13 years -- from 1963-65 and then again from 1968-78. (In between he worked with Tony Bennett.). Tommy also spent a month with Ella in the summer of 1956, not long after he arrived in New
Happy birthday to tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, born April 24, 1937, in Lima Ohio, but who came of age musically on the Detroit scene while studying formally at Wayne State University between 1956 and 1960 -- and informally with Barry Harris -- and, of course, working regularly in local clubs. I grew up idolizing Joe and heard him live many times before his untimely death in 2001. Joe