HE’S WIDELY considered one of the most influential jazz pianists of the 20th century, and yesterday McCoy Tyner was given the keys to the city – or our equivalent, a brass, mini Liberty Bell.
Mayor Nutter recognized Tyner as the 2015 Jazz Legend Honoree during the fifth annual Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month, which celebrates Philly’s jazz history with musical events throughout April.
Tyner, originally from West Philly, is an icon in the jazz community, and has performed alongside musical greats such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. He has won four Grammys and has released nearly 80 albums under his name.
“It’s wonderful to be back home in Philadelphia,” said Tyner, 76, who has spent recent years living in New York.
“I would like to thank the mayor and the people of this great city for making this possible for me. No matter where I am in the world, Philadelphia always has a special place in my heart.”
Nutter called Philly “the music town of the United States of America,” to raucous applause from an audience of musicians. “McCoy has changed the way everyone after him has played the piano,” said local Grammy-winning record-label owner, producer and composer Aaron Levinson.
“His percussive approach and sense of harmony signaled a new frontier for the instrument. And his embrace of African, Asian and Afro-Cuban ideas puts him in the league of Duke Ellington. Philadelphia can claim one of the giants of all time, and I applaud our mayor for making this happen.”
‘The Pharaohs were one of the forgotten treasures of ’70s R&B, a freewheeling jazz-funk congregation heavily influenced by Chicago’s jazz avant-garde as well as on-the-one funk and African motifs.’
Unfortunately, they recorded only one album before Earth, Wind & Fire frontman Maurice White (who played in an early version of the Pharaohs) hired several of its members to form the Phenix Horns, the justly celebrated horn section for Earth,Wind &Fire during the 70s.
The group was formed from several jazz bands active around Chicago’s Afro Arts Theater, a community educational collective.
One of the bands, the Jazzmen, was formed in the early ’60s around trumpeter Charles Handy, trombone player Louis Satterfield, and alto Don Myrick (along with three who didn’t survive later conglomeration: pianist Fred Humphrey, bassist Ernest McCarthy, and drummer Maurice White). The other main component of the Pharaohs was the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, who had…
I read the Billie Holiday story long before the glitzy Motown produced coming-out party for Diana Ross acting. I had heard her on records and seen her pictures in large magazines too. Life,Ebony,even Downbeat and Metronome. I was only in my early teens myself, but there were something that made me attracted to her, I can’t explain it, it just WAS. I was already up on most jazz greats because I was a budding saxophonist, So I listened to Lester Young,( her favorite saxophonist IMO) Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Dexter Gordon, all-powerful reedmen of the era, but none of them connected like Lester Young when it came to Billie’s singing style and approach to the blues..Lester was her shadow musically. I guess in a similar pair of kindred souls, the great Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn came close. it took a great deal of sensitivity and worldly experience to sing and play like that. I often referred back to Billie’s story as a young girl, raped, abused and casted into a cold, barren under-world of crime, drugs, sexism,racism and no understanding of real love.
In the adult and older Billie there were a certain regalness about her that just carried over into her persona on stage and became part of her “gaze upon the people”. You can actually see her do it in a filmed version of her listening to Lester’s solo on ” My MAN DON”T LOVE ME”..OMG!! Lester pops up as on a catapult when he bursts on the scene with one of the most succinct, passionate solos you would ever hear. Billie gazing, then start to nodding in approval..Classic! In Fact, all of the cadre of jazz icons are blowing to please Billie Holiday on this famous TV show’s footage . HAPPY 100th BILLIE 1915 – 2015 RIP
Mr. Jones, a fixture of the Coltrane group from late 1960 to early 1966 and for more than three decades the leader of several noteworthy groups of his own, was the first great post-bebop percussionist. Building on the innovations of the jazz modernists Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, who liberated the drum kit from a purely time-keeping function in the 1940’s, he paved the way for a later generation of drummers who dispensed with a steady rhythmic pulse altogether in the interest of greater improvisational freedom. But he never lost that pulse: the beat was always palpable when he played, even as he embellished it with layer upon layer of interlocking polyrhythms.
The critic and historian Leonard Feather explained Mr. Jones’s significance this way: “His main achievement was the creation of what might be called a circle of sound, a continuum in which no beat of the bar was necessarily indicated by any specific accent, yet the overall feeling became a tremendously dynamic and rhythmically important part of the whole group.”
But if the self-taught Mr. Jones had a profound influence on other drummers, not many of them directly emulated his style, at least in part because few had the stamina for it. None of the images that the critics invoked to describe his playing — volcano, thunderstorm, perpetual-motion machine — quite did justice to the strength of his attack, the complexity of his ideas or the originality of his approach.
Elvin Ray Jones was born in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 9, 1927. The youngest of 10 children, he was the third Jones brother to become a professional musician, following Hank, a respected jazz pianist who is still active, and Thad, a cornetist, composer, arranger and bandleader, who died in 1986.
He began teaching himself to play drums at 13, but he had lost his heart to the instrument long before then. “I never wanted to play anything else since I was 2,” he told one interviewer. “I would get these wooden spoons from my mother and beat on the pots and pans in the kitchen.”
After spending three years in the Army he joined his brothers as a fixture on the busy Detroit jazz scene of the early 1950’s. As the house drummer at a local nightclub, the Bluebird Inn, he worked with local musicians like Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell as well as visiting jazz stars like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
In 1956 after briefly touring with the bassist Charles Mingus and the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Jones moved to New York, where he was soon in great demand as an accompanist. He occasionally sat in with Miles Davis, and he later recalled that Coltrane, who was then Davis’s saxophonist, promised to hire Mr. Jones whenever he formed his own group. In the fall of 1960 Coltrane made good on that promise.
Working with Coltrane, a relentless musical explorer, emboldened Mr. Jones to expand the expressive range of his instrument. “My experience with Coltrane,” he told the writer James Isaacs in 1973, “was that John was a catalyst in my finding the way that drums could be played most musically.” He in turn influenced Coltrane, Mr. Jones’s ferocious rhythms goading Coltrane to ecstatic heights in performance and on recordings like “A Love Supreme” and “Ascension.”
Coltrane’s quartet helped redefine the concept of the jazz combo. Mr. Jones and the other members of the rhythm section, the pianist McCoy Tyner and the bassist Jimmy Garrison, did not accompany Coltrane so much as engage him in an open-ended four-way conversation. Audiences found the group’s intensity galvanizing, and many critics shared their enthusiasm.
But despite its popularity, the group divided the jazz world. John Tynan of Down Beat magazine dismissed its music as “anti-jazz,” and others agreed. Mr. Jones’s drumming, a revelation to some listeners, was dismissed by others as overly busy and distractingly loud.
Mr. Jones left the group in March 1966, shortly after Coltrane, as part of his constant quest for new sounds, began adding musicians. Although he never publicly explained why he left, he was widely believed to have been insulted by Coltrane’s decision to hire a second drummer.
Mr. Jones spent two weeks with Duke Ellington’s big band and briefly worked in Paris before returning to the United States, where he formed a trio with Garrison, who had also recently left Coltrane, and the saxophonist Joe Farrell. That group was short-lived, but Mr. Jones continued to lead small groups for the rest of his life. Over the years many exceptional musicians passed in and out of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, as the ensemble came to be known in all its various incarnations, and the group performed regularly all over the world and recorded prolifically.
First in our “Give The Drummer Sum Series” on iconic and jazz ‘s greatest Drummers in our opinion. BIG SID CATLETT
Big Sid Catlett
(1910 – 1951)
“Big Sid” Catlett was one of the most flexible drummers in the history of jazz. On one hand,Catlett was skilled enough in the pre-modern styles to be Louis Armstrong’s favorite
percussionist; on the other, Catlett’s powerful swing and generous adaptability allowed him to play commendably on the early Parker/Gillespie bop sides. Catlett excelled particularly as a combo drummer in the swing era.
A sensitive player possessing great drive and spirit, he was every bit the equal of such better-known contemporaries as Jo Jones or Gene Krupa.
As a child in Chicago, Catlett played the piano and learned the rudiments of drumming. His first professional gig was with Darnell Howard in 1928. Catlett played with other undistinguished Chicago bands before moving to New York in 1930. There he became a hired gun, working and recording with Benny Carter (1932), McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (1934-1935), Fletcher Henderson (1936), and Don Redman (1936-1938). In the late ’30s and early ’40s Catlett worked and played endlessly, appearing on countless recording sessions with a staggeringly wide variety of musicians.
Catlett became Louis Armstrong’s drummer of choice, from 1938 –
1942 he was featured with Pops’ big band. In 1941, he played with a particularly excellent
Benny Goodman big band that also included trumpeters Billy Butterfield and Cootie Williams.
The advent of bebop appeared not to trouble him and if he never fully adapted his style he certainly gave his front-line colleagues few problems. Though Catlett was not a bebop drummer per se, he made an effort to accommodate the new music. He played on one of the first bop recording dates in 1945, a session that produced the classic early Gillespie/Parker sides.
In the early ’40s Catlett was a member of the superb Teddy Wilson Sextet. He also joined Duke Ellington briefly in 1945. Catlett led his own bands throughout the ’40s, until he joined Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars in 1947.He remained with Armstrong until 1949 when the years of all-night jam sessions began to catch up with him.
Catlett was forced to quit touring in 1949 due to ill health, but he continued to play, becoming the house drummer at a Chicago club, Jazz, Ltd. He also worked with Eddie Condon and John Kirby in New York in his final years. In early 1951 Catlett suffered from a bout of pneumonia and in March, he collapsed and died of a heart attack while visiting friends backstage at a Oran “Hot Lips” Page benefit concert at the Chicago Opera House.
Although a brilliant technician, Catlett chose to play in a deceptively simple style. With the fleet,smoothly-swinging Wilson sextet he was discreet and self-effacing; with Goodman he rolled the band remorselessly onward, with Armstrong he gave each of his fellow musicians an individualized accompaniment that defied them not to swing. Instantly identifiable, especially through his thundercrack rimshots, Catlett always swung mightily.
On stage, he was a spectacular showman, clothing his massive frame in green plaid suits, tossing his sticks high in
the air during solos and generally enjoying himself.