JAZZ TRUMPETER LESLIE DRAYTON DEBUTS NEW GROUP ~ FEW REGRETS


posted by #@blues2jazzguy

Leslie Drayton debuts new Band in New Digs
Leslie Drayton debuts new Band in New Digs

JAZZ ICONIC TRUMPETER MARCUS BELGRAVE DEAD AT 78


posted by Robert J. Carmack   #@blues2jazzguy

Marcus  &  Wife
PHOTO BY RJ Carmack Marcus Belgrave shown on left with Lovely wife Joan on right. unknown friend in center. @ Sept 2014 Gerald Wilson’s Homecoming repast. all rights reserved

“In order to get to the future, you have to go to the past,” he told the Free Press. I try to instill that you learn from the masters in your presence and go back and forward from there. In order to find yourself, you have to be cognizant of what went down before you. That’s always been my philosophy.”

Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, the last of the reigning Elders of Detroit’s jazz scene, lost his fight with heart and pulmonary issues. Though he used oxygen 24 hours a day for years, you would hardly know it.

Belgrave was still lighting up bandstands from L.A. to New York with his signature tone,poignant improvisations and charismatic personality. Beside playing and recording, he spent the last 45 years in Detroit mentoring young musicians and inspiring those that had been around. Belgrave’s heart finally gave out today at age 78, but it has not silenced his immortal legacy.

Belgrave expired at Glacier Hills, a care and rehabilitation facility in Ann Arbor. His wife, Detroit vocalist Joan Belgrave was quoted ,  “He died in his sleep”. The cause of death was heart failure. He had been in and out of the hospital since April 19, battling complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. Despite all his health challenges, Marcus still managed to practice his horn daily, showing at time signs of improvement and progress.

Belgrave — who was born in Pennsylvania, but settled in Detroit in 1963 after roughly five years with Ray Charles — could have had a larger national profile had he remained in New York. Mingus once lamented that he couldn’t afford to pry the trumpeter out of Detroit. “If I had Marcus Belgrave, I’d have the greatest band going,” the bassist-composer told Down Beat magazine in 1975.

“Actually, I feel famous, because I’ve been able to survive playing music in Detroit,” Belgrave told the Detroit Free Press in 2012, “Being around all of this young talent gave me a sense of community and a purpose. I became a catalyst.”chimed Belgrave.

Marcus loved and was inspired by the likes of Thad Jones , Clifford Brown and likewise, respected and recognized by new bopper,trumpeter Wynton Marsallis.   Marsallis once said to a group of reporters in Detroit about Belgrave,”He’s the epitome of soul and taste,”  “His sound is just so evocative, and he’s a master of swing and blues. When he walks into a room, he brings a good time with him.”

marcus belgrave  african centric
photo by unknown- I do not take credit for this photo- used for archival purposes only
closeup of anthony marcus joan b
Photo by Robert J. Carmack all rights reserved shown left- Anthony Wilson -jazz guitarist & Gerald Wilson’s son center-Joan Belgrave -wife & Marcus on right Belgrave and Wilson were very close friends

Whether you are an old or new fan of Marcus Belgrave, We all are going to miss his jazz personality and unique sound. Unfortunately, for me I last chatted with him and his lovely wife Joan in Los Angeles September 2014 . We were both talking about another great iconic figure who had just passed, Gerald Wilson. While asking about his and Gerald’s friendship/kinship in music. I also ask for an interview about his days with Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford in the horn section of “Baby” Ray Charles. I made the call, but I could never nail down a time we could speak on the subject matter. I may never get that opportunity, but at least I have my memories of the man,that band and beyond, via recordings…It will have to do until we meet again at the great Jam session in the sky.

Sonny Criss – Talented But Tragic


Here is a very interesting article on a guy rarely ever spoken about . he was right there during the Pre & Post-Bop era.

a young teen during WW II..

Geezer Music Club

We haven’t featured a jazz musician for a while and today’s spotlight falls on one of the best, alto saxophonist Sonny Criss. A contemporary of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker — in fact, he played alongside him in the early years — Criss was an early bloomer musically, but his career reached a sad and abrupt end when he took his own life at just age fifty.sc1

William ‘Sonny’ Criss was a Memphis native who hit the ground running, moving to Los Angeles at age fifteen and working his way into the music business soon after. It was right in the middle of World War II so that might have helped create some openings in bands, but Criss had the talent to make it in any case. He was still in his teens when the war ended and along about then was playing in a band with Parker and other pros, guys…

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HIPSTER RETRO-JAZZ SERIES:HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARMELL JONES


posted by Robert J. Carmack         #@blues2jazzguy                                           Carmell Jones    July 19, 1936  – November 7, 1996

Trumpeter/Composer  and one of my favorites of Horace Silver’s Trumpet players. As a very young budding saxophonist, I had the honor of meeting Carmell Jones, who at the time ,was in Los Angeles playing with the Gerald Wilson orchestra . Gerald also sponsored a Youth Jazz band in the  mid 60s,  Older Wilson band members would mentor us as a way of passing on the legacy. The educator in Carmell always found its way to share his knowledge of music whomever he encountered. His sound was unique and full of the blues. which is probably why he was chosen by Horace Silver for some of his greatest recordings. (Tokyo Blues and the highly popular Blue Note Records,      “Song for My Father”) also, He had a really cool name, Carmell!

(reprinted from Jazz Ambassador Magazine -1990)  CARMELL JONES – the name just sounds like jazz, doesn’t it! Most of the Kansas City jazz community thinks of “trumpet player” when the name Carmell Jones is mentioned. Add to trumpeter, composer, arranger, music publisher, educator, and recording artist with over sixty albums to his credit. His fifteen year stay in Europe (1965-1980) probably cooled some of the national acclaim he had experienced in the five previous years, but Kansas Citizens didn’t forget! It has now been almost ten years since Mayor Berkley proclaimed “CARMELL JONES DAY” (October 5, 1980).

When asked how old he was when he became interested in music, Carmell said, “Two.” The similar question specifying jazz music, received the same answer. He says, “If you don’t like jazz, you probably wouldn’t appreciate a rose, or a tree, or a mountain.” Carmell was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas to parents who were both teachers. Piano lessons started at age five and gave way to the “that’s for sissy’s” attitude. The trumpet lessons started at age seven.

In 1960, after two years in the army and two years at the University of Kansas as a music education and trumpet major, Carmell left the midwest and became a studio musician in California. He recorded with artists such as Sammy Davis, Jr, Bob Hope, and Nelson Riddle. During this chapter in the Carmell Jones success story, he was being compared to Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro. Carmell developed a close association with Bud Shank as a member of his quintet. He recorded with many other notables and most importantly, he recorded his first album under his own name and contract with Pacific Jazz – “The Remarkable Carmell Jones.” Thinking back about those days, Carmell said, “I’ve probably played with all of the bands that you’ve heard of.”

songformyfathershsm.jpg - 11348 Bytesjay_halk_talk.gif - 8542 Bytes In 1964 a new chapter began. He went to New York where he joined the Horace Silver Quintet. He recorded three albums with Silver including his famous “Song For My Father” (Blue Note Records). It was during this time that Down Beat Magazine awarded Carmell Jones the designation of “New Star Trumpeter.” Under the Prestige label and his own name, Carmell recorded what he considers his most successful personal album, “Jay Hawk Talk”, with Barry Harris, piano, and Jimmy Heath, tenor, Roger Humphreys, drums, and Teddy Smith, bass. This album received the critics 5 Star Best Album Award. “Jay Hawk Talk” included one of his favorite compositions, “Stellisa,” named after his daughter, who was named after his mother – Stella, and his niece – Lisa.

As result of his success, Carmell was invited by Joachim Berendt, the German jazz critic who had heard Jones in 1960 while in Kansas City, to go to Germany to play and record. In 1965, he headed for Europe where he would stay for the next 15 years. First was a short stay in Paris where he made a record with Nathan Davis. Then, on to Berlin with “Radio Free Berlin” big band and orchestra. A rather unusual studio type of gig, he traveled the world including trips through most of the communist countries. When not traveling, the job was recording eight hours a day. In addition, his duties included composing and arranging for recordings, radio, tv, and movies. This was a job that required playing all kinds of music which he found rewarding. Carmell said, “Although I prefer jazz, jazz is a conglomeration of everybody’s music.” In his spare time, Carmell had his own big band and played with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. He left Europe as a star.

Carmell returned to Kansas City from Europe in June 1980. For the next three years, it was mostly home town and friends except for a short European tour with Ray Charles. He played with local groups and taught music privately. Carmell was playing in the band at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel in 1981 when the skywalks collapsed. He escaped uninjured.

Predominately devoting his time to building new musicians from the ground up, Carmell now teaches music at two Kansas City elementary schools. He says, “We need to start educating kids with jazz. They need to learn what it means and why it goes like it goes. If someone is going to make it in jazz today, they need not just a reservoir of tunes, they need to read music, write music, understand theory and harmony, and most importantly, they need to be personally intact – no drugs! You’re going to have to be sharp, concentrated, disciplined, and willing to put in the effort.”

Carmell feels that wherever jazz is headed, “The musicians will have to be the final judge, but they need followers.” He is excited about the International Jazz Hall of Fame being located in Kansas City and is looking forward to seeing Dr. Nathan Davis and Donald Byrd at the dedication. He feels that the Hall of Fame can be successful only if it is well organized and it is kept organized.

Carmell said, “Jazz is the art of spontaneous creation.” His favorite setting for jazz is the club atmosphere. He said, “It doesn’t really matter where I play – in the bathroom or in outer space – it’s gotta swing.” To assemble his favorite group, Carmell said, “I’d have to go to Heaven to get them, you know, like John Coltrane. To really get turned on, you must have good musicians around you. They all need to think as one.” After completing one of those real groove sessions, Carmell says he feels, “Heavenly, satisfied, fulfilled, and happy.

That’s the beauty of jazz. It’s gone forever unless you record it, and you can play one song 10,000 different ways – you never do anything the same way twice.

Carmel Jones - francis wolff 002

JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH: UNSUNG PIANIST PHINEAS NEWBORN JR.


posted by Robert J. Carmack   @blues2jazzguy phenias Newborn

December 14, 1931 in Whiteville, TN – May 26 1989 – Memphis TN.
Of all the Unsung pianists in Jazz, IMHO, Phineas is the most disrespected by the so-called  jazz experts. All I know is when I first heard his playing on record, I had never heard anyone play that fast before on piano, and it still sounded good and made sense musically.  One day in the spring of 1965 after youth jazz band practice , Gerald Wilson, who happened to rehearse his big band at the same studio. and was co-sponsor of this youth Jazz band called me over ..”Come here son, Let me introduce you to these very hip musicians…”Sure”,      I said.. I was just waiting for my dad to pick me up, as I was not quite old enough to get my license yet. Gerald introduced me to Ornette Coleman since I played alto sax..but the second guy, he looked familiar, but I was not hip as to who he was until Gerald said his name. ” And this is Phineas Newborn Jr” (BOOM!!) Wow, I was frozen, The Cat I had been hearing on the radio now was in my face. I never forgot that day  and grateful to Mr Gerald Wilson for that inspiring and generous act. I had the pleasure of reminding him personally in December 2012 of that day and what it meant to me at the time.. He just gave that big Gerald Wilson smile. As he was directing his Big Band that day in Los Angeles for one of his men had passed away,         Mr. Carl Randall, tenor man.. Carl was a beautiful person and a great player RIP.  Phineas lived around the corner from the Grant Music Center & Studios, so it wasn’t strange to see him chatting with Gerald or other local cats that played in Gerald ‘s band whenever he was in town.
newborn jr sphinx

He started out working in Memphis R&B bands with his brother, guitarist Calvin Newborn, and recorded with local players including B.B. King in the early ’50s. Brief stints with Lionel Hampton and Willis Jackson preceded a period in the military  (1952-1954). After moving to New York in 1956,  Newborn astounded fans and critics alike. Although he worked briefly with Charles Mingus (1958) and Roy Haynes,  Newborn usually performed at the head of a trio or quartet. His early recordings for Atlantic (1956), Victor, Roulette, and Contemporary are quite outstanding. Unfortunately, after the       mid-’60s,   Newborn‘s profile dropped sharply, and although there were further recordings for Contemporary (1969), Atlantic (1969), Pablo (1976) and the Japanese Philips (1977) label, and although he still sounded strong when appearing in public, the pianist was in danger of being forgotten by most of the jazz world during his last decade. Spending most of his time in Memphis, he was an inspiration to many younger pianists including James WilliamsHarold Mabern,  Mulgrew MillerDonald Brown, and Geoff Keezer, who after  Newborn‘s death would dedicate their work as the Contemporary Piano Ensemble to him.