Hugues Panassié was born on February 27, 1912 in Paris, France and when he was fourteen, he was stricken with polio, limiting extracurricular physical activities. So he took-up the saxophone and fell in love with jazz in the late Twenties. In 1932 he was the founding president of the Hot Club de France.
During the Germans occupation of northern France the Nazi’sbanned American jazz because they regarded jazz as low music from an inferior people. However Hugues got past the censors by submitting alternate and obscure French titles and continue to broadcast. One example was La Tristesse de Saint Louis, which translates to Sadness of Saint Louis, but in reality it was Louis Armstrong’s The Saint Louis Blues.
Panassié would go on to produce several jazz records by artists that include Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier, author thirteen books about jazz, was an ardent exponent of Dixieland and Black players and a controversial critic of bad musicians such as Benny Goodman’s clarinet being inferior to the likes of Jimmy Noone and Omer Simeon. He dismissed bebop as a form of music distinct from jazz and held in esteem a lone example of a white musician who played jazz authentically in Mezz Mezzrow.
But he was not without his critics and historians who saw him creating a wedge between Black and Caucasian musicians by insisting that Black jazz was superior. He penned the liner notes for a 1956 RCA Victor compilation Guide to Jazz that included 16 recording by prominent jazz artists. After spending five months in New York City, critic, record producer and impresario Hugues Panassié met his assistant Madeleine Gautier, married, returned and settled in Montauban, France until his passing away on December 8, 1974.
More Posts: saxophone
John E. Carisi was born on February 23, 1922 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. A self-taught musician early in his career began when he became a member of Babe Russin’s band, then from 1938 to 1943 he was a member of Herbie Fields’s Orchestra before becoming a part of Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band. After the war he left Miller he studied with acclaimed composer Stefan Wolpe and worked with Ray McKinley, Claude Thornhill, Charlie Barnet and Benny Goodman, among others.
His minor-blues composition Israel was quickly recognized as a unique jazz classic after it was recorded by Miles Davis at the sessions which later became known as the Birth of the Cool. Other notable versions have been recorded by Bill Evans, and the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band. Another well known Carisi piece, Springsville, was also recorded by Miles Davis and arranged by Gil Evans on the classic album, Miles Ahead.
In 1957 he arranged the music for Urbie Green’s album, All About Urbie Green and in 1959 with the music for a set by Harry Galbraith’s Guitar Choir. 1960 saw the trumpeter on a State Department tour of South East Asia and the Middle East. Visiting the Taj Mahal became the inspiration for an album he shared with Cecil Taylor that was released as Into the Hot under Gil Evans‘ name for Impulse! in 1961, and then Carisi arranged Marvin Stamm’s 1968 album Machinations.
Johnny continued to perform and arrange in both the jazz and classical fields with occasional forays into ballet and pop music. He composed and scored music for Jerry Lewis’s television show on the other. In 1969 he joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, but continued to play jazz off and on until 1984. Trumpeter and composer Johnny Carisi passed away October 3, 1992 in New York City, New York.
More Posts: trumpet
Walter Johnson was born on February 18, 1904 in New York City, New York. He was influenced by Kaiser Marshall and became one of the top big band drummers of the 1920’s and 30’s swing era. He worked with Freddy Johnson in 1924, Bobby Brown, Elmer Snowden between 1925 to 1928, and Te Roy Williams in 1927.
He became best-known for his playing with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra off and on from 1929 to 1942. After his third stint with Henderson ended, Johnson freelanced for the remainder of his career,Through the Thirties, he performed with other swing era big bands including Sam Wooding, LeRoy Smith, Lucky Millinder, Claude Hopkins, Edgar Hayes and Coleman Hawkins.
Though Walter sometimes worked outside of music as a bank guard, he could often be heard playing with Tab Smith during a period spanning a decade from 1944 to 1954. He would also appear with a variety of swing and mainstream combos into the Sixties. Though Drummer Walter Johnson never led his own record date, he did record frequently during his prime years, passed away on April 26, 1977 in New York City.
More Posts: drums
Taft Jordan was born on February 15, 1915 in Florence, South Carolina and as a trumpeter was heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong. Early in his career he played with the Washboard Rhythm Kings before joining Chick Webb’s orchestra from 1933 to 1942. He remained with Webb after Ella Fitzgerald became its frontwoman, trading duties with Bobby Stark as the orchestra’s main trumpet soloist.
From 1943 to 1947 Taft played with Duke Ellington, then with Lucille Dixon at the Savannah Club in New York City from 1949 to 1953. After this stint he played less often, though he toured with Benny Goodman in 1958, played on the Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, and worked with the New York Jazz Repertory Company.
In 1935 Jordan recorded four tunes, Night Wind, If the Moon Turns Green, Devil in the Moon, and Louisiana Fairy Tale as a leader, with Ward Silloway on trombone, Johnny Mince on clarinet, tenor saxophonist Elmer Williams, pianist Teddy Wilson, guitarist Bobby Johnson, John Kirby on string bass and drummer Eddie Dougherty. He would go on to lead his own band in 1960 and ‘61, recording LPs for Mercury, Aamco Records, and Moodsville labels, as well as with Ruth Brown on Atlantic Records and Dizzy Gillespie on the Norgran label.
Trumpeter Taft Jordan passed away on December 1, 1981 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
More Posts: trumpet
Lennie Hayton was born Leonard George Hayton on February 14, 1908 in New York City, New York and developed a penchant for the piano when six years old, showing unusual interest in the early classics from the rolls of the family player piano. His parents were keen followers of the concert hall and took their son to many concerts, however, disliking jazz, it was not until he was 16 that he really discovered it. He left high school to become pianist with the Broadway Hotel Orchestra of Cass Hagen, a boyhood friend.
In 1928 while playing at the Park Central, Hayton was heard by Paul Whiteman who immediately engaged by him as second pianist, playing piano and celeste as well as acting as a part-time arranger. He played alongside Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols and Joe Venuti, and became friendly with Bing Crosby. With the ongoing Depression in 1930, theatre audiences fell to the economic problems and he and Eddie Lang were let go as Whiteman streamlined the band. He then joined the Charles Previn Orchestra, which had a weekly assignment on radio in the Camel Pleasure Hour.
Re-joining Bing Crosby who was enjoying tremendous success on record, radio and the stage, in 1932 they embarked on a tour of Paramount-Publix theatres, working across the country to Hollywood where he was to make the film The Big Broadcast. At each location, he continued to broadcast his radio show until he reached the West Coast. He and Lang provided the musical support to Crosby on his theatre appearances and on his radio shows.
His long relationship with Crosby leading his orchestra rendered the singer’s first hit recordings Cabin in the Cotton, Love Me Tonight and Some of These Days and Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? his most famous recordings. which went to the top of the charts of the day. Hayton became the musical director for the Chesterfield radio series Music That Satisfies, again featuring Crosby. He would go on to be musical director for the singer’s film Going Hollywood in 1933, and continue to work with Crosby until he became a musical director for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1940 and guided it through its prime years as forerunner of the movie musical.
He would be nominated for six Oscars for Best Original Music and won two for On The Town and Hello Dolly!, the latter co-composed with Lionel Newman. He arranged the music for 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, arranged Frank Sinatra’s first attempt at the Beatles tune Something. Lennie composed Apple Blossoms with Joe Venuti, Frankie Trumbauer and Eddie Lang; as well as Flying Fingers, The Stage is Set, Mood Hollywood with Jimmy Dorsey, and Midnight Mood, and co-arranged the Hoagy Carmichael composition Stardust with Artie Shaw, for a 1940 recording on the Bluebird label.
Hayton met Lena Horne when both were under contract to MGM and married her in 1947 in Paris, France. Throughout their marriage he was her music director but the pressures of an interracial relationship made it tumultuous, and they were separated for most of the Sixties. Always a heavy drinker and smoker, pianist, composer, arranger, musical director and bandleader Lennie Hayton passed away of heart disease while separated from Horne, in Palm Springs, California on April 24, 1971.
More Posts: piano