Paul Quinichette was born on May 17, 1916 in Denver, Colorado. Known as the Vice President or Vice Prez for his emulation of the breathy style of Lester Young a.k.a. Prez, but Quinichette was also capable of a gruffer style of playing.
The young Paul started playing the saxophone and clarinet, first on alto and then switching to tenor as R&B work started rolling in. Gaining experience playing with Nat Towles, Lloyd Sherock and Ernie Fields he became a feature in Jay Mcshann’s band from 42-46. He followed with stints on the west coast with Johnny Otis, and in New York with Louis Jordan, Lucky Millinder, Red Allen and Hot Lips Page.
Quinichette’s big break came when Basie hired him to play solos like Lester Young. His success with Basie garnered him an Emarcy record contract, the release of several albums and a modicum of fame. Over the course of his career Quinichette worked with Benny Goodman, recorded with Lester Young, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Sammy Price and Buddy Tate but mainly led his own group sessions.
In the late 50s he left music to become an electrical engineer only to return briefly in the Seventies. Poor health forced retirement for tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette who passed away on May 25, 1983 in New York City.
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Maxine Sullivan was born Marietta Williams on May 13, 1911 in Homestead, Pennsylvania who developed a subtle and lightly swinging jazz style. Maxine possessed an affable delivery that slighted no lyric.
Over the course of her long career Sullivan first moved to New York and sang during intermissions at the Onyx Club. It was here she was discovered by Claude Thornhill who recorded her in front of a septet singing standards and a couple of Scottish tunes in swinging fashion. One of those tunes “Loch Lomond” would become her big hit and her career signature song.
During the forties Maxine appeared in movies opposite Louis Armstrong, on Broadway in Swingin’ The Dream, with then husband John Kirby and his sextet, and starred a radio show “Flow Gently Sweet Rhythm” for two years receiving reasonable success with a solo career.
By the 50s she became trained as a nurse and over the next several years was absent from music. However, 1968 saw Sullivan’s comeback performing at festivals and even playing a little valve trombone and flugelhorn.
During the later years of her career she intermittently appeared with the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, sang with mainstream jazz groups and recorded in concert her first hit Loch Lomond. Passing away on April 7, 1987 in New York City, vocalist Maxine Sullivan was inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame in 1998.
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Mary Lou Williams was born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Georgia on May 8, 1910 but grew up in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. As a very young child she taught herself to play the piano and one of her greatest influences was Lovie Austin. She had her first public performance at the age of six and went on to help support her ten half-brothers and sisters playing for parties. Mary Lou began performing publicly at the age of seven becoming admiringly known as “the little piano girl of East Liberty”.
In 1924 at age 14 she was taken on the Orpheum Circuit. The following year she played with Duke Ellington and his early small band, the Washingtonians. A year later she was jamming with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers at Harlem’s Rhythm Club and Louis Armstrong stopped in, listened to her picked her up and gave her a kiss. By 1929 she was married to John Williams and composing, arranging and playing piano for Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, an association that would last until 1942.
Returning to Pittsburgh she put together a group that included Art Blakey, went on the road with Duke Ellington, moved to New York taking a job at Café Society and became closely associated with the bebop generation. She lived in Europe for two years in the fifties and upon her return took a hiatus from performing and began composing religious jazz music.
Throughout the seventies her career flourished recording both group and solo settings and commentating The History of Jazz. She toured extensively playing concerts and festivals, accepting an artist-in-residence appointment at Duke University and performed at the White House in 1978.
Mary Lou Williams was much more than a pianist. She was a composer and arranger who wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded more than a hundred records. She wrote and arranged for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, and was friend, mentor and teacher to Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Mary Lou Williams died of bladder cancer on May 28, 1981 in Durham, North Carolina at the age of 71. Looking back over her career at the end of her life Mary Lou Williams was known to have said, “I did it, didn’t I? Through muck and mud.”
Mary Ann McCall was born on May 4, 1919 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and started her music career singing middle-of-the-road pop but quickly grew into a respected jazz singer. She started out singing and dancing in Philly with Buddy Morrow’s Orchestra followed by brief stints with Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman in 1938 and ’39 respectively, and then Charlie Barnett until 1940.
During the forties Mary Ann reconnected with Woody Herman and recorded notable tunes “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” and “Detour Ahead”. She went on to work with the Ralph Burns Orchestra, Tommy Reynolds and Teddy Powell and in 1949 she won the Down Beat Readers Poll for Girl Singer (with Band).
In the 50’s McCall she recorded several albums as a leader working with Charlie Ventura, Teddy Charles, Phil Moore and Ernie Wilkins. By the end of the decade her flame had started to fade singing in Detroit and then relocating to Los Angeles where she performed intermittently. In the seventies she re-emerged to record with Jake Hanna and Nat Pierce and in 1987 she came out of retirement to perform at a Woody Herman tribute concert a few days before his death.
Vocalist Mary Ann McCall passed away on December 14, 1994 in Los Angeles, California.
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Hayes Alvis was born on May 1, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. He started his career playing drums but switched to tuba and bass after playing with Jelly Roll Morton in 1927-28. He played tuba and arranged for Earl Hines from 1928 to 1930.
Moving to New York City in 1931 Hayes played with Jimmie Noone in the Mills Blue Rhythm Band from 1931-34 and 1936. A very early double-bass solo can be heard on his 1932 recording “Rhythm Spasm”. He also occasionally played baritone saxophone in this ensemble as well, and was the group’s tour manager. From 1935 to 1938 Alvis played with Duke Ellington, working with fellow bassist/tubist Billy Taylor.
After his stint with Ellington, Alvis played with Benny Carter, Joe Sullivan and Louis Armstrong, replacing Pops Foster. From 1942 to 1945 he played in the Army band led by Sy Oliver. After the war, he played with Dave Martin until 1947, and then took a longstanding run as a house musician at the Cafe Society in New York City.
In the 1950s, he played in various swing and Dixieland revival groups, including Wilbur De Paris’s New Orleans Jazz. In the early seventies he played in a trio with Jay McShann and Tiny Grimes.
Never recording as a leader, bassist, tubist and sideman Alvis Hayes died in New York City on December 30, 1972 at the age of 65.