Ike Quebec was born Ike Abrams Quebe on August 17, 1918 in Newark, New Jersey and was both an accomplished dancer and pianist. He switched to tenor sax as his primary instrument in his early twenties, and quickly earned a reputation as a promising player. His recording career started in 1940, with the Barons of Rhythm and from 1944 and 1951 he worked intermittently with Cab Calloway.
Over the course of his career Quebec recorded or performed with Frankie Newton, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Trummy Young, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Sonny Clark, Dodo Green, Jimmy Smith and Coleman Hawkins. He recorded as a leader for Blue Note records in the Forties era, and also served as a talent scout for the label, helping pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell come to wider attention. Due to his exceptional sight-reading skills, he was also an un-credited impromptu arranger for many Blue Note sessions.
His struggles wit drug addiction and the fading popularity of big band music forced Ike to record only sporadically during the 1950s, though he still performed regularly. He kept abreast on new developments in jazz, and his later playing incorporated elements of hard bop, bossa nova and soul jazz. He occasionally recorded on piano, as on his 1961 Blue & Sentimental album, where he alternated between tenor and piano, playing the latter behind Grant Green’s guitar solos.
In 1959 he began what amounted to a comeback with a series of albums on the Blue Note label. Blue Note executive Alfred Lion, though always fond of his music, was unsure how audiences would respond to the saxophonist after a decade of low visibility. So in the mid-to-late 1950s, they issued a series of singles for the juke-box market and audiences ate them up, leading to a number of warmly-received albums. However, his comeback was short-lived when Ike Quebec, the tenor saxophonist with the big breathy sound, passed away from ling cancer on January 16, 1963.
Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana and grew up in the poverty-stricken, rough neighborhood known as “The Battlefield”, which was part of the Storyville legal prostitution district. Abandoned by his father while still an infant, he and his sister lived with relatives for a period of years. He attended the Fisk School for Boys, getting his early exposure to music, worked as a paperboy, discarded food reseller, and hauled coal to the brothels and clubs and worked for a Jewish junk haulers who treated him like family.
Dropping out of school at age eleven, Louis joined a quartet of boys singing on the corner for money, and listened to the bands in Storyville. He developed his cornet playing skills by playing in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs under the tutelage of Professor Peter Davis who instilled discipline in and provided musical training to the otherwise self-taught Armstrong. He eventually became the bandleader, they played around New Orleans and by thirteen-year-old he began drawing attention by his cornet playing, starting him on a musical career. At fourteen he got his first dance hall job at Henry Ponce’s where Black Benny became his protector and guide. He hauled coal by day and played his cornet at night.
Over the next years he played in the city’s frequent brass band parades and listened to older musicians every chance he got, learning from Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Kid Ory and Joe “King” Oliver, who acted as a mentor and father figure to the young musician. He toured with Fate Marable, replaced King Oliver in Kid Ory’s band, and was second trumpet in the Tuxedo Brass Band.
1922 saw Armstrong in Chicago joining King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band when the city was the center of the jazz universe. He was challenged to “cutting contests” by hornmen trying to displace the new phenomenon, which could blow two hundred high Cs in a row. He made his first recordings on the Gennett and Okeh labels, he met Hoagy Carmichael through his friend Bix Beiderbecke. Taking the advice of second wife Lil Harden Armstrong, he left Oliver and went to work with Fletcher Henderson in New York and developing his own style. By 1924 he switched to trumpet and his influence upon Henderson’s tenor sax soloist Coleman Hawkins, can be judged by listening to the records made by the band during this period.
During this time, Armstrong made many recordings on the side, arranged by Clarence Williams, with the Williams Blue Five pairing him with Sidney Bechet and backing Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Alberta Hunter. He began recording under his own name for Okeh with his famous Hot Five and Hot Seven groups Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, producing hits Potato Head Blues, Muggles and West End Blues, the music of which set the standard and the agenda for jazz for many years to come. His recording of Heebie Jeebies turned on both black and white young musicians to his new type of jazz, including a young Bing Crosby.
Over the course of his career he appeared in musical, played clubs, added vocals to his repertoire covering most famously Carmichael’s Stardust that became one of the most successful renditions. His approach to melody and phrasing was radical and evolved into scat singing. As with his trumpet playing, Armstrong’s vocal innovations served as a foundation stone for the art of jazz vocal interpretation. The uniquely gritty coloration of his voice became a musical archetype that was much imitated and endlessly impersonated.
After spending many years on the road, in 1943 Louis settled permanently in Queens, New York in 1943 in contentment with his fourth wife, Lucille. During the subsequent thirty years, he played more than three hundred gigs a year, toured Africa, Europe, and Asia under sponsorship of the US State Department earning the nickname “Ambassador Satch” and inspiring Dave Brubeck to compose his jazz musical The Real Ambassadors.
He has been honored posthumously with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, won a Male Vocal Performance Grammy for Hello Dolly, has 11 recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list his West End Blues as one of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll, had a commemorative U.S. postage stamp issued, and has been inducted into six Halls of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the US Open main stadium was renamed Louis Armstrong Stadium, and his Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings are now a part of the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress.
Trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong, also known as Satchmo, Dipper, Pops and the King of Jazz, passed away in his sleep of a heart attack on July 6, 1971. His honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. Peggy Lee sand The Lords Prayer, Al Hibbler sang Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen and his long-time friend Fred Robbins gave the eulogy.
Dick McDonough was born on July 30,1904. As a child learning and perfecting his technique on the banjo, by 1927 at age 23 he was playing and recording Chasin’ A Buck and Feelin’ No Pain with Red Nichols. Soon after he joined Paul Whiteman’s outfit and later exchanged the banjo for guitar.
As a guitarist Dick did extensive work as a session musician in the 1930s playing with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, The Boswell Sisters, Joe Venuti, Benny Goodman, Miff Mole, Adrian Rollini, Red Norvo, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Billie Holiday, Pee Wee Russell Frank Trumbauer, Glenn Miller and Gene Gifford among others too numerous to list.
McDonough teamed with Carl Kress to record as a guitar duet in the mid-1930s as well. He played in the Jam Session at Victor with Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and George Wettling. His more notable compositions included Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jibe, recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra with Johnny Mercer on vocals; Stage Fright with Carl Kress, Chicken a la Swing and Danzon.
An influential guitarist and composer, the recording of his version of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose has to be considered the first “guitar solo” rendition of a jazz standard still preserved. It is a known fact that New Orleans’ guitarist Snoozer Quinn did the same in the 1920’s before everybody else, but those recordings were never issued and, until now, are considered totally lost.
The ‘guitar unaccompanied solo’ tradition followed with among others, Carl Kress, Oscar Aleman, Django Reinhardt, George Van Eps, Al Viola and in the Seventies Joe Pass brought it to a new level. But had it not been for Dick McDonough with his acoustic L5 giving to guitar a new dimension in 1934, this tradition would not have been created. Dick McDonough was unfortunately also an alcoholic and subsequently succumbed to the illness at the age of 33 on May 25, 1938.
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William C. “Buster” Bailey was born July 19, 1902 in Memphis, Tennessee and was educated on the instrument by classical teacher Franz Schoepp, the man who taught Benny Goodman. He got his start with the W.C. Handy Orchestra in 1917 when he was just fifteen years old. After two years of touring with Handy, he quit while the band was in Chicago and in 1919 Bailey joined Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra.
1923 saw Buster joining up with Joe “King” Oliver as part of his King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. It was here that he met and became friends with fellow band mate Louis Armstrong. In 1924, when Armstrong left King Oliver’s Jazz Band to join the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in New York. It was less than a month that Armstrong extended an invitation for Bailey to join the band and accepting, he moved to New York City.
During the late 1920s Bailey became a highly respected sideman with Perry Bradford, Clarence Williams and others, Recording both clarinet and soprano saxophone. He toured Europe with Noble Sissle’s orchestra in 1927, returned and performed with Edgar Hayes and Dave Nelson, rejoined Sissle in 1931. By 1934 he was back with Henderson and then settled in with the John Kirby Band. Off and on he would perform with the mills Blue Rhythm Band, Midge Williams and Her Jazz Jesters and record as a leader as Buster Bailey and His Rhythm Busters.
In 1947 he joined Wilbur de Paris and performed with him until 1949. During the early 1950s Bailey was with Big Chief Russell Moore but for most of the decade he played with Henry “Red” Allen. From 1961 to 1963 he performed with Wild Bill Davison, the Saints And Sinners, and rejoined his old friend Armstrong and became a member of Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars.
Buster appeared on film three times during his career in That’s The Spirit in 1933, Sepia Cinderella in 1947 as part of John Kirby’s band and in When The Boys Meet The Girls in 1965 with Louis Armstrong. He also appeared in 1958 in the DuMont TV series Jazz Party and in 1961 on the TV program The Dupont Show of the Week in an episode titled “America’s Music – Chicago and All That Jazz”.
Clarinetist Buster Bailey, who was also well versed on saxophone and one of the most respected session players of his era, passed away in Brooklyn, New York on April 12, 1967 of a heart attack.
Babe Russin was born Irving Russin on June 18, 1911 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played with some of the best-known jazz bands of the 1930s and 1940s, including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. He solos on the Glenn Miller band recording of A String of Pearls on Bluebird Records in 1941.
In the early Forties he briefly led his own band. In 1950, Babe was credited as a musician with the backup band on two Frank Sinatra tunes, Should I? and You Do Something To Me. He co-wrote the instrumental “All the Things You Ain’t” with Jimmy Dorsey that was recorded and released in 1945. He also recorded with Jack Hoffman in 1947 and Georgie Auld in 1955.
In 1953 he appeared briefly in the 1953 Universal-International movie The Glenn Miller Story. He plays Cheating On Me with a small group on the soundtrack to the 1954 Warner Bros. Judy Garland movie A Star Is Born. He also appeared in the 1956 movie The Benny Goodman Story. Tenor saxophonist Babe Russin passed away on August 4, 1984.
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