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Showing posts with label Ben Webster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ben Webster. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dickie's Dream - Count Basie , Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Gerry Mulligan

Gerald Joseph "Gerry" Mulligan (April 6, 1927 – January 20, 1996) was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger. Though Mulligan is primarily known as one of the leading baritone saxophonists in jazz history – playing the instrument with a light and airy tone in the era of cool jazz – he was also a notable arranger, working with Claude Thornhill, Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, and others. Mulligan's pianoless quartet of the early 1950s with trumpeter Chet Baker is still regarded as one of the more important cool jazz groups. Mulligan was also a skilled pianist and played several other reed instruments. Mulligan reportedly had a relationship with actress Judy Holliday until she died in 1965, and with actress Sandy Dennis from 1965 through 1973. In 1974 Mulligan met his future wife, Countess Franca Rota Borghini Baldovinetti, in Milan, Italy. Gerry Mulligan was born in Queens Village, Queens, New York, the son of George and Louise Mulligan. His father was a Wilmington, Delaware native of Irish descent; his mother a Philadelphia native of half Irish and half German descent. Gerry was the last of four sons: George, Phil, Don and Gerry. George Mulligan's career as an engineer necessitated frequent moves through numerous cities. When Gerry was less than a year old, the family moved to Marion, Ohio, where his father accepted a job with the Marion Power Shovel Company. With the demands of a large home and four young boys to raise, Mulligan's mother hired an African-American nanny named Lily Rose, who became especially fond of the youngest Mulligan. As he became older, Mulligan began spending time at Rose's house and was especially amused by Rose's player piano, which Mulligan later recalled as having rolls by numerous players, including Fats Waller. Black musicians sometimes came through town, and because many motels wouldn't take them, they often had to stay at homes within the black community. The young Mulligan occasionally met such musicians staying at Rose's home. The family's moves continued with stops in southern New Jersey (where Mulligan lived with his maternal grandmother), Chicago, Illinois, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Mulligan lived for three years and attended Catholic school. When the school moved into a new building and established music courses, Mulligan decided to play clarinet in the school's nascent orchestra. Mulligan made an attempt at arranging with the Richard Rodgers song "Lover", but the arrangement was seized prior to its first reading by an overzealous nun who was taken aback by the title on the arrangement. When Gerry Mulligan was 14, his family moved to Detroit and then to Reading, Pennsylvania. While in Reading, Mulligan began studying clarinet with dance-band musician Sammy Correnti, who also encouraged Mulligan's interest in arranging. Mulligan also began playing saxophone professionally in dance bands in Philadelphia, an hour and a half or so away. The Mulligan family next moved to Philadelphia, where Gerry attended the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys and organized a school big band, for which he also wrote arrangements. When Mulligan was sixteen, he approached Johnny Warrington at local radio station WCAU about writing arrangements for the station's house band. Warrington was impressed and began buying Mulligan's arrangements. Mulligan dropped out of high school during his senior year to pursue work with a touring band. He contacted bandleader Tommy Tucker when Tucker was visiting Philadelphia's Earle Theatre. While Tucker did not need an additional reedman, he was looking for an arranger and Mulligan was hired at $100 a week to do two or three arrangements a week (including all copying). At the conclusion of Mulligan's three-month contract, Tucker told Mulligan that he should move on to another band that was a little less "tame". Mulligan went back to Philadelphia and began writing for Elliot Lawrence, a pianist and composer who had taken over for Warrington as the band leader at WCAU. Mulligan moved to New York City in January 1946 and joined the arranging staff on Gene Krupa's bop-tinged band. Notable arrangements of Mulligan's work with Krupa include "Birdhouse", "Disc Jockey Jump" and an arrangement of "How High the Moon" that quoted Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" as a countermelody. Mulligan next began arranging for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, occasionally sitting in as a member of the reed section. Thornhill's arranging staff included Gil Evans, whom Mulligan had met while working with the Krupa band. Mulligan eventually began living with Evans, at the time that Evans' apartment on West 55th Street became a regular hangout for a number of jazz musicians working on creating a new jazz idiom. Throughout Mulligan's orchestral work and until the end of his life, Mulligan maintained an active career performing and recording jazz - usually with a quartet that included a piano. In June 1988, Mulligan was invited to be the first-ever Composer-in-Residence at the Glasgow International Jazz Festival and was commissioned to write a work, which he titled The Flying Scotsman. In 1991, Mulligan contacted Miles Davis about revisiting the music from the germane 1949 Birth of the Cool album. Davis had recently performed some of his Gil Evans collaborations with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival and was enthusiastic. However, Davis died from a stroke in September and Mulligan continued the recording project and tour with Wallace Roney and Art Farmer subbing for Davis. Re-Birth of the Cool (released in 1992) featured the charts from Birth of the Cool, and a new nonet which included Lewis and Barber from the original Davis band. Mulligan appeared at the Brecon Jazz Festival 1991. Mulligan's final recording was a quartet album (with guests), Dragonfly, recorded in the Summer of 1995 and released on the Telarc label. Mulligan gave his final performance on the 13th Annual Floating Jazz Festival, SS Norway, Caribbean Cruise, November 9, 1995. Mulligan died in Darien, Connecticut on January 20, 1996 at the age of 68 following complications from knee surgery. His widow Franca — to whom he had been married since 1976 — said he had also been suffering from liver cancer. Upon Mulligan's death, his library and numerous personal effects (including a gold-plated Conn baritone saxophone) were given to the Library of Congress. 'The Gerry Mulligan Collection' is open to registered public researchers in the library's Performing Arts Research Center. The library placed Mulligan's saxophone on permanent exhibit in early 2009.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chelsea Bridge - Ben Webster

Benjamin Francis Webster (March 27, 1909 – September 20, 1973), a.k.a. "The Brute" or "Frog," was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist. Webster, born in Kansas City, Missouri, was considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Known affectionately as "The Brute", he had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), yet on ballads he played with warmth and sentiment. Stylistically he was indebted to alto star Johnny Hodges, who, he said, taught him to play his instrument. Webster learned to play piano and violin at an early age, before learning to play the saxophone, although he did return to the piano from time to time, even recording on the instrument occasionally. Once Budd Johnson showed him some basics on the saxophone, Webster began to play that instrument in the Young Family Band (which at the time included Lester Young). Kansas City at this point was a melting pot from which emerged some of the biggest names in 1930s jazz, and Webster joined Bennie Moten's legendary 1932 band that included Count Basie, Oran "Hot Lips" Page and Walter Page. This era has been recreated in Robert Altman's film Kansas City. Webster spent time with quite a few orchestras in the 1930s, including Andy Kirk, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1934, then Benny Carter, Willie Bryant, Cab Calloway, and the short-lived Teddy Wilson big band. Playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra for the first time in 1935, by 1940 Ben Webster had become its first major tenor soloist. He credited Johnny Hodges, Ellington's alto soloist, as a major influence on his playing. During the next three years he was on many famous recordings, including "Cotton Tail" and "All Too Soon"; his contribution (together with that of bassist Jimmy Blanton) was so important that Ellington's orchestra during that period is known as the Blanton–Webster band. Webster left the band in 1943 after an angry altercation, during which he allegedly cut up one of Ellington's suits After leaving Ellington in 1943, Webster worked on 52nd Street in New York City; recorded frequently as both a leader and a sideman; had short periods with Raymond Scott, John Kirby, and Sid Catlett, as well as with Jay McShann's band, which also featured blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1948 he returned briefly to the Ellington orchestra for a few months. In 1953 he recorded King of the Tenors with pianist Oscar Peterson, who would be an important collaborator for Webster throughout the decade. Along with Peterson, trumpeter Harry 'Sweets' Edison and others he was by now touring and recording with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic organisation. Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster with fellow tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins was recorded on December 16, 1957 along with Peterson, Herb Ellis (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), and Alvin Stoller (drums). The Hawkins and Webster recording is a jazz classic, the coming together of two giants of the tenor saxophone, who had first met back in Kansas City. In 1956 he recorded a classic set with pianist Art Tatum, supported by bassist Red Callender and drummer Bill Douglass. Webster generally worked steadily but in 1964 he moved permanently to join other American jazz musicians in Europe, where he played when he pleased during his last decade. He lived in London for one year, followed by four years in Amsterdam and made his last home in Copenhagen in 1969. Webster appeared as a sax player in a low-rent cabaret club in the 1970 Danish blue film titled Quiet Days In Clichy. In 1971 Webster reunited with Duke Ellington and his big band for a couple of shows at the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark and he recorded "live" in France with Earl Hines. He also recorded or performed with Buck Clayton, Bill Coleman and Teddy Wilson. Webster suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in Amsterdam, North Holland in September 1973, following a performance at the Twee Spieghels in Leiden, and died on the 20th. His body was cremated in Copenhagen and his ashes were buried in the Assistens Cemetery in the Nørrebro section of the city. Although not all that flexible or modern, remaining rooted in the blues and swing-era ballads, Webster could swing with the best and his tone was a later influence on such diverse players as Archie Shepp, Lew Tabackin, Scott Hamilton, David Murray, and Bennie Wallace.

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