Tuesday, July 2, 2013

America's Only Original Art Form

As we approach the celebration of Independence Day, the nation will celebrate all that is truly American: General Motors, rampant Diabetes, Congressional gridlock.... Oddly, we won't spend much time celebrating the only true American art form, Jazz. Sure it's easy to ridicule Jazz... it can take itself too seriously, be way too intellectual or branch off into something akin to a sharp stick in the ear (I'm looking at you Kenny G). So for my part in rectifying this patriotic oversight, I would like to introduce you some great Jazz artists that aren't on the iTunes top Jazz downloads.

I started my journey to becoming a professional composer as a saxophonist, Tenor sax to be exact. I spent days upon days listening and studying the great players and grew to appreciate the wealth of talent that had come before me. For many that enjoy jazz on the edges, names like Coltrane, Rollins, Getz and Bird are quite familiar. I can tell you there have been some amazing saxophone talents over the years beyond those keystones of the art form. This list could be three times the size but I'm sticking to mostly classic Jazz artists that helped lay the foundation for the modern players of today.

On Tenor:

  • Johnny Griffin - Incredible technique, notes at the speed of light yet not sterile at all. 
  • Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - I love the guttural nature of his tone, a soulful player that borders on early R&B. I desperately wanted to sound like him.
  • Hank Mobley - The roundest sweetest tone, like Tenor sax 1.0 
  • Jimmy Heath - "If you know Jimmy Heath, you know Be-Bop" ~ Dizzy Gillespie 
  • Joe Henderson - Saw him live my first year in college and I was hooked. 
  • James Moody - Multi-talented instrumentalist Tenor, Alto & Flute, everything he played had a smile on it. 

On Alto:

  • Sonny Stitt - one word .... Swingin'!!! The epitome of the swing groove. 
  • Art Pepper - Along with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan created the sound of West Coast Jazz.
  • Cannonball Adderly - He played on Miles "Kind Of Blue", I think that says it all. 
  • Jackie McLean - A bluesy version of Bird with a tone that cuts like a knife. 

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