One of the pioneers of bebop, Max Roach spent decades creating innovative jazz. Though he started out playing piano, Max moved over to drums at the age of ten, and at sixteen he filled in with The Duke Ellington Orchestra at the famous Paramount Theater! He was a composer as well as a musician, a college professor and recipient of many honors and awards. While he was also comfortable working with other musical styles, Max Roach’s first love was always jazz and he is generally considered among the most important drummers in history.
Although Mel Torme spent most of his career as a singer, he was also a drummer, pianist, arranger, author and prolific song writer. Since the age of 4, when he made his first stage appearance, and for the next 60 years, he entertained worldwide audiences with a unique, finely tuned voice that earned him the nickname of “The Velvet Fog”.
Presenting Mel Torme
Chris Connor didn’t just sing a song, she made it her own! Her easy going manner and distinctive ability to get ‘inside’ a lyric defined her performances. Although she worked with popular big bands, and even became June Christy’s replacement with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Chris preferred to work with smaller groups and established her lasting reputation touring internationally as a solo performer leading her own trio. She was one of only a handful of white vocalists considered to be, incontestably, pure jazz singers.
A Conversation With Chris Connor
Musician, composer, teacher and all around jazz ambassador, Dr. Billy Taylor’s musical career is legendary. More than just an avid spokesman for “America’s Classical Music”, he fought for the recognition of Black musicians as key contributors to the American music scene … promoting jazz as a commentary against racial prejudice. Despite being one of the most remarkable jazz pianists of all time, the recipient of honors and awards worldwide, Billy always managed to remain a true gentleman of honor and humility.
Time Out With Billy Taylor
Illinois Jacquet was an innovative jazz saxophonist, possibly best remembered for his soaring high note technique and passionate performance on Lionel Hampton’s 1942 recording of “Flying Home”. Although he was a jazz musician from head to toe, that performance is regarded to be the first R&B sax solo ever recorded and was a forerunner of the distinctive saxophone sounds of early Rock ‘N Roll. When I interviewed him on the phone, I engaged an open friendly voice that pulled you in, much the same way he played his horn.
This Is Illinois Jacquet
She walked into my studio wearing a floor length, white ermine coat. It was real. So was she. Nancy Wilson is known as a singer’s singer, boasting more than 70 albums and 3 Grammy Awards. While she has been recognized for her excellence in blues, jazz, R&B, pop and soul, for my money her greatest strength lies with jazz. Nancy is “the complete entertainer”.
Meet Nancy Wilson
For a year or so during my tenure as the Announcer/Production Director for WOR in New York, I hosted a Saturday night jazz program on another station in the market just to keep my hand in the DJ end of things. At the time, “After Hours” was pretty much the only real jazz show available on the dial. As a result it was an attractive venue for many of my favorite performers … including the great Tony Bennett whose people actually called US and asked if we would like to talk with him. I’m not sure exactly what I said after “WOULD I”, but we did!
Talkin' With Tony Bennett
This may be the shortest history lesson in the history of lessons! It’s a progression in sound of jazz origins and influences, their evolution into the music we enjoy today, and the mutually beneficial relationship with other musical forms, from country to rock and blues to bluegrass.
What About Dat?
The Mark Of Jazz is more than just the name of a website. It’s a name with historic, musical and even social significance, all tied to one dedicated man and the superstar performer who was the focus of his entire career. Hear ‘whydat’ is important to our celebration of the music we call jazz.
Just in case you’d like to know something about the man behind the music, our first podcast (or Jazzcast as it’s known around here) is a handshake over the internet from Fred Masey. After you’ve heard this bit of history, nostalgia and tomfoolery, you’ll have a little better idea of just ‘whodat’ is!