Tag Archives: Jazz History

Sunday Jazz Corner with Jimmie Lunceford

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James Melvin “Jimmie” Lunceford (June 6, 1902 – July 12, 1947) was an American Jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era.

Jimmie Lunceford is the odd man out in jazz history. This bandleader made no waves with his musicianship – his preferred instrument was the conductor’s baton – and he possessed neither the elegance of Ellington nor the hipster hauteur of Calloway. But Lunceford knew how to entertain an audience, and he led one of the finest jazz bands of the 1930s. When Lunceford’s ensemble took a booking at the Cotton Club, following in the footsteps of Cab and the Duke, dancers would hardly have missed a beat. “Harlem Shout” demonstrates the core virtues of this orchestra: its swinging riff-based charts, its hot and polished section work, and (another calling card of Lunceford’s bands) high-note trumpet theatrics, provided here by Paul Webster. Like a hearty band of soldiers, this ensemble always maintained discipline under fire, and there was inevitably plenty of hot stuff around when folks like Sy Oliver and Eddie Durham were handing out the parts. Perhaps if Lunceford had lived longer – he died, reportedly of a heart attack (although under suspicious circumstances), at age 45 – he might have been fêted as elder statesman of jazz. But, as it stands, he is little more than a half-remembered name for most younger jazz fans. Tis pity, ’cause this band was sublime.  Reviewer Credit: Ted Gioia

Read Wikipedia on Jimmie Lunceford stating rumors about his death (suspicious circumstances) that he was actually poisoned in Seaside, Oregon by a restaurant owner.

Tain’t What You Do – Jimmie Lunceford

Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra 1936 (LIVE)

Harlem Shout – Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra

Sunday Jazz Corner with Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered”.  He was an American composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader with a career that spanned more than 50 years.  Ellington led his orchestra from 1923 until his death.  He was born  April 29, 1899 and passed along on May 24, 1974.  He was known as a key participant of  the Harlem Renaissance era and his legacy lives on in Harlem and all around the world.

For this post I chose two video performances “Take The A Train” live in Harlem 1964, and a video of Ellington and his band performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing” back in 1943.

Duke Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19.  Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington.  Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife and son in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated.  According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “homesick for Washington” and returned (she died in 1967).  In 1938 he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice “Evie” Ellis, who with with him during his Cotton Club years in Harlem.  The relationship with Ellis, though stormy, continued after Ellington met Fernandae de Castro Monte in the early 1960s. Ellington supported both women for the rest of his life.

At his funeral, attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Harlem, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed”.  He was laid to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City.  His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.

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Duke Ellington in 1973

VIDEO: Duke Ellington Live in Harlem “Take The A Train” (1964) features Ernie Shepard on vocals.

VIDEO: Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing (1943)

Sunday Jazz Corner With Ella Fitzgerald

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Ella Fitzgerald was known as the “Queen of Jazz“.   An American jazz vocalist with impeccable diction, phrasing and a vocal range spanning three octaves.  She would create and change the notes spontaneously with an effortless improvisational style in perfect pitch while we all watch and listen in awe.  There was no auto tuning here.  There were no simple three note melodies.  This was the real deal.  Ella set the bar high for everyone to follow.  Whether you are a lover of jazz or not, it would be difficult not to recognize her God-given talent.

Listen and witness a master at work giving off a joyous smile as she makes it all look so simple.  Especially with her style of scat singing.  I wonder who can sing like her today out of all our new singers?  I hope that there is someone, or that a young talent will grow and meet her expertise someday.

She really had something special and gave us everything, every time with every recording and live performance.  Take a minute to read a bit of history on this musical genius Ella Fitzgerald.

Here she is performing a live 7:00 minute uptempo version of “The Man I love.”