Cool Jazz and Hard Bop: Artists

Jazz Roots | Swing Era | Cool Jazz and Hard Bop

Cool Jazz and Hard Bop Artists

Baker| Brubeck | Coltrane | Davis | Gillespie | Mingus | Monk | Mulligan | Parker | Powell | Roach | Tristano

Chet Baker(December 23, 1929- May 13, 1988)-Trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals

Chet Baker was the "James Dean of Jazz". Christened Chesney Henry, Chet Baker was born in Yale, Oklahoma. Baker began playing trumpet in his teens as a member of the 298th army band. After playing sessions in San Francisco with notables such as Charlie Parker, Baker moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and spent a year with the Gerry Mulligan quartet. With Mulligan out of commission in 1953, Baker formed his own quartet, which lasted three years.

In the mid 1950's, Downbeat magazine voted Baker the best trumpet player in the country over Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie. His career was intermittent in the later 1950s and 1960s owing to drug problems. In 1967, his teeth were knocked out in a fight over a botched drug deal. Baker continued to perform and tour across Europe until his death, when he fell from a hotel window.

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Dave Brubeck(b. December 6, 1920)- Pianist, composer, bandleader

Dave Brubeck has written and recorded several large-scale works, including ballets, a musical, an oratorio, four cantatas, a mass and works for jazz group and orchestra. Born in Concord, California, Brubeck received early training in classical music from his mother and was performing professionally by age 13. He studied classical composition, and in 1949 recorded his Jazz Workshop Ensemble (aka the Dave Brubeck Octet), in addition to forming the Dave Brubeck Trio with Cal Tjader and Norman Bates(no, not that Norman Bates). In 1951, Paul Desmond joined, making it a quartet along with Ron Crotty (having replaced Bates).

Brubeck's greatest achievements began with his successful jazz-on-campus years of the '50s. This was Brubeck's "classic" quartet, a band that would last until 1967. In the '70s and beyond, Brubeck has concentrated on composing and has formed various bands, including ones featuring, among others, the late Gerry Mulligan.

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John "Trane" Coltrane(September 23, 1926- July 17, 1967)- Tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, composer

John Coltrane, or "Trane", was born in Hamlet, North Carolina. Originally an alto saxophonist, he moved to Philadelphia after graduating from high school, where he had received his first formal training. He played with a local group in 1945, then spent part of his military service from 1945 to 1946 in a U.S. Navy band stationed in Hawaii. He studied woodwinds at the Granoff Studios and the Ornstein School of Music in Philadelphia during the late 1940s. Coltrane played alto and tenor saxophones with Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic, and Johnny Hodges between 1947 and 1954. By 1955, when he joined Miles Davis's celebrated quintet, he was playing tenor saxophone exclusively. He left Davis in 1957, began a series of free-lance recordings under his own leadership, and played with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot in New York for six months.

After a period of permanent rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction, he rejoined Davis from 1958 to 1960. In May 1960, he began leading his own quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. Later that year, his recording My Favorite Things, featuring his first use of the soprano saxophone, was a major jazz hit. He embraced the new generation of free jazz exponents, and his music gradually reflected his interest in Eastern music and philosophy on such recordings as Om, Ascension, and A Love Supreme. He also emerged as the most influential and widely imitated saxophonist in jazz, his intensely emotional attack and dense flow of notes("sheets of sound") becoming hallmarks of the next generation of saxophone players. Coltrane died on July 17, 1967 from liver cancer.

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Miles Davis(May 25, 1926- September 29, 1991)- Trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards, composer

Born in Alton, Illinois and raised near St. Louis, Missouri, in a prosperous African-American family, Miles Davis learned to play the trumpet by age 10 and soon began playing with local jazz groups. After a brief stint at the Juilliard School of Music in 1944, he dropped out and became part of the growing New York City jazz scene. Davis played in his idol Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet for several years in the late 1940s. In 1948, he formed his own nine-piece band, which pioneered a new kind of cool jazz centered in the West Coast music scene. After recording the seminal 1949 album Birth of the Cool, Davis left the band, which continued without him.

In 1955, Davis kicked his heroin habit and began a comeback. He formed a quintet with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, among others, releasing several albums before the group broke up several years later. In 1958, Davis was reunited with Coltrane in his classic backing band sextet including bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Bill Evans, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, and drummer Philly Joe Jones(producing such works as the seminal jazz improvisational album Kind of Blue) . By 1964, the group had dissolved, and Davis formed a new quintet, featuring pianist Herbie Hancock. The membership of the group often changed, as did its musical output, which ranged from traditional jazz to avant-garde rhythms to a rock-infused jazz. Davis’ work in the early 1970s consisted of a number of jazz-rock albums which met poor reception among music critics and jazz traditionalists.

In 1975, Davis abruptly announced his retirement, which was reportedly due to his poor health after years of drug and alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, he returned in 1981 with a new band and released a series of electrified funk arrangements of jazz. After emerging from retirement, Davis toured and recorded intermittently throughout the 1980s. In 1989, he published an acclaimed autobiography, Miles, written with the poet Quincy Troupe. Davis died on September 29, 1991, in Santa Monica, California, after suffering pneumonia and a stroke.

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John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie(October 21, 1917- January 6, 1993)- Trumpet, composer, vocals, conga, piano

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina as the youngest of nine children. Gillespie worked in prominent swing bands (1937-44), including those of Benny Carter, Teddy Hill, Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, and Charlie Barnet. As a band leader, often with Charlie Parker on saxophone, he developed the music known as bebop. In the late 1940s he helped to introduce "Afro-Cuban" jazz to the U.S.

Gillespie's own big band (1946-50) was his masterpiece, affording him scope as both soloist and showman. In 1956 he led an orchestra on two international tours as cultural missions for the U.S. State Department. He was featured at the White House jazz party hosted by President Carter in 1979, and he received numerous official honors from the U.S. and European governments.

Gillespie was immediately recognizable from the unusual shape of his trumpet, with the bell tilted upwards at an angle of 45° - the result of someone accidentally sitting on it in 1953, but when he played it afterwards he discovered that the new shape improved the sound quality, and thus had it incorporated into all his trumpets thereafter. His memoirs To Be or Not to Bop appeared in 1979. Gillespie died in 1993 from pancreatic cancer.

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Charles Mingus(April 22, 1922- January 5, 1979)- Bass, composer

Charles Mingus, Jr. was born in Nogales, Arizona and grew up in Watts, California. At age 6, Mingus tried to learn the trombone, dropped it for the cello, and then ended up playing the double bass by high school. In 1942 he played with Kid Ory in Barney Bigard's group, and by 1943 he was touring with Louis Armstrong. In 1947, as he began to move towards rhythm & blues, he joined Lionel Hampton. He also led various ensembles under the stagename of Baron Von Mingus. He gained wide recognition when he joined Red Norvo's trio with Tal Farlow in 1950. In 1953 he played bass for the infamous Massey Hall concert with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Max Roach.

Mingus began leading his own quintet or sextet in 1955, known for many years as the Charles Mingus workshop. In the summer of 1960, Mingus co-directed an "alternative festival" with Max Roach at Newport. The publication of his autobiography Beneath the Underdog increased Mingus's popularity throughout the 1970s. Mingus died from sclerosis in 1979.

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Thelonius "Sphere" Monk(October 10, 1917- February 17, 1982)-Piano, composer

Thelonius Sphere Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and was raised in New York, where he received piano lessons at age 11. Monk briefly attended New York's Juilliard School of Music in the late '30s, and between 1939 and 1944 he worked as a side pianist. As one of the key innovators of modern jazz, he also appeared regularly in the early '40s at Minton's Playhouse, Clark Monroe's, and other Harlem after-hours clubs and rehearsal sessions. He made his recording debut with tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins in 1944, and played piano with Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra in 1946. He began leading his own group in 1947 in New York. For the next seven years he recorded for the prominent recording companies Blue Note and Prestige, and was at the height of his creativity as a composer.

In 1951, Monk was convicted for drug possession and deprived of his cabaret card, which excluded him from working in New York nightclubs for six years. In 1957, Monk returned to New York, where he played in clubs with a celebrated engagement, including at the Five Spot Cafe featuring his new quartet with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. By 1961, Monk formed a permanent quartet and began recording for Columbia Records.

Monk toured the United States continually throughout the '60s, as well as touring Europe in 1961 and Japan in 1964--the same year he was featured in a Time magazine cover story, one of only five jazz musicians to have received such distinction. He accepted fewer engagements in the late '60s, but toured internationally with the Giants of Jazz from 1971-72. He made his last major public appearance at the 1974 Newport Jazz Festival, and thereafter a combination of illness and voluntary inactivity kept him from performing.

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Gerry Mulligan(April 6, 1927- January 20, 1996)- Baritone and soprano saxophones, arranger, composer

Born in New York City, Mulligan learned piano and reed instruments while in his teens. Although raised in Philadelphia, Mulligan returned to New York in 1943 to become staff arranger for Gene Krupa's group. Mulligan's most prominent early career presence was as a player in Miles Davis' nonet in 1949 and 1950. Mulligan became increasingly significant as a jazz musician when, after moving to Los Angeles in 1952, he created a piano-less quartet, which included trumpeter Chet Baker. The lack of harmonic direction required exceptionally tight interplay between Mulligan and Baker, creating a new texture in jazz that was overwhelmingly accepted by '50s jazz fans.

Because of his interest in arranging for larger ensembles, the post-'50s Mulligan led groups featuring 13, 14 and even 20 players. Basing himself mostly in New York, Mulligan's tours of Europe and Japan cemented his reputation as both a top-notch arranger and the name most likely associated with bringing respect to the baritone saxophone. Mulligan died from complications following knee surgery.

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Charlie "Yardbird" Parker(August 29, 1920- March 12, 1955)- Alto saxophone, composer

Charles Christopher Parker Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kansas, the hub of jazz and blues activity in the 1930s. He received his first music lessons on the baritone horn while attending Lincoln High School in 1931. Three years later he dropped out of school to concentrate on mastering the alto saxophone.

In 1936, he spent the summer playing with George E. Lee's band and married his first of four wives. Between 1937 and 1939, Parker played in Kansas City; he spent most of 1939 in New York, where he frequently heard the virtuoso pianist Art Tatum, and began working out the rhythmic and harmonic ideas that would form the basis of modern jazz. In 1945, Parker led his own group in New York, made numerous combo recordings in the new and controversial bebop style, and played extensively with Dizzy Gillespie. In 1946, Parker suffered a nervous breakdown related to his heroin addiction and alcoholism, and was confined for six months at Camarillo State Hospital. The following year, he made a triumphant return to New York and formed his celebrated quintet featuring Miles Davis and Max Roach.

For the next four years, he worked almost exclusively in New York and recorded the majority of his most renowned performances. During the late 1940s Parker toured in Europe, and by 1951, he rose to the status of the most influential jazz musician in the world. His notoriety as a heroin addict had also become legendary, and the New York police eventually withdrew his cabaret card (a requisite to working in New York nightclubs). Thereafter, he adopted a more itinerant lifestyle, playing with pick-up groups in Boston, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, and in California. His cabaret card was reinstated in 1953, but by then he was beset by sporadic employment, debt, and failing physical and mental health. He twice attempted suicide in 1954 and voluntarily committed himself to New York’s Bellevue Hospital. His last public appearance was on March 5, 1955, at Birdland, the club named in his honor in 1949. A chronic abuser of drugs and alcohol, Parker died in 1955 at the age of 34. His life formed the basis for Clint Eastwood’s 1988 film "Bird".

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Bud Powell(September 27, 1924- July 31, 1966)- Piano, composer

Born Earl "Bud" Powell in New York City, Powell began studying European classical forms as a child. Powell played in the Cootie Williams band from 1943-'44. He became part of the bop scene shortly thereafter, working with saxophonist Charlie Parker and various others. His first major hospitalization occurred in 1945, reportedly the result of a brutal beating suffered at the hands of members of the Philadelphia police force. The remainder of his life was marred by numerous hospitalizations, bouts of depression, electro-shock therapy and the use of tranquilizers and alcohol. The titles of Powell's compositions, which remain jazz standards, reflect his problems -- "Un Poco Loco," "Hallucinations" and "Glass Enclosure" among them.

Powell made a series of recordings for the Blue Note, Roost and Verve labels. He spent 1959-'64 in Europe, returning to the United States for a brief concert tour. He stayed in New York and disappeared in early 1965. He died in 1966 after suffering a lingering illness. Powell served as the basis for Dexter Gordon's character in the 1986 Bertrand Tavernier movie "Round Midnight".

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Max Roach(b. January 10, 1924)- Drums, composer

Max Roach was born in New Land, North Carolina, and moved to Brooklyn, New York as a child. His first gigs as a drummer were in gospel groups when he was 10, and with a variety of local bands. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music and began his associations with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in 1942. Roach developed his style while playing at several of Harlem's after hours joints, including Monroe's Uptown House and Minton's Playhouse. Roach also worked with Miles Davis on his celebrated Birth Of The Cool sessions in 1949 and 1950.

Roach led a hard-bop group with Clifford Brown in the '50s that also featured Sonny Rollins and Harold Land. The 1960s inspired some of Roach's most political and avant-garde albums, including We Insist! and It's Time, and he recorded for a number of labels including Impulse!, Riverside and Atlantic. He put together his pan-African drum group, M'Boom, in 1970 and for the next two decades he performed with a number of experimental musicians. He also played in solo, duo, trio, and string quartets and choral orchestra. He was the recipient of a Mac Arthur Genius Grant in 1988, and he currently leads a group named So What Brass Ensemble.

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Lennie Tristano(March 19, 1919- November 18, 1978)- Piano, composer

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Tristano lost his eyesight at age 8. Since he had begun playing the piano at a young age he continued both mastering the instrument and becoming proficient in composition. Tristano graduated from the American Conservatory in Chicago with a B.A. in Music. Influenced by Earl "Fatha" Hines, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum, Tristano became a jazz fixture in Chicago, where he acquired a loyal following of students. He moved to New York in 1946, formed a trio, and began formal teaching.

Tristano was the first person on record to persuade players to improvise simultaneously without any pre-set limits as to key or duration, and to do so in public rather than in a studio. Tristano sought to make improvisation less predictable and more open-ended, and aspired to a purely dispassionate sound to his music. Two of Tristano's most famous students were alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. The pair joined the leader in his pioneering sextet, which recorded for Capitol in 1949. From 1955 to 1958, the threesome also recorded together and separately for Nesuhi Ertegun's fledgling Atlantic Records. Tristano died on Nov. 18, 1978.

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