Jazz Avenues

Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed at www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

[Billy] Eckstine’s rich baritone voice made him one of the most popular ballad singers of the late 1940s, but leading the first bebop big band was his major contribution to jazz… ― “Jazz Portraits” by Len Lyons and Don Perlo (William Morrow and Company, 1989)

A Happy Happy for Billy Eckstine

We take a moment to say Happy, Happy Born Day to our July birthday heroes, including Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Philly Joe Jones, our own Dr. Billy Taylor (featured in the July 2015 Jazz Avenues), Carl Grubbs (playing this month at Artscape in Baltimore), Kenny Burrell ... and Billy Eckstine (July 10). 

According to the book “Jazz Portraits,” Eckstine was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Washington, DC, and attended Howard University, before working for several years as a singer and emcee in Detroit and Chicago. He joined the big band of Earl “Fatha” Hines in 1939 and became its star attraction after his blues hits “Jelly, Jelly” and “Stormy Monday.” Eckstine then formed his own group in 1944. “The nucleus of the band were former Hines sidemen … At various times Eckstine’s band included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mikes Davis, Art Blakey, Sarah Vaughan and other early boppers…”

The book “JAZZ, A History of America’s Music”by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Alfred A. Knopf, 2000) says about Miles Davis: “When the Billy Eckstine Band came to St. Louis in the summer of 1944 and the third trumpet fell ill, Davis got a chance to sit in for a week. He was a good sight reader and had no trouble with the arrangements, he remembered, but he had barely been able to bring himself to play ‘because I was listening to what everybody else was playing … Bird was unbelievable … [Eckstine’s] band changed my life. I decided right then and there that I had to leave St. Louis and live in New York where all these bad musicians were.’”

Crockett, Callahan, Allrich, Vocal Summit Highlight July

Billy Eckstine-band vocalist Sarah Vaughan, along with Ella Fitzgerald, was among those who made our jazz vocalist heritage. Locally we have our own talented songbirds this month.

The eclectic, multi-genre Alison Crockett performs on July 8-9 at Twins Jazz. Kristin Callahan is at 49 West in Annapolis on July 9 (see www49west coffeehousr.com) and performs with trumpeter Thad Wilson's group on July 22-23 at Twins Jazz. Akua Allrich, another multi-genre performer, is the featured artist on July 17 at the DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton Restaurant (www.dcjazzjam.com).

There is the vocal summit at Wesley United Methodist Church with Crockett and Allrich on July 22, and Janine Gilbert-Carter and Amelia Brown on July 23. Backing the ladies are Washington Women in Jazz guru Amy K. Bormet on piano, Nicole Saphos bass, and Lydia Lewis drums.

And there is the always charming Lena Seikaly performing on July 30 for the Petworth Jazz Project at the Petworth Recreation Center, Eighth and Taylor Streets NW. (www.petworthjazzproject.com)

InPerson … Cole/Shipp, Salvant, Washington Hits at DCJF

The Bill Cole and Matthew Shipp trios played vibrant, free-flowing jams as Transparent Productions closed out its season in a big way as part of the DC Jazz Festival’s opening weekend in June at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Other festival highlights included a dramatic, sensational set by vocalist Cecile McClorin Salvant, a swinging, jamming set by the New Century Jazz Quintet, winners of the first DCJF JazzPrix competition, and a rousing set by saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington at Yards Park on the festival’s final weekend.

July Highlights: … Cecily /A Celebration of Womanhood, July 7, Jazz and Cultural Society … Chelsey Green and the Green Project, July 8, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden … Paul Carr Quartet, Introducing Andre Enceneat, July 8, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Alison Crockett, July 8-9, Twins Jazz … Kristin Callahan, July 9, 49West/Annapolis … Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra, July 9, Single Carrot Theatre/Baltimore … Craig Alston Ensemble, July 10, The Inn  at The Black Olive/Baltimore … Antonio Parker, July 10, DC Jazz Jam/The Brixton ... Twins Jazz Orchestra, July 14, Twins Jazz … Reginald Cyntje Group, July 16, An Die Musik/Baltimore … Luke Stewart, July 17, Artscape/Baltimore … Akua Allrich, July 17, DC Jazz Jam/The Brixton ... Carl Grubbs, “Inner Harbor Suite Revisited,” July 17, Artscape/Falvey Hall, Brown Center/Baltimore … Fairfax Wind Symphony Summer Jazz Ensemble, July 18, Blues Alley … Michael Bowie’s BLAST, July 19, Blues Alley … Introducing B.J. Simmons, July 22, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Vocal Summit, July 22-23, Wesley United Methodist Church ... Brad Linde, July 24, DC Jazz Jam/The Brixton ... Thad Wilson Quartet/Kristin Callahan, July 22-23, Twins Jazz … Three Saxes for Butch Warren, July 29, Westminster Presbyterian Church …

July Birthdays: Rashied Ali 1; Ahmad Jamal 2; Johnny Hartman 3; Hank Mobley 7; Louis Jordan 8; Billy Eckstine, Lee Morgan 10; Albert Ayler 13; Philly Joe Jones 15; Cal Tjader 16; Chico Freeman 17; Sonny Clark 21; Billy Taylor 24; Johnny Hodges 25; Carl Grubbs 27; Charlie Christian 29; Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell 31.

Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed at www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

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