Gunshot, Arrest, Then Stardom

armstrong_louisSome roads to success are stranger and more twisted than others. Some artists start out in such poor conditions that they become so determined to improve their lives nothing can stop them; but Louis Armstrong’s story is a bit different. His opportunities for success opened up only after he committed a misdemeanor.

In 1913, specifically December 31, New Year’s Eve, a young Louis Armstrong was celebrating that evening and fired a gun in the air. He was a kid that got into trouble there and again, and this was one time it was felt that Louis should stay in the Colored Waif’s Home For Boys and he was there for 2 years. Continue reading

Martin Taylor and His Guitar

Martin Taylor Steps Out

Taylor_MartinIn 1998 about 30 of jazz’s premier guitarists gathered together to pay tribute to jazz legend Herb Ellis. Throughout the evening guitarists stepped out accompanied by either another guitarist, or as part of a trio to play one or two tunes. Everyone playing that night was an excellent player, not a clunker in the bunch, but only one person chose to play alone and that was Martin Taylor.

Throughout the audience as people were looking at the schedule of players, many were saying “Who’s this guy, Martin Taylor, did you ever hear of him?” Martin a Scottish guitarist that had grown up in England was not as well known as many of the guitarists there that night.  So, for many in attendance, this was going to be a first impression. Continue reading

Fats Waller Always Listening, Always Learning

fats_wallerThomas Waller loved music as a small boy; his mother Adeline was an excellent pianist and introduced her son to classical music. Young Thomas was an eager learner and he took her lessons to heart. He also wished to please his father Edward that was a minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. He played a Harmonium (which was basically a foot pedaled pipe organ used in small churches) for his father’s services as early as 10 years old.

Thomas Waller had a ravenous appetite and so the name ‘Fats’ was given him and it forever stuck. Fats loved the jazz music that was being created all around him and he learned the tunes by watching how piano rolls affected the keys on the piano. He would imitate what he saw. Because he was able to play quite well in his mid-teens he eventually began to play at large movie houses, where his other gifts developed as well. He was able to develop his sense of timing for humor as well. Continue reading

Duke Ellington – Music was his paint brush

One of Jazz's most prolific writers, arrangers and musicians.

One of Jazz’s most prolific writers, arrangers and musicians.

One of Jazz’s most prolific writers, arrangers and musicians.

Possibly, the most prolific writer and arranger in Jazz’s 100 year history, Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington emerges as one that could swing with the best of them, as well as provide a lush array of musical portraits.

Duke excelled in many ways; He was an excellent pianist, a superb arranger, an inexhaustible writer and an excellent band leader and showman.

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Where Jazz Breathes and Grows