Jazz singer Helen Merrill was born this day in 1929 in New York City. Possessed of a soft, smoky voice and sophisticated sense of harmony, she sang in the late 1940s with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell and J-J Johnson. Merrill's first album, recorded in 1952, was arranged by Quincy Jones and featured trumpeter Clifford Brown as a soloist. That session, "Don't Explain," was released on the EmArcy label.
Pianist and composer Lalo Schifrin was born this day in 1932 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began writing for films in 1957 and in the early 1960s spent three years touring with Dizzy Gillespie, for whom he wrote the suite "Gillespiana" before he was pulled deeper and deeper into composing and arranging music for film and television, including the music for "Mission: Impossible."
Bass player Jamil Nasser was born this day in 1932 in Memphis, Tenn. He played electric bass guitar with blues singer B.B. King in 1955 and 1956 after his discharge from the Army, then moved into the jazz sphere with Phineas Newborn, Sonny Rollins, Ahmad Jamal and other bop musicians.
Until this date in 1948... listening to records amounted to a three-minute thrill. At a news conference in New York City, Columbia Records unveiled the first long-playing record.
While it pales in comparison to today's 70-minute maximum on standard compact discs, the LP played for what was then an astonishing 23 minutes. It opened up recording freedom for musicians to stretch their solos and their songs.
On this day in 1990, singer June Christy died in Los Angeles.
Looking at today's hip happenings...
New York's JVC Jazz Festival features the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Brad Mehldau Trio at Carnegie Hall, and the Lew Tabackin/Howard Alden Quartet. The Knitting Factory presents pianist Cecil Taylor and the Sound Vision Orchestra as well as Collapsing Symmetry, an electro-acoustic song-based improv group, featuring theremin player Pam Kurstin, multi-percussionist Ravish Momin, electronics wizard Mike Berk and percussionist Kevin Shea.
The Kurt Rosenwinkel quartet is at the Village Vanguard this week. The Jackie McLean quintet is at Iridium all week. Guitarists Pat Martino and Larry Coryell are at the Blue Note through Sunday. Will Lee's Birdhouse band is at Birdland tonight and Saturday. The Knitting Factory tonight presents the world premiere of a new concert-length work by pianist Cecil Taylor and the Sound Vision Orchestra. Dr. John performs tonight at the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series.
High school saxophone, trumpet, and trombone players -- plus one tuba player -- from around the world will converge in Boston today through Sunday as the Berklee College of Music hosts its annual Saxophone Weekend and Brass Weekend. Students will be able to develop their skills in improvisation, group playing, and performance through master classes, group lessons, and ensembles. Berklee's brass and woodwind faculty will present classes, clinics, and concerts. Several concerts on Friday and Saturday are free and open to the public. Tonight's concerts feature trombonist Jeff Galindo and trumpeter Ken Cervenka.
Natalie Cole is at FleetBoston Pavilion tonight and Shannon McNally is at Copley Place as part of the Boston Globe Jazz and Blues Festival. Kenny Rankin is at Scullers in Boston tonight. The Sergio Brandao Octet is at The Regattabar in Cambridge.
The Roy Ayers Group is at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., tonight. Galactic and the North Mississippi All Stars are at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., tonight.
The Greg Bandy quartet is at the Cleveland Museum of Art tonight. The "Guitars and Saxes" tour with Warren Hill, Marc Antoine, Jeff Golub and Richard Elliot stops tonight at the Tower City Amphitheater in Cleveland. Fourplay is at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Amphitheater tonight.
The Ray Brown trio is at the Bird of Paradise in Ann Arbor, Mich., tonight and Saturday.
In and around Chicago... the Alliance Française de Chicago celebrates National Music Day with classical and jazz performances. Pianist Gabriel Gorog opens with selections from Debussy, Gershwin, Listz, Rachmaninov and Beethoven. The second set features The Rocheman Trio, led by award-winning pianist Manuel Rocheman. It's at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. Admission is free.
Benny Green and Russell Malone are at the Jazz Showcase. Skinny Williams is at Joe's BeBop Café and Jazz Emporium. The King Fleming trio is at Philander's in Oak Park. The George McRae Trio with Jim Gailloretto is at Pops for Champagne tonight.
In New Orleans... Lenny McDaniel is at Cobalt tonight. New Orleans Streetbeat is at the Crescent City Brewhouse. The Potholes Brass Band is at Donna's. Rickie Castrillo and Dreamland are at Dos Jefes. Trumpeter Jeremy Davenport is at the Ritz Carlton's French Quarter Bar tonight. The Devin Phillips quintet is at the Funky Butt. Louis Ford and Topsy Chapman are at Satchmo's jazz room in Harrah's casino. The ReBirth Brass Band plus Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers Brass Band are at Howlin' Wolf.
The Ronald Markham trio and the Tony Dagradi trio are at Le Salon at Windsor Court. The Ernie Elly Slickshots with Thais Clark are at the Palm Court. Pete Fountain is at his club in the New Orleans Hilton. Leroy Jones leads the band tonight at Preservation Hall. The Panorama Jazz Band is at the Seaport Café. Ellis Marsalis is at Snug Harbor. Kim Prevost and Bill Solley are at the Steak Knife. Humphrey Davis and Pat 'Mother Blues' Cohen are at the Storyville District Jazz Parlor. Derek Dabbs is at Sweet Lorraine.
The Count Basie Orchestra and the Directions in Music tour with Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove are at Jazz Aspen Snowmass in Snowmass Village, Colo., tonight.
On the California jazz scene... Bobby Hutcherson and his band are at The Catalina Bar and Grill in North Hollywood tonight through Sunday. The Tom Harrell quintet is at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles through Sunday. Saxophonist Mel Martin joins the Jon Mayer trio at Steamer's Jazz Café in Fullerton tonight. The Yancy "Vibes" Taylor Jazz Trio is at Main Street Station in Guerneville. Bill Frisell's Intercontinental Quartet is at Yoshi's in Oakland tonight through Sunday. The Con Alma Quintet is at the Hedley Club in the Hotel De Anza in San Jose tonight.
In San Francisco tonight, Larry Vuckovich is at Bistro 339, Bitches Brew is at Bruno's, the Sonando Quartet is at Butterfly, Mal Sharpe and Big Money in Jazz are at Enrico's, Steve Ross is at the Plush Room, George Khouri is at the Bix Restaurant and Supper Club and the Paul Vorn Hagen Quintet is at Jazz at Pearl's. Dizzy Burnett presents a Billie Holiday tribute tonight at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.
French trumpeter Eric Truffaz and his Ladyland quartet perform tonight in Toronto as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. Thom Gossage will open the concert on the Harbourtfront Centre Concert Stage.
Toronto Downtown Jazz opens tonight with Dr. John, the Marian McPartland trio, Spanky Davis with the Ian Bargh trio, the Brigham Phillips Big Band, Dick Smith, Ritmo Azul and Stephane Huchard. Headliners over the next week include Ernestine Anderson, Maynard Ferguson And His Big Bop Nouveau Band, the Count Basie Orchestra directed by Grover Mitchell, the Pat Martino trio and trumpet great Arturo Sandoval
Vibraphone Matthias Lupri quartet with special guest Rick Margitza is at the Edmonton Jazz Festival today.
The Vancouver (British Columbia) Jazz Festival opens its weeklong run tonight with Dianne Reeves, the Kenny Werner trio and Jack DeJohnette and John Surman. The Sal Cracchiolo and Melanie Jackson Sextet is at Rossini's Gastown in Vancouver tonight through Sunday.
The Pat Metheny Group is in Strave, Italy, tonight.