David "Panama" Francis, one of the great swing drummers, was born this day in 1918 in Miami. Francis played the Savoy Ballroom in the 1940s with the Lucky Millinder band and in 1979 formed his own touring jazz and dance band, called the Savoy Sultans. He got his nickname years ago because he often wore a favorite Panama hat. Francis died in November 2001.
Pianist John Hicks was born this day in 1941 in Atlanta. His high-profile associations as a versatile player have include work with Art Blakey, Oliver Nelson, Betty Carter, Pharoah Sanders, Bobby Watson and the singer Elise Wood.
Alto saxophonist Hank Crawford was born in 1934 in Memphis, Tenn. He was an arranger and baritone saxophonist in the Ray Charles orchestra in the 1950s before stepping out to record as a leader, often in collaboration with organ player Jimmy McGriff.
On this night in 1965, trumpeter Miles Davis took his great 1960s quintet to the Plugged Nickel jazz club in Chicago to open a two-week engagement that had a formative impact on his changing sound, and resulted in a historic series of recordings.
On this date in 1960, Ornette Coleman went into the studio to record his avant-garde jazz classic recording called "Free Jazz." His collaborators on the 36-minute performance were Don Cherry, Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell.
This was also the day, in 1947, when the Metronome All-Stars recorded "Metronome Riff." That band included Nat King Cole, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie.
Looking at today's hip happenings...
On the New York jazz scene... Jackie McLean and the Cedar Walton trio are at the Village Vanguard this week. The Ahmad Jamal trio is at Iridium. There's a Lee Morgan retrospective tribute at Birdland tonight with Eddie Henderson, Joe Lovano, Benny Green, Steve Kirby and Winard Harper. Singers Jane Monheit and Andy Bey are at the Blue Note. The Danny Mixon trio is at The Lenox Lounge in Harlem tonight. The Marcus Strickland quartet is at the Jazz Gallery tonight. The Gary Wofsey quintet is at The Garage.
The Ali Jackson quartet featuring Wynton Marsalis is at TK's Jazz Cafe in Boston tonight. Herman Johnson's band is at Ryles in Cambridge, Mass.
In Philadelphia tonight... Steve Nelson, Mike LeDonne, Bob Crenshaw and Mickey Roker are at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus tonight for a tribute to Milt Jackson. Friends featuring Gloria Allende are at Zanzibar Blue. Saxophonist Bootsie Barnes' Holiday Show with singers Mary Ellen Desmond, Meg Clifton and Joann Pascale and the Mark Kramer trio is at Chris' Jazz Café tonight.
There's a Jazz Gospel Messiah concert at the Detroit Opera House tonight and Sunday featuring the Rackham Symphony Choir and vocalists Alfredda Burke, Vivian Chrerry and Rodrick Dixon.
On the Chicago jazz scene... saxophonist Benny Golson is with the Mike Kocour trio through Sunday at the Jazz Showcase. Judy Roberts is at The Chicago Firehouse tonight. Mike Jones's trio is at the Green Mill tonight.
Bopology is at Joe's BeBop Cafe and Jazz Emporium. Carol Kagy's quartet is at Katerina's tonight. The Typhanie Monique quartet is at Pops for Champagne. The Franz Jackson quartet is at Pops of Highwood.
On the New Orleans jazz scene... Kermit Ruffins and Rebecca Barry's Bust are at the Blue Nile. Earl Brown is at Cafe Sbisa. The Willie Tee trio is at Cobalt. Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias are at Donna's. Wendell Brunious is at Dos Jefes. Jeremy Davenport is at the Ritz Carlton's French Quarter Bar.
Jack Maheu and Friends are at Fritzel's. The Devin Phillips quartet is at the Funky Butt. Topsy Chapman and Louis Ford are at Satchmo's jazz room in Harrah's. Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers are at the Maple Leaf tonight. John Brunious leads the band tonight at Preservation Hall. Stanton Moore is at Snug Harbor. Bally Hoo and Washboard Chaz are at the Spotted Cat. Jessie McBride is at the Steak Knife.
The Dr. Jazz Brass Band is at the French Market Complex this afternoon. Brian Seeger's Holiday Jazz is at the New Orleans National Historical Park this afternoon. Warren Batiste is at the Louisiana Music Factory this afternoon.
On the California jazz scene... Jack Sheldon's California Cool Quartet is at Steamers Jazz Cafe in Fullerton tonight. Singer Kevin Mahogany is at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles through Sunday. The Pete Jolly trio is at Spazio in Sherman Oaks tonight. Saxophonist Benn Clatworthy is at Charlie O's in Valley Glen tonight with the John Heard trio.
Bob DeSena's Latin jazz group is at The Deck in Palm Springs tonight. The Charlie Hunter Group is at Yoshi's in Oakland. Saxophonist Dave Koz brings the sixth annual "Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour" with David Benoit, Rick Braun, Brenda Russell and Peter White to the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco tonight.
Jovino Santos Neto, Samia Panni and Guil Guimaraes are at the Tempero do Brasil Restaurant in Seattle tonight.
The Sharon Minemoto quintet is at The Cellar in Vancouver, British Columbia, tonight.