Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster was born this day in 1909 in Kansas City, Mo. He brought new life to the Duke Ellington Orchestra's saxophone section with his blustery and breathy approach to the horn. Webster only stayed in Duke band for three years after arriving in 1940, but had a profound impact beyond his key solos on classic Ellington tunes of the day, including "All Too Soon" and "Cottontail." He died in Amsterdam, Holland, on Sept. 20, 1973.
Singer Sarah Vaughan, whose heavenly voice brought her the nickname "The Divine One," was born this day in 1924 in Newark, N.J. She merged the uncanny imagination of a jazz singer, the range of an opera singer, and the appeal of a pop star into a sound that was beloved all over the world.
Like so many other great singers, Vaughan's success began after she won first prize at the Apollo Theatre amateur show in Harlem at age 16. She won $10 and a week-long engagement at the theater.
Singer Billy Eckstine, who later would become a collaborator, heard Vaughan that week and recommended her to Earl Hines. After a year in Hines' band, Vaughan joined Eckstine's band with Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker and Gene Ammons. Vaughan died of cancer in 1990.
Clarinetist Pee Wee Russell was born this day in 1926 in Maplewood, Mo. He had a fractured, cliff-hanging style that revolutionized clarinet playing, and invigorated the traditional jazz scene. In the 1930s, bandleader Louis Prima called Russell the most fabulous musical mind he knew. Russell died in 1969 from liver disease.
Looking at today's hip happenings...
On the New York jazz scene... saxophonist Gato Barbieri is at the Blue Note. The Eric Alexander quartet is at the Village Vanguard. Guitarist Bireli Lagrene's Gypsy Project is at Iridium this week. Dave Douglas is at the Jazz Standard tonight with his bands Charms of the Night Sky and El Trilogy Ensemble. Pianist Michele Rosewoman and New Yor-Uba are at Sweet Rhythm through Saturday. The Jazz Gallery's Duo Piano Series continues tonight with Aaron Goldberg and Xavier Davis.
Singer Chris Connor is at Birdland tonight. Jazz at Lincoln Center presents Grady Tate and Lizz Wright tonight through Saturday for its final installment of this season's Singers Over Manhattan concert series in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Trombonist Chris Washburne's SYOTOS Latin jazz band is at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on Thursdays.
In the Boston area... Poncho Sanchez is at Scullers jazz club tonight and Friday. Bobby Hutcherson is at Ryles in Cambridge tonight. The Matt Wilson quartet is at The Regattabar in Cambridge.
Pianist Chucho Valdes and his band, with his sister, Cuban singer Mayra Caridad Valdes, are at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover, N.H., tonight.
In Philadelphia... the Mickey Roker quartet plays the music of Shirley Scott tonight at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. Warren Oree and the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble are at Tritone.
In and around Chicago... the Ron Friedman quintet is at Andy's. Natalie Yoakley is at the Backroom. Judy Roberts is at The Chicago Firehouse through Saturday. The Mark Colby Duo is at The Foundry at Fox Valley Mall. Alan Gresik's Swing Shift Orchestra is at the Green Mill.
The ICP Orchestra is at HotHouse. The Houston Person quartet is at The Jazz Showcase this week. Tim Tobias is at Joe's BeBop Cafe and Jazz Emporium tonight. The Petropolous Organ Trio is at Pete Miller's Steakhouse in Evanston. John Wright is at Philander's in Oak Park tonight.
On the New Orleans jazz scene... the Improvisational Arts Council's Acid Test is at the Blue Nile. Earl Brown is at Cafe Sbisa. Evan Christopher and Tom McDermott are at Donna's. Tom Fitzpatrick is at Dos Jefes. John Boutte is at El Matador. Ryan Burrage and the Rhythm Makers are at Fritzel's. Evan Howard and the Joe Krown Organ Combo are at the Funky Butt.
Topsy Chapman is at Harrah's. Dr. Bone and the Hepcats are at Lounge Lizards. Astral Project is at the Maple Leaf. Lloyd Washington and the Crescent City Joymakers are at the Palm Court. Dave Bartholomew leads tonight's band at Preservation Hall. Leslie Smith is at Rene Bistrot. Diane Delin is at Snug Harbor. Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers are at Vaughan's.
In California... the Steve Turre quintet is at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles tonight through Sunday. The Louie Cruz Beltran quartet is at Spazio in Sherman Oaks. Jack Sheldon's California Quartet is at Charlie O's in Valley Glen tonight. The Dewey Erney-Ron Eschete quartet is at Steamers Jazz Cafe in Fullerton tonight. Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner are at Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland through Sunday.
On the recording front...
Khaeon World Music has released "Natalia," its second CD release by Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. It includes Gustavo Colina on cuatro, bassist John Benitez and percussionist Edgardo Aponte.
Singer Maria Muldaur has paid tribute to late singer Peggy Lee with her latest project, "A Woman Alone With the Blues." Her Telarc release includes "Fever," "Black Coffee," "Moments Like This," "Some Cats Know" and eight other songs associated with Lee.
Washington, D.C., bassist Joshua Bayer has released "Lines and Grooves" on the Jazzheads label. He's backed by drummer Luther Gray, saxophonist Marty Nau and pianist Bob Sykes.