Today is Aug. 27.
Lester Young, one of the great classic tenor saxophonists in jazz, was born this day in 1909 in Woodville, Miss. He was so fine that Billie Holiday nicknamed him "Pres," as in president. Young was the great jazz hipster in musical style, dress, conversation and even in the way he held his horn when he played. In exchange for Holiday's supreme compliment, Young nicknamed the singer "Lady Day."
Saxophonist and bandleader Med Flory was born this day in 1926 in Logansport, Ind. The Woody Herman and Terry Gibbs sideman formed his own band, Supersax, in tribute to the music of Charlie Parker.
On this day in 1971, pianist Lillian Hardin Armstrong died in Chicago while playing a concert in memory of her ex-husband, trumpeter Louis Armstrong. She was 68.
Looking at today's hip happenings...
On the New York jazz scene... friends and relatives gather tonight at The Bowery Poetry Club to celebrate the life and music of bassist Wilber Morris, who died Aug. 8. Cecil Payne and Johnny Pacheco are at Wagner Park this evening. Houston Person is at the Blue Note through Sunday. Hamiet Bluiett's Baritone Nation with James Carter is at Iridium this week. The Don Byron sextet is at the Village Vanguard. The Caribbean Jazz Project with Dave Samuels and Dave Valentin is at the Jazz Standard. Josh Irving is at the Cornelia Street Café. The Duke Ellington Orchestra, directed by Paul Mercer Ellington and Jack Jeffers, is at Birdland tonight.
On the Chicago jazz scene... the Bill Porter Orchestra with Rich Fudoli is at Green Dolphin Street. Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms are at the Green Mill tonight. Ira Sullivan is at the Jazz Showcase this week. Ken Cheney is at Joe's BeBop Cafe and Jazz Emporium. Von Freeman is at the New Apartment Lounge on Tuesdays. Guitarist Bobby Broom's trio is at Pete Miller's Steakhouse in Evanston. Marshall Vente is at Philander's in Oak Park. Men of Note are at Andy's tonight. The Dan Cray trio is at Pops for Champagne.
In New Orleans... Moyaba brings Afro-Cuban jazz to the Blue Nile tonight. John Rankin and Company are at the Columns Hotel. New Orleans Streetbeat is at the Crescent City Brewhouse. Tom Hook is at Dos Jefes. Ingrid Lucia is at the Ritz Carlton's French Quarter Bar. Maurice Brown's Hot 8 is at the Funky Butt. Brian O'Neill is at Satchmo's jazz room in Harrah's casino.
Samirah Evans is at the House of Blues' Crossroads room. Jesse McBride and Larry Sieberth are at Le Salon at Windsor Court. The ReBirth Brass Band is at the Maple Leaf. Greg Stafford leads tonight's band at Preservation Hall. The Rob Wagner trio is at the Seaport Cafe. Jesse McBride is at Snu Harbor. The Ian McPhail quintet and Son del Pantano are at the Spotted Cat.
On the California jazz scene... Tom Scott and friends are at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles tonight. The Gina Saputo quintet is at Steamers Jazz Cafe in Fullerton tonight. Drummer Jeff Watts' band is at the Catalina Bar and Grill in North Hollywood tonight. The Banda Brothers sextet is at Spaghettini in Seal Beach, Calif. The Vince Lateano trio featuring pianist Mark Levine is at Jazz at Pearl's in San Francisco tonight. John Hammond's Wicked Grin is at Yoshi's in Oakland tonight and Wednesday.
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander's band is at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Seattle through Sunday.
On the recording front...
Pianist Chucho Valdes is out today with his sixth compact disc on Blue Note Records. "Fantasia Cubana (Variations on Classical Themes)" embraces works by Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and his inspirational mentor Ernesto Lecuona.
Singer-pianist Patricia Barber today releases her fourth recording for Blue Note/Premonition records. The new CD is called "Verse." It is her first album with only original material. Trumpeter Dave Douglas is special guest on this session.
Premonition Records also has released the latest CD by Chicago tenor sax titan Von Freeman, who will turn 80 this October. The new session, recorded last winter at three different Chicago clubs, is called "The Improvisor."
Blue Note today has finally released a previously unissued 1969 all-star White House tribute to Duke Ellington on his 70th birthday. He was not only awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon, but he also was the honored guest at a gala dinner party featuring a performance by a who's who of jazz all-stars. The birthday celebration was organized by Willis Conover, the jazz broadcaster of the Voice of America.
The 28-track collection of tunes features performances by 16 jazz greats, including Duke along with pianists Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Hank Jones and Billy Taylor; saxophonists Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan; guitarist Jim Hall; trombonists Urbie Green and J.J. Johnson; trumpeters Bill Berry and Clark Terry; bassist Milt Hinton; drummer Louie Bellson; and vocalists Joe Williams and Mary Mayo. All of the numbers performed come from the Ellington-Billy Strayhorn songbook with the exception of a three-minute piano improvisation by the maestro himself titled "Pat," dedicated to first lady Pat Nixon. This is the debut recording appearance of the tune. President Nixon even played "Happy Birthday" to Duke on the piano that evening but it's not on the CD.
In tribute to the cowboys, crooners and other legends who have inspired him since his childhood, Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander has recorded "My America," due in stores today. The album is a 12-track homage to the musical and cultural ideals that have drawn millions of immigrants to the United States. While the songs are American in origin, Alexander and his band bring a distinctly Jamaican groove to most.
Many of the titles are familiar touchstones of 20th century popular music: Al Green's "Love and Happiness," the Louis Armstrong/Bobby Darin classic "Mack the Knife," and instrumental versions of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and James Brown's "Sex Machine." Joining Alexander are Telarc labelmates Freddy Cole ("Straighten Up and Fly Right"), John Pizzarelli ("Summer Wind") and Kevin Mahogany helps (on "Hallelujah, I Love Her So").
Guitarist Lee Ritenour's latest release, "Rit's House," is out today on Verve Records' GRP imprint. While he has made his mark in the contemporary jazz and fusion areas, there is much fine straightahead material here. His collaborators include Joey DeFrancesco, Michael McDonald, George Duke, Ernie Watts and Alan Pasqua.