Pianist Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe in New Orleans, La. on Sept. 20, 1885 (although there is a baptismal certificate issued in 1894 lists his date of birth as October 20, 1890) was credited as being the first serious Jazz composer, however in 1902, Morton outright claimed he invented Jazz.
Widely recognized as a pivotal figure in early Jazz, Morton's talents also included arranger, bandleader, and Vaudeville comedian. Around 1904 Morton started touring the American south with minstrel shows and composed several tunes. By 1910, Morton got to Chicago, and to New York City in 1911, where future stride greats James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith caught his act, years before the blues were widely played in the North.
By 1914 he had started writing down his compositions, and in 1915 his "Jelly Roll Blues" was arguably the first jazz composition ever published. Morton went on to compose other Ragtime (or "rags"), Jazz, & Jazz-Blues tunes like "Wolverine Blues","Black Bottom Stomp","Buddy Boldens Blues", and "Tiger Rag" (a tune that imitated the sound of a tiger's roar).
Morton moved back to Chicago in 1923 where he published a series of piano rolls and later on records. In 1926, Morton succeeded in getting a contract to make recordings for Victor Records. This gave him a chance to bring a well-rehearsed band to play his arrangements in Victor's Chicago recording studios. These recordings by Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers are regarded as classics of 1920s jazz. The Red Hot Peppers featured such other New Orleans jazz luminaries as Kid Ory, Omer Simeon, George Mitchell, Johnny St. Cyr, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, and Baby Dodds. Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers were one of the first acts booked on tours by MCA.
In November 1928, Morton got married to Mabel Bertrand and moved to New York City, where he continued to record for Victor. With the Great Depression and the near collapse of the phonograph record industry in 1931, Morton's recording contract was not renewed by Victor. He continued playing in New York, briefly had a radio show in 1934, then was reduced to touring in the band of a traveling burlesque act while his compositions were recorded by Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman and others, though he received no royalties from these recordings.
In 1935 moved to Washington D.C. and would become manager and piano player of a local nightclub called at various times the "Blue Moon Inn", "Jungle Inn", and "Music Box". Morton was also the master of ceremonies, bouncer, and bartender of the club. He was only in Washington for a few years, however it was during his brief residency at the Music Box that folklorist Alan Lomax first heard Morton playing piano in the bar. In May 1938, Lomax invited Morton to record music and interviews for the Library of Congress. The sessions, originally intended as a short interview with musical examples for use by music researchers in the Library of Congress, soon expanded to record more than eight hours of Morton talking and playing piano. Despite the low fidelity of these non-commercial recordings, their musical and historical importance attracted jazz fans, and they have helped to ensure Morton's place in jazz history. These interviews, released in various forms over the years, were released on an eight-CD boxed set in 2005, The Complete Library of Congress Recordings. This collection won two Grammy Awards. The same year, Morton was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jelly Roll Morton died on July 10, 1941 in Los Angeles, aged 51 or 56.
Jazz saxophonist and composer John William "Trane" Coltrane born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, and grew up in High Point NC. In June 1943 he moved to Philadelphia PA, enlisted in the Navy in 1945, and played in the Navy jazz band once he was stationed in Hawaii. Coltrane returned to civilian life in 1946 and began jazz theory studies with Philadelphia guitarist and composer Dennis Sandole, which he continued his studies with him until the early 1950s. Originally an altoist, during this time Coltrane also began playing tenor saxophone with the Eddie Vinson Band. Coltrane later referred to this point in his life as a time when "a wider area of listening opened up for me. There were many things that people like Hawk, and Ben, and Tab Smith were doing in the '40s that I didn't understand, but that I felt emotionally."
An important moment in Coltrane's musical development occurred on June 5, 1945, when he saw Charlie Parker perform for the first time. He would later recall that moment by saying: "the first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes." Parker became an early idol to Coltrane, and they played together on occasion in the late 1940s. Although there are recordings of Coltrane from as early as 1945, his peers at the time did not recognize 'genius' in the young musician, though he was a member of groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges in the early- to mid-1950s.
Coltrane was freelancing in Philadelphia in the summer of 1955 while studying with guitarist Dennis Sandole when he received a call from trumpeter Miles Davis. Davis, whose success during the late forties had been followed by several years of decline in activity and reputation, due in part to his struggles with heroin addiction, was again active, and was about to form a quintet. Coltrane was with this edition of the Davis band (known as the "First Great Quintet" to distinguish it from Davis's later group with Wayne Shorter) from October 1955 through April 1957 (with a few absences), a period during which Davis released several influential recordings which revealed the first signs of Coltrane's growing ability. This classic First Quintet, best represented by two marathon recording sessions for Prestige in 1956 that resulted in the albums issued as Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin', some of the most treasured titles in Davis's early discography, disbanded in mid April.
During the later part of 1957 Coltrane worked with Thelonious Monk at New York’s Five Spot, a legendary jazz club, and played in Monk's quartet (July-December 1957), but owing to contractual conflicts took part in only one official studio recording session with this group. A private recording made by Juanita Naima Coltrane Live at the Five Spot-Discovery! of a 1958 reunion of the group was issued by Blue Note Records in 1993. Blue Train, Coltrane's sole date as leader for Blue Note Records, featuring trumpeter Lee Morgan, bassist Paul Chambers, and trombonist Curtis Fuller, is often considered his best album from this period. Four of its five tracks are original Coltrane compositions, and several of them, notably the title track, "Moment's Notice" and "Lazy Bird", have become standards. Both tunes employed the first examples of Coltrane's chord substitution cycles known as Coltrane changes.
Coltrane rejoined Miles Davis in his group in January 1958, by then was a sextet. He stayed with Davis until April 1960, working with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley; pianists Red Garland, Bill Evans, and Wynton Kelly; bassist Paul Chambers; and drummers Philly Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb. During this time he participated in Davis' sessions Milestones and Kind of Blue, and the live recordings, Miles & Monk at Newport and Jazz at the Plaza.
Coltrane formed his first group, a quartet, in 1960 for an appearance at the Jazz Gallery in New York City. After moving through different personnel including Steve Kuhn, Pete La Roca, and Billy Higgins, the lineup stabilized in the fall with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Steve Davis, and drummer Elvin Jones. Also recorded in the same sessions were the later released albums Coltrane's Sound and Coltrane Plays the Blues. Still with Atlantic Records, for whom he had recorded Giant Steps, his first record with his new group was also his debut playing the soprano saxophone, the hugely successful My Favorite Things.
Before completing his contract with Atlantic Records, Coltrane recorded Ole' Coltrane. Coltrane would later go on to record more albums on the newly found Impulse! Records with whom he would record with the "Classic Quartet". By late 1961 while having residency at the Village Vanguard, Coltranes music took a new direction. Both critics and other musicians were divided over his "new thing" and would call his new direction "Anti-Jazz".
After a few changes with the "Classic Quartet" staff in 1962, and more changes in his musical style, John Coltrane's Classic Quartet produced their most famous record titled A Love Supreme. In later years, his compositions would continue to progress in styles, notably into "Free Jazz" and "Avant-Guarde", as well as the players and influences of his music.
Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz. As his career progressed, Coltrane's music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. His second wife was pianist Alice Coltrane, and their son Ravi Coltrane is also a saxophonist. He influenced innumerable musicians, and remains one of the most significant tenor saxophonists in jazz history. He received many awards, among them a posthumous Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board in 2007 for his "masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz."
John Coltrane died July 17, 1967 in Long Island, NY of liver cancer at the age of 40.
Ray Charles Robinson born on Sept. 23, 1930 in Albany, GA, known by his stage name Ray Charles, was a singer-songwriter, bandleader, pianist, and played the alto sax. When he was an infant, his family would move to a poor section of Greenville, Fl. Charles started to lose his sight at the age of five, but went completely blind by the age of seven. He attended school at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, Florida from 1937-1945 where he developed his musical gift that he is known and remembered for today.
In school, Charles was taught only classical music, but he wanted to play what he heard on the radio, jazz and blues. While at school, he became the school's premiere musician. On Fridays, the South Campus Literary Society held assemblies where Charles would play piano and sang popular songs. On Halloween and Washington's birthday the Colored Department of the school had socials where Charles would play. It was here he established "RC Robinson and the Shop Boys" and sang his own arrangement, Jingle Bell Boogie.
Later, Charles would move to Tallahassee, Fl, in which he saw the city as musically exciting and sat in with the Florida A&M University student band. He played with Nat Adderley and Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley and began playing gigs with Lawyer Smith and his Band in 1943 at the Red Bird Club and DeLuxe Clubs in Frenchtown and roadhouses around Tallahassee as well as the Governor's Ball.
After his mother died in 1945, Charles did not return to school. He lived in Jacksonville with a couple who were friends of his mother. For over a year, he played the piano for bands at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla, earning $4 a night. Charles moved to Orlando, then Tampa, where he played with a southern band called "The Florida Playboys". This is where Charles began his reputation of always wearing sunglasses that were made by designer Billy Stickles.
Charles had always played for other people, but he wanted a band that was his own. He decided to leave Florida for a large city, but Chicago and New York City were too big. He moved to Seattle in 1947 and soon started recording, first for the label Swing Time Records, achieving his first hit with the 1949 "Confession Blues". The song soared to #2 on the R&B charts. He followed his first recording with his only other hit with Swingtime, "Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand" in 1951. It hit #5 on the R&B charts. He then signed with Ahmet Ertegün at Atlantic Records a year later. When he entered show business, his name was shortened to Ray Charles to avoid confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Almost immediately after signing with Atlantic, Charles scored his first hit singles with the label with "It Should Have Been Me" and the Ertegün-composed "Mess Around", both making the charts in 1953. But it was Charles' "I Got A Woman" (composed with band mate Renald Richard) that brought the musician to national prominence. The song reached the top of Billboard's R&B singles chart in 1955 and from there until 1959, Charles would have a series of R&B chart-toppers including "This Little Girl of Mine", "Lonely Avenue", "Mary Ann", "Drown in My Own Tears" and the #5 hit "The Night Time (Is the Right Time)", which were compiled on his Atlantic releases Hallelujah, I Love Her So, Yes Indeed!, and The Genius Sings the Blues. During this time of transition, he recruited a young girl group from Philadelphia named The Cookies as his background singing group, recording with them in New York and changing their name to the Raelettes in the process.
In 1959, Charles crossed over to top 30 radio with the release of his impromptu blues number, "What'd I Say", which was initially conceived while Charles was in concert. The song would reach number 1 on the R&B list and would become Charles' first top ten single on the pop charts, peaking at number 6. Charles would also record The Genius of Ray Charles, before leaving Atlantic for a more lucrative deal with ABC Records in 1959. Hit songs such as "Georgia On My Mind" (US #1), "Hit the Road Jack" (US #1) and "Unchain My Heart" (US #9) helped him transition to pop success and his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its sequel Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, helped to bring country into the mainstream of music. He also had major pop hits in 1963 with "Busted" (US #4) and "Take These Chains From My Heart" (US #8), and also scoring a Top 20 hit four years later, in 1967, with "Here We Go Again" (US #15) (which would later be duetted with Norah Jones in 2004).
During the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Charles' releases were hit-or-miss, with some big hits and critically acclaimed work. His version of "Georgia On My Mind" was proclaimed the state song of Georgia on April 24, 1979, with Charles performing it on the floor of the state legislature. He also had success with his unique version of "America the Beautiful."
In November 1977 Charles appeared as the host of NBC's Saturday Night Live. In the 1980s a number of other events increased Charles' recognition among young audiences. He made a cameo appearance in the popular 1980 film The Blues Brothers. In 1985, "The Right Time" was featured in the episode "Happy Anniversary" of The Cosby Show on NBC. The next year in 1986, he sang "America The Beautiful" at Wrestlemania 2. In a Pepsi Cola commercial of the early 1990s, Charles popularized the catchphrase "You Got the Right One, Baby!" plus he helped in the song "We Are the World" a touching song for USA for Africa.
Despite his support of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and his support for the American Civil Rights Movement, Charles courted controversy when he toured South Africa in 1981, during an international boycott of the country because of its apartheid policy. In 1989, Charles recorded a cover version of the Japanese band Southern All Stars' song "Itoshi no Ellie" as "Ellie My Love" for a Suntory TV advertisement, reaching #3 on Japan's Oricon chart. Eventually, it sold more than 400,000 copies, and became that year's best-selling single performed by a Western artist for the Japanese music market.
In the late '80s and early '90s, Charles made appearances on The Super Dave Osbourne Show, where he performed and appeared in a few vignettes where he was somehow driving a car, often as Super Dave's chauffeur. At the height of his newfound fame in the early nineties, Charles did guest vocals for quite a few projects. He also appeared (with Chaka Khan) on long time friend Quincy Jones' hit "I'll Be Good to You" in 1990, from Jones' album Back on the Block.
Following Jim Henson's death in 1990, Ray Charles appeared in the one-hour CBS tribute, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. He gave a short speech about the deceased, stating that Henson "took a simple song and a piece of felt and turned it into a moment of great power". Charles was referring to the song "It's Not Easy Being Green", which Charles later performed with the rest of the Muppet cast in a tribute to Henson's legacy.
For years to come, Ray Charles made several more TV and movie appearances, as well as headlining concerts. In 2003 Charles performed "Georgia On My Mind" and "America the Beautiful" at a televised annual electronic media journalist banquet held in Washington, D.C., at what may have been his final performance in public. Ray Charles' final public appearance came on April 30, 2004, at the dedication of his music studio as a historic landmark in the city of Los Angeles. He died on June 10, 2004 at 11:35 a.m. of liver cancer at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
His final album, Genius Loves Company, released two months after his death, consists of duets with various admirers and contemporaries: B.B. King, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, and Johnny Mathis. The album won eight Grammy Awards, including five for Ray Charles for Best Pop Vocal Album, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Here We Go Again" with Norah Jones, and Best Gospel Performance for "Heaven Help Us All" with Gladys Knight; he also received nods for his duets with Elton John and B.B. King.
The album included a version of Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow", sung as a duet by Charles and Johnny Mathis; that recording was later played at his memorial service.
Two more posthumous albums, Genius & Friends (2005) and Ray Sings, Basie Swings (2006), were released. Genius & Friends consisted of duets recorded from 1997-2005 with artists who were personally chosen by Ray Charles. Ray Sings, Basie Swings consists of archived vocals of Ray Charles from live mid-1970s performances added to new instrumental tracks recorded by the contemporary Count Basie Orchestra and other musicians for this album. Charles' vocals recorded from the concert mixing board were added to new accompaniments to create a "fantasy concert" recording. Gregg Field, who had performed as a drummer with both Charles and Basie, produced this album.
Besides winning 17 Grammy Awards in his career (including five posthumously), Charles was also honored in many other ways. In 1979, he was one of the first honorees of the Georgia State Music Hall of Fame being recognized for being a musician born in the state. Ray's version of "Georgia On My Mind" was made into the official state song for Georgia. In 1981, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was one of the first inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony in 1986. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986. In 1987, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he was inducted to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. In 1998 he was awarded the Polar Music Prize together with Ravi Shankar in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2004 he was inducted to the Jazz Hall of Fame, and inducted to the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Grammy Awards of 2005 were dedicated to Charles. On December 7, 2007, Ray Charles Plaza was opened in Albany, Georgia, with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano. On December 26, 2007, Ray Charles was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Additionally, Charles was presented with the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, during the 1991 UCLA Spring Sing.