The Music

The band's repertoire is drawn from bop compositions and other jazz standards associated in some way with the careers of Kenny Clarke and Oscar Pettiford (as band leaders, sidemen or composers themselves). For our Vocal Edition we also "reunite" various "contrafacts" in arrangements with the original songs on which they are based.

 

The eldest of the architects of bebop, Clarke was engaged in 1941 to form the house band at Minton's Playhouse in New York, after several years working with Dizzy Gillespie in the orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill. He was given free rein over the choice of musicians and style of music to be played. His first hire was a 20-year-old Thelonious Monk. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Pettiford arrived on the scene in 1943, the year Clarke was drafted into the army. He would work with Dizzy Gillespie on the first historic bebop recordings in 1944 and early 1945 and was, to quote Dizzy, "a driving force in that music".

 

They and the other leading figures of the era (the "Giants of Bop") are captioned here in historical context, focusing on their relationship to Clarke and Pettiford and highlighting (in bullets) the compositions of each that feature in the project.

Kenny Clarke ("Klook")

(Jan 9, 1914 -  Jan 26, 1985)

  • "Epistrophy" (1941) - with Monk

  • "Salt Peanuts" (1941) - with Gillespie

  • "Mop Mop" (1942) - with Ike Quebec

  • "Rue Chaptal" ("Tenor Madness") (1946)

  • "Iambic Pentameter" ("Volcano") (1949)

  • "Blues Mood" (1954)

  • "Strollin'" (1954)​​

The original pioneer of modern jazz drumming, Clarke was associated at some point with almost every major figure of the swing and bop eras in the 1940s and 1950s in either big band or small group settings, but especially with Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Oscar Pettiford. His collaborations with these and other Giants of Bop are described in the individual profiles that follow.

After two extended stays in Paris in 1948 and 1949-51, Clarke emigrated there in September 1956, and became a leading figure in the jazz expatriate community in Europe for over twenty years, playing with Bud Powell in the "Three Bosses" trio (1959-1963) and with various visiting US jazz giants in Paris's iconic jazz clubs (Blue Note, Club St. Germain), performing in jazz sound tracks for several classic French movies, co-leading the multinational Clarke Boland Big Band (CBBB) from 1961 to 1973 and collaborating with its various all-star members live and in the studio on numerous small group projects across the continent. He has a street named after him near his former home in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil. 

 

In addition to his work as a sideman, Clarke also recorded on about 20 sessions in the 40s and 50s as leader, either in the States or in France. Apart from the "Bohemia After Dark" album that inspired the current project, his other key recordings of this period include the 1946 sides by "Kenny Clarke & His 52nd Street Boys" (the first bebop records to be released in Europe, on the Vogue label, including the original "Epistrophy" and "Rue Chaptal"), "Telefunken Blues" (1954-55, with two Clarke originals, "Strollin'" and "Blues Mood"), "Klook's Clique" (1956, with his drum feature "Volcano"), "Meets the Detroit Jazzmen" (1956) and, shortly after his move to Paris, "Plays André Hodeir".

Dizzy Gillespie

(Oct 21, 1917 -  Jan 6, 1993)

  • "Salt Peanuts" (1941) - with Clarke

  • "Woody 'n' You" (1942)

  • "Interlude" ("A Night in Tunisia") (1942)

  • "Oop Bop Sh'bam" (1946)

  • "A Handfulla Gimme" (1946)

  • "Good Dues Blues" (1946)

  • "One Bass Hit" (1946) - with Pettiford

  • "Two Bass Hit" (1946) - with John Lewis

  • "I Waited For You" (1946)

  • "Ool Ya Koo" (1947)

The high priest of bebop, Gillespie had worked with Clarke in the Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill bands in the late 1930s before becoming a regular in the 1941 sessions at Minton's. He and Clarke co-wrote "Salt Peanuts" during a stint with Ella Fitzgerald in late 1941 and he coached upcoming drummers in the following years on how to "play like Klook". In 1943-44 he co-led with Oscar Pettiford the first modern group to play on 52nd Street before forming his legendary 1945 quintet with Charlie Parker.

 

Clarke rejoined Gillespie after returning from wartime service, playing and recording with his big band from May to July 1946, for his Afro-Cuban sessions of December 1947 and on the famous European tour of February 1948. They had several reunions during Clarke's Paris years (1957, 1958, 1963 (with Les Double Six), 1970 (with the CBBB), 1973) and on US public television in 1976. After one of these Dizzy remarked "Klook plays drums just like I would play them if I played drums. He's too much." Clarke, interviewed in 1964, considered for his part that "Dizzy is without doubt the greatest living musician. Bird was great in his time - he was a creative genius. But Diz was an instructor as well as a creator in those early days. With Diz you learn to do everything the right way."

Although Clarke and Gillespie's main period of collaboration covered a few key years (1937-42, 1946-48), Dizzy reflected the closeness of their relationship in his foreword to Clarke's biography (1990, Hennessey). "Kenny was a master drummer and number one human being. If anybody in jazz deserves to have his life story recorded for posterity, it's Kenny Clarke. They only made one [of his kind] and I consider myself very fortunate to have been his musical associate and friend for fifty years."

Thelonious Monk

(Oct 10, 1917 -  Feb 17, 1982)

  • "Epistrophy" (1941) - with Clarke

  • "Rhythm-a-Ning" (1941) - with Christian

  • "Rifftide" (Oh, Lady Be Good) (1944)

  • "52nd St Theme" ("Bip Bop") (1944)

  • "Evidence" (Just You, Just Me) (1948)

Monk was a founding member of the 1941 Minton's house band with Clarke and a key architect of the harmonic foundations of bebop. He and Clarke co-wrote "Epistrophy" at that time. For several months in 1943 he also worked at Minton's with Oscar Pettiford. Initially titled "Nameless", Monk's 1944 "52nd St Theme" became exactly that in the clubs of the eponymous New York street in the mid-40s. Monk claimed that his alternative title "Bip Bop" was the origin of the word bebop. Due to his eccentric ways and dissonant playing style, Monk was replaced by John Lewis in the 1946 Dizzy Gillespie big band and by Tadd Dameron for the house band at The Royal Roost in 1948/49. Despite his 1947 series of groundbreaking recordings for Blue Note ("The Genius of Modern Music", with Art Blakey on drums) it was not until the late 1950s that his music was more widely appreciated.

 

Aside from the early Minton's tapes, he and Clarke recorded together on only two other occasions - with Miles Davis on Christmas Eve 1954 (one session split across the albums "Bag's Groove" and "Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants") and, along with Pettiford, on Monk's "Plays Duke Ellington" 1955 Riverside album (one month after Clarke's "Bohemia After Dark" sessions with Cannonball Adderley).

 

The two had far more in common than these limited interactions suggest. In a 1950s interview, Monk was asked whom he considered the most underrated musician in jazz. His matter-of-fact reply: "Kenny Clarke". And in a 1956 panel discussion, Max Roach rejected the characterisation of Clarke as the "Bud Powell of the drums", noting "I think that in drumming, Kenny is more akin to Thelonious Monk."

Charlie Christian

(Jul 29, 1916 -  Mar 2, 1942)

  • "Swing to Bop" ("Topsy") (1941)

  • "Epistrophy" (1941) - with Monk and Clarke

  • "Rhythm-a-Ning" (1941) - with Monk

The original genius of the electric guitar, Christian was by some accounts the first to develop the long lines and ambitious harmonic progressions of bop, and his greatest legacy is from Minton's, where he became the shining star of the 1941 "after hours" jam sessions before his tragically early death at 25 from tuberculosis. According to jazz writer Gunther Schuller "among the younger musicians who sat in [at Minton's], Christian was at the time the most advanced, the most original, and musically the most mature - even more than Gillespie and Monk." Some contemporaries also credit Christian with the term bebop, citing his humming of phrases as its onomatopoetic origin. Clarke attributes to Christian the motifs behind "Epistrophy" and Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" during that time (although the theme of the latter can be traced back to "Walking and Swinging" by Mary Lou Williams in 1936).

 

A handful of Christian's performances at Minton's were captured for posterity by Jerry Newman, most notably his six-chorus solo on the standard "Topsy", retitled "Swing to Bop", still regarded as one of the greatest jazz guitar solos ever recorded and a tribute feature for this band's guitarist, Libor Šmoldas.

Charlie Parker

(Aug 29, 1920 -  Mar 12, 1955)

  • "Yardbird Suite" (1946)

  • "Buzzy" (1947) - See Powell and Johnson

  • "Quasimodo" (1947) - See Johnson

  • "Parker's Mood" (1948)

  • "Slow Boat to China" (1948)

  • "My Little Suede Shoes" (1951)

  • "Blues for Alice" (1951)

  • "Swedish Schnapps" (1951)

Parker first attracted attention in the fall of 1941 at the after-hours jams in Monroe's Uptown House, another Harlem club. Clarke and Monk arranged for Parker to come over to Minton's, and he emerged as a leader of the new music after Charlie Christian's death. Club manager Teddy Hill refused their request to hire Parker for the house band, so they paid him from their own salaries.

 

During the peak bebop years (1945-50) the drummer most associated with Parker was Max Roach. Parker's quintet was a regular billing alongside the Tadd Dameron band at The Royal Roost; we perform an instrumental version of "Slow Boat to China", a Bird favorite from that period, as a nod to these interactions. Parker and Clarke had only one studio date together, in August 1951, plus several live recordings during 1952-1954, including with the MJQ. As vocal versions, Clarke recorded "Parker's Mood"in 1953 with King Pleasure and "Yardbird Suite" in 1955 with his ex-wife Carmen McRae (who had been singing it in Carnegie Hall the night Parker died, three months earlier). Both of these are part of the band's Vocal Edition repertoire.

 

In early 1955, Parker was living with the poet Ted Joans across the street from the premises of the future Café Bohemia and he offered to play at the venue to settle his bar obligations. He died before he could start his engagement, but the initial hype that it generated was a key factor in the establishment of the new club.

Oscar Pettiford

(Sep 30, 1922 -  Sep 8, 1960)

  • "For Bass Faces Only" ("One Bass Hit") (1943)

  • "Max (is) Making Wax" ("Chance It") (1944)

  • "Blues in the Closet" (1954)

  • "Tricotism" (1954)

  • "Bohemia After Dark" (1955)

Pettiford was one of the prime movers in modern jazz in the mid-1940s and most influential bassists of the 1940s and 1950s. According to pianist Dick Katz "there hasn't been a guitarist since Charlie Christian that played as much like Charlie Christian as Oscar did on his instrument."

 

After working with Monk in Minton's for several months in 1943, he co-led in 1944 the Gillespie-Pettiford group at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street, regarded as the first "modern" jazz ensemble, and introduced the practice of unison lines for multiple horns. He also cut the first bebop records with Gillespie, including "Woody 'n' You" (Feb 1944) and "Salt Peanuts" (Jan 1945), before joining the orchestras of Duke Ellington (1945-1948) and Woody Herman (1949). 

Despite their respective contributions to early bop, Clarke and Pettiford did not formally work together until Clarke joined a Pettiford All-Star group at the Clique Club in late 1948. They also recorded with Miles Davis for Blue Note in May 1952. Their main collaboration came in 1955-56 after Clarke quit the MJQ, in particular the residency at the Café Bohemia and studio recordings with Gigi Gryce, Lee Konitz & Wayne Marsh (including Lennie Tristano's "Two Not One"), Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson and Phineas Newborn (while working with the latter on Basin Street).

 

Katz, who played for a time in the Bohemia house band, considered Pettiford and Clarke "the finest rhythm team he ever heard. These same kind of people who play hard - Kenny and Oscar would cook most of them out of the place on the same level they're talking about, but they would do it with some grace. There was an intensity. My God, the first time I played with those two, I felt like I'd been run over by a Mack truck or a freight train. It was powerful, but it wasn't stevedore powerful - it's the difference between a Rolls Royce and a tractor."

 

They would record twice more after Pettiford moved to Europe, on Pettiford's 1958 album "We Get the Message" and live in 1960 as the "Essen Jazz Festival All-Stars" with Coleman Hawkins and Bud Powell, five months before Pettiford's sudden death from a polio-like virus, just three weeks short of his 38th birthday. 

Tadd Dameron

(Feb 21, 1917 -  Mar 8, 1965)

  • "Good Bait" (1944)

  • "Hot House" (What is This Thing Called Love?) (1945)

  • "If You Could See Me Now" (1946)

  • "Our Delight" (1946)

  • "The Squirrel" (1947)

  • "A Bebop Carroll" (Mean to Me) (1947)

  • "Jabhero" (All the Things You Are) (1948)

  • "Lady Bird" (1948)

  • "Casbah" (Out of Nowhere) (1949)

  • "Sid's Delight" ("Tadd's Delight") (1949)

  • "The Scene is Clean" (1956)

As Clarke later recalled, Dameron was "using flatted fifths in chords back as early as 1940, and though it sounded very odd to us at first, he was definitely a forerunner of the movement. He was also one of the first people to play full, 8th-note patterns in that real legato style". Described by Dexter Gordon as the "romanticist" of the bop era, Dameron was arguably its definitive arranger/composer, writing a number of well known jazz standards, but his modesty as a pianist has caused him to be overlooked among the pioneers of modern jazz. At the same time his music provides a bridge from the swing era to the 1950s as, in the judgment of one critic, "even through the distorted harmonies of many of Dameron's tunes a simple yet strong melodic flow is sustained, prefiguring the hard bop sound of the succeeding decades".

Clarke was a regular member of Dameron's various bands in 1947-1949, playing on the majority of his classic Blue Note and Capitol studio recordings with trumpeter Fats Navarro and during Dameron's residency at the Royal Roost in 48-49. They would also appear together in the Dameron-Miles Davis Quintet that headlined at the First Paris Festival International de Jazz in May 1949, after which, with Clarke's encouragement, Dameron stayed for several months in Europe and wrote some arrangements for the Ted Heath band.

As a sample of his 1950s output, the band's repertoire also includes "The Scene is Clean", a Dameron chart first recorded in March 1956 by one of the defining groups of early hard bop, the Quintet of Clifford Brown and Max Roach, and a reference to the struggles with hard drugs for which he was subsequently imprisoned.​​

Bud Powell

(Sep 27, 1924 -  Jul 31, 1966)

  • "Webb City" (1946)

  • "Hallucinations" ("Budo") (1948)

  • "Parisian Thoroughfare" (1951)

  • "John's Abbey" (1958)

A protege of Monk during the Minton's years, Powell had a transformational impact both on jazz harmony and the piano as a soloing instrument. His virtuoso note-packed style led to the moniker "the Charlie Parker of the piano", although he recorded only once in the studio with Parker himself (May 1947, including "Donna Lee", "Cheryl" and "Buzzy"). The piano trio was to be his most frequent setting, but he cut his first bebop sides in 1946 over several sessions with Clarke, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Tadd Dameron and Sarah Vaughan.

 

In the following years his drummer of choice was Max Roach and from the mid-1950s Art Taylor. He recorded one trio album with Clarke for Verve in January 1955, aptly titled "The Lonely One" in view of Powell's troubled relationships on and off the bandstand and his history of mental health problems. Notably, this was the first time Clarke recorded his own "Salt Peanuts", and they also performed "Epistrophy".

 

After Powell's move to Paris in 1959, he and Clarke performed and recorded intermittently with French bassist Pierre Michelot as the "Three Bosses", both as a trio and with various visiting jazz giants. Notable studio recordings included those with Don Byas (1961), Dexter Gordon ("Our Man in Paris", 1963) and Dizzy Gillespie & the French vocalese trio "Les Double Six" (1963).  Their main studio trio album, "A Portrait of Thelonious" (1961), was produced by Cannonball Adderley.

In view of the Paris connection of Clarke and Powell, the band's repertoire includes Powell's 1951 composition "Parisian Thoroughfare" in the classic quintet version of August 1954 by Clifford Brown and Max Roach.

John Lewis

(May 3, 1920 -  Mar 29, 2001)

  • "Two Bass Hit" (1946) - with Gillespie

  • "Afternoon in Paris"  (1949)

  • "Django" (1954)

Although known principally for his leadership of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), Lewis was both an influential composer and a major pianist of the bebop era, playing in the Gillespie Big Band (1946-48), with Parker both on studio dates (1947, his own "Milestones"; 1948, "Parker's Mood"; 1951, "Blues for Alice" with Clarke) and live recordings (1947, 1952, 1953, 1954), performing and composing for Miles Davis's 1949 "Birth of the Cool" sessions and cutting several sides in 1949 with J.J. Johnson and Sonny Stitt (including his original "Afternoon in Paris").

Lewis gained his introduction to the Gillespie band through Clarke, whom he had met during army service in France. Dizzy hired Lewis as arranger on the spot after the band played through his chart "Bright Lights" (retitled "Two Bass Hit"), and he would soon replace Monk as the band's pianist. The rhythm section of that band (Lewis, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown and Clarke) also performed as a quartet and would evolve by the early 1950s into the MJQ, with Percy Heath replacing Brown. Lewis's tribute to the late guitarist Django Reinhardt ("Django", 1954) became the group's mandatory signature tune, with bassist Heath recalling that "if we didn't play 'Django' in a concert, we risked getting stoned - I mean in the thrown-at sense."

Increasingly uncomfortable with Lewis's orchestrated and intellectual musical direction, Clarke quit the MJQ after a Birdland engagement in early 1955, for fear that he "wouldn't be able to play the drums [his] way again after four or five years of playing 18th century drawing-room jazz." As he later explained to Helen Oakley Dance (1977), "You know how I like to play. I like to bash. They stopped bashing, so I left. I try to bring it down as simple as I can."

Fats Navarro

(Sep 24, 1923 -  Jul 7, 1950)

  • "Nostalgia" (Out of Nowhere) (1947)

  • "Barry's Bop" (What is This Thing Called Love?) (1947)

  • "Fats Blows" (Oh, Lady be Good) (1947)

  • "Boperation" (1948) - with Howard McGhee

Navarro was, after Gillespie, the defining trumpeter of bebop and a major influence on the 1950s generation of players, especially Clifford Brown. After three years in the Andy Kirk and Billy Eckstine orchestras (1943-46), Navarro made his first small group bebop recordings in September 1946 with Kenny Clarke, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Dorham and Bud Powell ("Kenny Clarke's 52nd Street Boys" and "The Be Bop Boys").

 

Although he played with various groups in the late 1940s, it was his partnership with Tadd Dameron that proved historically the most significant. As summed up in the Oxford Companion to Jazz,"in trumpeter Fats Navarro, a virtuoso player with a bright, diamond-hard sound, Dameron found a perfect vehicle for his densely textured melodies. The 1947-49 sessions of Dameron's band featuring Navarro [along with Kenny Clarke] represented both a peak achievement of the bebop era and a harbinger of the brash, elemental sound of the hard bop to come".

 

For a December 1947 recording date by his own quintet, Navarro penned several bebop contrafacts of popular 20s and 30s songs that are featured in this band's Vocal Edition. And "Boperation", his co-composition from the "McGhee-Navarro Boptet" session of October 1948 (including Dameron and Clarke), is one of the most complex, essential, yet obscure small group bop heads ever written. 

Like Christian before him and Clifford Brown after him, Navarro died in his mid-twenties at the peak of his career (in 1950, from tuberculosis and heroin addiction), shortly after appearing at the freshly opened "Birdland" in New York with Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson, Miles Davis and Tadd Dameron.

Kenny Dorham

(Aug 30, 1924 -  Dec 5, 1972)

  • "Royal Roost" (1946) - with Clarke

  • "Prince Albert" (All the Things You Are) (1949) - with Max Roach

Dorham was one of the most active, but underrated bebop trumpeters, playing in the Lionel Hampton, Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie big bands and taking over as Charlie Parker's trumpeter from Miles Davis during the year of The Royal Roost (1948-49) and at the First Paris Festival International de Jazz of May 1949, playing opposite the Davis-Dameron Quintet. During that trip he and Max Roach cut several sides in Paris that included "Prince Albert", their contrafact of "All the Things You Are".

 

Clarke and Dorham worked together intermittently throughout the second half of the 1940s and the 1950s. After playing in the mid-1946 edition of the Gillespie big band, Dorham also participated in the September 1946 small group bebop recordings in New York with Clarke, Fats Navarro, Sonny Stitt and Bud Powell. He joined Clarke's Septet recordings of January 1949, and Clarke Dorham's debut album as leader in late 1953 (Kenny Dorham Quintet, OJC). Their last Stateside collaboration was the nationwide tour of  the Birdland Stars "East West Septet" in early 1956. They appeared together once more on record during Clarke's Paris years, on the April 1959 original sound track recordings for the crime film "Un Temoin dans la Ville", along with French tenor man Barney Wilen and pianist Duke Jordan.

 

In the mid-to-late 50s Dorham was a key player on the emerging hard bop scene, working with Blakey's original Jazz Messengers and in 1956-58 as successor to Clifford Brown in Max Roach's Quintets. He twice recorded live for Blue Note at the Café Bohemia, in November 1955 (with Blakey, including a version of "Prince Albert") and in May 1956 with his own Jazz Prophets ("Round About Midnight at the Café Bohemia", including a performance of "Royal Roost", Dorham's title for the "Rue Chaptal" that he originally recorded with Clarke).

Wardell Gray

(Feb 13, 1921 -  May 25, 1955)

  • "Twisted" (1949)

  • "April Skies" (I'll Remember April) (1952) - by Buddy Collette

  • "Farmer's Market" (1952) - by Art Farmer

  • "Jackie" (1952) - by Hampton Hawes

After three years with the Earl Hines orchestra, Gray emerged in 1946 as a major tenor voice on the US West Coast, cutting his first sides as leader in November that year and recording with Charlie Parker in February 1947 (for Dial, including "Relaxin' at Camarillo"). In the notes to those recordings, the reviewer judges that "Gray was arguably the most accomplished tenor player of the bop era. He had arrived at a unique and utterly personal synthesis based on the styles of Parker and Lester Young – fluent, and endlessly resourceful.

Although Gray spent much of his career in swing settings (with Benny Goodman, Benny Carter and Count Basie), it was his 1947 and later tenor battles with Dexter Gordon in the Central Avenue clubs of Los Angeles and on record that brought him to national attention. He and Clarke crossed paths in September 1948 when Gray recorded in New York for Blue Note with the Tadd Dameron Septet (including the original "Lady Bird") and performed with the band at the Royal Roost.

His most well known composition, "Twisted", owes its fame to a 1952 vocalese version of his entire tenor solo by singer Annie Ross (who was having an affair with Clarke in Paris, resulting in a child, at the time of Gray's original November 1949 recording). Ross later made similar vocalese versions of "Farmer's Market" and "Jackie" from Gray's January 1952 Prestige date with trumpeter Art Farmer. All three of these "songs" are part of the band's "Vocal Edition" repertoire.

During the opening weeks of the Café Bohemia in May 1955, Gray died from a drug overdose in his hotel room during a musical engagement in Las Vegas. Fearing trouble from the police, his fellow band members secretly dumped his body in the desert, accidentally breaking his neck. His death, overshadowed by Parker's passing two months earlier, remained an unsolved mystery for decades.

Dexter Gordon

(Feb 27, 1923 -  Apr 25, 1990)

Writing in the Book of Jazz, Leonard Feather observed that "Gordon, perhaps more than any of the [other players of the 1940s], transferred the characteristics of bop to the tenor", and his mid-40s style was probably the most popular contemporary approach to the instrument. He freelanced as a soloist in New York in 1945-46 with Parker, Gillespie and others and recorded as leader before (just as Clarke had returned to New York) heading back to his native LA and forming his sparring partnership with Wardell Gray.

In one of the most iconic jazz images of all time, Dexter Gordon is photographed here by Herman Leonard in the Royal Roost in 1948, with a grinning Kenny Clarke leaning over his ride cymbal in the background. During the heyday of bop, Clarke and Gordon recorded together on only one studio date, the classic January 1949 takes by the Tadd Dameron Orchestra of "Casbah" and "Sid's Delight". They were also both members of the Pettiford All-Star group at the Clique Club in late 1948.

Later collaborations would be captured as members of the jazz expatriate community in Europe, notably with Bud Powell in 1963 ("Our Man in Paris", Blue Note) and on other live recordings from 1965 (Paris), 1968 (Rome) and 1973 (Montreux).

J.J. Johnson

(Jan 22, 1924 -  Feb 4, 2001)

  • "Mad Be Bop" (Just You, Just Me) (1946)

  • "Coppin' the Bop" (1946) - with Max Roach

  • "Teapot" (Sweet Georgia Brown) (1949)

Overhearing Johnson's efforts to adapt the trombone to the new music in 1946, Dizzy Gillespie brought him into bebop's inner circle, saying, "I've always known that the trombone could be played different, that somebody'd catch on one of these days. Man, you're elected." Notable Johnson bebop recordings include June 1946 with Bud Powell and Max Roach (Mad Be Bop, Coppin' the Bop, the second a reversal of Clarke's earlier "Mop Mop"); December 1947 with Parker on Dial (Quasimodo, Crazeology); and 1949/50 dates with Powell, Roach and Sonny Stitt. The latter includes "Teapot", a Sweet Georgia Brown-based riff tune (and dedication to bassist Tommy Potter) that was combined with the ending of Jackie McLean's "Dig" on Miles Davis's first ever television performance, with Clarke in Paris in 1957. The clip was rediscovered in September 2019 after 62 years lost in the archives.

J.J.'s first recordings with Clarke were the April 1949 nonet sessions of Tadd Dameron (including the John Collins guitar feature "John's Delight") and Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool). In 1951, he toured military camps in Japan and Korea with Oscar Pettiford and Howard McGhee, and in 1952, as part of "Jazz Inc.", with Miles Davis, Zoot Sims, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath and Clarke. In May that year he joined both Clarke and Pettiford on Davis's first Blue Note date. Clarke subsequently played on Johnson's key records of the early 50s, including "The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson" (1953, 1954, 1955 for Blue Note), the classic Miles Davis Prestige session of April 1954 (Blue 'n' Boogie, Walkin') and his early Jay & Kai albums with Kai Winding (1954, 1956).

Johnson appeared with Clarke on various TV broadcasts during visits to France in the late 1950s and 1960s. Notably, Clarke was a member of the all-star J.J. Johnson Sextet (with Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee, Walter Bishop and Tommy Potter) that made several TV and festival appearances in Europe in 1964 for a Charlie Parker Tribute tour (playing Parker's Buzzy, Now's the Time and My Little Suede Shoes).

Miles Davis

(May 26, 1926 -  Sep 28, 1991)

  • "Half Nelson" (Lady Bird) (1948)

  • "Boplicity"(1949)

  • "Budo" (1949) - with Powell

  • "Dig" (Sweet George Brown) (1951) - with Jackie McLean

19-year old Davis succeeded Gillespie as trumpeter with Charlie Parker, playing on all of Bird's greatest studio dates of 1946-48. Like J.J., Davis's first major collaborations with Clarke (pictured together here) were the early 1949 performances of the Tadd Dameron Big Ten in the Royal Roost, its April studio recordings and, on the following day, the second of Miles's revolutionary"Birth of the Cool" sessions (Boplicity, Israel, Rouge, Venus de Milo), ushering in the sounds of the "cool school". Three weeks later, facilitated by Clarke, the Miles Davis-Tadd Dameron Quintet headlined at (and was the hit of) the First Paris Festival International de Jazz. Their performance of "Lady Bird" was the earliest on record to combine (in part) Dameron's original melody with Davis's contrafact "Half Nelson".

 

Heroin addiction blighted Miles's career for the next several years (mid-1949 to 1953), and his Blue Note sessions (of which the first, in May 1952, with Clarke and Pettiford) were among his few recordings of that period. 1954, the year of Miles's comeback, saw his classic Prestige studio dates with the well-honed MJQ rhythm team of Clarke and Percy Heath plus Monk, Horace Silver, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson and Lucky Thompson, producing some of the definitive recordings of early hard bop (on Walkin', Bag's Groove, and Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants).

 

In 1955 Miles established his first Great Quintet (with John Coltrane, and Philly Joe Jones on drums), with a repertoire that included several Gillespie and Dameron standards (Two Bass Hit, Woody 'n' You, Salt Peanuts, Tadd's Delight). By then Clarke's hectic recording schedule led him to turn down gigs even from Miles. "Miles knocked on my door, so I told the little girl I was with to tell him I'm out. 'Klook, Klook, I know you're in there'. I just didn't feel like going on that gig. I'd been recording for Savoy Records almost every day. I was tired."

After Clarke's emigration to Paris, he and Miles collaborated one more time in late 1957 when they worked with René Urtreger on the sound track of the French film "L'Ascensceur à l'Échafaud". The same quintet was recorded in concert in Paris and Amsterdam, playing classics from Miles's early 50s repertoire, and on a surreal moonscape set on French TV on Christmas Day (see J.J. Johnson).

Horace Silver

(Sep 2, 1928 -  Jun 18, 2014)

  • "Opus De Funk" (1953)

  • "To Beat or Not To Beat" (1956)

One of the leading figures of 1950s hard bop (and beyond), Silver collaborated with Clarke frequently in 1954-56, recording together on 14 separate occasions. During 1954 they both participated in several studio dates with trumpeter Art Farmer (either as leader or with arranger and saxophonist Gigi Gryce), as well as on Miles Davis's Walkin' and Bag's Groove sessions. Two weeks before the second Miles date, Silver also sat in with the Modern Jazz Quartet, replacing John Lewis, for their album "Modern Jazz Quartet, Milt Jackson Quintet", which included Silver's second recording of his 1953 classic "Opus De Funk". After leaving the MJQ, Clarke would record a 13 minute version of this tune, with multiple decreasing circles of solos, on Milt Jackson's October 1955 quintet album "Opus De Jazz".

In early June 1955, when Silver (along with Art Farmer and tenor man Hank Mobley) was doing a stint in Pettiford's Café Bohemia house band, he, Clarke and Mobley participated in the third of J.J. Johnson's "Eminent Jay Jay Johnson" Blue Note dates. At the end of that month Silver would join Clarke on the "Bohemia After Dark" session with Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Ironically, Pettiford did not play with his own house band members on the record named after his own tune. Producer Ozzie Cadena refused Pettiford's request to fire Silver (over some disagreement), so Clarke hired 20-year-old Paul Chambers instead. To mark his absence, one of the charts the Adderleys wrote for the record was entitled “With Apologies To Oscar”.

 

In November 1955, Silver recorded live at the Café Bohemia (on Blue Note) with the Jazz Messengers, which he had co-founded with Art Blakey in 1954. In January 1956, he and Clarke played on the first of the "Jazz Message of Hank Mobley" sessions, including a version of Bud Powell's "Budo". Their last joint recording was the first of three June 1956 studio dates for "Silver's Blue" (Epic), his first album as leader after leaving the Jazz Messengers (which later became synonymous with Art Blakey). It included "To Beat or Not To Beat", another classic but neglected early Silver original.

Sonny Rollins

(b. Sep 7, 1930)

  • "No Moe" (1953)

  • "Soft Shoe" (1954) - by Art Farmer

  • "Airegin" (1954) - Vocalese by LH&R

The Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins cut his first sides in 1949, performing for Blue Note with Bud Powell and Fats Navarro on the original "Dance of the Infidels" and other Powell classics ("Bouncin' with Bud", "Wail"). In 1951 he recorded the first version of "Dig" with Miles Davis and an instrumental version of "A Slow Boat to China", both of which feature in the band's repertoire.

Rollins and Clarke only appeared together on record on four occasions. One of Rollins' key sessions of 1953 was his Prestige date with the Modern Jazz Quartet, which included two Rollins originals, "The Stopper" and "No Moe", as well as a definitive ballad interpretation of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood". In 1954, they recorded with Art Farmer (Early Art, Prestige), including Farmer's bop classic "Soft Shoe", and, most significantly, with Miles Davis on his "Bag's Groove" session (minting Rollins's well known jazz standards Oleo, Doxy and Airegin). The latter is also notable for its vocalese version by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross in the late 1950s.

 

In 1955-56 Rollins worked intensively with Max Roach and Clifford Brown, producing many other early hard bop classics. In addition, on one of his four studio dates with drummer Philly Joe Jones and his only joint session with John Coltrane, he famously recorded "Tenor Madness", a further renaming of Clarke's "Rue Chaptal" (1946).

Despite his limited encounters with Clarke, Rollins recalled that "when I was working with Miles in the 1950s, I was completely flabbergasted by Kenny's playing - the way his time just rolled and glided along - yet there was a lot happening. His rhythm - the sound and smoothness of it - was all I could think of. It really knocked me out!" This enthusiasm is audible on their only other joint recording, at a live trio gig in the south of France in March 1959 (especially on Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You"). Rollins can be heard interrupting his playing of the tune with delirious moans of "Yeah, Klook!".

Clifford Brown

(Oct 30, 1930 -  Jun 26, 1956)

  • "Once in a While" (1954)

  • "You're Not the Kind" (1954)

Although he first played with a number of bop giants in Philadelphia as early as 1948, Brown's most significant collaboration during his brief but spectacular career was his mid-1950s partnership with Clarke's fellow drummer, Max Roach. Their Quintet of 1954-56 was one of the defining groups and sounds of early hard bop, cut tragically short by Brown's death in a car accident in the summer of 1956. A disciple of both Gillespie and Navarro, Brown was already by his early twenties an original stylist and had, to quote critic Ian Carr, "one of the fullest and most beautiful trumpet sounds in jazz, which brought him nearer to Navarro than Gillespie", having a direct or indirect influence on all jazz trumpeters to this day.

Clarke and Brown recorded together only once, on the first and best of the "Eminent Jay Jay Johnson" sessions for Blue Note, in June 1953. However, performances from Brown's later work have inspired several related selections for the band's repertoire. His "Once in a While" on the 1954 live Birdland album with Art Blakey reprises a song that Sarah Vaughan first recorded in December 1947 (with Clarke in the Jimmy Jones Quartet, incidentally on the day before Clarke cut the original Manteca and Ool-Ya-Koo with the Gillespie big band!). Sarah Vaughan's 1954 album with Brown is considered one of the greatest of her career and includes "You're Not the Kind", a song Vaughan first recorded with the Tadd Dameron orchestra (including Clarke and Bud Powell) in May 1946. Finally, as noted above, Bud Powell's "Parisian Throroughfare" and Tadd Dameron's "The Scene is Clean" are also part of our "book" as key compositions written by Clarke's close associates that received a definitive interpretation in the hands of Brown and Max Roach.

Cannonball Adderley

(Sep 15, 1928 -  Aug 8, 1975)

  • "Chasm" (1955)

  • "Late Entry" (1955)

  • "Cannonball" (1955)

Clarke was present at and instrumental in the launch of Cannonball's career in June 1955 as one of the giants of hard bop. The story is well told in a jazz collector's blog post that was published coincidentally just at the time that this project was itself being launched in February 2019. In a 1977 interview with Helen Oakley Dance, Clarke noted that Cannonball, an out-of-town visitor from Florida, had played "Bohemia After Dark" that first night as if it was his own work, prompting Clarke to ask him afterwards "So who wrote that tune, was it you or Oscar?"

Aside from Pettiford's title track, Cannonball contributed several charts both to the first recording session, on June 28, including "Chasm" and "Late Entry", and to a follow-up Savoy date on July 14 (this time under Cannonball's leadership). Clarke relates that the Adderleys felt a debt of loyalty to him for securing these initial gigs and Cannonball was uneasy about receiving a several-thousand dollar contract offer from one of the other labels. Clarke claims to have replied:"Look, as long as I've been in New York, I've never had anyone offer me THAT kind of money. If you don't take that deal, Cannonball, I'll kill you and I'll ship you back to Florida!"

Clarke also played on Cannonball's first two studio dates for Emarcy in the following two weeks, before Cannonball, as Clarke put it, "took off". Among the charts for his Emarcy debut, with Quincy Jones on hand as arranger, was a characteristically ebullient feature for the leader simply entitled "Cannonball".

During Clarke's Paris years, Cannonball was the producer of two albums that Clarke recorded (in Paris) in late 1961 (see Bud Powell). They would also share the stage with Gene Ammons, Nat Adderley and Dexter Gordon for an all-star jam at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in July 1973.

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