The 12 greats of alto sax

1-Art Pepper (1925 –1982) Arthur Edward Pepper, Jr, the addict to the music & heroin.

Without nickname knew in world music, Art was an alto saxophonist and clarinetist born in Gardena, California, within a family with non-musicians parents.   He began his career in the 1940s. Worked with different leaders but specially with Stan Kenton (1946-52) and Buddy Rich´s Big Band (1968-1969). Is related with Gerry Mullig (sax)  and Chet Baker (trumpet) inside the musical movement known as West Coast Jazz as contrasted with the East Coast (or “hot”) jazz associated with the likes of Charlie Parker (sax) (sax), Dizzy Gllispie (trumpet) and Miles Davis (trumpet). None teacher to be bring out. Among his award / knowledgment, Art was considered the second best alto saxophonist in the Down Beat magazine Readers Poll of 1952, year in which Charlie Parker was elected as the best.  Among events / setback (contratiempos): His career was repeatedly interrupted by several prison stints stemming from his addiction to heroin.   Died from a brain hemorrhage in 1982.  

2-Benny Carter (1907 – 2003), the great granddad.


One of the most long-lived players in jazz music, without nickname knew in world music, “the granddad” Benny was born in New York City in 1907 within a family with a pianist mother.  Main cities of work in USA:  New York, Los Angeles (L.A.) (1943). Loved and traveled around Europe in 1935-38 with a number of appearances in  United kindom, France, Scandinavian. Profile as musician:Carter was not only an instrumentalist (alto saxophone, clarinetis, trumpeter) but also a great music with superb arrangements.  He had a career very very long. It has been said that he is the only musician to have recorded in eight different decades. Influences: Bubber Miley: As a youth, Carter lived in Harlem around the corner from Bubber Miley  who was Duke Ellington´s  star trumpeter.None teacher to be bring out. Coleman Hawkins (sax) was his Musical alter ego. Work with different leaders but specially with  Duke Ellington. Charlie Johnson, Fletcher Henderson,  Spike Hughes(British band leader) (joined to other noted saxophonists such as Coleman Hawkins, –his best friend- and Leon “Chu Berry”). Among his memorable /recording sessions:   Recorded “Stormy Weather” in L.A, year 1943, a masterpiece that you can see and listening in our website. Performance with Billie Holiday at the legendary Monterrey Jazz Festival (1958) and with Dizzy Gillispie performed at the 1968.   Among his main contribution / legato / Disciples:  He was an inspiration and a mentor for the great Quincy Jones (producer of Michael Jackson among other noted musicians) when Jones began writing for television and films in the 1960s. Had many awards / knowledgments but the more important was that he and Johnny Hodges were considered the leading alto “players of the day” by the early 1930s. Also received the Golden Score award of the American Socienty of Music Arrangers in 1980 and the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Jazz Masters Award for 1986, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. In 1990, Carter was named “Jazz Artist of the Year” in both the Down Beat and Jazz Times International Critics’ polls.  Finally he obtained a Grammy Award in 1994 for his solo in “Prelude to a Kiss”, a jazz standard composed by Ellington and included in our website.   Another comments of interest: Carter was the first visiting professor of Jazz musicians Princeton University (1968-1973). In 1974 Princeton awarded him an honorary master of humanities degree. He conducted workshops and seminars at several other universities and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard for a week in 1987.  Received honorary doctorates from Princeton (1974) Rutgers (1991) Harvard (1994), and the New England Conservatory (1998). Events / setback (contratiempos):  none to be mentioned. Died from an acute bronchitis at the age of 95 in Los Angeles, Californi, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, 2003.  


3-Charlie Parker (Charles “Charlie” Parker, Jr.) (1920 –1955). A fast pace life becoming a vulgar beggar from a jazz superstar.


The great Charlie Parker had a fast pace life with a special fall from the jazz summit, as superstar, to the floor, becoming in a vulgar beggar. A physical ruin by alcohol and drugs but as saxophonist altosimply the best. Knew as “Yardbird” or simply “Bird”, Charlie was born in Kansas City, Kansas, within a family with the father, Charles, as “entertainer” (pianist, dancer and singer) on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA) created in 1909.Profile as musician: saxophonist and composer. Had a short-career: 1940-1955. In just 15 years changed not only the sax but the jazz history. Parker began playing the saxophone at age 11, and at age 14 joined his school’s band using a rented school instrument. Influences:  Bands led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten. He had as music teacher in New York to Maury Deutsch and as saxo teacher to Henry “Buster” Smith,  Professor Smith,  an American jazz alto saxophonist, more famous as mentor to Charlie Parker that as player. His dynamic transitions to double and triple time influenced Parker’s developing style. In an interview with Paul Desmond, Charlie said that he spent 3–4 years practicing up to 15 hours a day. His musical alter ego was Dizzy Gillispie (trumpeter). The main contribution /legato of Parker was the rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chordsand chord substitutionsParker’s style of composition involved interpolatioof original melodies over pre-existing jazz forms and standards, a practice still common in jazz today. Examples include “Ornithology” (“How high the moon”), and “Yarbird Suite”,  the vocal version of which is called “What price love”, with lyrics by Parker. “Ornithology”, “How high the moon”  as well as “Yarbird Suite”,  are included in our website.   He worked with different leaders but specially with McShann and Art Tatum (pianist). Moreover took part in a “classic quintet” including trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Max Roach.  Charlie had a big influence in new generations of musicians but had not none direct disciple of interest. The bird is very difficult to copy.  Among his memorable /recording sessions:   On November 26, 1945, Parker led a record date for the Savoy label, marketed as the “greatest Jazz session ever”. Recording as Charlie Parker’s Reboppers, Parker enlisted such sidemen as Dizzy Gilliespie and Milies Davis on trumpet, Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. The tracks recorded during this session include “Ko-ko”, “Billie ´s Bounce” and “Now ´s the time”,  an adaptation of this last a piece has been included in our website. In 1953, Parker performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada, joined by Gillespie, Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop (period of Jazz started in 1945) a form of jazz characterized by very fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and long improvisations. He played a essential role in the pre-bebop period: in 1942-43  Parker joined a group of young musicians, and played in after-hours clubs in Harlem, such as Clark Monroe´s Uptown House, and Minton´s Playhouse. These group of young people included Gillespie (trumpet), Thelonious Monk (pianist), Charlie Christian (guitarist) , andKenny Clarke (drummer) . The beboppers’ attitude was summed up in a famous quotation attributed to Monk by Mary Lou Williams: “We wanted a music that they couldn’t play”– “they” being the white bandleaders who had usurped and profited from swing music. The group played in venues on 52nd Street, including Three Deuces and The Onyx. Parker was considered by themselves as the king of the beboppers, who called to the traditionalists “moldy figs” (higos pasados). Some traditionalist as Coleman Hawkins (colour) and Benny Goodman (white),  participated in jam sessions and recording dates in the new approach with its adherents. Although there are recordings from 1942 to 1944, bebop musicians had a difficult time gaining widespread recognition. It was not until 1945, when the recording ban was lifted, that Parker’s collaborations with Dizzy Gillispie, Mile Davis, Max Roach, Bud Powell, and others had a substantial effect on the jazz world. Although has a short career is surprising that had no special award / knowledgment. Parker was an icon for thehipster subculture and later the Beat Generation (literary movement born in San Francisco), personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual, rather than an entertainer. The guitarist of Charlie was not Charlie Christian but William “Biddy” Fleet, a typical accompanying guitarist.  A longstanding desire of Parker’s was to perform with a strng section.  He was a keen student of classical music and contemporaries reported he was most interested in the music and formal innovations of Igor Stravinsky and longed to engage in a project akin to what later became known as Third Stream,  a new kind of music, the same that Stan Kenton wanted (read the birth of Bossa music in our website),  incorporating both jazz and classical elements as opposed to merely incorporating a string section into performance of jazz standards. Among the more remarkable events / setback (contratiempos) in his life: As a teenager, Parker developed a morphine addiction while in hospital after an automobile accident, and subsequently became addicted to heroin. He continued using heroin throughout his life, which ultimately contributed to his death. Parker’s chronic addiction to heroin caused him to miss gigs (actuaciones) and lose work. He frequently resorted to busking on the streets as beggar or receiving loans from fellow musicians and admirers, and pawning his saxophones for drug money.  Heroin was difficult to obtain when he moved to California, where the drug was less abundant, and Parker began to drink heavily to compensate for it.The major tragedy of Parker´ life: his daughter Pree (who died as an infant of cystic fibrosis). Parker, the bird, died  in  1955 in New York  while watching, coincidences of life, a jazz program: The Dorsey Brothers´Stage Show on television. The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had suffered a heart attack.The coroner (forense) who performed his autopsy mistakenly estimated Parker’s 34-year-old body to be between 50 and 60 years of age. Parker was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri, in a hamlet known as Blue Summit. Among the most important testimonials:  Miles Davis once said, “You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker.” More than a half century without Parker and the Jazz lovers remember him every day, every minute. You will be always not only in our mind but in our heart and the more important, in our soul.




4-Eric Dolphy: Eric Allan Dolphy, Jr. (1928 –1964), a diabetic taken for junkie, the best multi-instrumentalist of jazz history.


Saxo player without nickname kown, Eric was  born in Los Angeles, son of non-musicians Panama emigrants. He was a multi-instrumentalist with a short career, which worked mainly in New York but loved Europe.  He picked up the clarinet at the age of six years. His more important influences /references were: Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown.  His musical alter ego /best friends were Booker Little and John Coltrane. Before trumpeter Booker dead untimely at the age of 23, he and Dolphy had a very fruitful musical partnership (sociedad). Dolphy and John Coltrane knew each other long before they played together, they met when Coltrane was in Los Angeles with Miles Davis. Coltrane’s quintets with Dolphy, another legendary ensemble (combo, grupo) jazz,  originally provoked fierce critics as ‘anti-jazz’. The quintet recorded brilliants solos in “Naima” and “My Favorite Things”, this last with the flute. Boths jazz standards are included in our website. Dolphy’s mother, Sadie, who fond the son´memories in house studio, gave new instruments to Coltrane, which Dolphy had bought in France but never played. Coltrane subsequently played the new flute and bass clarinet of Dolphy on several albums before his own death (1967). Dolphy left Mingus’ band in 1961 and went to Europe for a few months, where he recorded in Scandinavia and Berlin, though he would record with Mingus throughout his career. In 1964, with an incredible sextet, joined to Jaki Byard, Johnny Coles and Clifford Jordan, considered as one of the finest jazz combo of all the times, touring Europe another time. In early 1964 left for Europe with Charles Mingus’ sextet. Dolphy intended to settle in Europe with his fiancée, who was working in the ballet scene in Paris. After leaving Mingus, he performed and recorded a few sides with various European bands, and American musicians living in Paris, such as Donald Byrd and Nathan Davis. In his profile as musician not was only a jazz alto saxophonist but excellent multi-instrumentalist, he was also the first important bass clarinet soloist in jazz, and among the earliest significant flute soloists. His main contribution /legato:   He stood out by his improvisational style and for using an array of extended techniques to reproduce human- and animal-like effects which almost literally made his instruments speak. Dolphy’s instrumental abilities and unique style of jazz, deeply emotional and free but strongly rooted in tradition and structured composition, heavily influenced Don Byron and many others. Worked with leaders as Gerald Wilson  (bebop big band), Roy Porter, Chico Hamilton, Ron Carter, and Freddie Hubbard throughout his career. Among his memorable recording sessions Dolphy recorded several unaccompanied cuts on saxophone, which at the time had been done only by Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, making Dolphy the first to do so on alto. In 1963 sessions marked the first time Dolphy played with Bonny Hutcherson, whom he knew from Los Angeles. The sessions are perhaps most famous for the three duets Dolphy performs with Richard Davis on “Alone Together”, “Ode To Charlie Parker”, and “Come Sunday”, a cover of this last included in our website. Magnum opus: Out to Lunch! in 1964.  His bests solos: “Tenderly” (on alto saxophone), “God bless the child” (on bass clarinet). Although Dolphy’s work is sometimes classified as the first free jazzsaxophone, his melodic lines  and solos were often rooted in conventional modal harmony by the influences of modern classical composers Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky. He loved the classical music (as Charlie Parker): Twentieth century classical music also played a significant role in Dolphy’s musical career. He performed Edgard Varèse´s Density 21.5. for solo flute at the Ojai Music Festival in 1962 and participated in Gunther Schuller´s Third Stream efforts of the 1960s. In addition, his work with jazz and rock producer Alan Douglas allowed Dolphy’s style to posthumously spread to musicians in the jazz fussion and rock environments, most notably with artists John McLaughlin andJimi Hendrix. Died accidentally in Berlin, 1964. Some details of his passing are still disputed, but it is accepted that he died of a coma brought on by an undiagnosed diabetic condition. The attending hospital physicians had no idea that Dolphy was a diabeticand decided on a stereotypical view of jazz musicians related to substance abuse, that he had overdosed on drugs. He was left in a hospital bed for the drugs to run their course. Ted Cursonremembers:  “That really broke me up. When Eric got sick on that date [in Berlin], and him being black and a jazz musician, they thought he was a junkie. Eric didn’t use any drugs. He was a diabetic – all they had to do was take a blood test and they would have found that out. So he died for nothing. They gave him some detox stuff and he died, and nobody ever went into that club in Berlin again. That was the end of that club”. Testimonial: Mingus said, “was a complete musician. He could fit anywhere. He was a fine lead alto in a big band. He could make it in a classical group. He had mastered all the instruments he played. Coltrane: He was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, as a man, a friend, and a musician.”


5-Johnny Hodges (John Keith “Johnny” Hodges) (1906 -1970), “the rabbit”, the peerless balladeer who lost his privileged seat, dead in the office of a dental surgeon, “terrified”.


Hodges was born in Cambridge (Massachussetts). His mother was a skilled piano player.  Soon afterwards the family moved to Hammond Street in Boston (Massachussetts). Main cities of work in USA:  Boston and New York. Hodges, a musician of long career, built a name for himself in the Boston area before moving to New York in 1924. Know better by his nickname “rabbit”, called so by Carney because of his rabbit-like nibbling on lettuce and tomato sandwiches although Johnny Griffin had another explanation for the nickname rabbit: “he looked like a rabbit, no expression on his face while he’s playing all this beautiful music.”   Hodges joined Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1928. Ellington named him with another nickname:   Jeep.  Charlie Parker called him “the Lily Pons (American operatic soprano and actress) of his instrument”. As “altoist” Hodges was featured on a countless number of performances with Ellington. Also help to Ellington in ocaasional compositions, pieces such as: “Things ain´t what they used to be”, “Passion flower” and “Come sunday”, this last included in our video clips serie. Hodges was also featured on soprano saxophone but refused to play soprano after 1946.  Surprisingly his first instruments were drums and piano. Early drummers and later famous in other instruments were too: Bix Beiderbecke and Count Basie. Had as Saxophone teachers to Harry Carney, Charlie Holmes and Howard E. Johnson. He had taken up the soprano saxophone by his teens. It was around this time that Hodges developed the nickname “rabbit”. In the beginning of hs career he received instruction from the legendary Sidney Bechet too. He has musical alter ego /best friend to Wild Bill Davis. In the 1960s, Hodges teamed up with this organist on some sessions, leading to Davis joining Ellington for a time in 1969.Work with bandleaders as Lloyd Scott, Chick Webb, Luckey Roberts and Willie “The Lion” Smith, and he also had the opportunity to work with Bechet. Duke Ellington´s big band was his definitive band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years, except the period between 1932 and 1946 when Otto Hardwick took over the first chair (!!!!). From 1951 to 1955, Hodges left the Duke to lead his own band. Did memorable /recording sessions, specially with Duke Ellington orchestra at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. Songs recorded by the Ellington Orchestra which prominently feature Hodges’ smooth alto saxophone sound are “Prelude to a kiss” and    ” I got it bad”, both included in our website. masterful on the blues, peerless balladeer, Hodges´s luscious playing on ballads has never been topped. His playing became one of the identifying voices of the Ellington orchestra. His highly individualistic playing style, which featured the use of a wide vivrato and much sliding between slurred notes, was frequently imitated. Was a outstanding member of classic swing style. Award / knowledgment:    He is considered one of the definitive alto saxophones players of the Big Band Era (along side Benny Carter), In fact Benny Carter was his only close rival in the 1930s.  Died in 1970 from a heart attack during a visit to the office of a dental surgeon, “terrified”.  Hodges’ last performances were at the Imperial Room in Toronto, less than a week before.   As testimonial: Benny Goodman described Hodges as “by far the greatest man on alto sax that I ever heard.”  


6-Otto Hardwick (Otto James “Toby” Hardwick) (1904 –1970). The saxophonist who dared to swipe (birlar) the first chair to Jonny Hodges.



This great sax alto player of short career, nicknamed Toby, was born in Washington from non-musician parents.  Actually he was originally a string bassist (started on string bass at the age of 14) switching to C-melody sax first and after to alto sax; occasionally played baritone and bass saxes in addition to clarinet and violin. He left the bass string and was turned to sax when suggested by Ellington. Mainly he worked in USA (Washington and New York) but in 1928 visited Europe. In his early years as musician in USA he worked in the Carroll´s Columbia Orchestra (1920). Then he waas an original member of The Washingtonians (pianist Ellington, sax Hardwick, banjoistSnowden, trumpeter Arthur Whetsol, and drummer Sonny Greer), led by Elmer Snowden with frequent performances in Murray´s Casino, Washington (1922). The Washingtonians moved to New York in 1923, and began to get regular work at the Hollywood andat a Times Square nightspot called the Kentucky Club on Broadway but were not very successful.  After a disagreement over money, Snowden was forced out of the band and Duke Ellington was elected as the new leader.They were booked for three years in the same Kentucky Club where they met Irving Mills who produced and published Ellington’s music. The Ottosax teachers in NY were Wilber Sweatman and Elmer Snowden.Otto worked regularly with a band led by Duke Ellington until 1926. During this first stint (período / temporada)  in the Ellington band, Hardwick played also clarinet and violin. In Europehe played with Noble Sissle, Sidney Bechet and Nekka Shaw´s Orchestra, and led his own orchestra before returning to New York in 1929. When got back from Europe, Hardwick worked with a band that included Chu Berry and Fats Waller: this orchestra even bested Ellington in a battle of the bands. After a brief stint with Chick Webb (1929) , then led his own band at the “Hot Feet Club”, New York (1930), rejoining Duke Ellington in the spring of 1932. Except for brief absences he remained with Duke until may 1946. In this second stint with Ellington Otto “swiped” the first chair to Johnny Hodges in working sessions; Johnny Hodges got virtually all of the alto solos in the performances of the Orchestra. As saxophonist his main contribution was a sweet tone and fluid style as well as his creamy tone, in contrast with the cutting tone of Johnny Hodges´alto.  Both played a rhythmically rather stiff kind of dance-music, influenced by a smattering of New Orleans jazz. Among his memorable recording sessions Hardwick took a famous solo on the original version of “Sophisticated Lady” (a standard he co-wrote). He was featured also in other songs such as “Jubilee Stomp”, “Got Everething But You”,  “Black And Tan Fantasy” and “In A Sentimental Mood” and “ Prelude to a Kiss”. In  the biography of Ellington signed by James Lincoln Collier, the author says that “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Prelude to a Kiss”, the three opera magna of Ellington, are really adaptations of Hardwick melodies. Despite of all of it he had not award / knowledgment. In may 1946 left the Ellington Orchestra because of personal differences. Ellington’s dislike of Hardwick’s girlfriend. Hardwick went on to freelance for a short time in the following year, and then retired from music in 1947 (with just 43 yrs) after recording two songs as a leader the following year. Whe retired from music he worked in a hotel (management) in addition to run an own farm in Maryland. After Hardwick’s departure in 1946 he was replaced by Russell Procope but all solos, included de mythical songs of Hardwick were taken by Hodges.  He was death in 1970.

7-Julian Cannonball Adderley (Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley) (1928 –1975) the leader of jazz-rock fusion and Avant-Garde musical movement.


Sax player of long career, nicknamed as “Cannonball” derived originally from “cannibal,” a title imposed on him by high school colleagues as a tribute to his fast eating capacity, he was the brother of jazz cornetist Nat Adderley.  Julian was born in Tampa, Florida, within a family from non-musicians parents. Cannonball worked in a local legend in Florida until he moved to New York City in 1955, where he lived in Corona, Quees.  He was a jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bopera of the 1950s and 1960s. His educational career started in Dillard High School in Fort Landerlale, Florida.  When Cannonball moved to Tallahassee, Florida, his parents obtained teaching positions at Florida A&M University. His main influences were John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. Had as music teacher to the selfsame Ray Charles  when this one lived in Tallahassee during the early 1940s.  He had as musical alter ego your brother Nat.  When Adderley set in NY he visited frequently the Cafe Bohemia, where Oscar Pettiford´s group was playing every  night.  Adderley carried with him his saxophone all the time, even when he visited the club, because he feared that it would be stolen, and one day he was asked to sit in as the saxophone player. That performance established his reputation. Adderley joined the Miles Davis sextet in October 1957, three months prior to John Coltrane returned to the group. In this period coincided in the sextet with pianist Bill Evans. Among his memorable recording sessions he will be always remembered for his 1966 single “Mercy, mercy, mercy” (written by Joe Zawinul), a crossover hit on the pop charts, and for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis, including on the epochal album Kind of Blue (1959).  In 1960   his quintet appeared successfully at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. Movements:  By the end of 1960s, Adderley’s playing began to reflect the influence of the electric jazz. He saw the jazz-rock fusion inside an Avant-Garde musical movement (ground-breaking) (which is thought to be ahead of its time). Among his award / knowledgment, Adderley was initiated as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity (the world´s oldest and largest national fraternal society in music. Sinfonia was born on 1988 at the New England Conservtory in Boston. As curiosity, and the same thing happened to Ellington himself. in his early years,the Cannonball Adderley Quintet featured Cannonball on alto sax and his brother Nat Adderley on cornet (Adderley’s first quintet) was not very successful; however, after leaving Davis’ group, he formed another, again with his brother, which enjoyed more success.  Moreover musician Julian was a good teacher and dedicated a lot of his time to the sax and /or jazz music teaching. His interest as an educator carried over to each of his recordings. In this sense, in 1961, Cannonball narrated The Child’s Introduction to Jazz, released on Riverside Records. Died from of a stroke in 1975. He was buried in the Southside Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida, Joe Zawinul’s composition “Cannon Ball” (recorded on Weather Report´salbum Black Marked) is a tribute to Julian.  


8- Lee Konitz (born October 13, 1927), the sax alto of the cool Jazz, of the few altoists who got way of the influence of Charlie Parker.


Without a nickname known, Lee was born in Chicago, Illinois, within a Austrian/Russian Jewish family, with not-musicians parents. At age eleven Konitz received his first instrument—a clarinet—but later dropped the instrument in favor of the tenor saxophone; eventually moved from tenor to alto. His greatest influences at the time were the swing big bands that he and his brother listened to on the radio, in particular Benny Goodman. Konitz, like other students of pianist and theoretician Lennie Tristano, noted (destacaba) for improvising long, melodic lines with the rhythmic interest coming from odd accents, or odd note groupings suggestive of the imposition of one time signature over another. His musical alter ego was Gerry Mulligan (sax), and Lennie Tristano (pianist), Charlie Parker  (sax alto)-. They  were actually good friends, and not the rivals some jazz critics once said about them.  Konitz began his professional career in 1945 with the Teddy Powell band as a replacement for Charlie Ventura.  In 1946 he first met pianist Lennie Tristano and worked together in a small cocktail bar. With Miles Davis recorded in 1949 and 1950 the sides collected on the “Birth of the Cool” album. Konitz has stated that he considered the group to belong to Gerry Mulligan, and credits Lennie Tristano as the true forebearer of “the cool”. Worked with Benny Goodman in 1949—a decision he is on record as regretting. In the early 1950s, Konitz recorded and toured with Stan Kenton´s oorchestra. Paul Desmond and, especially, Art Pepper were strongly influenced by Konitz.Loved the guitar and worked with guitarists as Jim Hall and Bill Frisell. Among his memorable /recording sessions stand out one performance that he carried out in 1981 at the Woodstock Jazz festival held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio.Generally Konitz is considered one of the main figures in the cool jazz movement, but he has also performed successfully in bebop and avant-garde settings. Konitz was one of the few altoists to retain a distinctive sound without the influence of Charlie Parker.  Konitz’s association with the cool jazz movement of 50s is clear starting by his essential contribution to Miles Davis´ Birth of the Cool as previously mentioned. The presence of Konitz and other whites in the group angered some black jazz players.  He has also had problems with his heart which he has received surgery for in the past. He is still alive, so this history to be continued.

9-Ornette Coleman (Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (1930-alive): The father of Free jazz & Avant-garde movement, creator of harmolodic, multi-instrumentalist, and the most laureate altoist.


Ornette, without a nickname known, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, within a family without musical knowledge.  Moreover a famous sax alto he was violinist, trumpeter and composer.   In his teens he attended LM Terrell High School, where he was in the chool band until he was dismissed (expulsado) for improvising during “The Washington Post”.  He worked at various jobs, including a work as elevator operator (ascensorista), while still pursuing his musical career. He worked with leaders as Pee Wee Crayton and Jam Jivers,  just in the early years playing bebob with sax tenor. Seeking a way to work his way out of his home town, he took a job in 1949 with Silas Green taking part in one of the popular “Touring ryth and blues shows” from New Orleas. After a show in Baron Rouge,  the capital of Louissiana, he was assaulted and his saxophone tenor was destroyed. In his biography this event is known as “the Baton Rouge incident”, an event which marked a before and after in your life. He switched to alto in 1949, after the destruction of tenor sax. Part of the uniqueness (singularidad) of Coleman’s early sound came from his use of a plastic alto  saxophone !!! (Los Angeles in 1954), according two motifs: a) the money:  unable to afford a metal saxophone and b) claimed that it sounded drier, without the pinging sound of metal. In more recent years, he has played a metal saxophone. In contrast to bebopperformers he was increasingly interested in playing what he heard rather than fitting it into predetermined chorus-structures and harmonies. Jazz musicians regarded Coleman’s playing as out-of-tune (desafinado). His most ardents admirers were Lionel Hampton (vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist and actor),  Leonard Bernstein (conductor -director de orquesta) and Virgil Thomson (composer) .  The three were favorably impressed and regarded Ornette as a genius and an innovator.His musical alter ego were Paul Bley (pianist) and  Charlie Haden (double bassist)(contrabajista).  He sometimes had difficulty finding musicians with whom to perform, nevertheless, pianist Paul Bley was an early supporter and musical collaborator. Next Coleman met double bassist Charlie Haden– one of a handful of his most important collaborators –The great Scott LaFaro sometimes replaced Charlie Haden on double bass –Public enemies: Miles Davis declared frequently that Coleman was “all screwed up inside” (pirado, jodido por dentro) and Roy Eldridge (trumpeter and singer) stated, ” I think he’s jiving (bromeando) baby.”Main contribution /Legato /Disciples:   Coleman’s timbre is easily recognized: his keening, crying sound draws heavily on blues music Coleman’s playing has profoundly influenced, directly or otherwise, countless musicians, trying as he has for five decades to understand and discover the shape of not just jazz, but all music to come. Some criticshave suggested Coleman’s frequent use of the vaguely defined term harmolodics ((unorthodox compositional style)). Memorable /recording sessions: the first session was special in the life of Coleman: In 1958, Coleman led his first recording session for Contemporary, Something Else: The Music of Ornette Coleman. The session also featured trumpeter Don Cherry, drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Don Payne and Walter Norris on piano. Coleman very rarely played standards, concentrating on his own compositions. There was  exceptions as “Embreceable You” and  Criss-Cross of the big composer “Thelonious Monk” You can listen a cover of both songs in our video collection.   Movements:  His album “The shape of Jazz to come”  in 1959, the first step of avant-garde movement blues-based and often quite melodic, the album’s compositions were considered at that time harmonically unusual and unstructured. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement in 1960 when Coleman recorded Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, which featured a double quartet, including Cherry and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and the great Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, Haden and Scott LaFaro on double bass, and both Higgins and Blackwell on drums. Free Jazz was, at nearly 40 minutes, the lengthiest recorded continuous jazz performance to date, and was instantly one of Coleman’s most controversial albums full of “dissonant fanfares” (fanfarrias) and some extraordinary passages of collective improvisation by the full octet (recalling the old dizzy jazz of New Orleans but in a caotic style).Award / knowledgment:  In 2004 Coleman was awarded The Dorothy and Lilian Gish Prize, one of the richest prizes in the arts, given annually to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” In 2007 his album Sound Grammar received the Pulitzer Prize for music and Ornette Coleman was honored with a Grammy award for lifetime achievement, in recognition of this legacy.  In  2009, Ornette Coleman received the Miles Davis award ((¡!!!)(his public enemy) , a recognition given by the Montreal Jazz Festival to jazz musicians who have contributed along their careers to the evolution of the jazz music. In 2010, Ornette was awarded an honorary doctorate in Music from the University of Michigan for his musical contributions.  To be continued, he is alive.

10-Paul Desmond (Paul Emil Breitenfeld) 1924-1977), sax altissimo applauded by Jazz enthusiastic but hated by Jazz students by the difficulty of riging up a solo over “Take Five”,with rythm in 5/4.


Paul Desmond, nicknamed stork ((cigüeña)) because he would stand on one leg and leaned on (apoyarse) the piano. was an American jazz alto, altissimo according to critics, saxophonist  and composer, born in San Francisco within a family with two religions, so his father was from a Jewish family from Bohemia and Austria, and his mother was Catholic.  His father was an organist who played in movie theaters during silent films.  Desmond began playing violin at an early age, though his father forbade him to play it. He played clarinet at the age of twelve at San Francisco Polytechnic High School. It was not until he became a freshman at San Francsico Stae College that he picked up the alto saxophone according the influences of Lee Konitz. Following the conclusion of World War II (september 1945), Desmond started working at the Bandbox, Palo Alto, California. He also worked with Brubeck at the Geary Cellar in San Francisco. In 1950 Desmond left for New York City   to play sax alto and clarinet for Jack Fina but returned to California after hearing Brubeck’s trio on the radio. In their private lives Dave Brubeck and his family were very close to Paul Desmond, though the two men possessed very different personalities. Darius Brubeck recalls thinking that Desmond was his uncle almost into adolescence. Desmond grew especially close to Dave’s son Michael, to whom he left his saxophone upon death. Gerry Mulligan, unlike Brubeck, personally shared much in common with Desmond. The two shared similar interests and humor, and both men had no shortage (escasez) of addictions in their lives. Hi love the guitar playing with Jim Hall and Ed Bickert, a Canadian guitarist.   Bickert played in the Paul Desmond Quartet at the Edmonton Jazz Festival, and they recorded several albums together.  The eternal legato of Paul Desmond was his celebrate “Take Five”. He was unable to make a  solo recording on Take Five, neither he nor anyone, the original cover had not solos. Desmond had a light melodic tone when playing the alto saxophone that is similar to the style of Lee Konitz, his main influence as previously noted. He was able to achieve particularly high notes, called altissimo, becoming one of the best-known players from the West Coast´s “cool school of Jazz”. Much of the success of the classic Brubeck quartet was due to the juxtaposition of his airy style over Brubeck’s sometimes relatively heavy, polytonal piano work. His gift for improvised counterpoint is perhaps most notable on the two albums he recorded with Mulligan (“Mulligan-Desmond Quartet” and “Two of a Mind”). Memorable /recording sessions: In June 1969 Desmond appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival with Gerry Mulligan procuring favorable reactions from critics and audience members. Desmond also joined “The Modern Jazz Quartet” for a Chritsmasconcert in 1971 at the New York Town Hall. Movements: He was one of the most popular musicians to come out of the West Coast´s “cool Jazz” scene, and the possessor of a legendary and idiosyncratic wit (chispa, salero). Award / knowledgment:   I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness. Events / setback (contratiempos):   his mother was emotionally unstable during his upbringing. During childhood he spent years living with relatives in New York City due to problems at home also dabbling in some LSD usage. He was known to have several addictions, including Dewar´s Scoth whisky and Pall Mall cigarettes ((chain smokers)). His chemical-dependency problems would sometimes drain him of his energy. Other comments: In his freshman year he was drafted into the United States Army and joined the Army band while stationed in San Francisco. He spent three years in the military, but his unit was never called to combat. Desmond had first met Dave Brubeck in 1944 while still in the military. Brubeck was trying out ((probar)) for the 253rd Army band which Desmond belonged to. After making the cut he—unlike Desmond—was sent to war in 1944. The group began in 1951 and ended in December 1967. The quartet became especially popular with college-age audiences, 1967, when Brubeck switched his musical focus from performance to composition and broke the unit up. The story of the reencounter (after get back from NY)  with Brubeck is somewhat humorous. Brubeck — married with three children and holding a grudge (resentimiento, rencor) from his earlier experience with Desmond — instructed his wife Iola not to let him set foot (poner el pie en su casa) in his house. But Desmond came to his home in San Francisco one day while Dave was out back hanging diapers (pañales) on a laundry line, and Iola let him in and took him to Brubeck. Apparently all the begging in the world ((todo el dinero del mundo) would not convince Brubeck to hire him, at least not until Desmond offered to babysit (trabajar de niñera) Brubeck’s children. During the 1970s Desmond rejoined with Dave Brubeck for several reunion tours including “Two Generations of Brubeck”. Accompanying them were Brubeck’s sons Chris Brubeck,  Dan Brubeck and Darius Brubeck. In 1976 he played 25 shows in 25 nights with Brubeck, touring the United States in several cities by bus.Desmond also was never hold down steady relationships with women, though he had no shortage of them. Desmond was quite well-read ((culto)) and retained a unique wit. He enjoyed reading works by the thinkers of his generation like Jack Kerouac, on the road. Clarinetist Perry Robinson  recalls in his autobiographythat Desmond would sometimes need vitamin B12 (¿?) shot just to go on playing during his later career.After years of chain smoking (fumador empedernido o severo) and general poor health, Desmond succumbed to lung cancer in 1977 following one last tour with Brubeck. Desmond specified in his will that all proceeds from “Take Five” would go to the Red Cross following his death.


11- Sonny Stitt (Edward “Sonny” Stitt) ( Edward Boatner, Jr) (1924-1982) one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with an electric saxophone or Varitone.


Nicknamed the “Lone Wolf” (lobo solitario) by jazz critic Dan Morgenstern in reference to his relentless touring and devotion to Jazz, Sonny was born in Boston, Massachussetts. His original family had a musical background; his father, Edward Boatner, was a baritone singer, composer and college music professor, his brother was a classically trained pianist, and his mother was a piano teacher.  Surprisingly Sonny was soon adopted by another family, the Stitts, who gave him his new surname,  growing up in Saginaw, Michigan. Not only worked in USA but also in Europe:  Paris, Manchester and Stockholm (just for concerts) + appeared regularly at Ronnie Scott´s in London. Within his profile as musician he was one of the best-documented saxophonists of his generation, recording over 100 albums with alto and tenor sax.  Stitt, when playing tenor saxophone, seemed to break free from some of the criticism that he was imitating Charlie Parker´s style.  His musical alter ego or soulmate was precisely Charlie Parker.  In 1943, Stitt first met Charlie Parker, and as he often later recalled, the two men found that their styles had an extraordinary similarity that was partly coincidental and not merely due to Stitt’s emulation. Stitt’s improvisations were more melodic and less dissonant than those of Parker. Sonny recorded a number of memorable records with his friend and fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons, interrupted by Ammons’ own imprisonment for narcotics possession. In USA worked with bandleaders as Tiny  Bradshaw´s, in 1940, and Dizzy Gillespie, in 1945, in the Dizzy´s band Sonny replaced Charlie Parker. Moreover Stitt played alto saxophone in Billy Eckstine´s big band alongside future bop pioneers Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons from 1945 until 1956, when he started to play tenor saxophone more frequently, in order to avoid being referred to as a Charlie Parker imitator. Stitt joined Miles Davis briefly in 1960, and recordings with Davis’ quintet can be found only in live settings on the tour of 1960. Stitt joined the all-star group Giants of Jazz (which also featured Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillispie, Theloious Monk, Kai Winding andbassist Al Mckibbon) and made albums for Atlantic Records, Concord Records and Emarcy Records.His last recordings were made in Japan. Stitt also recorded with Paul Gonsalves, disciple of Duke Ellington,   in 1963 for Impulse! on the Salt and Pepper album in 1963. Stitt was one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with an electric saxophone (the instrument was called a Varitone), as heard on the albums What’s New in 1966 and Parallel-A-Stitt in 1967.Memorable /recording sessions: in 1972, he produced a classic, Tune Up, which was and still is regarded by many jazz critics, such as Scott Yanow as his definitive record. Movements: bebop hard bop. Stitt experimented with Afro-Cuban Jazz or Latin Jazz in the late 1950s, and the results can be heard on his recordings for Roost and Verve, on which he teamed up with Thad Jones and Chick Corea for Latin versions of such standards as “Autumn Leaves”. He had not award nor special knowledgment.  Among the main events / setback (contratiempos) in his life: Stitt spent time in a Lexington prison between 1948–49 for selling narcotics. He loved the guitar and played with Jim Hall in USA  and Ernest Ranglin(Britain guitar player) at Ronnie Scott  (London). Curiously he recorded an album with Varitone, Just The Way It Was – Live At The Left Bank in 1971 which was released in 2000 !!!. Suffered a heart attack, and he died in Washington D.C in 1982.

12- Willie Smith (1929-1967): the chemical altoist.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, but raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Smith’s first instrument was clarinet. Name and last name superimposable to the pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith, who was one of the fathers of the stride piano style. Surprisingly  his main education was not in music but in chemistry, receiving his chemistry degree from Fisk University. Nevertheless in 1929, after starting on clarinet some years before,  he became an alto saxophonist for Jimmie Lunceford´sband, becoming one of the main stars in the group, being  the strongest soloist in the ensemble-oriented orchestra and clearly one of the stars in the big band up until 1942.  This year his success with Lunceford had lost its charms and he now wanted more pay and less travel, leaving the band that year to led his own quintet, formed really in 1940 as a side project. Moreover the quintet he played with Harry James´ orchestra, where he made more money, and stayed with him for seven years. After a year with Charlie Spivak and a year in the Navy, Smithjoined Harry James´big band big band, where he was paid properly and greatly appreciated. Well-featured with James, Smith stayed for seven years the first time, before joining Duke Ellington in 1951 (as part of “the great James robbery”), helping Ellington make up for the departure of Johnny Hodgesalthough the Duke had another great altoist, Otto Hardwick. Then Smith spent time with Billy May´s orchestra at the time the arranger’s big band was catching on.  before returning to James in 1954, Willie was also part of the Gene Krupa Trio, and can be heard on the 1952 live Verve album The Drum Battle. In 1953 he worked with Norman Granz´s Jazz at the Philarmonic and was featured on some of Granz´s Verve jam session records, including 1953’s Apple Jam in a battle with Buddy Rich. In 1954 he returned to Harry James’s band where he stayed for another decade. Added to all this he   worked with Nat King Cole, then more singer than pianist. Among his award/knowledge in the 1930s Willie Smith ranked third among alto saxophonists, just behind Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter. He had a distinctive sound and a swinging style that was a major asset to Jimmy Lunceford´s orchestra. Smith also contributed occasional vocals (“Rhythm Is Our Business” was his best-known recording) and some effective clarinet solos during the era, in addition to writing some fine arrangements for Lunceford. After largely retiring, Willie Smith recorded his only full-length album for GNP Crescendo (1965) and recorded with Charlie Barnet before passing away from cancer in 1967, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 56


  • Original video clips library of over 300 Jazz/Bossa Standards arranged to be performed with just a simple guitar.  Valid not only for guitar training but also to accompany any musical instrument.


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