Today is a great day in jazz, so forgive us for being a bit verbose. Usually when we write these blogs we either mention birthdays of jazz musicians, the release of a great jazz album, or special events in jazz that occurred on this day in history. Today we’ll concentrate on the former two topics. First we’ll mention birthdays of a number of jazz musicians, spanning the musical spectrum from jazz vocalist, bossa nova, to post bop. On this day Dr. Benny Golson, a great saxophonist who is an alumnus of Howard University was born. He is the composer of jazz standards such as “Killer Joe”, “Along Came Betty”, “Blues March”, “I Remember Clifford”, “Stablemates”, and many more. The university honored him by creating The Benny Golson Jazz Master Award, which has been bestowed upon a number of giants in jazz including Donald Byrd, Hubert Laws, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Taylor, and many more (check out the list at http://www.coas.howard.edu/music/huje/bennygolson.htm).
Also on this day Antonio Carlos Jobim was born. He was a Brazilian songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, and pianist/guitarist, and was a primary force behind the creation of the bossa nova style. I’m sure you’re familiar with “Garota de Ipanema” (The Girl From Ipanema), it was one of his trademarks. It turned Astrud Gilberto, the vocalist on the song, into an international sensation. The song has been recorded over 240 times by other artists. And finally on this day Etta James (Jamesetta Hawkins) was born. Her music spanned a variety of genres including blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, gospel and jazz. During her lifetime she won six Grammies and 19 Blues Music awards. Some of her hits included “The Wallflower”, “At Last”, “Tell Mama”, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me”, and “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
Now let’s move on to great jazz albums that were recorded on this day in history. I could talk about Andrew Hill’s ‘Nefertiti’ (1976) or ‘A Beautiful Day’ (2002), both which were recorded today; I could mention Branford Marsalis’ ‘Renaissance’ (1987), or even Modern Jazz Quartet’s (MJQ’s) ‘Lonely Woman’ (1962). But instead we’ll concentrate on Nat Adderley’s ‘Work Song” (1960) because it typifies what ‘soul jazz’ was all about. Nat (Nathaniel Adderley) was a jazz cornet and trumpet player who played in the hard bop and soul jazz genres. He often recorded with his saxophonist brother Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Soul jazz can be described as having simple harmonies, a heavy bluesy feel, catchy melodic riffs, and a presence of the church. According to Wendell Logan, “Soul jazz’s purpose was to bring back a simpler, more palatable and relatable type of jazz that had direct influence from blues and church music.” And for music aficionados, one can easily see the transition from hard bop, to post bop, to soul jazz to R&B, as well as their linkage to the church and gospel music. If you get a chance, check out Branford Marsalis’ “Berta, Berta,” one of the songs heard by Park in ii-V-I: A JassOdyssey, as he traveled up the Mississippi River trying to pursue his goal of being ‘the Greatest.’ To those characters in the book, Berta Berta was their ‘work song. “Since we all can benefit from “The Country Preacher,” we will make ‘Work Song’ “The Jazz Album of the Day.”