[JPL] Illinois Jacquet Dies July 22 2am
George B Thomas
george at latida.org
Thu Jul 22 13:27:28 EDT 2004
This sad news comes thru Sue Auclair, Boston publicist.
jazz at vpr.net
Vermont Public Radio
The great tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet has just passed away in New
York of heart failure this morning Thursday, July 22 around 2 A.M.
Here are two bios from the internet:
He was born in Louisiana, but his sound exemplified the "Texas Tenor"
style, which is a no-nonsense style that uses a rich powerful tone and a lot
of blues (it almost sounds like "stripper music" at times!). In 1942, while
a member of Lionel Hampton's big band, he blew himself into history. The
story was told when Jacquet was the featured musician on Jazz Profiles with
Nancy Wilson on National Public Radio. Jacquet was a young (about 22 years
old) up-and-coming saxophone player and though he wasn't the leader of the
saxophone section, Hampton still selected Jacquet to play a solo on a song
that was destined to become a big band (and Hampton) classic Flying Home.
Jacquet was nervous and asked the section leader for advice. The leader
told Jacquet to "play his style." Jacquet said that he wasn't sure what his
style was at that time. What he did, was went up to the microphone and
played one of the most legendary solos in jazz history. Jacquet became an
overnight star with the solo and the solo actually BECAME part of the song.
Saxophone players had it written into their contracts that when the song was
played, they had to play it like Jacquet. One saxophone player interviewed
on the NPR program said during his life, he only memorized 2 solos: Coleman
Hawkins' legendary Body and Soul solo and Illinois Jacquet's Flying Home
solo. Jacquet is of the belief that people like to hear the solo they
bought on the record, so he usually plays the same one. While this kind of
goes against what makes Jazz unique, the good thing is, if you find a
Illinois Jacquet CD with Flying Home on it, you will hear this solo. If you
buy his CD Jacquet's Got It! he makes slight variations to it, but it is
basically the same.
Jacquet developed 2 saxophone techniques that influenced a lot of
musicians. The first was "honking." While the technique was created by
Lester Young, Jacquet took it to a whole new level. He also discovered the
"altissimo" range on the Tenor Saxophone, extending the range 2-1/2 octaves
higher than previously known. Unfortunately, these concepts were picked up
on by rock n roll and R&B tenor sax players in the 1950s (if you have heard
a "golden oldie", you have probably heard honking--they hit a note over and
over, making it sound like a honk). They liked playing monotonous honks and
hitting those high, squealing notes and they took it to the point of
overkill, because these players were not as skilled as Jacquet, who knew how
to use them tastefully within a killer solo. However, since these other
players were not skilled saxophone players, they picked up these concepts,
without learning how to play the sax well, and they come off as obnoxious.
Also, his altissimo playing was picked up on by free jazz players who
overused it also, and sound like they are "squaking" and they too, make it
obnoxious. (Don't misinterpret this: there are many fine sax players who
use these concepts well, just not Rock n Roll or R&B tenors because many
weren't skilled, and free jazz players, who were fine players overall, were
using it as fad).
In the early 1980s, Jacquet received an introduction to give a
lecture and speak at Harvard University. The extraordinary success earned
Jacquet a return for 2 semesters as the Kayden Artist-in-Residence, becoming
the first jazz player to serve a long-term residency at Harvard. This
inspired him to form his first big band in almost 30 years. The band
started playing in 1983 and in 1986, they played in Europe, drawing record
crowds. They came back and played at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, as
well as major jazz clubs in New York City, such as the Village Vanguard,
where the bands' appearance became the biggest week in the club's 52 year
Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet was merely 19 years old when, as a member of
Lionel Hampton's band, he blew a tenor solo on "Flying' Home" that became a
classic and often-imitated solo. It was so popular that Jacquet was called
upon to play the same solo in live performances rather than improvise a new
one. He continued to play in the best big bands around, including those led
by Count Basie and Cab Calloway, toured as part of Norman Granz's Jazz at
the Philharmonic, and led his own popular jump bands when the big band era
began to wane. He is one of the architects of what is commonly referred to
as the "Texas tenor style", and his playing is supremely musical, swinging,
and gutsy. But somehow, Jacquet has not been accorded the place in jazz
history occupied by tenor players like Ben Webster, Lester Young, Dexter
Gordon, and Johnny Griffin.
Born in Boussard, Louisiana in 1922, Jacquet began as a drummer, later
switching to alto saxophone. He grew up in Houston, playing in Milt Larkins'
territory band that included the likes of Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and
Arnett Cobb. The territory bands were local bands that traveled extensively,
but generally did not play the large cities, like New York and Chicago. They
were well known and popular within a limited geographical region. In 1941,
Lionel Hampton was putting his band together after leaving the Benny Goodman
group, and he invited Arnett Cobb to join. Cobb declined, electing to remain
with the Larkins band, so Hampton took on Illinois Jacquet, persuading him
to change to the tenor saxophone. Hampton's 1941 band included Dexter
Gordon, trumpeter Ernie Royal and his altoist brother Marshall, and pianist
Milt Buckner. It was this band that recorded the legendary "Flying' Home", a
rollicking, raunchy workout that seemed to redefine the big band sound, with
Jacquet's visceral tenor solo stealing the show.
Arnett Cobb agreed to join Hampton's band in 1942, though the band didn't
record again until the end of the Federation of Musicians recording ban in
March of 1944. He replaced Jacquet, who moved on to play with Cab Calloway
and then Count Basie. The story goes that Jacquet quit the Basie band one
night in Detroit after realizing that people were more interested in his
playing than in hearing the band. He recorded a number of sides from 1945-50
for the Aladdin and Apollo record labels with a seven piece band that
featured, at various times, Fats Navarro, J.J. Johnson, Leo Parker, and Sir
Charles Thompson. These sides have been made available in a tremendous
Mosaic Records 4 CD set The Complete Illinois Jacquet Sessions.
Jacquet became associated with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic
concerts, becoming known as a tenor wildman because of his raucous wailing
and penchant for high note riffs that would drive audiences into a frenzy.
This reputation is somewhat undeserved, as Illinois has always had a way
with the smokier, more romantic tunes as well, such as "Black Velvet". In
the 1960's Jacquet took up the bassoon, a notoriously difficult instrument,
featuring it in his recording of Monk's "Round Midnight". Since then he has
done a fair bit of recording. One of the best introductions to his music is
the Prestige 1968 date Bottoms Up, on which Jacquet revisits earlier tunes,
like the title track and "Port of Rico" with only a rhythm section to back
him. The results demonstrate that Jacquet is in the major league of tenor
players. Especially beautiful is his recording of his own composition "You
Left Me All Alone"-one of the most beautiful tenor ballad performances ever,
with the exception of Coleman Hawkins' "Body and Soul".
There is not an R&B tenor saxophonist, a blues, rock, or jazz tenorman who
does not owe something of his sound or his bag of sonic tricks to Illinois
Jacquet, who turned 78 in the year 2000 and continues to be one of the
treasures of classic jazz. He received the 2000 Jazz at Lincoln Center Award
for Artistic Excellence. You can also see Jacquet in the 1992 documentary
Texas Tenor--The Story of Illinois Jacquet.
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