Wardell Gray
American musician
Wardell Gray
Wardell Gray was an American jazz tenor saxophonist who straddled the swing and bebop periods. Today often overlooked, Gray's playing displays a unique style, an unmatched tone and a strong presence.
Biography
Wardell Gray's personal information overview.
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News
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Saxophonists Detroit Tenors duel bop-style at Dirty Dog - The Detroit News
Google News - over 5 years
Indeed, the annals of tussling tenors include some of the brightest names in jazz: Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. And the tradition continues today in noted pairings like Joe
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Duel de saxophonistes - Sud Ouest
Google News - over 5 years
Le président de Bassin Jasse Doignié d'avancer « les différences, complémentaires, de nos deux solistes, nous feront revivre le fameux "chase" qui opposait Dexter Gordon et Wardell Gray, dans les années 1940 dans les clubs de Los Angeles »
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Frank Foster est mort - Qobuz.com
Google News - over 5 years
Là, il joue notamment aux côtés de Wardell Gray. De retour du service militaire en 1953, il intègre la formation pour laquelle il brillera le plus : le big band de Count Basie. Tout au long des décennies 1950 et 1960, il signe, pour l'orchestre du
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Annie Ross – review - The Guardian
Google News - over 5 years
Lush Life was a spinechilling tiptoe over the thin ice of Hammer's delicate accompaniment, and on Twisted – Ross's best-known song for the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross vocal group – she fired her own lyrics at the byzantine Wardell Gray sax-solo melody
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Bluesette recrea el jazz y el blues clásicos en el Ateneo de La Laguna - eldia.es
Google News - over 5 years
... así como "Spring can really hang you up the most", de Tommy Wolf, y "What a difference a day made", de Maria Grever. Mayer y Dedecjus finalizarán con piezas de Bart Howard ("Fly me to the moon"), Walter Gross ("Tenderly") y Wardell Gray ("Twisted")
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CD : Intégrale Charlie Parker - Volume 3 - Lover Man 1946-1947 - ON Magazine
Google News - over 5 years
Des New Stars qui méritent leur nom : Howard McGhee (tp), Charlie Parker (as), Wardell Gray (ts), Dodo Marmarosa (p), Barney Kessel (g), Red Callender (b) et Don Lamond (dm). Une formation en or massif et des titres aussi (“Relaxin' at Camarillo”,
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MUSIC REVIEW | MARIO PAVONE DOUBLE TENOR QUINTET; Nodding to Tradition While Pursuing the Ideal
NYTimes - about 8 years
Mario Pavone's jazz can possibly be heard two different ways. His gig at Iridium on Wednesday night had two traditions running through it: the rhythmic and harmonic grids of bebop and all that descends from it, and the cathartic tracing-in-air of free jazz. But that's a pretty brain-first, ears-second way to put it. The mixture proposed by Mr.
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JAZZ REVIEW; Reveling in the Tension Between Two Stylistic Worlds
NYTimes - about 11 years
In the late 90's, the bassist Chris Lightcap was working in what was perceived as the looser, freer perimeters of jazz, as well as in its mainstream. At the time, it was rarer for musicians to play in both those worlds, and when Mr. Lightcap organized his own group, he seemed to be uniting two attitudes toward jazz that had become unnecessarily
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CABARET REVIEW; Still Swingin' With Verve And a Devil-May-Care Spirit
NYTimes - over 11 years
We have Annie Ross to thank for inventing a rebellious client's ultimate retort to a stuffy psychiatrist. In Ms. Ross's dizzy bebop lyric for the song ''Twisted,'' the narrator, who boasts of having been ''a wizard at 3,'' breezily informs her doctor that she has the last laugh on him because ''instead of one head I've got two. And you know,'' she
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NYTimes article
MUSIC: Already Boxed. Just Add a Little Wrapping.; 'CENTRAL AVENUE SOUNDS: JAZZ IN LOS ANGELES (1921-1956)'
NYTimes - about 17 years
EACH year recording companies dig more deeply into their archives. They are eager to retrieve the obscure recordings that justify expanding greatest-hits collections into the boxed sets that have become fixtures of the holiday market. Theme anthologies are devised; concert tapes and studio outtakes are gleaned; old recordings are remixed. And if
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POP AND JAZZ GUIDE
NYTimes - about 19 years
Here is a selective listing by critics of The Times of new or noteworthy pop and jazz concerts in New York City this weekend. * denotes a highly recommended concert. RAY ANDERSON ALLIGATORY BLUES BAND, Sweet Basil, 88 Seventh Avenue South, at Bleecker Street, West Village, (212) 242-1785. Compared to most of jazz's burrowing intellectuals, Ray
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Johnny (Guitar) Watson, Musical Pioneer, Dies at 61
NYTimes - almost 21 years
Johnny (Guitar) Watson, a flamboyant pioneer of rhythm and blues whose music influenced performers like Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Stevie Ray Vaughan, died on Friday just after he took the stage for a performance in Yokohama, Japan. He was 61 and lived in Los Angeles. He suffered a heart attack, said Al Bell, owner of Bellmark Records, his most
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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK;Veteran Saxophonists Show More Than Age
NYTimes - almost 21 years
Against the blank canvas of a neutral rhythm section, eight of the better improvisers in jazz grappled in a cutting contest at Avery Fisher Hall on Friday. Called "Battle Royale: Trumpets and Tenors 2," it was the public face of what the writer Albert Murray has named "antagonistic cooperation," where musicians, challenged by their peers, ape
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Crime
NYTimes - about 21 years
Jack O'Connell has obviously given some serious thought to links between sensory overload and the decline of Western civilization. In "Box Nine," the first of three wildly original novels set in the dystopian New England city of Quinsigamond, a language breakdown caused raging insanity among the criminal populace. A guerrilla war fought over the
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Don Cherry Is Dead at 58; Trumpeter of a Lyrical Jazz
NYTimes - over 21 years
Don Cherry, one of the most lyrical and important jazz trumpeters, died on Thursday at the home of his stepdaughter, Neneh Cherry, near Malaga, Spain. He was 58. The cause was liver failure caused by hepatitis, said his wife, Moki. Mr. Cherry used a pocket cornet -- a shrunken cornet -- to get an open, quiet sound. He managed emotionally charged
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A Blues-Dipped Voice That Celebrates the Fleshly
NYTimes - about 22 years
There are few more lascivious sounds in popular music than the voice of Johnny (Guitar) Watson. When he sings "Booty Ooty" or "Hot Little Mama," it isn't just come hither he's singing. It is something much more joyous, and completely unprintable. The sound is the calling card of the Gangster of Love (his nickname, taken from the song of the same
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POP MUSIC; A Free-Spirited Survivor Lands on Her Feet
NYTimes - over 23 years
For Annie Ross, living on the edge has become a fine art. In 1958, this cool-yet-sultry redhead earned a place in jazz vocal history when she became the female third of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the trio famous for setting bullet-fire lyrics to jazz instrumentals. Ms. Ross's octave-leaping, sweet-and-sour voice intrigued Miles Davis, Dizzy
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Wardell Gray
    THIRTIES
  • 1955
    Age 34
    Gray was still working regularly despite his drug problems, and when Benny Carter was engaged in May 1955 to provide the band at the opening of the Moulin Rouge Hotel, he called on Gray.
    More Details Hide Details Gray attended rehearsals but was absent when the club opened on May 25. The next day he was found on a stretch of desert on the outskirts of Las Vegas dead with a broken neck. Although, by most accounts, there was a poor examination of circumstances, Gray's demise was ruled an accidental death. Foul play was suspected by some, especially given Gray's possible association with mob boss Meyer Lansky. James Ellroy's novel The Cold Six Thousand contains a reference to Gray's disappearance and death: according to this, he was murdered by (fictional) racist conspirator Wayne Tedrow, Sr. for having an affair with his wife, Janice.
    At around this time, Gray apparently became involved with drugs; friends reported that this was taking its toll. His playing was now less fluent, and a studio session in January 1955 (12), which was to be his last, shows strong but (by his own standards) rather unsubtle playing.
    More Details Hide Details
  • TWENTIES
  • 1951
    Age 30
    However, there are increasing signs of a lack of engagement in Wardell's work around 1951/52, notably in a further live session with Dexter Gordon from February 1952 (5), and it seems that he may have been becoming disillusioned with the music business.
    More Details Hide Details That he was still capable of playing superbly is shown by his work on a live jam session at The Haig (19), but such sessions were by now very sparse, and more typical work from this period was recorded on a session with Teddy Charles (17).
  • 1950
    Age 29
    On leaving Goodman, Wardell rejoined Count Basie. Basie had bowed to economic pressures and broken up his big band, forming a septet which included Clark Terry and Buddy DeFranco; Wardell joined them in, probably, July 1950.
    More Details Hide Details This setting was a much happier one for him and the group enjoyed some success; airshots from the time show a very relaxed, swinging band with no weak links (16). It was during this good time from a musical point of view, that Wardell's personal life also became happier. He was finally divorced from Jeri and was at last free to marry Dorothy and, together with Dorothy's daughter, Paula, they set up in a little house in Los Angeles. The only drawback to working with Basie (who had by now enlarged his group again to big band size) was the constant travelling, and Wardell eventually decided to leave so that he could enjoy more home life. The decision was entirely understandable, though the Basie rhythm section was ideally suited to Wardell's brand of swing and, from a musical point of view, enthusiasts for his playing may regret his decision. And an unexpected side-effect was that, because work in the LA area was short (for black musicians, anyway) Wardell still had to travel frequently in search of jobs. Nevertheless, life at home was good, and one of the few interviews that he ever gave (to the British Melody Maker) showed that he was very happy.
  • 1949
    Age 28
    Wardell left Basie in 1949 to return to Benny Goodman.
    More Details Hide Details However, life in the Goodman band became increasingly uncongenial for him. In addition, his marriage to Jeri was breaking up. Goodman was not an easy employer at the best of times and this, combined with the constant travelling, made Wardell increasingly unhappy: recordings of the band, both studio sessions (13) and live airshots (14, 15), feature work by Wardell that is below his own best standards. (That it is the Goodman surroundings that was the problem, rather than any fall-off in Wardell's ability, is shown in a session recorded with local musicians in Detroit (11, 18); Wardell's work on this session is exemplary).
  • 1948
    Age 27
    The group was not, however, a financial success and Goodman eventually broke it up, but by now Wardell was fully established on the East Coast as an up-and-coming musician. For a while in late 1948/early 1949 he worked with the Count Basie Orchestra, while also managing to record with Tadd Dameron (10) and, in excellent quartet and quintet sessions, with Al Haig (11, 12).
    More Details Hide Details The quartet session included "Twisted", one of Wardell's best-known recordings which was used as the basis for a best-selling vocalese version by Annie Ross.
  • 1947
    Age 26
    Apart from a spell with a little band led by Al Killian (some Jubilee recordings by this group (8) show Wardell in fine form) Wardell was still working mainly in one-off sessions during 1947.
    More Details Hide Details However, at a concert around the turn of that year which also featured Benny Goodman, Wardell so impressed the clarinettist that Goodman hired him for a small group which he was just setting up as part of his flirtation with bebop. Goodman had previously been highly critical of bop playing but, speaking of Wardell to Metronome magazine, he said that "if he's bop, that's great. He's wonderful!" Goodman's new group included the young Swedish clarinettist Ake "Stan" Hasselgard and, initially, Teddy Wilson, and it opened at Frank Palumbo's Click Club in Philadelphia in May 1948. Enthusiasts recorded the nightly broadcasts from the club, some of the best of which have been released on CD (9), and they contain some superbly relaxed, fluent tenor work from Wardell. There is little sign of bop in the group's playing, the only noticeable influence being in some of Wardell's phrasing and in aspects of Mary Lou Williams' arrangements for the band.
  • 1946
    Age 25
    He left Hines late in 1946, settling in Los Angeles, California; soon after arriving there, he recorded the first session under his own name.
    More Details Hide Details This was a quartet session for Eddie Laguna's Sunset label, and on it Wardell had strong support from Dodo Marmarosa on piano. The date produced some excellent sides, notably "Easy Swing" and "The Man I Love"; there is a reissue of the whole session, including alternate takes (2), but a selection is available on (12). In Los Angeles, Wardell worked in a number of bands including Benny Carter, the blues singer Ivory Joe Hunter, and the small group that supported singer Billy Eckstine on a tour of the West Coast. But the real focus in LA at this time was in the clubs along Central Avenue, which was still thriving after the boom years brought about by the huge injection of wartime defence spending. Here Wardell found his element, playing in the mainly after-hours sessions in clubs such as Jack's Basket Room, the Down Beat, Lovejoy's and the Club Alabam, and his early success in these sessions led Ross Russell to include him in a studio session he was organising for his Dial label. The session was designed as a showcase for Charlie Parker, but Wardell acquitted himself superbly, showing no sign at all of being over-awed by Parker's presence (3).
  • 1945
    Age 24
    Dorothy was married but, although the marriage was on the point of collapse, an unfortunate intervention by a "friend" led Gray to believe that this was not so, and he returned to Jeri; they were married in Chicago in September 1945.
    More Details Hide Details Wardell spent approximately three years with Hines, and matured rapidly during this time. He soon became a featured soloist, and the band's recordings show a relaxed, fluent stylist very much in the Lester Young mold. While some of the live Jubilee sessions have been reissued on CD (1), the studio recordings from 1945-46 are still available only on LP.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1941
    Age 20
    It was at around this time that he met Jeanne Goings; together they had a daughter, Anita, who was born in January 1941.
    More Details Hide Details Just up the road from the Congo Club was the Three Sixes; Jeri knew Earl Hines, and when the Hines band came through Detroit in late 1943, she persuaded Earl to hire Wardell—on alto, since there was no tenor vacancy at the time. This was a big break for the 21-year-old, as the Earl Hines Orchestra was not only nationally known, but it had nurtured the careers of some of the emerging bebop musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Although most of them had left by the time Gray joined, playing with the Hines band was still a lively and stimulating experience for the young tenor player. They toured the country, and it was when they were in California that Gray met Dorothy Duvall. They were immediately attracted to one another.
  • 1936
    Age 15
    He left in 1936, before graduating.
    More Details Hide Details Advised by his brother-in-law Junior Warren, as a teenager he started on the clarinet, but after hearing Lester Young on record with Count Basie, he was inspired to switch to the tenor saxophone. Gray's first musical job was in Isaac Goodwin's small band, a part-time outfit that played local dances. When auditioning for another job, he was heard by Dorothy Patton, a young pianist who was forming a band in the Fraternal Club in Flint, Michigan, and she hired him. After a very happy year there, he moved to Jimmy Raschel's band (Raschel had recorded a few sides earlier in the 1930s but did not do so again) and then on to the Benny Carew band in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1929
    Age 8
    Wardell Gray was born in Oklahoma City, the youngest of four children. His early childhood years were spent in Oklahoma, before moving with his family to Detroit, Michigan in 1929.
    More Details Hide Details In early 1935, Gray began attending Northeastern High School, and then transferred to Cass Technical High School, which is noted for having Donald Byrd, Lucky Thompson and Al McKibbon as alumni.
  • 1921
    Age 0
    Born on February 13, 1921.
    More Details Hide Details
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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