BILLY BANG (1947-2011)
A “Free Jazz” violinist, William Vincent Walker was raised in the Bronx. His talent for music was recognized at an early age and he was placed in a special school for musicians. Drafted into the Army, Bang was sent to Vietnam, a traumatic experience that greatly influenced his music. He was a member of Sun Ra’s band and was a founding member of the String Trio of New York.
ORNETTE COLEMAN (1930-2015)
An innovative saxophonist credited for his leading role in the “Free Jazz” movement of the 1960’s, Coleman was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2007. In his early years, he was known for playing a plastic alto sax that produced a unique sound pushing the traditions of the music. Recognized as an innovative force, Coleman was awarded a NEH Jazz Master Fellowship and was also a MacArthur Foundation fellow.
MILES DAVIS (1926-1991)
An innovator in hard bop and fusion, Davis came to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music. In 1959, he released the studio album Kind Of Blue, one of the greatest jazz recordings of all time.
DUKE ELLINGTON (1899-1974)
Often considered “America’s greatest composer,” Ellington received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. His career spanned more than fifty years, and included illustrious compositions such as “Satin Doll,” “Mood Indigo,” and “Solitude.”
LIONEL HAMPTON (1908-2002)
The “King of the Vibes” was a composer, bandleader and great philanthropist. His recording “Flying Home” is considered one of the most influential recordings in American musical history.
WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER “W.C.” HANDY (1873-1958)
The “Father of the Blues” was born in Florence, Alabama, and rose to fame when his songs were published and played across America. His signature song, “St. Louis Blues,” is inscribed on his grave. He is also known for writing “Beale Street Blues” and “Memphis Blues.”
COLEMAN HAWKINS (1904-1969)
Credited as the jazz pioneer that turned a comic tenor saxophone into a romantic horn, Hawkins played with the Fletcher Henderson orchestra when he first came to New York. The Missouri native is best remembered for his classic 1939 recording “Body and Soul.”
JEAN BAPTISTE “ILLINOIS” JACQUET (1922-2004)
Jacquet created an entirely new style and sound for the tenor saxophone in the early 1940’s, elevating the instrument to a colorful and pre-eminent role in the world of jazz music. In 1942, at the age of nineteen, Jacquet was catapulted to immediate international fame with his classic solo on the very first recording of his career, “Flying Home.”
MILT JACKSON (1923-1999)
Jackson was one of the co-founders of the famous Modern Jazz Quartet, whose popularity he attributed to “an uncanny ability to take classical music and improvise on it, integrating it with jazz and pop.”
JACKIE McLEAN (1932-2006)
Born in New York, alto saxophone player McLean started out at a young age with many of the jazz greats including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey. He was recognized as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment of the Arts and was the founder of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford.
JOSEPH “KING” OLIVER (1885-1938)
The leader of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band served as a mentor to Louis Armstrong and is credited with giving the young musician his first coronet. A New Orleans native, Oliver recorded duets with pianist Jelly Roll Morton and is considered one of early pioneers of jazz music.
MAXWELL LEMUEL “MAX” ROACH (1924-2007)
Drummer, percussionist and composer, Roach was considered one of the most important influencers on jazz. He performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Clifford Brown. Roach was an activist in the civil rights movement.