Jazziversaries May 20th

Jaybird Coleman (harmonica) 1896-1950 :: was an American country blues harmonica player, guitarist and singer.

Born in Gainesville, Alabama, United States, the son of sharecroppers and one of four children. He was born, raised and worked on a farm, and picked up and learned the harmonica at 12 years of age.

Coleman began performing the blues as an entertainer for American soldiers while serving in the United States Army. It was during this period that he was given the nickname “Jaybird” due to his independent manner.

In the early 1920s, he teamed with fellow bluesman Big Joe Williams as a performer in the Birmingham Jug Band which toured through the American South.

Coleman made his first recordings as a solo artist in 1927. His career as a recording artist lasted only until 1930, after which he performed mostly on street corners throughout Alabama.

Louis Smith (trumpet) 1931 :: Jazziversary greetings to trumpeter Louis Smith.
While studying at the University of Michigan, he played with visiting musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thad Jones and Billy Mitchell, before going on to play with Sonny Stitt, Count Basie and Al McKibbon, Cannonball Adderley, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and Zoot Sims.

He began his career with two albums for Blue Note Records. The first, Here Comes Louis Smith, originally recorded for the Boston based Transition Records, featured Cannonball Adderley (then under contract to Mercury) playing under the pseudonym “Buckshot La Funke”, Tommy Flanagan, Duke Jordan, Art Taylor and Doug Watkins.

Smith’s initial music career was brief; he became a teacher at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor’s public school system, but later recorded for the SteepleChase label.

His cousin Booker Little was also a trumpeter.

Ralph Peterson (drums) 1962 ::  Happy jazziversary greetings to drummer Ralph Peterson. Ralph is an American jazz drummer and bandleader.

Four of Peterson’s uncles and his grandfather were all drummers, and Peterson himself began on percussion at age three. He was raised in Atlantic City, where he played trumpet in high school and worked locally in funk groups. He applied to Livingston College, Rutgers, for drums but failed the percussion entrance exam, and enrolled as a trumpeter instead.

In 1983, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz messengers as the second drummer, playing with him for several years. He worked with Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison in 1984, and with Walter Davis (1985, 1989), Tom Harrell (1985), Out of the Blue (1985–88), Branford Marsalis (1986), David Murray, Craig Harris (1987), James Spaulding (1988), Roy Hargrove (1989), Jon Faddis (1989), Dewey Redman and Mark Helias (1989), and Wynton Marsalis (with the Count Basie ghost band).

In the 1990s, Peterson played as a sideman with Jack Walrath, Craig Handy, Charles Lloyd, Kip Hanrahan (1992), Bheki Mseleku, Courtney Pine, Steve Coleman, George Colligan, Stanley Cowell, Mark Shim, and Betty Carter. He began recording as a leader around 1988, with a quintet V, or Volition, with Terence Blanchard, Steve Wilson, Geri Allen, and Phil Bowler. He also worked with Allen and Bowler as a trio in Triangular; Essiet Essiet replaced Bowler for their 1988 recording.

In 1989 he recorded in quartet format as Fo’tet, with Don Byron, Steve Wilson (later Bobby Franchesini), Melissa Slocum (later Belden Bullock), and Bryan Carrott.

After living in Canada for some time he returned to Philadelphia, where he worked further with Fo’Tet and also recorded as Triangular Too with Slocum and Uri Caine. He also led a group Hip Pocket, with whom he played trumpet.

Peterson teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and has taught at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

Victor Lewis (drums) 1950 :: Jazziversary greetings to drummer Victor Lewis. A major drummer since the 1980s who is capable of swinging hard in a variety of modern settings, Victor Lewis has been a strong asset on a countless number of sessions.

His parents were musicians who toured with territory bands. Lewis studied cello, piano (he had four years of classical lessons), and then drums.

Born in Omaha, NE, Lewis had his first local gigs when he was 15, and after graduating from high school he was a music major at the University of Nebraska.

After his band opened for the Herbie Hancock Sextet in 1972, Lewis was encouraged by Buster Williams and Billy Hart to move to New York. After a brief stay in Minnesota, Lewis did relocate to N.Y.C. in 1974, and soon he was in great demand.

He performed with many top artists including Woody Shaw, Carla Bley, David Sanborn, and Dexter Gordon; between 1980 and 1991 he was a member of Stan Getz’s quartet, which also included pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Rufus Reid.

For a period in the 1990s he was well featured with Horizon (a group he co-led with Bobby Watson). In addition to his playing abilities, Lewis is well known for encouraging young talent, while his compositional skills have resulted in some of his songs being recorded by other jazz musicians.

Lewis has led sessions of his own for Red, AudioQuest, and Enja. In 2007 he was reunited with his former Getz quartet rhythm section mates Barron and Reid to record We Used to Dance (with session leader Joel Frahm on tenor sax). 


Jaybird Coleman (20 May 1896 – 28 Jan 1950) - Coffee Grinder Blues