Jazz Birthdays: Bunny Berigan (1908), Johnny Richards (1911), Herb Geller (1928) and Phil Woods (1931)

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Phil Woods is an alto saxophonist. This version of “Willow Weep for Me” begins with David Sanborn chatting with Phil Woods about his hero, Benny Carter, and about his mid-East tour with Dizzy Gillespie (in 1956). His remarks (made around 1988-89) on the mid-East contrast then and now:

Sanborn: You toured with Dizzy Gillespie, [he] went to Europe, didn’t he?

Woods: Well, our first tour was actually a mid-East tour. I think when the American government gets nervous, they always send Dizzy to try and cool things down. Our first port of call was Abadan, Iran. I don’t think there’s going to be too many bands following in our footsteps. We played Beirut, Lebanon, Damascus, Aleppo, Syria, Baghdad. We hit all the spots that are now trouble spots. I think if they sent Dizzy one more time it might ‘a’ cooled down all this trouble we’re in.

Sanborn: Good idea.

Woods: Great idea.

Herb Geller is an alto saxophonist who was deep into the American jazz scene in the 1950s before taking up residence in Germany where he remained very busy in the NDR big band and other musical activities. Here he plays “The Fruit” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me”.

Johnny Richards (born Juan Manuel Cascales in Mexico) was a composer, arranger and band leader.  He had a very strong musical background and training that included being Victor Young’s assistant at Paramount and studying with Schoenberg. His big band music is really wonderful stuff: fresh, rich, bold, orchestral, and colorful. He co-wrote the popular tune “Young at Heart”. Here’s “The Ballad of Tappan Zee”, “La Suerte de los Tontos”, and “Waltz, Anyone?” Richards definitely took the liberty to write his music.

Bunny Berigan was a trumpeter and big band leader in the swing era. He’s famous for his superlative rendition of “I Can’t Get Started”.

5:47 am on November 2, 2012