Jazz Birthdays: Max Kaminsky, Joe Newman, Sonny Rollins

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Born on this day were trumpeters Max Kaminsky (1908) and Joe Newman (1922), and tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins (1930). Kaminsky was a reliable trumpet man with a big pure sound who met and played with a great many top jazz musicians during his career. He played on many wonderful Eddie Condon sides. I can do no better than point you to his autobiography, which is free here. And for a sample of his playing and ensemble improvisation, try the Chicago-style Royal Garden Blues. Exuberant Bud Freeman plays tenor in this 1958 clip and George Wettling plays drums, both of whom Kaminsky knew well. Thirty years earlier, Freeman, a stranger to Kaminsky, found him newly-arrived in Chicago at the union hall and took him under his wing. Kaminsky had the highest regard for Bix Beiderbecke, whom he knew personally, and for Louis Armstrong, whom he termed “the great creative jazz genius.” His comments about these artists and others like Billie Holiday and Tommy Dorsey are a must-read. Joe Newman is best known as a soloist with Count Basie, and I’ve seen him play in that powerhouse band around 1960 at the Sheraton Ballroom in Boston. His open tone was warm, his solos powerful, melodic, and swinging and he gave 110%. His soloing on Blee-Blop Blues was a marvel. In this octet, Newman takes a muted solo on the up-tempo Midgets. Sonny Rollins is the most famous of these three artists. His nickname “Newk” comes from his resemblance to pitcher Don Newcombe. Over his long career, he’s had different sounds, tones, and ways of playing, but all recognizable as uniquely his own. He’s an uncompromising thoughtful and innovative artist who doesn’t stand still. I’ve chosen an early and well-known piece of his called Blue Seven.

Kaminsky on jazz: “…one of the best things that ever happened to keep people sane. It came out of America and it was great as even the electric bulb.”

3:27 am on September 7, 2012