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Jazz and Blues Birthdays: Idris, Blu Lu, Hampton and Hammond | November 13, 2012

Idris Muhammad  1939

I still see him listed on recordings as Leo Morris, which was his name at birth in New Orleans.  He started playing drums at age 8, and went pro at age 16.  He was the drummer for Art Neville’s first band, the Hawkettes, when they were in their early teens.  Soul, R&B and soul-jazz was his focus in the 1960s, and he’s led bands in every genre from post-bop to disco.  I love the work he did as  part of Ahmad Jamal’s trio.

“Style? No, I just play, man. I don’t really have a style. Just being able to play music is a style, you know?”

Blu Lu Barker  1913-1998

Legend has it that Louise (Blu Lu) was always singing and dancing in the streets of New Orleans. Only 16 when she married banjoist and guitarist Danny Barker, they made an unstoppable entertainment duet.

“Blue Lu Barker was my biggest influence.”–Billie Holiday

Hampton Hawes  1928-1977

Almost entirely self-taught, by his teens Hawes was playing with the leading jazz musicians on the West Coast, including Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Art Pepper, Shorty Rogers, and Teddy Edwards. His second professional job, at 19, was playing for eight months with the Howard McGhee Quintet at the Hi De Ho Club, in a group that included Charlie Parker.  His life was not without struggle.  Don Asher’s Book Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes details an angry man trying to redeem himself through music.

“I’ve been shot at and missed and shit at and hit. That’s a saying out of my childhood and it’s come true more than a few times along the way.”

John Hammond  1942

That’s John P. Hammond, son of the famous record producer and talent scout John H. Hammond.  John P. was inspired by recordings of Jimmy Reed, and dropped out of college to live the blues life.   Part of the Greenwich Village folk and blues scene in the 1960s, he’s gone on to win a Grammy and be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame of the Blues Foundation.  His solo shows are captivating, to me it’s like he’s channeling the old-time Delta bluesmen.

“I was a huge blues fanatic before I began playing the guitar. So when I did get a guitar when I was 18, I already knew the songs and I kind of knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an itinerant blues singer.”

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    Robin’s Nest

    A blog about Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, New Orleans, musician's stories and more. My name is Robin Lloyd and I've been involved in jazz radio and the music business for over 30 years. This is my personal blog.

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