Jazz Birthdays: Pianists Art, Ellis and George | November 14, 2012

Art Hodes  1904-1993

Born in Russia, grew up in Chicago, and was able to hear the great New Orleans musicians that came through the Windy City like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver.  Inspired by Bessie Smith to play the blues, he moved to New York where he played, hosted a radio program, and edited a monthly magazine called the The Jazz Record.   John S. Wilson of the New York Times  called Mr. Hodes “a living summation of a great jazz tradition.”

“I was always a ‘swing’ man,” Mr. Hodes wrote in 1988. “But I could also play it pretty.”

Ellis Marsalis  1934

Patriarch of the Marsalis musical dynasty in New Orleans, celebrated music educator, regarded as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans.  In 2011, Marsalis and his family were awarded the highest honor in Jazz, NEA Jazz Masters, the first group award ever distributed by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“At a time when individualism is becoming an endangered species, jazz represents a celebration of the individual.”

George Cables  1944

Played briefly with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in 1969, followed by a tour with Sonny Rollins.   By 1971 he became a significant figure in the jazz scenes of Los Angeles and San Francisco.  He spent time in Dexter Gordon’s quartet,  and spent the late 1970s working with Art Pepper, who called Cables “Mr. Beautiful.”

“We don’t need to prove anything. But I think you really have to be responsive to your heritage and then go on and find your own voice.”


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