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Jazz Birthdays: Kenny, Betty and Bucky | January 9, 2013

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Kenny Clarke
credit: Karlheinz Klüter

Kenny “Klook” Clarke  1914-1985

The innovator who changed drumming forever when he moved the time-keeping duties from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal,  unleashing the drum kit’s creative potential.  This made jazz more flexible, and every drummer who followed him more eloquent.

One of his specialties, an off-beat rim shot on the snare followed by a bass drum “bomb” was referred to by the bebop musicians as a “klook-mop.”  Hence the nickname “Klook.”

A prolific composer and teacher, he was a founding member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, then moved to France, where he became a father figure to many expatriate jazz musicians.

Betty Roche  1920-1999

Considered to be one of the best vocalists Ellington ever had, she replaced Ivie Anderson in Ellington’s band in late 1942, just as the American Federation of Musicians ban on commercial recordings was about to take effect.  Her career was stalled by similar unfortunate accidents of timing.

“Betty Roche was an unforgettable singer,” Duke Ellington wrote of his former vocalist in 1973. “She never sounded like anybody but Betty Roche.”

Bucky Pizzarelli  1926

A fixture in jazz since the early ‘50s.  A solid rhythm player, Bucky toured with Benny Goodman, Zoot Sims, Bud Freeman, and Stephane Grappelli, and, later, recorded with George Van Eps, Carl Kress and George Barnes. His superior mastery of the seven-string guitar is unparalleled.  He’s developed a very personal style.  He’s also the father of the always entertaining guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli.

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