Today In Jazz

Happy Birthday Kamau Adilifu, Chris Connor and Russell Malone

November 8

Trumpeter Kamau Adilifu (formerly Charles Sullivan) is born in 1944 in New York City. The trumpeter has played sideman to  Lionel Hampton and Roy Haynes, and he briefly occupied the lead trumpet chair in Count Basie’s band. He has recorded three albums as a leader and appeared on records made by Woody Shaw, Dollar Brand, Ricky Ford, and King Curtis. He led the band Black Legacy in the late 1970s, which is ironic, since there exists precious little recorded evidence of his sound, which has been described as “bright and shimmering.” That sound can be heard in a reflective mood on this track, “Carefree,” from Sullivan’s 1976  album, “Re-Entry”:

Singer Chris Connor is born in Kansas City, MO, in 1927. Connor spent the first five years of her career as one of Claude Thornhill’s “Snowflakes,” a vocal group that performed with his orchestra in the late 1940s. Then, in one of those serendipitous twists of fate common in the pre-”So You Think You Can Be a Jazz Singer?” days, June Christy, Stan Kenton’s vocalist, heard Connor on a radio broadcast and recommended her to the orchestra leader. Connor’s 10-month stint with Kenton elevated her to national prominence, a position she held for the next decade, when she launched her solo career and made the recordings (most of which on the Bethlehem and Atlantic labels) for which is she best-known today. Connor’s smoky voice and just- restrained-enough approach was often complimented by high-caliber musicians, such as J.J. Johnson, John Lewis, Oscar Pettiford, Lucky Thompson, Milt Hinton, Clark Terry and Oliver Nelson. Her career tailed off in the 1960s, but she bounced back in the 1970s and buoyed by a loyal following, performed and recorded fairly steadily for the next three decades. Connor’s final album was released in 2002, and she passed away in 2009. Here’s a selection, “Spring Is Here,” from an exquisite date Connor made in 1954 with the Ellis Larkins trio:

Guitarist Russell Malone is born in 1963 in Albany, GA. Malone is a relative rarity in jazz, despite myths to the contrary: a self-taught musician, whose music school consisted of “listening to recordings of George Benson, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Christian,” he claimed. After serving an apprenticeship with organist Jimmy Smith, Malone worked with Harry Connick, Jr.’s big band; singer/pianist Diana Krall’s trio, which garnered three Grammy nominations; and pianist Benny Green, before forming his own trio, Triple Play. Malone ascended the Mt. Olympus of jazz when he became part of Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio and then, in 2010, joined Sonny Rollins’s band. Here is Malone showing off his dexterity in the trio with Green and the JMIH’s own Christian McBride, in a 1999 live performance of Wes Montgomery’s “Jingles”: