Today In Jazz

Happy Birthday Perry Bradford!

February 14

Pianist Perry Bradford is born in 1893 in Montgomery, AL. This pioneering pianist, composer and entrepreneur was a key figure in the exposure of African-American music to white audiences in the early 20th century. At age 13, he began appearing in minstrel shows, and spent the “pre-jazz” years of 1908 to 1920 touring in theaters and vaudeville houses as a pianist and songwriter, assimilating a trove of African-American folk songs in the process. In 1920, Bradford convinced the head of Okeh records to record blues singer Mamie Smith–who had sung in Bradford’s 1918 show Made In Harlem–singing Bradford’s tune, “Crazy Blues.” It was the first blues recording, and was a smash hit. Later in the 1920s, Bradford led record sessions with sidemen such as Louis Armstrong, Buster Bailey and James P. Johnson. Although Bradford lived until 1970, he rarely recorded much after 1930. Listen to one of his classic recordings, featuring Perry Bradford and His Gang (which included Johnson and trumpeter Bubber Miley), in 1926 performing his tune “All That I Had Is Gone,” here:

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins records the title track of his classic album The Bridge, featuring guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Ben Riley in 1962. Listen to “Without a Song,” here:

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders records “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” with vocalist Leon Thomas, in 1969. Listen to this classic, from the LP Karma, here: