Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Fourth of July List Celebrating Living Jazz Legends

Revised to include additions based on readers comments:

With the recent passing of Herb Ellis, Hank Jones, Fred Anderson and Benny Powell it becomes painfully apparent that we continue  to lose some of the great heroes and pioneers of this music that we call jazz. Despite  losses like these, jazz has proven time and again that it is a durable art form. It is a resilient performance art that is constantly recreating itself beyond categorization. This durability and creativity springs from the jazz tradition. Through the longevity and generosity of  the living jazz masters this tradition continues. They pass it along  through their moving performances, their valuable recollections and their tireless dedication to educating the next generation. The jazz audience has been characterized as aging and relatively small, but none can deny it is made up of passionate enthusiasts. On this fourth of July let our passion start a yearly celebration of our living jazz legends, those who have been and continue to be so instrumental in bringing us this music we love so much. The musicians who have created what could arguably be called America’s only true indigenous art form. An art form that has become the most internationally cooperative means of communication in the world today.

Here is my list of veteran players who are still with us, many vibrant and still actively playing or teaching, people who should be honored for their past and continuing contributions to this music we call jazz. I have only included those artists who have reached their seventieth birthday and beyond and I am sure I am missing some important players ( my apologies for any inadvertent omissions), but here is my fourth of July 2010 list of living jazz legends, with a great big thank you to each and every one.


Saxophonists: Pharaoh Sanders, Arthur Bythe  and Lew Tabakin (70), Zibigniew Namyslowski (71) Charle Lloyd (72),Archie Shepp (73), Don Menza (74) George Coleman (75), Gato Barbieri and Lanny Morgan (76), Wayne Shorter and John Handy (77), Phil Woods and Sonny Rollins (79), Ornette Coleman (80), Herb Geller and Benny Golson (81)  Lee Konitz and Med Flory (82), Lou Donaldson (83), Jimmy Heath (84), James Moody (85), Marshall Allen and Sam Rivers(86), Von Freeman (87), Frank Wess (88), Yusef Lateef (90).

Pianists: Herbie Hancock(70), McCoy Tyner and Roger Kellaway (71), Steve Kuhn (72), Les McCann, Carla Bley and Harold Mabern (74), Ramsey Lewis, Pat Moran and Pat Rebillot (75) Paul Bley and Larry Novak (77), Jack Reilly and Michel LeGrand (78), Horace Parlan, Muhal Richard Abrams and Derek Smith (79), Amhad Jamal and Barry Harris(80), Horace Silver, Junior Mance and Toshiko Akiyoshi (81), Martial Solal, Joanne Brackeen and Mose Allison (82), Dick Hyman (83), Randy Weston (84), Billy Taylor (88), Dave Brubeck (89), George Shearing (90) and Marian McPartland (92).

Bassists: Eberhard Weber (70), Charlie Haden (72), Ron Carter and Chuck Israels (73), Henry Grimes (74), Gary Peacock and Cecil McBee (75), Bob Cranshaw and Jack Six (77) and Richard Davis (80), Jymie Merritt (84),Eugene Wright (87).

Trumpeters: Ted Curson (75), Donald Byrd (77), Jack Sheldon (78), Kenny Wheeler (80), Doc Severinson (83), Clark Terry and Uan Rasey (88) and Snooky Young and Gerald Wilson (91).Lionel Ferbos (98) 

Guitarists: Ralph Towner (70), Gene Bertoncini (73), Kenny Burrell (78), Jim Hall and John Pisano (79), Bucky Pizzarelli (84) and Johnny Smith (88).

Trombonists: Billy Watrous and Dick Griffin (71), Grachan Moncur III and Philip Wilson (73), Julian Priester and Roswell Rudd (75), Curtis Fuller (76) Locksley "Slide" Hampton (78), Bob Brookmeyer (81), Urbie Green (83) is eighty-three and Eddie Bert (88).

Drummers: Andrew Cyrille and Idris Muhamed (70), Bernard Purdie (71), Pete LaRoca Sims, Tony Oxley, Edwin Marshall and Nesbert “Stix” Hooper (72), Grady Tate (73), Albert “Tootie” Heath and Chuck Flores (75), Ben Riley (77), Mickey Roker (78) Paul Motian and Ronnie Bedford (79), Jimmy Cobb, Joe Morello and Charlie Persip (81), Roy Haynes (85), Al Harewood (87),  Chico Hamilton (88), Candido Camero (89) and Butch Ballard (91).

Organists: “ Papa” John De Francesco and Mac “Dr John” Rebbenack (70), Brian Auger (71), Trudy Pitts and Johnny “Hammond” Smith (77) and Sir Charles Thompson (92).  

Jazz Vocalists: Astrud Gilberto and Al Jarreau (70), Mary Stallings (71), Etta James (72), Nancy Wilson and Carol Sloane (73),Freddy Cole and Mark Murphy (78), Abbey Lincoln, Helen Merrill, Gloria Lynne and Jon Hendricks (79), Annie Ross (80), Sheila Jordan and Ernestine Anderson (81), Cleo Laine and Ernie Andrews (82), Tony Bennett (83) and Jimmy Scott (84).

Miscellaneous Artists: Roy Ayers, vibraphonist (70),  Hermeto Pascal, accordian (74), Michael White, violin (77), Terry Gibbs, vibraphonist (86), Buddy DeFranco, clarinetist (87)

Don Sebesky (72), Quincy Jones, composer/arranger/ trumpet (77), Lennie Niehaus, composer/arranger/saxophonist (81), Bill Holman, arranger/composer/saxophone (83),  Johnny Mandell, composer/arranger (84)

A happy fourth of July to all of you and thank you for your tireless contributions to the music we all love.



  1. Don't forget Slide Hampton on the trombone list -- he's 78 and one of the legends of the bop trombone lineage.

  2. What a nice moment...Thanks Ralph !
    all these memories
    pay attention to today.
    "we come and go like the ripples in a stream"
    take care,
    ps....we're at the Iridium tonite with a Tribute to Hank Jones and the Great Jazz Trio...Jimmy, Eddie Gomez and Eric Scott Reed....Great Minds....

  3. Scott Robinson said:
    That's a nice idea, to do that!
    I would add Horace Parlan, Jerry Dodgion, Marshall Allen for sure (86!). I think Al Harewood is still with us too, and Von Freeman. How about Med Flory & Don Menza. Cecil Taylor is 80-something. Dick Griffin.
    Lanny Morgan, Phil Wilson.
    Gerald Wilson, and Toshiko.

  4. Dear Ralph,

    It's writers like you who give me the spiritual support and encouragement to continue composing, performing, and teaching the music that is my life's calling, Jazz.
    Your posting today rings loud and clear for all to hear; it's a heartfelt, sincere, and passionate tribute on this fourth of July 2010 to the living legends.

    I am, indeed, proud to be part of your esteemed list.

    Let the fireworks begin!!! And praise the Lord!!!

    In gratitude,

    Jack Reilly

    Beachwood New Jersey.

    President Barak Obama, take notice!

  5. Ralph,

    I second Jack's comments--what a thoughtful tribute (sometimes I think that not the least of the music's problems is the short memories of those very practitioners of this music who profited the most directly from these inarguable patriarchs. It's also a provocative list. I was trying to think of some one you'd missed, all prepared to play "Gotcha!" because of two musicians I wasn't seeing. But then at the very end you preempted my moment of gloat. Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco are there after all! (This is reaching--but before Terry hired Alice McCleod Coltrane as the piano player in his band, he employed two other (exceptionally) swinging female pianists--Terry Pollard and Pat Moran. Last I looked, both were still with us. Pat had Scot LaFaro in her trio for a brief while. I heard her with Ira Sullivan in Rock Island, Illinois!

  6. To caponsacci: I did some research and was able to find Pat Moran now Pat Moran McCoy playing religious music in Medford , Oregon at the age of seventy-five
    Unfortunately Tery Pollard has passed but you did remind me of another fine keyboard artist Pat Rebillot who is now (75) I've added Moran and Rebillot to my pianist list. Thanks

  7. Shirley Clarke's Ornette: Made in America

    video on demand stream

  8. How could you forget?: Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Louis Hayes, Reggie Workman, Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton, Sammy Figueroa, Joanne Brackeen and Sir George Shearing - its NOT a REAL list without these names - please correct ASAP

  9. To WebDesign Classes:Thanks for Joanne Brackeen and Arthur Bythe. I am sure there are more I missed. I had George Shearing already and the rest are not yet seventy at the time of this writing. Best

  10. We are working on a project now- photogaphing the jazz greats- and your list was incredibly helpful and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time and care to do this! I know you put it up a while ago, but it is still of interest (though sadly a shorter list than it was when you posted it).
    Thanks again!