Jazz at 100 Hour 22: Bebop Big Bands – Earl Hines, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman, Claude Thornhill

Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra

Although Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman soldiered on, mostly keeping bands on the road into the 1970s (Ellington) and 1980s (Basie and Herman), the era of the big band effectively ended with the AFM strike and World War Two shortages of gas, rubber and players. A leaner combo-oriented music emerged in night clubs after the war. Several band leaders sought to find common ground with the new music and the big band format, but as dance halls faded, the economics of the large ensemble no longer worked.

Billy Eckstine and Earl Hines.
Earl Hines started his big band in the late twenties and maintained a vital ensemble through the Swing Era. In 1940, Hines scored a huge hit with “Jelly Jelly”, featuring 26-year old singer and trombonist, Billy Eckstine and the exciting clarinet of one of the unsung heroes of jazz in the 1940s, Budd Johnson, often cited as an influence for a generation of sax players. It was Johnson with Eckstine who are credited with leading Hines to embrace modern jazz. In 1942, both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie joined the Hines band, although that band fell victim to the musician’s strike (1942 – 1944) and was never recorded. “The 1943 Earl Hines orchestra ranks only slightly below the Buddy Bolden band as the most important unrecorded ensemble in the history of jazz.” – Ted Gioia

Jelly Jelly. Billy Eckstine with Earl Hines Orchestra
(Harry Jackson-tp, Rostelle Reese-tp, Leroy White-tp, Joe McLewis-tb, John Ewing-tb, Edward Fant-tb, Leroy Harris-as, Scoops Carey-as, William Randall-ts, Budd Johnson-ts/cl, Franz Jackson-ts, Earl Hines-p, Hurley Ramey-g, Truck Parham-b, Alvin Burroughs-b). 12/2/1940. (The Jazz Singers)

Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra.
“Hoping to parlay some of the new musical ideas into mainstream entertainment, Gillespie took on the job of serving as musical director of a new full-size dance orchestra to be led by vocalist Billie Eckstine. Starting up a new band in 1944, well after the initial swing boom of the late 1930s had cooled off, was an expensive and risky proposition… Eckstine was an ardent fan of the new currents in jazz and was determined to make the band a showcase for arrangers and soloists. With Gillespie’s help, he managed to staff his band with a remarkable roster of as yet little known musicians, including (alto saxophonist) Charlie Parker, drummer Art Blakey, vocalist Sarah Vaughan, and tenor saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Lucky Thompson.” – Scott DeVeaux
“Subsequent recordings by Eckstine over the next few years, including ‘I Love a Rhythm In a Riff,’ ‘Second Balcony Jump,’ and ‘Oo Bop Sh’bam,’ offer some sense of the bands powerful ensemble sound and dynamic soloists – albeit absent the distinctive qualities of Gillespie or Parker, who left before the end of 1944.” – Scott DeVeaux

Rhythm In A Riff. Billy Eckstine
(Gail Brockman, Fats Navarro, Marion Hazel, Shorty McConnell, Taswell Baird, Chippy Outcalt, Howard Scott, Gerald Valentine, Budd Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, Leo Parker, John Malachi, Wainwright, Potter, Art Blakey). 5/2/1945.
Second Balcony Jump. Billy Eckstine & His Orchestra
(Hazel, Shorty McConnell, Raymond Orr, Fats Navarro, Gerald Valentine, Chips Outcalt, Robert Scott, Norris Turney, Junior Williams, Gene Ammons, Josh Johnson, Leo Parker, Jimmy Golden, Wainwright, McMahon, Art Blakey). 2/1946.
Oo Bop Sh’Bam. Billy Eckstine & His Orchestra
(Miles Davis, Hobart Dotson, Leonard Hawkins, King Kolax, Gerald Valentine, Chips Outcalt, Walter Knox, Sonny Stitt, John Cobbs, Gene Ammons, Art Sammons, Cecil Payne, Linton Gardner, Wainwright, Tommy Potter, Art Blakey). 10/5/1946.

Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra Live.
Jubilee was a radio program to build morale for the black troops. This broadcast gives a sense of what a show by Eckstine and the band was like in 1945. This edition of the rapidly changing Eckstine band, featured future stars Fats Navarro on trumpet, Gene Ammons on tenor, Leo Parker on baritone and Art Blakey on the drums.

Blue ‘n Boogie. Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra
(Gail Brockman-tp, Boonie Hazel-tp, “Shorty” Connell-tp, Fats Navarro-tp, Taswell Baird-tb, Chips Outcalt-tb, Robert Scott-tb, Gerald Valentine, John Jackson, Bill Frazier, Gene Ammons-ts, Budd Johnson-ts, Leo Parker-bs, John Malachi-p, Connie Wainwright-g, Tommy Potter-b, Art Blakey-d). 3/1945.
Opus X. Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra
(Gail Brockman-tp, Boonie Hazel-tp, “Shorty” Connell-tp, Fats Navarro-tp, Taswell Baird-tb, Chips Outcalt-tb, Robert Scott-tb, Gerald Valentine, John Jackson, Bill Frazier, Gene Ammons-ts, Budd Johnson-ts, Leo Parker-bs, John Malachi-p, Connie Wainwright-g, Tommy Potter-b, Art Blakey-d). 3/1945.
One O’Clock Jump. Billy Eckstine and his Orchestra
(Gail Brockman-tp, Boonie Hazel-tp, “Shorty” Connell-tp, Fats Navarro-tp, Taswell Baird-tb, Chips Outcalt-tb, Robert Scott-tb, Gerald Valentine, John Jackson, Bill Frazier, Gene Ammons-ts, Budd Johnson-ts, Leo Parker-bs, John Malachi-p, Connie Wainwright-g, Tommy Potter-b, Art Blakey-d). 3/1945.

Earl Hines and his Orchestra.
By the time Earl Hines and his Orchestra were able to record, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker had all left for Billy Eckstine’s band and then for their own small ensembles. Hines continued to employ modernists, including notably Lester Young-influenced tenor saxophonist, Wardell Gray, whose smooth, mellow tone bridged from swing to bebop.

At The El Grotto. Earl Hines and His Orchestra
(Fats Palmer-tp, Willie Cook-tp, Billy Douglas-tp, Arthur Walker-tp, Bennie Green-tb, Dickie Wells-tb, Clifton Small-tb, Pappy Smith-tb, Scoops Carey-cl/as, Lloyd Smith-as, Kermit Scott-tb, Wardell Gray-tb, Johnny Williams-bs, Earl Hines-p, Bill Thompson-vib, Rene Hall-g, Bill Thomas-b, Chick Booth-d). 9/1945.
Hines would go on to buy the El Grotto, Chicago’s largest night club in 1947, the failure of which signaled the end of his run as a band leader after twenty years.
Straight Life. Earl Hines and His Orchestra
(Fats Palmer-tp, Willie Cook-tp, Billy Douglas-tp, Arthur Walker-tp, Bennie Green-tb, Dickie Wells-tb, Clifton Small-tb, Pappy Smith-tb, Scoops Carey-cl/as, Lloyd Smith-as, Kermit Scott-tb, Wardell Gray-tb, Johnny Williams-bs, Earl Hines-p, Bill Thompson-vib, Rene Hall-g, Bill Thomas-b, Chick Booth-d). 4/1946.
Indicative of jazz of the mid-forties at the juncture of many musical strains, “Straight Life” is a mixture of boogie woogie, bebop and rhythm and blues.

Woody Herman and the First Herd.
In the early 1940s, Woody Herman began to experiment with the new directions of the music, commissioning material like “Down Under” from Dizzy Gillespie and borrowing material like Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia” from the emerging rhythm and blues. “Several of Herman’s recent hires, including bassist Chubby Jackson and trumpeter Neal Hefti, were fascinated by what they heard on 52nd Street and worked some of the new musical ideas into the band’s head arrangements. The results can be heard on some of Herman’s recordings. Such as the 1945 “Caldonia,” an up-tempo blues in which the trumpet section plays a brilliant unison passage clearly inspired by Gillespie’s soloing.” – Scott DeVeaux

Down Under. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Chuck Peterson, Billie Rogers, George Seaburg, Cappy Lewis, Neal Reid, Tommy Farr, Walter Nimms, Jimmy Horvath, Sam Rubinowich, Pete Mondello, Mickey Folus, Tommy Linehan, Hy White, Walter Yoder, Frank Carlson). 7/24/1942.
Caldonia. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Sonny Berman-tp, Charles Frankhauser-tp, Ray Wetzel-tp, Pete Candoli-tp, Carl Warwick-tp, Ralph Pfeffner-tb, Bill Harris-tb, Ed Kiefer-tb, Woody Herman-as/cl, Sam Marowitz-as/cl, John LaPorta-as/cl, Flip Phillips-ts, Pete Mondello-ts, Skippy DeSair-bs, Margie Hyams-vib, Ralph Burns-p, Billy Bauer-g, Chubby Jackson-b, Dave Tough-d). 2/26/1945.

Woody Herman and the Second Herd.
Herman disbanded the first Herd in 1946 and, after a nine-month hiatus, raised a new band – the Second Herd. Blessed with fine arrangers and stellar soloists, the Second Herd brought an even greater bebop influence as heard in “Keen and Peachy” by trumpeter Shorty Rogers, “The Goof and I” by tenor saxophonist Al Cohn and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s “Four Brothers”.

Kean And Peachy. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Stan Fishelson-tp, Bernie Glow-tp, Markie Markowitz-tp, Ernie Royal-tp, Shorty Rogers-tp, Earl Swope-tb, Ollie Wilson-tb, Bob Swift-btb, Woody Herman-cl/as, Sam Marowitz-as, Herbie Steward-as/ts, Stan Getz-ts, Zoot Sims-ts, Serge Chaloff-bs, Fred Otis-p, Gene Sargent-g, Walt Yoder-b, Don Lamond-d). 12/24/1947.
The Goof and I. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Stan Fishelson-tp, Bernie Glow-tp, Markie Markowitz-tp, Ernie Royal-tp, Shorty Rogers-tp, Earl Swope-tb, Ollie Wilson-tb, Bob Swift-btb, Woody Herman-cl/as, Sam Marowitz-as, Herbie Steward-as/ts, Stan Getz-ts, Zoot Sims-ts, Serge Chaloff-bs, Fred Otis-p, Gene Sargent-g, Walt Yoder-b, Don Lamond-d). 12/24/1947.

Four Brothers. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Stan Fishelson-tp, Bernie Glow-tp, Markie Markowitz-tp, Ernie Royal-tp, Shorty Rogers-tp, Earl Swope-tb, Ollie Wilson-tb, Bob Swift-btb, Woody Herman-cl/as, Sam Marowitz-as, Herbie Steward-as/ts, Stan Getz-ts, Zoot Sims-ts, Serge Chaloff-bs, Fred Otis-p, Gene Sargent-g, Walt Yoder-b, Don Lamond-d). 12/24/1947.
“The heart and soul of the Second Herd, or the “Four Brothers Band” as it is often called, was centered in its sax section. The basic concept of the “Four Brothers” sound was simple enough: its foundation was tight ensemble writing for three tenor saxophones and a baritone sax. But the key to this section work lay in the distinctive approach of the saxophonists in question. Adopting a light, airy tone reminiscent of Lester Young, and combining it with the melodic pyrotechnics of modern jazz, these horns mastered a novel formula, merging the excitement and intricacy of bop with a sweet-toned lyricism. Just a few years later, this mixture of modernism and melodicism would come to be known as cool jazz.” – Ted Gioia
The “Four Brothers” were one of the greatest reed sections in the big band era (in the order of soloing) – tenor Al Cohn, baritone Serge Chaloff, tenor Herbie Steward, and tenor Stan Getz.

Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra.
“The Thornhill band was a jumble of contradictions: it was sweet and hot by turns; progressive and nostalgic—both to an extreme; overtly commercial, yet also aspiring to transform jazz into art music. Like Paul Whiteman, Thornhill may have only obscured his place in history by straddling so many different styles… [Arranger Gil] Evans … brought a harder, bop-oriented edge to the group, contributing solid arrangements of modern jazz pieces such as ‘Anthropology,’ ‘Donna Lee,’ and ‘Yardbird Suite.’ In due course, these songs would become jazz standards, practice-room fodder for legions of musicians, but at the time Evans was one of the few arrangers interested in translating them into a big band format.” – Ted Gioia

Donna Lee. Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
(Louis Mucci, Red Rodney, Ed Zandy-tp, Allan Langstaff, Tak Takvorian-tb, Sandy Siegelstein, Fred Schmidt-frh, Bill Barber-tu, Danny Polo-as/cl, Lee Konitz-as/fl, Mickey Folus-ts/bcl, Mario Rollo-ts/cl, Bill Bushey-bar, Claude Thornhill-p, Barry Galbraith-g, Joe Shulman-b, Bill Exner-d). 11/4/1947.
Yardbird Suite. Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
(Louis Mucci, Paul Cohen, Ed Zandy-tp, Allan Langstaff, Tak Takvorian-tb, Sandy Siegelstein, Fred Schmidt-frh, Bill Barber-tu, Danny Polo-as/cl, Lee Konitz-as/fl, Mickey Folus-ts/bcl, Mario Rollo-ts/cl, Bill Bushey-bar, Claude Thornhill-p, Barry Galbraith-g, Joe Shulman-b, Bill Exner-d). 12/17/1947.

Bebop, the music incubated in the big bands of Earl Hines, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman and Claude Thornhill was to dominate the 1940s. In the next hour we will follow the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk as they come out of the big bands and find their own sound.

Recordings.
The Jazz Singers – A Smithsonian Collection. Sony Music RD 113
Billy Eckstine: 1944 – 1945. Classics 914
Bebop Story: Vol. 002, The Early Years Vol. 2 – Dizzy Gillespie (1940-42). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection.
Bebop Story: Vol. 007, The Early Years Vol. 7 – Billy Eckstine (1945). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection.
Bebop Story: Vol. 008, The Early Years Vol. 8 – Billy Eckstine (1945-47). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection.
Bebop Story: Vol. 043, Wardell Gray Vol. 1 (1945-46). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection.
Woody Herman – Blowin’ Up a Storm: The Columbia Years 1945-1947. Columbia C2K 65646
Bebop Spoken Here. Proper Music ProperBox 1010

Resources.
DeVeaux, Scott. 1997. The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. Berkeley, CA, University of California Press.
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press
“The Advent of Bebop” by Scott DeVeaux
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 6. Modern Jazz
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Billy Eckstine: 1944 – 1945
Woody Herman – Blowin’ Up a Storm: The Columbia Years 1945-1947
Simon, George T. 1981. The Big Bands. New York. Schirmer Books.

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