Were I a different sort of person, I could blame my parents, who were lovingly overprotective.  I could be irked at them now for not encouraging me to leave my suburban nest at 14 or 15 to go into New York City.  Had they been more adventurous souls themselves, I might have seen Red Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Rex Stewart in the flesh.  But by the time I began to make the trek, Ben Webster had left for Europe; Coleman Hawkins had died. 

Rather than lament the ones I’ve missed, I will list the names of the heroic players and singers  — now dead — I did get to see.

Trumpets / cornets: Louis Armstrong, Bobby Hackett, Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Sweets Edison, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Ray Nance, Louis Metcalf, Herman Autrey, Doc Cheatham, Pat Jenkins, Joe Newman, Joe Thomas, Max Kaminsky, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Erwin, Dick Sudhalter, Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Jimmy McPartland, Johnny Windhurst, Taft Jordan, Franc Williams, Jimmy Maxwell.

Trombones: Vic Dickenson, Dicky Wells, Benny Morton, Bobby Pratt, Georg Brunis, Dick Rath, Tyree Glenn, Eli Robinson.

Reeds: Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Al Klink, Herb Hall, Kenny Davern, Sal Pace, Russell Procope, Benny Carter, Johnny Mince, Bud Freeman, Buddy Tate, Phil Bodner, Sam Margolis, Harold Ashby, Earle Warren, Rudy Rutherford, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Clifford Jordan, Rudy Powell, Budd Johnson, Eddie Barefield, Lockjaw Davis, Allen Eager, Barney Bigard, Paul Quinichette, Illinois Jacquet, George Kelly.

Pianos: Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Count Basie, Claude Hopkins, Dill Jones, Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Jane Jarvis, Hank Jones, John Bunch, Jimmy Rowles, Eubie Blake, Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Ross Tompkins, Joe Bushkin, Ellis Larkins, Sammy Price, Art Hodes.

Guitars: Eddie Condon, Freddie Green, Wayne Wright, Herb Ellis, Al Casey, Bernard Addison, Carmen Mastren, George Barnes.

Basses: Milt Hinton, George Duvivier, Charles Mingus, Al Hall, Bill Pemberton, Gene Ramey, Jack Lesberg, Bob Haggart, Franklyn Skeete.

Drums: Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Cliff Leeman, Chauncey Morehouse, Buzzy Drootin, Tommy Benford, Oliver Jackson, Eddie Locke, Sonny Greer, Sam Woodyard, Gus Johnson, Jake Hanna, Connie Kay, Freddie Moore.

Vibraphone (or Vibraharp): Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo.

Violin: Joe Venuti.

Vocals: Jimmy Rushing, Helen Humes, Lee Wiley, Bing Crosby, Al Hibbler, Maxine Sullivan.

I miss them all, but feel so fortunate that I was there to breathe the same air, to hear their sounds.

12 responses to “BREATHING THE SAME AIR

  1. What an amazing list, you lucky guy!

  2. I know I’m lucky when I talk to Kevin Dorn and say, casually, “Yes, I was in the first row of that 1972 concert where Krupa, Wild Bill, Wellstood, Condon, and Davern played,” and sometimes I can’t believe it myself . . . writing this long list was a kind of revelation, because I’d think I was finished, and then (all of a sudden), I would envision, say, CARMEN MASTREN . . . and be very pleased with my recollection. Damn, I left off Maxine Sullivan! Have to add her now. Cheers to you, Michael


  4. A truly wonderful and enviable list – but I’m sorry that you missed Chester Hazlett.

  5. Chester Hazlett

    Michael, I’m disappointed that you never caught me and that I didn’t make your list.

  6. Chester, I feel your pain — but I am so sorry as to have been so heedless. What could I have been thinking? Send my apologies to Wilbur Hall, too, please? Yours abashedly, Michael

  7. Envy is an ugly feelin’. I’M UGLY!
    (Although I’ve heard Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Edmond Hall, Bud Powell, Lionel Hampton, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, – we’ve had a lot of fine musicians on tour here in Denmark.)

  8. At the Blackpool (UK) jazz party afew myears ago I heard a band made up of:
    Warren Vache (cnt)
    Kenny Davern (clt)
    Dan Barrett (tbn)
    John Bunch (pno)
    Frank Tate (bs)
    Jake Hanna (dms)…

    Beat that!

    Unless you want to go back to the WGJB with Lawson, Butterfield, Freeman, Dickenson, Gus Johnson, etc… which I also had the privilege of hearing in person.

    It reminds me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a British semi-pro drummer, an ordinary working class guy who’d heard the Norman Granz JATP show when it came to Britain in 1953 (ostensibly for a charity event): this unassuming guy said to me, something like: “I heard Lester Young, Charlie Shavers, Oscar Peterson, JC Heard and Gene Krupa, and later on Pres and Flip Phillips and Shavers came and jammed with our band in a little London club: I was in heaven, and I still am to this day. I look down on people who don’t know who Pres and Krupa and Shavers and rest were. Even when I’m with people much richer and more successful than me, I look down on them and pity them, ‘cos they’ve never even heard of those guys. It makes me feel superior”

  9. I admire that first band greatly, and how happy we are that three of its players are alive and well! And thanks for the second story — moving and thought-provoking. I wouldn’t try to “neat” anyone’s dream band, but at a Newport concert either in 1974 or 5, I heard JUST YOU, JUST ME / BODY AND SOUL / SLOW BLUES by Hackett, Vic, Teddy Wilson, Milt, and Jo. It makes me feel fortunate even now. Cheers! Michael

  10. Several years ago I discovered the first CD put out with my father, Frank Melrose, pianist in the early years on it. It was called “Piano Anthology,” with greats such as Jelly Roll, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, to name a few. I spoke with Orrin Keepnews, producer, and he thought my father should be posthumously added to the Jazz Hall Of Fame,,,What do you think?? Just curious as I find your email so informative, and correct!!

  11. I certainly agree — and not just because I’m writing back to Frank’s daughter. However, all those “Halls of Fame” concentrate on the most obvious names and their recognition comes too late. You should know that Frank Melrose is both famous and beloved in the hearts of all who have ever heard him — in person, on shellac, vinyl, CD, or download. He could stomp! With every good wish, Michael

  12. thanks for listing my father, george barnes. i was lucky enough to be born and raised in the rarefied air of his genius, as well as many of the others on your list. you are, as dad would say, obviously a man of impeccable taste!
    alexandra barnes leh
    p.s. – if you’d like to partake of a rare classical recording by dad and his 1962 group, the jazz renaissance quintet (hank d’amico, bucky pizzarelli, jack lesberg and cliff leeman) engineered by phil ramone, please check out BACH FUGUE IN G MINOR: THE SESSION here:

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