Every Thursday during Jazz Appreciation Month, drummer Thomas Wendt will play and discuss some of his favorite Jazz albums. This event is available only on pittsburghjazzfest.org!
Dakota Staton – Live and Swingin’ (1963, United Artists)
Pittsburgh vocalist Dakota Staton is often overlooked when great Jazz singers are discussed. But this album, recorded live at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival with trumpeter Howard McGhee’s All-Star big band, is a prime example of Dakota’s prowess as a one of the great vocalists of our time. Jazz is best heard live and this record puts you in the front row!
Tommy Turrentine – Tommy Turrentine (1960, Time)
Most people are familiar with the great tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, but many are not aware of his trumpet playing brother, Tommy. The Turrentines are one of the top sibling contributors to Jazz, but this record also features two other important Pittsburgh Jazz Greats: Horace Parlan and Bobby Boswell. In addition, trombonist Julian Priester and drummer Max Roach are featured in this set of BeBop classics and Hard Bop originals.
Mary Lou Williams – Free Spirits (1975, Steeplechase / Inner City)
Pianist, composer, arranger and musical visionary, Mary Lou Williams, is one of the very few Jazz masters who transcended eras to remain musically vital throughout her long career. In this 1975 trio set, she is joined by the then young rhythm section stalwarts Buster Williams (bass) and Mickey Roker (drums). This album features unique interpretations of both Mary Lou’s originals, as well as compositions written by others.
George Benson – It’s Uptown! (1966, Columbia)
By 1966, George Benson had begun making a name for himself in organist Jack McDuff’s group. This led to him being signed by John Hammond to Columbia records. It’s Uptown was his major label debut in 1966 backed by a group that featured a young organ phenom named Dr. Lonnie Smith. This album contains both originals and Jazz classics, and we also get our first real taste of George’s singing, something that would eventually propel him to stardom.
Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band – Now Hear Our Meanin’ (1963, Columbia)
Pittsburgh Master drummer and musical innovator Kenny Clarke moved to Europe in 1956 where he would live for the remainder of his life. In 1960, he co-founded an incredible big band with Belgian pianist Francy Boland. This band was a true “United Nations” Jazz band, as it featured ex-patriot Jazz greats from America, as well as musicians from all over Europe. This album features fantastic originals with some of the best Jazz soloists of all time!