Another musician deserving the description of genius, whose massive compositional output contained a remarkably high proportion of outstanding quality. As an arranger he was frequently very unorthodox, but this originality advanced jazz orchestration enormously. His band was pretty good too!
Bix was an intriguing character, whose meteroric rise presaged an equally meteoric demise aged only 28, and whose cornet playing offered the only serious alternative to Armstrong’s approach in the 1920s. Where Armstrong was ebullient and openly emotional, Bix’s playing had an air of reserve and coolness about it, which was influential in shaping the sound and approach of a number of musicians in the 1950s. His piano works demonstrate his fascination with the impressionist works of Ravel and Debussy and clearly their harmonic thinking had influenced his cornet playing too.
Jelly Roll Morton:
For all his abrasive self-publicising and numerous colourful sidelines, Morton was also a true giant of jazz. He took to the road before jazz had really left New Orleans, roaming over most of North America from Mexico to Alaska and California to New England, so it was Jelly’s playing which introduced the new music to countless musicians in countless towns along the way. He was also the first great composer in jazz until Duke Ellington really hit his stride in the 1930s. His great feeling for structure, so evident in his compositions, also made him a remarkably resourceful arranger for small groups.
Apart from his massive talent as a pianist, singer and entertainer, Fats was a prolific song-writer. So prolific indeed, that many of his pieces were sold for quick cash to finance his hectic lifestyle, and appeared under the names of other composers. The hectic lifestyle caught up with Fats and he too was gone before he was 40.
Joe ‘King’ Oliver:
Oliver was an early New Orleans cornet pioneer, one of the most important of the second generation of jazz players, who was Louis Armstrong’s mentor and greatest musical influence. As well as being a very focused and forceful player, Oliver was a great blues player, all traits absorbed by the young