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Chicago Calling: Unsung Heroes Of The City’s Hardbop Scene

Chicago is a historic capital of early jazz and post-World War II blues, but in the 1950s and early 60s it also had a thriving hardbop scene.

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  • Wilbur Ware Chicago Sound

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    A historic capital of early jazz and post-World War II blues, in the 1950s and early 60s Chicago also boasted a thriving hardbop scene.

  • chicago hardbop

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    Photo: album art

    Gene Shaw left the jazz world in the late 1950s after brilliant appearances on several Charles Mingus albums. He re-emerged in Chicago in the early 1960s.

Chicago is a historic capital of early jazz and post-World War II blues, but in the 1950s and early 60s it also boasted a thriving hardbop scene. Jazz luminaries such as Gene Ammons, Eddie Harris and Johnny Griffin all emerged from Chicago, as well as numerous talented players who achieved varied or limited degrees of recognition: trumpeter and saxophonist Ira Sullivan, bassist Wilbur Ware, and saxophonists John Jenkins and Von Freeman (who has finally gained some renown in recent years). These musicians played hardbop with a bluesy, brawny edge, suffused with what Chicago native and jazz critic Larry Kart calls “an air of downhome experimentation.”

Chicago Calling features music from all of these lesser-known artists. We’ll also play the music of:

  • Trumpeter Gene Shaw
  • Saxophonist Joe Daley
  • The hardbop group MJT + 3.

I’ll be doing another program of lesser-known Chicago hardbop later this year, since too much good stuff ended up on the cutting-room floor this time around. (UPDATE: the sequel is now up for online listening: Returning The Call: More From The Unsung Hardbop Heroes Of Chicago.) In the mean time, check out some of the links below.

For More About Chicago Hardbop…

Listen to Jason Crane‘s interview with Chicago jazz scene heavyweight Mike Reed over at The Jazz Session. Reed’s CD Proliferation explores the Chicago hardbop song book of the 1950s and 60s.

Listen to previous points-Chicago trips on Night Lights:

Discover a treasure trove of history in George Lewis’ recent book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, which includes a good deal of background on the city’s hardbop scene.

Music Heard On This Episode

Aon
MJT + 3 — Message From Walton Street (Koch, 2000)
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Aon
MJT + 3 — Message From Walton Street (Koch, 2000)
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My Secret Love
Ira Sullivan — Nicky's Tune (Delmark, 1994)
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Body and Soul
Wilbur Ware — The Chicago Sound (OJC, 1957)
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Lullaby of the Leaves
Wilbur Ware — The Chicago Sound (OJC, 1957)
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Princess
John Jenkins — Jenkins, Jordan and Timmons (OJC, 1957)
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Chicago Calling
Johnny Griffin — Introducing (Blue Note, 1956)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Autumn Walk
Gene Shaw — Breakthrough (Dusty Groove, 1962)
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Boomerang
Von Freeman — Have No Fear (Nessa, 1975)
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When Sunny Gets Blue
Ira Sullivan — Nicky's Tune (Delmark, 1994)

Notes: With Nicky Hill on saxophone.

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Just One Note
Joe Daley — At Newport '63 (RCA Victor, 1963)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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