Night Lights Classic Jazz

Gigi Gryce, Part 2: Rat Race Blues

What happened to saxophonist, composer, and music-publishing pioneer Gigi Gryce? Gryce co-biographer Michael Fitzgerald joins us again this week for the answer.

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Gigi Gryce 1960

Photo: Album cover art

Gryce left behind a handful of masterful late-period recordings and a lack of clues as to where he had gone after leaving the jazz scene completely in the early 1960s.

In the late 1950s alto saxophonist and composer/arranger Gigi Gryce began his second music publishing company, as well as a fruitful new alliance with trumpeter Donald Byrd that resulted in half a dozen recordings made under the name of the Jazz Lab.

Personal and professional shadows were starting to lengthen, however, and by the early 1960s Gryce had vanished from the jazz world altogether. He spent the last 20 years of his life teaching in the New York City public school system, and his second wife didn’t even know that he had once been a jazz musician.

In this program we’ll hear more remarks from Michael Fitzgerald, co-author of the Gryce biography Rat Race Blues, as well as music from Gryce’s work with the Teddy Charles Tentet, Oscar Pettiford’s big band, the Jazz Lab, and Gryce’s last recordings as a leader, including the rarely-heard Reminiscin’.

Music Heard On This Episode

Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)
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Miss D.D.
Mary Lou Williams — Black Christ of the Andes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1964)

Notes: Opening theme.

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Yesterdays
Gigi Gryce — Reminiscin' (LP) (Mercury, 1957)

Notes: Gigi Gryce's Orchtette.

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Vibrations
Teddy Charles — Tentet (Atlantic, 1956)

Notes: Mal Waldron composition featuring Gigi Gryce on sax.

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Smoke Signal
Oscar Pettiford — Deep Passion (ABC/Impulse, 1956)

Notes: Gigi Gryce composition.

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Nica's Tempo
Gigi Gryce/Donald Byrd — Jazz Lab/Modern Jazz Perspective (Collectables/Columbia, 1957)
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Batland
Gigi Gryce/Donald Byrd — At Newport (Verve, 1957)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Satellite
Gigi Gryce/Donald Byrd — Jazz Lab/Modern Jazz Perspective (Collectables/Columbia, 1957)

Notes: Gryce composition.

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Minority
Gigi Gryce — The Hap'nins (OJC/New Jazz, 1960)

Notes: Gryce composition.

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Night In Tunisia
Gigi Gryce — Reminiscin' (LP) (Mercury, 1960)

Notes: Gigi Gryce's Orchtette.

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Reminiscin'
Gigi Gryce — Reminiscin' (LP) (Mercury, 1960)
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Night Lights
Gerry Mulligan — Night Lights (Polygram, 1963)

Notes: Closing theme.

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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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