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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Soulful Days: the Cal Massey Songbook

Exploring the work of an unheralded jazz composer.

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Cover of Cal Massey's BLUES TO COLTRANE album.

Photo: Album cover art

Blues to Massey: the only LP that he ever recorded as a leader.

Trumpeter Cal Massey was an African-American jazz composer, little-known now and in his lifetime, but whose work was recorded by musicians such as John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Parker, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, McCoy Tyner, and Archie Shepp. In the 1960s Massey made his Brooklyn home into a kind of community center for jazz artists and produced many concerts, including benefits for the Black Panthers. A longtime friend of Coltrane, he read the tenor saxophonist’s poem “A Love Supreme” at Coltrane’s 1967 funeral. Massey died of a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 44; his son, Zane Massey, is a well-respected saxophonist on the modern jazz scene. (As a child Zane was also the inspiration for Massey’s composition “Father and Son,” tapping out a figure on drums that would become his father’s basis for the melody.) We’ll hear recordings of Massey’s music from many of the above-named artists.

Music Heard On This Episode

I Thought I'd Let You Know
Shirley Scott — Like Cozy (Moodsville/Prestige, 1958)
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I Thought I'd Let You Know
Shirley Scott — Like Cozy (Moodsville/Prestige, 1958)

Notes: Cal Massey composition.

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Fiesta
Charlie Parker — Complete Verve Master Takes (Verve, 1951)

Notes: Cal Massey composition. Also available on the Parker cd SOUTH OF THE BORDER.

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Assunta
Freddie Hubbard — Here to Stay (Blue Note, 1962)

Notes: Cal Massey composition.

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The Damned Don't Cry
John Coltrane — Complete Africa/Brass Sessions (Impulse, 1961)

Notes: Cal Massey composition.

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City of My People
Lee Morgan — The Sixth Sense (Blue Note, 1967)

Notes: Midpoint music bed. Also known as "Cry of My People" and recorded by Archie Shepp in 1972.

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Nakatini Suite
Lee Morgan — Leeway (Blue Note, 1960)

Notes: Also known as "Nakatini Serenade." Recorded by John Coltrane for Prestige in 1958 as well.

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Father and Son
Freddie Hubbard — Here to Stay (Blue Note, 1962)

Notes: Cal Massey composition.

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These Are Soulful Days
Cal Massey — Blues to Coltrane (Candid, 1961)

Notes: Cal Massey composition, from his only date as a leader (released posthumously). Massey on trumpet, Julius Watkins on French horn, Hugh Brodie on tenor sax, Patti Bown on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and G.T. Hogan on drums.

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What Would It Be Without You
Archie Shepp — For Losers (Impulse, 1971)

Notes: Cal Massey composition, recorded by Shepp in 1969. Session players included Cedar Walton on piano, Wilbur Ware on bass, Joe Chambers on drums.

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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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  • India Massey-Chambers

    What a beautiful tribute! Thank you very much for honoring my father and his music.

    With kind regards,
    India Massey-Chambers

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