Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month with Everlasting Footprint
Everlasting Footprint celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month by honoring the lives and accomplishments of the late influential jazz artists Joe Williams and Dave Brubeck. Their legacies live on through their musical footprints.
Joe Williams (1918-1999)
Joe Williams was well known for his baritone singing voice, clear pronunciation, jazz stylings, and precise timing. His singing style contributed to the success of the Count Basie Orchestra and influenced many young singers. Williams was born Joseph Goreed in Georgia on December 12, 1918, and moved with his grandmother to Chicago at the age of three. He was surrounded by the Chicago music scene and radio stations that exposed him to various styles of jazz.
Williams had tuberculosis, but it didn’t keep him from performing at social events and starting his own gospel vocal quartet called the Jubilee Boys at the age of fourteen. He changed his last name from Goreed to Williams and dropped out of high school to sing at Chicago night clubs. At eighteen years old, he joined clarinetist Jimmie Noone’s band. The Jimmy Noone Orchestra was broadcasted nationally over the radio. Williams also performed with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, jazz great Lionel Hampton, and others.
In 1954, Williams got his big break when he was hired as the male vocalist for the Count Basie Orchestra at the age of 35. He became a major star and revived the Basie band by introducing his own blues repertoire and recording a new version of “Every Day (I Have the Blues)” with the band in 1955, which became Count Basie’s first big hit in fifteen years.
Williams and Basie split on good terms in 1961, and Williams formed his own quartet only one year later. During his solo career, Williams found success collaborating with artists such as Harry “Sweets” Edison, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. He appeared again with the Count Basie Orchestra and released several albums. His album “Nothin’ But the Blues” won a 1984 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Before passing away in 1999, Williams performed many concerts in the 1990s and recorded ballads such as “Here’s to Life.”
“Every Day (I Have the Blues)” Video:
Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)
Dave Brubeck re-popularized jazz in the 1950s with “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell one million copies, and the hit single “Take Five.” He is known for his innovations and experiments in odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, polyrhythm and polytonality. Brubeck was born on Dec 6, 1920, in Concord, California. He grew up in a musical family and his mother taught him to play piano at the age of four.
During college, he played piano at local nightclubs and the music became irresistible to him, so he switched his major from veterinary medicine to jazz. Brubeck enlisted in the army and married fellow student Iola Whitlock shortly after. During his time in the army, Brubeck led a racially integrated band. After his discharge from military service, Brubeck enrolled at Mills College to study with French composer Darius Milhaud, who encouraged him to incorporate jazz elements into his compositions. Like-minded students joined Brubeck to form the Dave Brubeck Octet, which created award-winning recordings.
Brubeck later formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond, who had also been in the octet. The legendary Brubeck-Desmond Quartet performed in major cities, jazz clubs, and on college campuses. The Dave Brubeck Quartet received repeated honors in trade magazines and readers and critics’ polls. Brubeck was featured on Time magazine’s cover and the Dave Brubeck Quartet traveled internationally. In 1959, the recording “Time Out” experimented beyond the typical jazz 4/4 time signature. “Time Out” became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies and included the hit songs “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Take Five.”
Brubeck was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts and later received a Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to American culture. He was designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. Brubeck received numerous honors including the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian Medal, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Take Five” Video:
Everlasting Footprint invites you to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month by remembering jazz artists such as Joe Williams and Dave Brubeck. Visit the Smithsonian Jazz webpage to find out more about Jazz Appreciation Month.