JNS Blog

Valaida Snow (1905 - 1956) lived most of her life on stage and on the road. She was born to a traveling show business family, the eldest of four children, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her mother taught Valaida and her siblings to perform and Valaida showed great promise early on. By the age of 15, she was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, singer, and dancer, and began to appear professionally in many touring shows. Although little known today, Snow was a superstar on three continents in the 1930s. She performed jazz on major international stages where many heard the music for the first time. 
Continue reading
Lester Young (1909-1959) was one of the most influential tenor sax players in the history of jazz. He came to prominence with the Count Basie band in Kansas City in the 1930s, and was rapidly recognized as an original talent who was playing in a new style all his own. At the time, the dominant tenor player was Coleman Hawkins. Whereas Hawkins made extensive use of arpeggios and lines that explored the nuances of the underlying harmony, Young typically played more "horizontal" lines, creating melodies that "told a story." His phrasing, tone, and sense of swing conveyed a depth of emotion, intelligence, and humor that are as fresh today as ever. He never played the same solo twice.
Continue reading
Mary Lou Williams was one of the best jazz pianists around, and a friend and mentor to many, including jazz icons Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. She was also an outstanding arranger and composer, something few women got credit for. Arranging a self-reported six to twelve songs per week for the likes of Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Gus Arnheim, Glen Gray, Tommy Dorsey and many more, Williams literally shaped the sound of the big band era. 
Continue reading