BLUES ARTIST BIRTHDAY:

KEB’ MO’ (1951) - Guitarist/vocalist Keb' Mo' draws heavily on the old-fashioned country blues style of Robert Johnson while keeping his sound contemporary with touches of soul and folksy storytelling. A skilled front-man as well as an accomplished sideman, he writes much of his own material and has applied his acoustic, electric, and slide guitar skills to jazz- and rock-oriented bands. Born Kevin Moore in Los Angeles to parents of Southern descent, he was exposed to gospel music at a young age. At 21, Moore joined an R&B band that was later hired for a tour by Papa John Creach; as a result, Moore played on three of Creach's albums. Opening for jazz and rock artists such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jefferson Starship, and Loggins & Messina helped further broaden Moore's horizons and musical abilities.  Moore cut an R&B-based solo album, Rainmaker, in 1980 for Casablanca, which promptly folded. In 1983, he joined Monk Higgins' band as a guitarist and met a number of blues musicians who collectively increased his understanding of the genre. He subsequently joined a vocal group called the Rose Brothers and gigged around Los Angeles. In 1990 Moore portrayed a Delta bluesman in a local play, Rabbit Foot, and then played Robert Johnson in a docudrama entitled Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? He released his self-titled debut album as Keb' Mo' in 1994, featuring two Robert Johnson covers, 11 songs written or co-written by Moore, and his guitar and banjo work.  His second album, Just Like You, saw Keb' Mo' stretching his legs by working with a full band and tackling several rock-based songs. The gamble paid off, as Just Like You won the artist his first Grammy Award. Slow Down followed in 1998 and netted him another Grammy, and Door was issued two years later. Big Wide Grin followed in 2001, while 2004 saw the release of two albums, Keep It Simple and Peace...Back by Popular DemandSuitcase was issued in 2006 on Red Ink Records. The self-produced The Reflection appeared five years later in 2011; the first release on his own label, Yolabelle International, the album featured guest spots from India. Arie, Vince Gill, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Mindi Abair and David T. Walker.

JAZZ ARTIST BIRTHDAY:

Earle Lavon "Von" Freeman (1923) – Not nearly as famous as his son Chico (also a tenor saxophonist), Von Freeman was nevertheless an equally -- if not more so -- accomplished jazz musician. While not a free jazz player per se, Von exhibited traits commonly associated with the avant-garde: a roughly hewn, vocalic tone; a flexible, somewhat imprecise approach to rhythm, and a fanciful harmonic concept. The son of a ragtime-loving policeman and guitar-playing housewife, Freeman himself began playing music around the age of two, beginning on the family piano. He was surrounded by music from a young age; his maternal grandfather and uncle were guitarists, and his brothers George and Bruz also became jazz musicians (on guitar and drums, respectively). At the age of seven, Freeman made a primitive saxophone by removing the horn from his parents' Victrola and boring holes in it. Shortly thereafter he began playing clarinet, then C-melody saxophone. Louis Armstrong was an early influence.  Freeman attended Chicago's DuSable High School, where his band director was the famed educator Captain Walter Dyett. He also learned harmony from the school's chorus director, Mrs. Bryant Jones. Freeman worked for about a year with Horace Henderson's Orchestra (1940-1941). He played in a Navy band while in the military (1941-1945). Following that, he played in the house band at Chicago's Pershing Ballroom (1946-1950), and for a time with Sun Ra (1948-1949). While at the Pershing, he played with many of the top jazz musicians who passed through town, including Charlie Parker. Freeman developed an underground reputation among Chicago-area musicians, and purportedly influenced members of the city's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Freeman seldom left Chicago and recorded infrequently, therefore never achieving a great measure of fame.  Freeman recorded with Milt Trenier for Cadet in the mid-'60s; Rahsaan Roland Kirk produced a Freeman session for Atlantic in 1972. In the late '70s (as his son Chico became well-known), he was discovered by a somewhat wider audience. In 1982, Freeman and Chico shared a Columbia LP with pianist Ellis Marsalis and his sons Wynton and Branford (Fathers & Sons). In the '90s, he recorded for the Steeplechase and Southport labels. He was one of the great individualists of the tenor saxophone, and remained creatively vital through the end of the millennium. Von Freeman died of heart failure on August 11, 2012.

JAZZ ALBUM RECORDED:

Bobby Hutchinson – Now! (1969)
Track Listing:
1. Slow Change
2. Hello To The Wind
3. Now
4. The Creators
5. Black Heroes

Review by Thom Jurek at Allmusic:
Now! is one of Bobby Hutcherson's most adventurous recordings. Cut with the Harold Land Quintet in 1969, Hutcherson augments the lineup with vocalist the Right Reverend Eugene McDaniels (then “Gene McDaniels”) and a chorus at the height of Black Power consciousness. While this band may not appeal to straight hard and post-bop listeners who prefer their music instrumentally, it is a compelling and even stunning record if accepted on its own terms. The compositions reflect the tightrope Hutcherson and Land walked on their earlier outings together between post-bop and vanguard jazz.  The interplay between Hutcherson and Stanley Cowell's piano in the instrumental passages in "Slow Change" is so intuitive and symbiotic it may slip by the listener who is not paying attention. Land's solo, too, comes out for the post-Coltrane ethos and fills the vocal lines powerfully and convincingly. Elsewhere, on "Hello to the Wind," written by drummer Joe Chambers and McDaniels, the influence of Terry Callier is evident in the tune's dynamic and melody line that is led by Wally Richardson's guitar. With fine piano work by Kenny Barron and a fluid, modal bassline by Herbie Lewis. McDaniels' voice is in fine form here, his husky baritone effortlessly coloring the mix. The title cut is a short lullaby written by Hutcherson and McDaniels, tender, simple and haunting as Land's saxophone winds through the shouts of female voices with restraint and elegance. The utter creative vision of Herbie Lewis' "The Creators" showcases the band at the height of its powers with Cowell holding the piano chair with killer Latin rhythms, psychedelic electric guitar and a provocative engagement between Land, Hutcherson and the chorus. The original set ends with "Black Heroes" by Land. A scatted, syncopated piece of counterculture beat jazz, it offers a better portrait of the band than it does of McDaniels or the choral group. A hard bop piece with a striated and knotty vocal intro and finish, it is a fitting and exciting final track.
 


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    BLUES BITS & JAZZ JOTS 
    is a historical timeline for birthdays of blues and jazz artists and jazz album recording dates.  As our research progresses, we'll add more categories.  Look for updates each week, normally Mondays through Fridays, when we find something to share.

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