Billy Branch (1952) - If blues harmonica has a long-term future on the Chicago circuit, Billy Branch will likely play a leading role in shaping its direction. Educator as well as musician, Branch has led the Sons of the Blues, his skin-tight quartet, since the late '70s. Despite numerous personnel changes, the SOBs have never wavered in their dedication to pure, unadulterated Chicago blues.  Although he was born just north of the Windy City, Branch grew up in Los Angeles, only to return to Chicago in 1969 to attend the University of Illinois. Spurred on by the entrancing riffs of mouth-organ masters Carey Bell, Big Walter Horton, and Junior Wells, he began to make a name for himself. He replaced Bell in Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars, recording with the prolific legend and touring extensively.  Other than co-headlining Alligator's 1990 summit meeting Harp Attack! with fellow harp masters Junior Wells, Carey Bell, and James Cotton, Branch largely busied himself with extensive sideman work (he's the “first-call” session harpist around the Windy City). Verve issued his The Blues Keep Following Me Around, an impressive showcase for his gravelly vocals and spellbinding harp. Satisfy Me followed in 1999. Chicago's Young Blues Generation was issued on Evidence in 2001.  Branch annually appears at major festivals around the world including the Montreaux Blues Festival, North Sea Blues Festival, Cognac Blues Festivals and Long Beach Blues Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, San Francisco Blues Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival.  Branch is a Blues education pioneer. In addition to his recording and performing, he's taught literally thousands of children around the world. His internationally recognized “Blues in Schools Program,” is committed to teaching both young and old about the Blues as the roots of America's music. He has brought his interdisciplinary program to Europe, South America, Asia, and most recently to Mexico where he taught his two week program in Spanish. Branch often bring his program in underprivileged areas, and teach the blues and how to play harmonica.


Wally Rose (1913) - Born in Oakland, California, Wally Rose was fascinated as a child by the player piano in his home, showing an early and determined interest in piano.  Before he was out of high school Rose had already played professionally on a cruise ship and earned a music scholarship.  Rose was brilliant pianist and a skilled “sight reader”; during the 1930s he played in numerous dance bands and for cruise ships sailing the West Coast, to Hawaii and the Far East; and in dozens of San Francisco Bay Area night spots and hotels.  Later her appeared on television and radio at the world’s major Jazz and Ragtime events: Newport Jazz; Sedalia and St. Louis, Missouri Ragtime festivals, and Jazz events in Holland, Japan, England, Switzerland and Australia.  Wally Rose's most famous recording was "Black and White Rag," cut with Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band in 1941, one of the first ragtime recordings and quite influential in launching a mini-ragtime revival. An important player in the San Francisco jazz scene of the 1940s and 50s, Wally Rose was with the Yerba Buena Jazz Band during its entire existence (1939-1950), and then worked with Bob Scobey (1951) and Turk Murphy (1952-1954) before having a career mostly as a solo pianist. He recorded as a leader for Jazz Man (1941-1942), Good Time Jazz (several sets including a 1958 LP), Columbia, and a solo date for Stomp Off in 1982 (his first recording as a leader in 24 years). Wally Rose was an inspirational figure to young Dixielanders up until his death in early 1997.


Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Mosaic – (1961)
Track Listing:
1. Mosaic
2. Down Under
3. Children Of The Night
4. Arabia
5. Crisis

Review by Thom Jurek at Allmusic:
This is the one that started it: Mosaic, recorded in 1961, was the first recording of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers as a sextet, a setting he kept from 1961-1964. The band's front line was trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter; Cedar Walton played piano and Jymie Merritt (a criminally underappreciated talent) was the bassist. Everything on this set was written by the musicians in the band. Walton wrote the burning title track; its blazing tempo and Eastern modes were uncharacteristic of the Jazz Messengers sound, but it swings like mad.  Hubbard contributed two pieces to the album, the first of which is the groover "Down Under," with its blues gospel feel. The bandmembers dig their teeth into this one, carrying the blues theme to the breaking point as Hubbard fills in between. But the horn charts are so sharp, so utterly devoid of excess, that they won't let the listener go. Shorter's "Children of the Night" is a fine example of the tunes he would compose for the Miles Davis Quintet a bit later. While it's a hard bop swinger to be sure, his use of modality and counterpoint between the soloist and the front line is exemplary and his solo bites hard and fast as he tears up and down the registers of the horn. Fuller's "Arabia" is a basic blues groover, and the playing is inspired throughout. The disc closes with Hubbard's "Crisis," which opens with Merritt and Blakey ushering in the rest of the band. Walton first plays a repetitive minor-key riff. When the horns enter, Walton keeps the theme, Merritt moves over a bit to dig in between the lines, and Blakey keeps it all anchored because in this tune rhythm is everything. Hubbard was in many ways a soul-jazz composer before there was such a thing, and the motifs in this tune prove it -- as does his beautiful blowing in his solo. This is a fine recording and should be owned by any Blakey fan. The Rudy Van Gelder reissue came out in 2006 and features no bonus material. The sound, as on all the Van Gelder reissues, is painstakingly wonderful.

Leave a Reply.

    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.


    October 2012
    September 2012
    August 2012