Sunday Wax Bits - JazzWax

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May 09, 2010


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Don Brown

Speaking as a listener who was on the scene at the time, Marc, I have to tell you
you've overlooked the five tenor players who actually had things pretty well wrapped up at the time. First, there was the most swinging of them all, Wardell Gray. Then,
there were Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, and Gene Ammons.
To quote a late friend "After Wardell died there was only one way to go - Zoot."

jeff helgesen

I'm biased, but are Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, or Lester Young really more influential than Miles Davis was?


Chris Kelsey

You shouldn't set aside Bird just because he played alto instead of the more ubiquitous tenor. Bird's influence transcended his horn, affecting and often transforming players of every instrument. No question: Bird was the most influential jazz musician, post-war, and has a good claim to being the most influential ever, Pops notwithstanding.

Alan Kurtz

Chris Kelsey is right. Forget about which instrument he played; Bird was far and away the most influential postwar jazz figure. He could've played the kazoo, for all that matters. "If Charlie Parker were a Gunslinger," goes the full title of a Mingus piece, "There'd be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats."

Bill Forbes

Despite my huge admiration for Dexter's playing, I can't see him in the role of most influential jazz musician of the post-war period. Without Lester, Bird and (latterly) Coltrane, there would have been no Dexter as we knew him, so I'd look to those first as recipients of the title. Lester's greatest work had been achieved before this period, so let's exclude him and consider the others. Like most who have commented, I'd give the award to Parker, with an honorable mention for Trane for later developments.


Even as a trumpeter: Thumbs up for Charlie "Bird" Parker. As Red Rodney said in an interview: "He could even play a tomato can, and make it sound great. (...) He was the father of all of us."

Steve Provizer

It's hard to disagree with those citing Bird. I don't think Dexter's playing represents anything that can be called a "school," but he is such a creative player of changes that I think he may had a strong influence on younger musicians trying to decide whether to move to the "New Thing," as it was called, or to try and find new pathways inside the harmony.

Doug Ramsey

Come on, Marc. Bird, unquestionably. Nice red herring of a question, though.

Allen Lowe

Dexter? Mediocre saxophonist, intellectually, at least - Wardell Gray was way above him in sound, execution, and IDEAS - and I knew a lot of musicians who came from that era - Dave Schildkraut, Al Haig, Tommy Potter, Curley Russell, Percy France - and not a one ever mentioned Dexter in any context. Don Byas? Wardell Gray? Both WAY more important than Dexter -
-Allen Lowe

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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