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Sometimes It’s the Words, Sometimes the Great Music from Savannah Born, African-American Musicians

SAVANNAH Georgia — Savannah music historians, storytellers and the Coastal Jazz Association actively highlight more great musicians who have made Savannah home for years, enriching the musical culture in the Hostess City of the South.   We thought we’d pay special tribute to the great musicians born in Savannah, Georgia, tell you names of their great musical colleagues, and share links to some of their great recordings.

Trummy Young circa early 1940s (c) William_P._Gottlieb. Used under Creative Commons License (Wikipedia)

Trummy Young

When Look magazine photographer, John Vachon (1914-1975) photographed show jazz musician great Louis Armstrong,  performing at the Basin Street nightclub in New York City, the 1956 photograph includes Armstrong on stage with singer Velma Middleton, trombonist James “Trummy” Young, clarinetist Edmond Hall, bass player Dale Jones, drummer Barrett Deems, and pianist Billy Kyle.

Young was one of the Louis Armstrong All Stars.  This story comes full circles with Armstrong All Stars performing Savannahian Johnny Mercer’s lyrics and Henry Mancini’s music in Moon River. A photo here of Young playing in jam session with Benny Goodman Orchestra and Louis Armstrong All Stars.

*Links to music are to Spotify. You will need to log in to listen.

On January 12, 1912, trombonist Trummy Young was born in Savannah, GA. On Young’s birthday in 1938, Louis Armstrong recorded his big band version of Struttin’ With Some BarbecueHere Young is playing that tune with Armstrong and Cozy Cole.   Listen to this rendition of “Georgia on my Mind” with Young playing with Chris Barber.   Young’s “Lazy Lullaby” brings it all back to Green Palm Inn, a cozy spot to nestle for a lazy Savannah evening.

“The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician,” Louis Armstrong said. “Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the backyard on a hot night, or something said long ago.”

Was it Bob Hope singing or Trummy Young’s 1944-1946 album where you first heard “Thanks for the Memory”?  Here Buck Clayton, Trummy Young, and Joe Thomas – play Blue Moon.  Tunes were rated “Adults Only” on “the Capitulatin’ Blues” album — “stories of wanton lust and reckless abandon”.  Only if you’re an adult, listen to I Want Every Bit of It.

Savannah born African American jazz musician James Moody. Photo Creative Commons (Wikipedia)

Jazz great, James Moody

March 26, 1925 (1925-2010) saxophonist/flutist/vocalist James Moody was born in Savannah, GA. He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakley, and Quincey Jones to name a few.  Here he plays “The Pink Panther“, made famous by composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer in the movie with Peter Sellers.   The New York Times reported Moody’s death in December 2010:  “James Moody, a jazz saxophonist and flutist celebrated for his virtuosity, his versatility and his onstage ebullience, died on Thursday [December 9, 2010] in San Diego. He was 85…. Mr. Moody, who began his career with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie shortly after World War II and maintained it well into the 21st century, developed distinctive and equally fluent styles on both tenor and alto saxophone, a relatively rare accomplishment in jazz. He also played soprano saxophone, and in the mid-1950s he became one of the first significant jazz flutists, impressing the critics if not himself.”

Born in Savannah, GA on June 23, 1925, was saxophonist/flutist Sahib Shihab (born Edmond Gregory).  Here Shihab plays “Round Midnight: Straight No Chaser” with Theolonius Monk, Al McKibbon, Milt Jackson, and Art Blakley.   A gentle, soulful rendition of “The Things We Did Last Summer” is performed by  Shihab.  He was one of the first jazz musicians to convert to Islam and changed his name in 1947. He died 24 October 1989.

Savannah jazz musician Ben Riley. Creative Commons (Wikipedia)

Jazz drummer, Ben Riley

July 17, 1933, drummer Ben Riley was born in Savannah, GA.  Listen to this drummer, whose genius drum playing blends so seamlessly with Giacomo Gates – Girl Talk.   Here Riley is playing with Gary Bartz, Ray Drummond, Kenny Barron – Up Jumped Spring.

We hope you’ll arrive soon, ready for a cozy Green Palm Inn stay and some music of the South, where Jazz was King in the early 1900s. We’ll help connect you to the little, memorable Savannah experiences everyday!

Diane McCray, Innkeeper Green Palm Inn

YouTube Travel Video:  The Softer Side of Savannah 548 East President Street, Savannah, GA USA 31401 Telephone 912-447-8901 / Toll Free USA & Canada 888-606-9510 greenpalminn.com | Twitter @GreenPalmInn | Facebook

Additional Savannah jazz and music resources:

All That Savannah Jazz…From Brass Bands, Vaudeville, to Rhythm and Blues, by Charles J. Elmore, Ph.D.

Black America Series: Savannah Georgia by Charles J. Elmore, Ph.D.

Sites and Sounds of Savannah Jazz, by Dr. Julius “Boo” Hornstein

Rebels, Saints, and Sinners: Savannah’s Rich History and Colorful Personalities, by Timothy Daiss

Black Bottom Stomp: Eight Masters of Ragtime and Early Jazz (Media and Popular Culture), by David A. Jasen and Gene Jones

Savannah in the Old South (Wormsloe Foundation Publications), by Walter J. Fraser Jr.

Copyright (c) 2012 Green Palm Inn / Sandy Traub

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