For both his musical virtuosity on alto saxophone and his compositions, Ornette Coleman is one of the major forces in American music in the late twentieth century. Like painter Jackson Pollock and writer Walt Whitman, who rejected traditional forms as too constrictive for human expression, Coleman broke with existing jazz diction, creating a raw sound that seemed to deliberately avoid the musical scale in favor of "playing in the cracks." In 1959, Coleman's quartet produced The Shape of Jazz to Come, a musical manifesto that was the aural equivalent of Pollock's abstract expressionism. Coleman disavowed the idea that "free jazz," as his music was called, was pure improvisation, maintaining that careful planning went into each composition. In the 1970s Coleman moved into jazz funk, using electrified instruments. He is still a prolific musician, and his album Sound Grammar won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2007.
Frame: 71.9 x 56.7 x 3.2 cm (28 5/16 x 22 5/16 x 1 1/4")
Sarah Vaughan: American\African American
Born Newark, New Jersey
Known popularly as “the divine Sarah” and “Sassy,” Sarah Vaughan was regarded as one of the premier female vocalists of her day. Drawn to music from an early age, she studied piano and sang in her church choir as a youth. When Vaughan was eighteen, she entered an amateur talent contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater on a dare and won first prize. This success led to frequent invitations to perform alongside the leading figures in contemporary jazz, including Earl “Fatha” Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstein. Adept at bebop improvisation, Vaughan possessed a wonderfully versatile voice that complemented a larger jazz ensemble. By 1950—the year in which Josef Breitenbach created this portrait—she was selling upwards of three million records a year. During this period, a poll in Down Beat magazine named her the top female singer for six consecutive years.
Sarah Vaughan: Female
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Pianist
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Jazz
Sarah Vaughan: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
A gifted pianist and singer who moved easily between jazz and the classics, Hazel Scott dazzled audiences with her witty, daring, and sophisticated performances. Her prodigious talent was evident at an early age. Only fifteen when she appeared as soloist with Count Basie and his orchestra in 1935, Scott made her Broadway debut just three years later. In 1940 her Carnegie Hall performance of a "swing" version of Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody created a sensation, delighting her fans and confounding the critics. From 1939 to 1945 (the year in which she married Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.), Scott not only enjoyed star status as a nightclub performer in New York, but also appeared in several films and toured extensively. A staunch proponent of equal rights, she maintained a professional contract enabling her to refuse to perform before racially segregated audiences.
Duke Ellington called Billie Holiday "the essence of cool," a reference to her equipoise in performance. The most influential jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday had a controlled emotional power that transformed even trite ballads into romantic short stories. Born Eleonora Harris and partially raised in a New York City brothel, she crafted a cool vocal style by tempering Bessie Smith’s shouting power with Louis Armstrong’s rhythmic nuance, then honed her craft on the road with the Count Basie Orchestra. Lester Young named her "Lady Day," and in their chamber jazz classics, such as "All of Me," voice and saxophone curl around each other into smoky swirls of late-night yearning. Late in life Holiday, a drug addict and survivor of abusive relationships, sang in a cracked, broken voice that remained true to the jazz practice of self-expression.
Lionel Hampton began his musical career as a drummer in Les Hite's band, but that changed in the early 1930s, when he tried playing a vibraphone in an idle moment at a recording session. The vibraphone was soon his instrument of choice, and over the next several years, his skill on it earned it a significant place in the jazz idiom. In 1940, after playing for four years with the Benny Goodman Quartet, Hampton formed his own band. Claiming a roster of musicians that included such jazz notables as Quincy Jones and Charlie Mingus, the group became one of America's most highly regarded big bands. Hampton's most endearing trait was his high-energy spontaneity that sometimes raised audience enthusiasm to a fever pitch. "We got no routine," he once said, "We just act the way the spirit moves us."
Antonio Rudolfo Frasconi, 28 Apr 1919 - 8 Jan 2013
Charles Mingus, 22 Apr 1922 - 5 Jan 1979
Woodcut on paper
Image: 64.4 x 85.1cm (25 3/8 x 33 1/2")
Sheet: 64.5 x 99.7cm (25 3/8 x 39 1/4")
Charles Mingus: American\African American
Born Nogales, Arizona
Jazz musician, composer, and bandleader Charles Mingus grew up in Los Angeles. A virtuoso on the bass, he elevated it from a strictly rhythmic instrument to a melodic, solo presence. At age twenty he toured with Louis Armstrong, and in 1951 he moved to New York City, playing with Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Duke Ellington. The next year he cofounded the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop, where his compositional skills flourished with sketches and chords he gave musicians to explore, letting the main melody emerge from their improvisation. From the mid-1950s on he recorded many outstanding albums, his favorite being Tijuana Moods (1962). His life was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
In 1953 Time magazine named Uruguayan-born Antonio Frasconi “the foremost U.S. woodcut artist.” His command of the medium is visible here in the alternation of flat and voluminous shapes, from the bass to Mingus’s face and hair.
Nacido en Nogales, Arizona
El músico, compositor y director de jazz Charles Mingus creció en Los Angeles. Intérprete consumado del contrabajo, liberó al instrumento de su papel estrictamente rítmico para darle presencia melódica como solista. A la edad de veinte años ya estaba de gira con Louis Armstrong y en 1951 se estableció en New York, donde tuvo ocasión de tocar junto a Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach y Duke Ellington. Al año siguiente cofundó el Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop y sus habilidades compositivas se hicieron evidentes en los sketches y acordes que hacía explorar a los músicos, dejando que la melodía principal surgiera de la improvisación misma. Desde mediados de los años cincuenta grabó muchos discos de un nivel extraordinario, siendo su favorito Tijuana Moods (1962). Su vida fue truncada por la esclerosis lateral amiotrófica (enfermedad Lou Gehrig).
En 1953 la revista Time reconoció al uruguayo Antonio Frasconi como “el principal artista del grabado en madera en Estados Unidos”. Su dominio de la técnica se hace patente aquí en la alternancia de formas planas y volúmenes, desde el contrabajo hasta el rostro y el pelo de Mingus.
Charles Mingus: Male
Charles Mingus: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Composer
Charles Mingus: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Charles Mingus: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Bandmaster
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Renowned for making songs her own, Billie Holiday once explained, "I hate straight singing. I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That's all I know." This attitude characterized not only her singing style but her life as well. Having endured a difficult childhood, Holiday moved to New York City in 1927. Intent on fashioning a musical career, she began performing to supplement her meager income as a housemaid. Success onstage led to recording opportunities and, beginning in 1937, a close working relationship with Count Basie's band. Holiday later joined the Artie Shaw Orchestra, becoming one of the first African American singers to headline an all-white band. Despite the stardom she achieved, Holiday suffered various personal crises during the last two decades of her life, several of which were the result of drug and alcohol abuse.