Illinois Jacquet Quintet – Live at The Bombay Jazz Festival, Mumbai India – March 27, 1994 – Festival Soundboard – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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The legendary Illinois Jacquet this weekend, along with his quintet, featuring Riley Mullins on trumpet, Gray Sargent on guitar, Larry Ham on piano and Clyde Lucas on drums. All recorded and miraculously preserved at the 1994 Bombay Jazz Festival in Bombay (Mumbai) India on March 27, 1994.
Although much of what he did, his honking and at times raw style became something of a trademark for early Jump-Blues and Rock n’ Roll, he was thoroughly committed to Jazz and his collaborations with some of the pivotal figures in Jazz (Charles Mingus, who was an early alumnus of the Jacquet ensembles), Arnet Cobb, Dexter Gordon and Nat King Cole, confirmed that commitment.
Jacquet was born to a Black Creole mother and father, named Marguerite Trahan and Gilbert Jacquet, in Louisiana and moved to Houston, Texas, as an infant, and was raised there as one of six siblings. His father was a part-time bandleader. As a child he performed in his father’s band, primarily on the alto saxophone. His older brother Russell Jacquet played trumpet and his brother Linton played drums.
At 15, Jacquet began playing with the Milton Larkin Orchestra, a Houston-area dance band. In 1939, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met Nat King Cole. Jacquet would sit in with the trio on occasion. In 1940, Cole introduced Jacquet to Lionel Hampton who had returned to California and was putting together a big band. Hampton wanted to hire Jacquet, but asked the young Jacquet to switch to tenor saxophone.
In 1942, at age 19, Jacquet soloed on the Hampton Orchestra’s recording of “Flying Home”, one of the first times a honking tenor sax was heard on record. The record became a hit. The song immediately became the climax for the live shows and Jacquet became exhausted from having to “bring down the house” every night. The solo was built to weave in and out of the arrangement and continued to be played by every saxophone player who followed Jacquet in the band, notably Arnett Cobb and Dexter Gordon, who achieved almost as much fame as Jacquet in playing it. It is one of the few jazz solos to have been memorized and played very much the same way by everyone who played the song. He quit the Hampton band in 1943 and joined Cab Calloway’s Orchestra. Jacquet appeared with Cab Calloway’s band in Lena Horne’s movie Stormy Weather. In the earlier years of Jacquet’s career, his brother Linton Jacquet managed him on the chitlin circuit Linton’s daughter Brenda Jacquet-Ross sang in jazz venues in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s to early 2000s, with a band called the Mondo Players.
In 1944, Illinois Jacquet returned to California and started a small band with his brother Russell and a young Charles Mingus. It was at this time that he appeared in the Academy Award-nominated short film Jammin’ the Blues with Lester Young. He also appeared at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert. In 1946, he moved to New York City, and joined the Count Basie orchestra, replacing Lester Young. In 1952 Jacquet co-wrote ‘Just When We’re Falling in Love’; Illinois Jacquet, Sir Charles Thompson, S. K. “Bob” Russell. Jacquet continued to perform (mostly in Europe) in small groups through the 1960s and 1970s. Jacquet led the Illinois Jacquet Big Band from 1981 until his death. Jacquet became the first jazz musician to be an artist-in-residence at Harvard University, in 1983.
This particular recording is something of a miracle – the history of it is a study in perseverance. As was told to me by a few collector friends, the tape was badly damaged from neglect and adverse conditions and was broken in several places. By painstaking restoration this performance wound up being resurrected and the job was so well done that the horror story that originally accompanied it seems hard to believe. Sadly, having been in those exact situations myself (with more than a few historic recordings), it makes perfect sense and a hats off to the person who sweat bullets pulling rabbits out of hats.
Enjoy this slice of history – it may just as easily been lost forever.