SUPERSONIC :part two - The Musicians ©1998 JCMarion


In the classic performances of supersonic there were a number of well known musicians that attained great fame in other fields of musical endeavor. In this category were Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Benny Carter, J.J. Johnson, Les Paul, Nat Cole, Ray Brown, Jo Jones, and Buddy Rich. Their histories have been recorded in much greater detail elsewhere, and most need no introduction. The core group of Supersonic all stars are not as readily recognizable, although most may have heard of some of these artists. What follows is a list of these musicians and short bios of each.

Illinois Jacquet - THE Man, from whom "supersonic" gets its name. His soaring, blasting, screaming style was originally called 'supersonic' and it influenced a generation of tenor sax men. From him, the sound of R & B evolved, and he is the lead man of the style. First gained notice with Lionel Hampton's band in the early 40s (another uncredited source of the basis of R & B) with Decca version of "Flying Home". After the supersonic years, his style became more mainstream and inventive. Great LPs from later years include "The Kid And The Brute" and "Port of Rico"

Flip Phillips - Joe "Flip" was originally a clarinet player with small combos in and around New York City in the late 30s, who concentrated on the tenor sax when he became part of Woody Herman's First Herd in the mid 40s. His frenetic solos mirrored Jacquet's style and friendly competition prevailed. In the 50s appeared often with swing era stars Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, and Buddy Rich.

Willie Smith - Known as the "other alto" when sharing the stage with Bird. Nonetheless, Smith is the one constant through the supersonic years. He was there at the beginning, and on the stage for the swan song. His tone on the alto is very recognizable by its fullness and mellow sound. Long time member of the Jimmy Lunceford band until military service. From mid 40s until mid 60s (except for short periods of time) was with Harry James, proving he was certainly rock steady.

Howard McGhee - From Detroit by way of Oklahoma, McGhee was a big mover in the bebop era. He also was a member of Lionel Hampton's big band in the early 40s. He had a clean and crisp high register attack, and was a contemporary and recorded with Fats Navarro. In later years concentrated more on arranging and composing.

Buck Clayton - Long time trumpet star with the Count Basie band from the 30s. A prolific arranger and composer, many of his compositions were staples of the Basie band. Possessed an inventive, lyric style, less dependent on upper register fire, and always swinging. In later years was active with Benny Goodman and Joe Bushkin.

Al Killian - Another trumpet veteran of the Count Basie band through most of the early 40s. His specialty is upper register work and his technique was used to good advantage while with Lionel Hampton in the mid 1940s. Tragically, was murdered at age 34 by his landlord.

Trummy Young - James "Trummy" was another veteran of the band of Jimmy Lunceford. Big toned trombone soloist, was in great demand after his stint with Lunceford. In later years often appeared in Hawaii (where I met him in the mid 70s and he professed very little recall of either JATP or as a member of Joe Turner's Blues Kings on Atlantic).

Vic Dickenson - Trombone stylist with Claude Hopkins and Count Basie bands in the 30s and 40s. Based in Boston and then New York in the 50s and 60s. Active into the 1970s with the World's Greatest Jazz Band.

Arnold Ross - Modern piano style, in the Vaughn Monroe band in the early 40s, then with Harry James. Prolific appearances during the supersonic years, and is heard with a great variety of lead soloists. In later years active in foundations for curing drug addiction. Later TV work with Bob Crosby and Spike Jones.

Hank Jones - Brother of trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin. Great touch noted for melodic descending runs and full chords. Extensive freelancing, and was with Ella Fitzgerald for many years. In later years did much TV work as arranger.

Ken Kersey - From Detroit and that city's Institute of Music, he was with Cootie Williams and Roy Eldridge in the early 40s. Developed good boogie woogie feel and composed a number of tunes in this style. With Sol Yaged and Charlie Shavers in later years.

Billy Hadnott - Kansas City based, and certainly influenced by Walter Page the bassist of the Basie band. Because he possessed the K.C. style of bass playing, he was in great demand for session work. A mainstay of JATP.

Johnny Miller - Gained fame as Wesley Prince's replacement as bassist with the King Cole Trio where he remained for many years in the mid 40s. Became an L.A. based session musician.

Benny Fonville - Primary bass player in the band of Eddie Heywood Jr.with hit recording of "Begin The Beguine".

Lee Young - Drumming brother of Lester "Pres" Young, grew up in Minneapolis. With Lionel Hampton in the 40s and a long stint with Nat Cole in the 50s. Became an A & R man in the recording industry.

Don Lamond - From Washington D.C. by way of Oklahoma City, gained greatest fame as drummer with Woody Herman's First Herd. Became free lance musician in the 1950s.

back to index . . . . . . . . .

to next page . . . . . . . . . .