Hasaan Ibn Ali / May 6, 1931 - 1980

"The Legendary Hasaan" Ibn Ali may be an obscure name in jazz but his notoriety in his local Philadelphia scene is not lost on the musicians of the time and place, not the least of which would be the Philly-reared saxophonists John Coltrane and Odean Pope, as well as fellow pianist McCoy Tyner. Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Henry Grimes, Miles Davis, JJ Johnson, Benny Golson have all played with him and Coltrane counted him as a big influence.

To those that have heard him, his quick and unconventional rhythmic style and sense of harmony put him in a category with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. Hasaan himself claimed Elmo Hope as an influence. A lifelong Philadelphian, Hasaan joined Joe Morris' R&B group as a teenager in the '40s before lending great influence on the local jazz cats. He took some gigs in NYC with Horace Arnold and others, including Roach. Roach said Hasaan would show up at his house in the middle of the night and start banging away on the piano.

There are stories of Hasaan showing up in clubs and if he didn't like the piano player in the group he would physically throw him off the stage and take over himself. The only album that exists of his work is a mid-'60s date for Atlantic with Roach and Art Davis (The Max Roach Trio Featuring The Legendary Hasaan). Roach pulled strings at the label to get the music of Hasaan out to the world. Further sessions had tapes lost to a fire. The Library of Congress also houses a solo piano recording from 1964. (There are rumors of a 1952 home recording with Coltrane. Trane undertook serious study with Hasaan and his "sheets of sound" period would reflect this.) Hasaan failed to watch out for his own health and died in 1980, obscure to most of the world outside of Philly.

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