Tadd Dameron / Feb 21, 1917 - March 8, 1965

Not necessarily a household name and not quite a flashy player, Tadd Dameron was one of the great arrangers in jazz and wrote a few standards. The pianist's own compositions include "Hot House", "Lady Bird", "Soultrane", "Fontainebleau", "If You Could See Me Now", "Good Bait" and "Mating Call", but he was an in-demand arranger who worked with Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Milt Jackson, Benny Goodman, Billy Eckstine and others before the dope got the best of him.

From Cleveland, Dameron learned piano from his mother as a child. His saxophonist brother and he would absorb the sounds of swing bands from the '30s, leading to the upstart's interest in pursuing music as a career. He took a few jobs as a pianist, including in trumpeter Freddie Webster's band. After some touring, he went to Kansas City in the early '40s and started writing tunes and arranging for KC legend Harlan Leonard & his Rockets, one of the city's most popular groups. He worked with Jimmy Lunceford and Basie before hooking up with Dizzy in '42. He started ambitiously arranging bebop concepts for big bands.

In '47 he paired with Fats Navarro, a successful partnership that lasted until Navarro's death in '50, after which Dameron brought in an unknown Clifford Brown. Dameron kept busy with both his own groups and arranging for and collaborating with others, until a late '50s jail stint took him off the scene. After returning in the mid-'60s, he died of cancer at just 48.

Check out his beautiful albums A Study In Dameronia, Fontainebleu and Mating Call (with Coltrane). Hint: Much of the man's work have been released under other artists' names. Here is a sample from Mating Call, usually available under Trane's name:

Tagged: Celebrate Icons, jazz, John Coltrane, piano, Tadd Dameron

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