Tuesday, February 12, 2013

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Gene Ammons

Artist:Gene Ammons
Song:Hittin' The Jug
Album:Three Classic Albums Plus

Gene "Jug" Ammons was an excellent tenor sax player who mixed bebop with Chicago blues on albums he recorded in the 50s & early 60s. His career was marred by two prison stretches for narcotics possession. And then he died prematurely in 1974. So he has been forgotten. He was born Apr. 14, 1925 in Chicago the son of legendary Boogie Woogie pianist Albert Ammons. Ammons played gigs locally while still in high school and went on the road with the King Kolax band in 1943. In 1944 he joined the Billy Eckstine band alongside Charlie Parker and later Dexter Gordon. The nickname Jug came about when straw hats were ordered for the entire Eckstine band and the hat didn't fit Ammons' head. He was also known as The Boss. When Eckstine ended his big band in 1947, Ammons led his own group for a while and then replaced Stan Getz in Woody Herman's band. In 1950 he formed a band with Sonny Stitt. Though he recorded for other labels, Ammons recorded for Prestige Records for most of his career starting in 1956. His first prison stretch was from 1958 to 1960. Hittin' The Jug is from the 1960 album Boss Tenor. This was his first album after his release from prison. Musicians are Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass, Art Taylor on drums and Ray Barretto on congas. The British label Avid Jazz has released Boss Tenor with three other Ammons albums on 2CDs. The 1958 album Blue Gene features baritone sax player Pepper Adams and pianist Mal Waldron. The 1958 album Groove Blues features John Coltrane. And the 1956 album The Happy Blues features trumpeter Art Farmer and alto sax player Jackie McLean. That's a lot of great jazz for 15 bucks. Avid releases a lot of these kind of remastered jazz comps. Ammons returned to prison in 1962 and re-signed with Prestige when he was released in 1969. Sadly he died of cancer on July 23, 1974 at age 49. Tenor sax player Joshua Redman has acknowledged Ammons as a big influence. Jazz fans should check him out. Here's a video for Hittin' The Jug by Gene Ammons.

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