Tag: B.B. King

R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Blues Master and Musical Legend B.B. King

(Photo: Associated Press)

B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89.

His death was reported early Friday by The Associated Press, citing his lawyer, Brent Bryson, and by CNN, citing his daughter, Patty King.

Mr. King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love.

“I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,” Mr. King said in his autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (1996), written with David Ritz.

In performances, his singing and his solos flowed into each other as he wrung notes from the neck of his guitar, vibrating his hand as if it were wounded, his face a mask of suffering. Many of the songs he sang — like his biggest hit, “The Thrill Is Gone” (“I’ll still live on/But so lonely I’ll be”) — were poems of pain and perseverance.

The music historian Peter Guralnick once noted that Mr. King helped expand the audience for the blues through “the urbanity of his playing, the absorption of a multiplicity of influences, not simply from the blues, along with a graciousness of manner and willingness to adapt to new audiences and give them something they were able to respond to.”

B. B. stood for Blues Boy, a name he took with his first taste of fame in the 1940s. His peers were bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, whose nicknames fit their hard-bitten lives. But he was born a King, albeit in a sharecropper’s shack surrounded by dirt-poor laborers and wealthy landowners.

Mr. King went out on the road and never came back after one of his first recordings reached the top of the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1951. He began in juke joints, country dance halls and ghetto nightclubs, playing 342 one-night stands in 1956 and 200 to 300 shows a year for a half-century thereafter, rising to concert halls, casino main stages and international acclaim.

He was embraced by rock ’n’ roll fans of the 1960s and ’70s, who remained loyal as they grew older together. His playing influenced many of the most successful rock guitarists of the era, including Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Continue reading “R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Blues Master and Musical Legend B.B. King”

R.I.P. Composer, Pianist and Jazz Crusader Joe Sample

Joe Sample at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2011. His last solo album, “Children of the Sun,” is to be released this fall. (Credit: Jean-Christophe Bott/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Joe Sample, who became a jazz star in the 1960s as the pianist with the Jazz Crusaders and an even bigger star a decade later when he began playing electric keyboards and the group simplified its name to the Crusaders, died on Friday in Houston. He was 75.

The cause was mesothelioma, said his manager, Patrick Rains.

The Jazz Crusaders, who played the muscular, bluesy variation on bebop known as hard bop, had their roots in Houston, where Mr. Sample, the tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder and the drummer Nesbert Hooper (better known by the self-explanatory first name Stix) began performing together as the Swingsters while in high school.

Mr. Sample met the trombonist Wayne Henderson at Texas Southern University and added him, the bassist Henry Wilson and the flutist Hubert Laws — who would soon achieve considerable fame on his own — to the group, which changed its name to the Modern Jazz Sextet.

The band worked in the Houston area for several years but did not have much success until Mr. Sample, Mr. Felder, Mr. Hooper and Mr. Henderson moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to the Jazz Crusaders, a reference to the drummer Art Blakey’s seminal hard-bop ensemble, the Jazz Messengers. Their first album, “Freedom Sound,” released on the Pacific Jazz label in 1961, sold well, and they recorded prolifically for the rest of the decade, with all four members contributing compositions, while performing to enthusiastic audiences and critical praise.

In the early 1970s, as the audience for jazz declined, the band underwent yet another name change, this one signifying a change in musical direction. Augmenting their sound with electric guitar and electric bass, with Mr. Sample playing mostly electric keyboards, the Jazz Crusaders became the Crusaders. Their first album under that name, “Crusaders 1,” featuring four compositions by Mr. Sample, was released on the Blue Thumb label in 1972.

Continue reading “R.I.P. Composer, Pianist and Jazz Crusader Joe Sample”

New Orleans Jazz Fest to Feature Jill Scott, B.B. King and N.O. Native Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — If there’s a theme to this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it may be living legends.  Headliners include B.B. King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Hall and Oates and Fleetwood Mac. There’s also a cast of modern-day hit makers such as The Black Keys, Maroon 5, Jill Scott, Kem, the Dave Matthews Band and New Orleans native Frank Ocean.

Over the next two weekends, fans of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be treated to traditional jazz as well as rock ‘n roll, Cajun, gospel, blues, hip-hop, funk and zydeco.  “The way the talent fell into place this year, it became a very special year for us,” festival producer Quint Davis said. “It’s Jazz Fest, but it’s also B.B. King, Willie Nelson. It’s Ben Harper. It’s Hall and Oates. We ended up with probably the greatest living proponent in each kind of music we feature here.”

In all, about 5,000 entertainers will play the festival on 12 stages. The first weekend is Friday through Sunday, and the following weekend starts Thursday, May 2, and lasts until Sunday, May 5.

Continue reading “New Orleans Jazz Fest to Feature Jill Scott, B.B. King and N.O. Native Frank Ocean”