Tadd Dameron

One of the major arranger-composers of the bebop era, Tadd Dameron (1917-1965) did not lead many record dates but virtually every one is a gem.

Dameron began his career in the Swing Era, playing piano with the Zack Whyte and Blanche Calloway bands and selling arrangements to Vido Musso’s group. His first major impact was made through his writing for Harlan Leonard’s Kansas City Orchestra, some of which was recorded. Dameron’s arrangements impressed many bandleaders and he wrote for such mid-1940s orchestras as those of Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstine as well as for Sarah Vaughan. Along the way, Dameron’s most famous compositions were be “Good Bait,” “Hot House,” “Our Delight,” “Lady Bird,” and “If You Could See Me Now.”

Although always modest about his own piano playing, Dameron worked with Babs Gonzales’s Three Bips And A Bop and led groups featuring either Fats Navarro or Miles Davis on trumpet. He appeared at the 1949 Paris Jazz Festival with Davis, wrote for Artie Shaw’s last orchestra, and in 1953 led a sextet that is included on Clifford Brown Memorial.

Three CDs available as Original Jazz Classics sum up Tadd Dameron’s rich legacy. Fontainebleau has Dameron performing five of his originals (including “The Scene Is Clean”) with an octet that features trumpeter Kenny Dorham in 1956. Dameron is well showcased as a pianist in a quartet on Mating Call with John Coltrane. And his final recording, 1962’s The Magic Touch, features Dameron’s arrangements for an all-star big band with Bill Evans on piano and definitive versions of “Our Delight,” “On a Misty Night,” and “If You Could See Me Now.”

Drug problems plagued Tadd Dameron during his last decade but he contributed fine arrangements for Benny Goodman, Sonny Stitt, Blue Mitchell, and Milt Jackson before his death in 1965 from cancer.