American Jazz Greats Click Photos for Enlargements
AJG Photographer Wayne Dabney
AJG Video Archivist Justin Brown
Cliff Monear Sunny Wilkinson Gayelynn McKinney

AJG is the recipient of a 2013 MCACA grant.
American Jazz Greats recipient of 2013 MCACA grant
American Jazz Greats: Detroit/Allan Barnes

Coming soon to your local PBS station
American Jazz Greats

Peaceful Warriors: A Tribute to Jazz Advocate Billy Taylor

William “Billy” Taylor is a rare combination of piano stylist and piano player who had a distinguished career in which he played with many American Jazz Greats. Fifty years ago, he composed his most famous tune, “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free”. But he will be remembered best as an articulate advocate for jazz. From his CBS Sunday morning profiles of jazz artists, to the first television series dedicated to jazz, to his role as the music director for the David Frost Show and as the artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he created the annual  Women in Jazz Festival and the Louis Armstrong Legacy series.  Dr Billy Taylor was the genre’s most ardent advocate and ambassador.

Allan C. Barnes’ unique sound calls out to the audience and invites them in as he performs with the pure melodic sense of American jazz standards. Allan was discovered by Donald Byrd and went on to play around the world with him and the Blackbyrds. Allan’s great tone and big sound always kept him in demand as he played and recorded with   Nina Simone, Pharaoh Saunders, Freddie Hubbard, and Gil Scott Heron.  His tenacity, creativity and skills have him booked as the main act at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the oldest continuous jazz club in the world.  Allan C. Barnes is a gifted instrumentalist, writer and teacher whose work will stand for his masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and his dedication to the preservation of the history of jazz.  

Allan Barnes had the pleasure to meet Dr Billy Taylor and was impressed not only with his great musical playing and knowledge but his dedication to jazz and his insistence on a continuum, a passing the torch if you will, from generation to generation.  Allan wanted to honor Dr Taylor’s efforts as a jazz advocate.  So Allan formed an all star band with 5 other bandleaders who also were committed to keeping jazz alive. They call themselves Peaceful Warriors in tribute to the song that Billy Taylor wrote for Dr Martin Luther King. Peaceful Warriors spread the word of jazz through concerts, workshops and performances.

Band members are Allan Barnes, sax - Rayse Biggs, trumpet - Cliff Monear, Piano - Gayelynn McKinney, drums - Nick Calandro, bass and Sunny Wilkinson, vocals. The band plays tribute to Billy Taylor, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Max Roach, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderly, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, Sarah Vaughn, Teddy Wilson, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd and John Coltrane.

iMp is seeking partners, sponsors and donors for this project. Click here for additional information.

The original Peaceful Warriors music from the show can be downloaded for a donation of your choice.

Allan Barnes and Peaceful Warriors recorded Baker's "Live" at 75, a soon to be released CD commemorating Baker's Keyboard Lounge's 75th Anniversary.

Benny Golson on John Coltrane
Passing Jazz On To Today's Youth with Sunny Wilkinson
The Future of Jazz with Cliff Monear
"Jazz and Youth" with Gaylynn McKinney
Nancy Barber's The Other Eight Mile: The History of Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Dr. Martin Luther King
Opening Speech 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival
Credits: Photo by Phillip Collins, Voice by Henry Letcher, Music "I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free" by Billy Taylor
Dr. Billy Taylor on Martin Luther King
Congressman John Conyers with Martin Luther King
Congressman John Conyers, Jr. on MLK and Jazz
Dr. Martin Luther King
Opening Speech at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival

"God has brought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create - and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.

Modern Jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of "racial identity" as a problem for a multi-racial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down. And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these."



Coming soon to your local PBS station
American Jazz Greats

The McKinFolk Project

Jazz pianist Harold McKinney (1928-2001) was a driving force in Detroit's jazz scene when he played with John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Gene Krupa, Wes Montgomery and others. He was also very active in jazz education, helping establish jazz music programs at Oakland University and Wayne State University. McKinney also toured his shows "Discovering Jazz" and "Jazz For a New Generation" in public school systems and music festivals.

Many critics consider his version of “Freedom Jazz Dance” the best ever performed, “It is as funky and the original and as sophisticated as Miles' version. The arrangement is spectacular. You get high level musicianship and in a word perfect.”

Harold McKinney's music is being remembered with a project called “McKinFolk,” a nine piece ensemble led by Harold's daughter Gayelynn McKinney, a world class drummer. It includes vocalist Michelle McKinney. Carlos McKinney on piano and Harold's brother Kiane Zawadi on trombone. This all-star ensemble has in the past featured performances by Dwight Adams, Desean Jones, Chris Smith, Marion Hayden, and Henry Gibson. Gayelynn is a force in today's international jazz scene. She has appeared around the world at festivals like Montreux, Switzerland, the Jamaica Jazz and Heritage, and the Woma Jazz Fest in Italy but her favorite spots are here at home in the United States whether at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC or the oldest continuous jazz club in the world Baker's Keyboard Lounge of Detroit Michigan.

Included among Gayelynn McKinney's awards is one from the Music Fest USA where she won best drummer beating out over nine thousand participants. She was recently awarded the Motor City Music Award with the Grammy nominated group Straight Ahead of which she is a member and co-founder.

Gayelynn McKinney has also performed as a side musician with such notables as Aretha Franklin, Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Chaka Khan, Mary Stallings, Eric Reed, Roy Hargrove, Javon Jackson, David “Fathead” Newman, Steve Turre, Sonny Fortune, Kevin Mahogany and “Speech” of Arrested Development.

McKinFolk is a tribute by Gayelynn to her Dad Harold McKinney. "My father left a legacy of music that will die if I don't continue it. He had many fans and people that loved him and his music. It is my duty as his daughter to keep his music alive, by introducing it to a whole new set of ears, and in the process, I will also introduce my own musical legacy."

The McKinFolk Project - American Jazz Greats
Top row (left to right): Harold McKinney, Gayelynn, Ray & Carol - Gayelynn and Harold McKinney
Bottom row (left to right): McKinney - Dad, George, Marcus, Rod, Mom, Larry (1974)

Liner Notes

Giant Steps | Liner Notes - Video

John Coltrane “Giant Steps – My Favorite Things”

After this North Carolina native born in 1926 he moved to Philadelphia and played with the King Kolax band where he changed from alto to tenor. He enlisted in the Navy and upon his return he played in the trenches with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Eddie Vinson and Thelonious Monk. His playing progressed and was widely described as sheets of sounds as he sometimes played hundred of notes per minute. He is known for his recordings with Duke Ellington and Johnny Hartman. Just the mention of his name brings chills to fervent jazz lovers and to the general public he is an icon known as jazz personified. In 2007 he received posthumously a special Citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board for his ”masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship an iconic centrality to the history of jazz.” The one and only John Coltrane.

Allan Barnes "Til We Meet Again" - Performed by Giant Steps - Video

Born in Detroit, Michigan. He is a Vietnam vet who for more than 40 years, has etched his place in American music history.  This jazz man's career which spans five decades includes an eclectic combination of music as he has played or recorded with Donald Byrd,  Prince, Wilson Pickett, Martha Reeves, Nina Simone, Pharaoh Saunders, Grant Green , Billy Taylor, Sonny Rollins and many more. His big tenor saxophone sound has been enjoyed around the world but he is best known as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion with The Blackbyrds and their mega hit “Walking in Rhythm”  Here is an arrangement of an Allan Barnes original tune,"Til We Meet Again."

Louis Armstrong "What a Wonderful World" - Video

Born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana, this one of a kind musician was destined to become the symbol of the jazz music he made so popular. He taught himself to play the coronet and marched in the Colored Waif's Home Band. He replaced his mentor Joe Oliver in the Kid Ory Band. He finally left for Chicago and the rest truly is history. He is the greatest innovator of all time. Musicians everywhere followed his music and imitated his solos the way he sang. In 1931 he first recorded "When it's Sleepy Time Down South," the tune that became his theme song. He recorded the hit "Hello Dolly" that went to number one on the pop charts. He was affectionately known as "Pops" and "Satchmo." He will forever be remembered as the man that taught the world to swing, Mr. Louis Armstrong.

Charlie Parker "Donna Lee" - Video

Born in Kansas City, August 29, 1929. He started out on baritone horn but switched to alto sax. He practiced, practiced and practiced. He learned how to play in all the keys. He began to improve his speed, and before long he was one of the best. One night in 1939 he was playing “Cherokee” when he began building on the chords and helped changed the way musicians solo.  In 1942 he joined up with Earl Hines. In that band was Dizzy Gillepsie and the two developed a life long relationship. The two would meet up at nights at Mintons Playhouse and began to jam with a new music… a music  that was hard for the big band players of the time to play.  What he and Dizzy invented is the musical form known as bebop. He began improvising with original melodies overtop jazz standards.  One of these is “Donna Lee.” This giant of jazz only lived to 34 but left his mark on the world.  Everybody loved the Bird, Charlie Parker.

Freddie Hubbard "Little Sunflower" - Video

He was always gifted. In high school he played trumpet at the Jordan Conservatory Hubbard in Indianapolis. As a teenager he played with Wes Montgomery. At age 20, moved to NY City and played with Sonny Rollins, JJ Johnson and Quincy Jones. In 1961 he played on Ole Coltrane.  Later that year he made "Ready for Freddie," which was the first time he hooked up with Wayne Shorter and joined him with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He branched off on his own and became a huge success in the 1970’s with albums like Red Clay and Straight Life. In 1972 he won a Grammy for an album whose cover tune was performed with Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Ron Carter Jack DeJohnette and percussionist Airto Moreira. The name of the tune is "Little Sunflower" and the trumpet player is one of the sweetest sounds ever, Mr. Freddie Hubbard.

Ella Fitzgerald "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" - Video

She was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. In 1934, her name was drawn for a contest at the Apollo Theater. She was going to dance but at the last minute decided to sing. She was a hit and Benny Carter happened to be in the audience and introduced her around. Chick Webb hired her. When she was 21 she recorded a playful version of the children's nursery rhyme "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" which sold a million copies and stayed atop the pop charts for 17 weeks. She went on to record over two hundred albums and was dubbed "the Lady of song." One of her favorite tunes was "Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don't Tease Me," a 1941 popular song composed of Duke Ellington with lyrics by Lee Gaines. Here's to the first Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald.

James Moody "Moody's Mood For Love" - Video

Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, he grew up in New Jersey and joined the Air Force in 1943. When he got out he played with Dizzy Gillespie and is remembered for his legendary 16 bar solo on “Emanon.” Over the years he has played with Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus,  Quincy Jones and Lionel Hampton. He is best known for "Moody's Mood for Love," based on  his 1949 instrumental solo on the 1935 song “I'm in the Mood for Love.” The lyrics were later added by Eddie Jefferson. It was something new that was termed vocalese.   Before he was a band leader, he was a sideman renown for his flute playing as well as the tenor sax. The Grammy winner and certainly one of jazz's newest icons, James Moody. 

Dave Brubeck "Take Five" - Video

He was born in 1924 in San Francisco, California.  In the late 1940's he met Dave Brubeck, who he hired in a band and then fired him. It wasn't until years later when this alto player finished a stretch with Jack Fina that Brubeck turned the tables and hired him to become a part of that famous quartet with bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. His sound was always a little different, he wrote the quartets most famous hit. It was a song written in the unusual meter of 5/4 time and it was a sound that he thought made him sound like a dry martini.  This humorous sideman was said to have a contract with Brubeck that prevented his being fired and promising never to become band leader. This man, a part of jazz history and forever will be known for "Take Five," Paul Desmond.

Sonny Rollins "St Thomas" - Video

Born in Harlem in 1930 near the Savoy Ballroom  and the Apollo Theater, he began playing tenor sax at sixteen with a band formed by his high school mates Kenny Drew and Jackie McLean. He was a sideman for Miles Davis, JJ Johnson and Bud Powell before he turned twenty. He was also in the trenches with Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker.  In 1955 he was a part of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet.  Most people know him as the man who  stopped performing and just practiced endless hours on New Yorks Williamsburg bridge. Others know him for the commercial success he achieved in 1963 with the  soundtrack for the film Alfie starring Michael Caine.  Everybody knows him as a band leader and  one of the greatest tenor saxophone players ever, the man who created “Saxophone Collousus,” Sonny Rollins.

Benny Golson "Killer Joe" - Performed by Giant Steps - Video

Born in 1929, attending high school in Philadelphia he played with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Joe Jones and Red Rodney. After he graduated from Howard University, he played with Johnny Hodges, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic, Dizzy Gillepsie and Art Blakey. He was a part of the Great Day in Harlem photograph and made a cameo in the Steven Spielberg movie Terminal. He wrote the music to the television shows: Ironside, Room 22, M*A*S*H, The Six Million Dollar Man and Mod Squad. He has over thirty albums and he has written over three hundred compositions including, "I Remember Clifford," "Along Came Betty," "Stablemates," "Whisper Not," "Are you Real?"  "Killer Joe" is the most famous song of the legend Benny Golson. 

Miles Davis "Footprints" - Video

Born May 26, 1926 to a well-to-do family in East Saint Louis, by the time he was in high school he was playing with Billy Eckstein’s Band. He moved to New York under the guise of attending Julliard School of Music but he really only had one thing on his mind ... playing with the great dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and he did for three years. Then in 1949 he tried being a band leader for the first time with a nine piece ensemble called a nonet.  It was hailed as revolutionary and as the birth of cool. He was a master musician who just had this thing for hearing music. Band leaders who came from his ensembles are legendary and include John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. He really does define jazz and most people know him by his first name only… Miles.

Duke Ellington "Take the A-Train" - Video

Born in Washington DC on April 29th 1899, he was an excellent baseball player but he chose music instead and moved to NY City. Success was waiting for him. He formed a band called The Washingtonians. In 1927 he signed with agent, Irving Fields and before long he was recording and  became a staple of that famous Harlem Cotton Club. This American composter, band leader and pianist had a legendary career with hits like "Caravan," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Sophisticated Lady," "Come Sunday," "Black and Tan suite," "It Don’t Mean a Thing," and on and on and on. The tune we are playing was written by Billy Strayhorn who was given instructions to “Take the A-Train” to this star’s house in Harlem. Well by now you know his name is Edward and he is one of the true kings of jazz but he’s better known as … a duke.

Stan Getz "Girl From Ipanema" - Video

This native of the City of Brotherly Love, where is that, Lansing...East Lansing. Well it was Philadelphia and it was wartime and most of the older players had been drafted so while still in his teens he played for the bands of Benny Goodman, Stan  Kenton, Jack Teagarden and Jimmy Dorsey. He was one of  Woody Herman's “Second Herd” and known for his famous solos on Early Autumn. In in the early 60's he became involved in the bossa nova movement along with  Jao Gilberto and his wife Astrud.  And with this song they won the Grammy for record of the year with  music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes with English lyrics by Norman Gimbel. Ladies and Gentleman, "Garota de ipanema" by the great Stan Getz.

Billie Holiday & Lester Young  “God Bless the Child” - Video

Lester Young was born in Woodville, Mississippi in 1909. He started his career in Minneapolis where he played violins, trumpet and drums before coming to  the saxophone. He played in the great Kansas City band of Walter Page. He joined the Count Basie band in 1934 but left to replace Coleman Hawkins in the Fletcher Henderson Band.   He defined Jazz and made up its language like calling a players fingers his “people.” He named New York “The Big Apple.” He dressed immaculately with his trade mark pork pie hat and when he was younger he played the tenor with his sax mouthpiece on the side like a flute.  In 1939 Billie Holiday along with Arthur Herzog, Jr. wrote the song “God Bless the Child.” Nobody performed it better than her best friend and the man who dubbed her Lady Day and the man she called Prez, Lester Young.

Sarah Vaughn "Black Coffee" - Video

She was born in Newark, New Jersey, March 27, 1924. Her father was a carpenter and piano player. Her Mother sang in the church choir. She was attending  America’s first high school for the Arts when she won first place at the famous Apollo Talent Show. Some say it was Billy Eckstine that introduced her to band leader Earl Hines, but either way, she was hired to play with him in 1943. She began her solo career in 1945 by working clubs on 52nd street like the Three Deuces and  Downbeat in New York City. She never looked back as she rose to international stardom. One of her better known tunes "Black Coffee," written by Sonny Burke with lyrics by Paul Frances Webster and it was the soundtrack for the Columbia pictures 1960 release “Let No Man Write My Epitaph." She has been nicknamed 'Sailor,' 'Sassy' and 'The Divine One,' Sarah Vaughn.

Dizzy Gillespie "Night in Tunisia" - Video

Max Roach was born January 10, 1924 in the Township of Newland Pasquotank County, North Carolina, but by four years old, his family relocated to Bed Sty in Brooklyn, New York. At ten he was already playing drums in bands around the city and when he graduated high school he got to sit-in one night with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He was one of the first drummers along with Kenny Clark to play the new formed bebop.  He formed a band featuring trumpeter Clifford Brown. He was a jazz master, an innovator, a composer and an educator. One night in 1953 at the Masses Hall in Toronto, Canada he played "A Night in Tunisia," with Charlie Mingus, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He was the inspiration for our drummer, Gayelynn McKinney; ladies and gentlemen this tribute is to Max Roach.

Teddy Wilson "I Got Rhythm" - Video

Born on November 24, in Austin, Texas, he studied piano and violin at Tuskegee. After working with Louis Armstrong, he worked with Benny Carter’s Chocolate Dandies. In 1935 when he joined the Benny Goodman Trio along with Gene Krupa, then became the first black musician to perform in public with a previously all-white jazz group. From there it seems as if he played with everybody, he recorded fifty hit singles with singers like Lena Horne, Helen Ward and Billy Holiday. He played with the saxophones of Ben Webster and Lester Young before performing with his own band.  One of his favorite tunes was “I Got Rhythm,”  composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Its chord progression known as the rhythm changes was the foundation for bebop. The piano player is Theodore Shaw Wilson. Better known as Teddy Wilson.

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