Program : 
Originals by Originals: Jazz Greats Offer Their Own Inventions


Benny Carter at the Savoy 1939.
Standing back row, Tyree Glenn; Sitting back row, Vic Dickenson; Sitting front row l-r, Carl Frye, Ernie Powell. Photo © Benny Carter Collection.

Improvisation is "musical composition on the fly." The jazz musician's lifelong mission is to cultivate an "improvising mind" capable of inventing new jazz melodies on the spot night after night. The best jazz improvisation sounds spontaneous and playful—and yet unfolds with the logic of a story.


Clark Terry

When a jazz player sits down to compose a tune he makes use of his highly developed ear for invention. Thus, many tunes written by jazz musicians have the loose, swinging feel of an improvised solo.


Riverwalk Jazz plays host to great improvisors on every broadcast, but this week jazz legends perform their own compositions with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band.  We dig into the archive for Originals by Originals.


Jim Cullum with Benny Carter. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz

Benny Carter was a pioneer of the alto saxophone, playing in the bands of Fletcher Henderson, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, and his own highly acclaimed ensembles. He is also acknowledged to be one of the great innovators of jazz composition and arranging.  Carter is heard with Jim and the band performing of his compositions, "I'm in the Mood for Swing" and "Wonderland."


A protégé of the powerful soprano sax and clarinet soloist Sidney Bechet, reedman Bob Wilber has long been admired for his compositional brilliance. He performs three of his own tunes, "The Rabbit Jumps," "Reverie" and his tribute to Benny Goodman, "BG."


Milt Hinton at The Landing. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz

Milt Hinton was one of the first bass players to record walking bass lines and to play featured solos in front of a band. We captured Milt live at The Landing in 1992, performing two of his originals, "Ebony Silhouette" and "Mona, Take Me Home."


Bassist Bob Haggart was a founding member of the Bob Crosby Bob Cats, a popular hot band of the 1930s that took as their starting point the pure style of New Orleans jazz. Haggart's rock-solid 4/4 rhythm on the bass was a key ingredient. Here, Haggart performs two of his well-known Swing Era hits—the enduring standard "My Inspiration" and his playful duet for bass and drums, "Big Noise from Winnetka."


Dick Hyman. Photo courtesy the artist

Jazz greats to offer their original compositions in live performances with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on this broadcast include: Clark Terry with his hilarious Tonight Show "Mumbles" routine, K.C. bluesman Jay McShann on piano and vocals for his "Confessin' the Blues," Count Basie Band trumpeter Harry 'Sweets' Edison with his danceable number "Every Tub," and jazz piano man Dick Hyman with his improvised composition, "Riverwalk Blues," captured live at The Landing with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band.


Photo credit for home page: Jim Cullum and Clark Terry. Photo courtesy Riverwalk Jazz.