The story of jazz is a tale filled with tragedy, and while it may seem crass to try and place them in any sort of order, the life of Bud Powell has to rank amongst the saddest. A leader at 23, he was first admitted to a mental hospital that same year, a pairing that would become all too regular throughout his short life — the brilliance and madness perhaps rising from the same place. He was dead at 41, by then a shell of his former self. Happy birthday, Bud. May you have found peace.

The story of jazz is a tale filled with tragedy, and while it may seem crass to try and place them in any sort of order, the life of Bud Powell has to rank amongst the saddest. A leader at 23, he was first admitted to a mental hospital that same year, a pairing that would become all too regular throughout his short life — the brilliance and madness perhaps rising from the same place. He was dead at 41, by then a shell of his former self. Happy birthday, Bud. May you have found peace.

Happy birthday, John Coltrane.

Happy birthday, John Coltrane.

I’m not normally one to recognize more than one birthday on any given day, but sometimes you need to make exceptions. Julian “Cannonball” Adderley is perhaps best known for his performance on Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” (although ironically they misspelled his name as ADDERLY on the initial pressing), but his masterpiece remains “Somethin’ Else,” with Davis as a featured sideman. Released in 1958, it remains one of the pinnacle jazz recordings of the era. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today.

I’m not normally one to recognize more than one birthday on any given day, but sometimes you need to make exceptions. Julian “Cannonball” Adderley is perhaps best known for his performance on Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” (although ironically they misspelled his name as ADDERLY on the initial pressing), but his masterpiece remains “Somethin’ Else,” with Davis as a featured sideman. Released in 1958, it remains one of the pinnacle jazz recordings of the era. Do yourself a favor and pick it up today.

You can have your Keith Moons and your John Bonhams, keep your Dave Lombardos and Dave Grohls. The greatest drummer to ever live was born today, and that’s that. Happy birthday, Elvin Jones.

You can have your Keith Moons and your John Bonhams, keep your Dave Lombardos and Dave Grohls. The greatest drummer to ever live was born today, and that’s that. Happy birthday, Elvin Jones.

It’s probably possible to write about Sonny Rollins without referring to him as the saxophone colossus, but I’m not gonna even try it. Sonny Rollins has been playing the sax longer than you’ve been alive — hell, longer than your parents have been alive — and he’s more or less retired the title of “baddest motherfucker alive.” Sonny turns 81 today, he’s still touring the world, and if you don’t listen to him you’re stupid. How’s that?

It’s probably possible to write about Sonny Rollins without referring to him as the saxophone colossus, but I’m not gonna even try it. Sonny Rollins has been playing the sax longer than you’ve been alive — hell, longer than your parents have been alive — and he’s more or less retired the title of “baddest motherfucker alive.” Sonny turns 81 today, he’s still touring the world, and if you don’t listen to him you’re stupid. How’s that?

Happy 83rd birthday to one of the most influential jazz pianists of all-time, Horace Silver. One of the original Jazz Messengers and a Blue Note Records stalwart for nearly three decades, Silver’s distinctive style helped usher in the hard bop era. Also, his 1961 track “Filthy McNasty” later provided a nickname for the Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn tandem. So there’s that.

Happy 83rd birthday to one of the most influential jazz pianists of all-time, Horace Silver. One of the original Jazz Messengers and a Blue Note Records stalwart for nearly three decades, Silver’s distinctive style helped usher in the hard bop era. Also, his 1961 track “Filthy McNasty” later provided a nickname for the Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn tandem. So there’s that.

Given how much heroin he did, it’s amazing that Art Pepper lived to be 56. A virtuoso on alto and tenor sax, Pepper recorded with (among others) Buddy Rich, Chet Baker, Stan Kenton and, most famously, Miles Davis’s rhythm section on 1957’s matter-of-factly named “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section.” Happy birthday, Art.

Given how much heroin he did, it’s amazing that Art Pepper lived to be 56. A virtuoso on alto and tenor sax, Pepper recorded with (among others) Buddy Rich, Chet Baker, Stan Kenton and, most famously, Miles Davis’s rhythm section on 1957’s matter-of-factly named “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section.” Happy birthday, Art.

There is possibly no more tragic figure in jazz than Charlier Parker, and none more important. His playing helped redefine what jazz is — redefined it by itself — yet he died before that impact could be fully felt. Happy birthday, Bird. And, wherever you are, I hope you’re smiling.

There is possibly no more tragic figure in jazz than Charlier Parker, and none more important. His playing helped redefine what jazz is — redefined it by itself — yet he died before that impact could be fully felt. Happy birthday, Bird. And, wherever you are, I hope you’re smiling.

Bill Evans died in 1980 as the world’s oldest 51 year old, his body destroyed by years of addictions — heroin, alcohol, cocaine, the ever-present cigarette. Friend and author Gene Lees referred to his life as “the longest suicide in history.” But what a life it was. A jazz pianist of the highest order, Evans’s spare style helped shape the sound of Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” (which released 52 years ago tomorrow), and his own trio found both popular success and critical acclaim. His demons eventually got the best of him, but it was a beautiful struggle. Bill Evans would have turned 82 today. Happy birthday.

Bill Evans died in 1980 as the world’s oldest 51 year old, his body destroyed by years of addictions — heroin, alcohol, cocaine, the ever-present cigarette. Friend and author Gene Lees referred to his life as “the longest suicide in history.” But what a life it was. A jazz pianist of the highest order, Evans’s spare style helped shape the sound of Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” (which released 52 years ago tomorrow), and his own trio found both popular success and critical acclaim. His demons eventually got the best of him, but it was a beautiful struggle. Bill Evans would have turned 82 today. Happy birthday.

What do you know about Louis Armstrong? "What A Wonderful World," yes. The bugged-out eyes, the wide grin. You may be aware that he played the trumpet, and was a major player in the early days of jazz. Make no mistake, Louis Armstrong was no novelty act, not just a shucker and jiver with a gravelly voice and a comic sensibility. Armstrong was an innovator, a tremendous trumpeter who was just as important (if not more so) than Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He’s been gone 40 years now, but his importance hasn’t waned. Happy 110th birthday, Satchmo.

What do you know about Louis Armstrong? "What A Wonderful World," yes. The bugged-out eyes, the wide grin. You may be aware that he played the trumpet, and was a major player in the early days of jazz. Make no mistake, Louis Armstrong was no novelty act, not just a shucker and jiver with a gravelly voice and a comic sensibility. Armstrong was an innovator, a tremendous trumpeter who was just as important (if not more so) than Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He’s been gone 40 years now, but his importance hasn’t waned. Happy 110th birthday, Satchmo.