Jackie Paris

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Jackie Paris (September 20, 1924 – June 17, 2004[1]) was an American jazz singer and guitarist.

Paris was born Carlo Jackie Paris in Nutley, New Jersey to his father Carlo and mother Rose. He had a brother, Gene. A vocalist, Paris toured with Charlie Parker. He also tap-danced from his youth and into his years in the US Army, entertaining his fellow soldiers. He is best known for his recordings of "Skylark" and "'Round Midnight" from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. He performed and/or recorded with Terry Gibbs, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce, Charles Mingus, and others. He won many jazz polls and awards, including those of Down Beat, Playboy, Swing Journal, and Metronome.

A documentary, Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris, has been made.

Early life and career[edit]

Paris was born in Nutley, New Jersey to an Italian-American family. His uncle Chick had been a guitarist with Paul Whiteman's famous orchestra.

Paris was a very popular child entertainer in vaudeville, a pint-sized song and dance man, who shared the stage with — and was encouraged by — such legendary black headliners as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and the Mills Brothers.

After serving in the army during World War II, Paris, inspired by his friend Nat King Cole, put together a trio featuring himself on guitar and vocals. The Jackie Paris Trio were a hit at the Onyx Club on New York's 52nd Street. They played at the club for an unprecedented 26 weeks, perhaps the longest-running residency in the history of Swing Street.

The first song that Paris ever recorded was "Skylark", on one of two sessions made by his trio, for MGM Records in 1947. The composer Hoagy Carmichael once said of Paris' rendition that "the kid sings the hell out of it."[citation needed]

In 1949, Jackie was the first white vocalist to tour with the famous Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He remembered an occasion when he actually did 78 consecutive one-nighters with the band. When he finally got off the road, he received an offer to join Duke Ellington's Orchestra, but at that time was too exhausted to take it. For years after, Ellington's son Mercer would tell him, "You're the only guy that ever turned down my old man."[citation needed]

Jackie was the first singer to record Thelonious Monk's future jazz anthem "Round Midnight", which was produced by the famous critic Leonard Feather and featured a young Dick Hyman on piano.

Jackie was the only vocalist to ever tour as a regular member of the Charlie Parker Quintet. Unfortunately, no recordings exist of the Parker-Paris combination (although the "Round Midnight" session mentioned above features Parker's bassist and drummer, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes), but there is a classic photograph of the two working together.

In 1953, Jackie was named Best New Male Vocalist of the Year in the first ever Down Beat Critics Poll. The winning female vocalist was Ella Fitzgerald, who repeatedly named Jackie as one of her favorites.

Charlie Mingus named Jackie as his favorite singer, and used him on several recording sessions over a period of many decades, including 1952's "Paris In Blue" (written expressly for Jackie) and the Mingus classic "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," on the album Changes Two in 1974. Paris also worked extensively with the famous bassist-composer-bandleader in clubs.

Likewise, Jackie was the only singer ever endorsed by the legendary comic and 20th Century iconoclast Lenny Bruce. Bruce not only split the bill with Jackie on many occasions, he shouted Jackie's praises to all who would listen, saying "I dig his talent. The audience loves him and he gets laughs. He is toooo muccchhh!"[2]

Other major musicians with whom Jackie recorded include Hank Jones, Charlie Shavers, Joe Wilder, Wynton Kelly, Eddie Costa, Coleman Hawkins, Bobby Scott, Max Roach, Lee Konitz, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce, Ralph Burns, Tony Scott, Neal Hefti, Terry Gibbs, Johnny Mandel, Oscar Pettiford, and many others.

Some of his best-known albums include Songs By Jackie Paris (EmArcy), Jackie Paris Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin (Time), The Song Is Paris (Impulse!), and many others.

Jackie recorded consistently through the years, from the 1940s up to and beyond the millennium.

In 2001, Jackie played to a standing room crowd — and to a standing ovation — at New York's Birdland, in Times Square. He was virtually the only performer to have appeared at every incarnation of the famed jazz night spot, from the legendary Birdland of the '50s up to the present.

Paris died in New York City.


  • 1956: Songs By Jackie Paris (EmArcy)
  • 1957: The Jackie Paris Sound (East-West Records)
  • 1960: Jackie Paris Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin (Time)
  • 1962: The Song Is Paris (Impulse!)
  • 1975: Changes Two (Atlantic)
  • 1988:Nobody Else But Me (Audiophile)
  • 1989: Lucky To Be Me (EmArcy - Japan)
  • 1990: Love Songs (EmArcy - Japan)
  • 1994: Jackie Paris (Audiophile)
  • 2001: The Intimate Jackie Paris (Hudson)

With the Donald Byrd-Gigi Gryce Jazz Lab


(selected) Gold Disc Award for Lucky To Be Me CD 1989 Swing Journal Magazine

Best Male Vocalist Playboy Musicians & Critics Poll 1957-1961

New Star Male Vocalist 1953 Downbeat Critics Poll

Jazz festivals[edit]


JVC Town Hall 1987 w/ Hank Jones, piano

Newport July 6, 1957 w/ Joe Masters, piano; Joe Benjamin, bass; Jo Jones, drums


(selected) The Mike Douglas Show - 1970s The Tonight Show - 1960s The Steve Allen Show - 1950s


(selected) Baby Grand (NY) Basin Street (NY) Birdland (NY) Cafe Bohemia (NY) Cage Society (NY) Composer (NY) DownBeat (NY) Eddie Condon's (NY) Famous Door (NY) Fat Tuesdays (NY) Half Note (NY) Maisonette (NY) Onyx (NY) Royal Roost (NY) Sweet Basil (NY) Tavern on the Green (NY) Three Deuces (NY) Village Vanguard (NY) Alfonse (LA) Carmelo's (LA) Donte's (LA) Jazz Bakery (LA) Lighthouse (LA) Pasquale's (LA) Stables (Bos) Scullers (Bos) Cloisters (Chi) Bengazi (DC) Trumpets (NJ) Picasso (Phili) Jazz Workshop (SF)

Concert halls[edit]

(selected) Carnegie Hall (NY) Town Hall (NY) Civic Auditorium (Balt) Royal Theater (Balt) Boston Symphony Hall (Bos) Civic Opera House (Chi) Regal Theater (Chi) Joe Louis Auditorium (Detr) Paridise Theater (Detr) Bushnell Theater (Hart)


  1. ^ New York Times obituary.
  2. ^ Friedwald, Will (January 17, 1995). "Paris When He Sizzles". Village Voice. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 

External links[edit]