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McShann in a 1944 advertisement
|Birth name||James Columbus McShann|
|Born||January 12, 1916|
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||December 7, 2006 (aged 90)|
Kansas City, Missouri
|Genres||Blues, swing, jazz, jump blues|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, bandleader, composer|
|Associated acts||Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, Walter Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Claude Williams|
James Columbus "Jay" McShann (January 12, 1916 – December 7, 2006) was a jazz pianist and bandleader. He led bands in Kansas City, Missouri, that included Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, and Walter Brown.
Early life and education
McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and was nicknamed Hootie. Musically, his education came from Earl Hines's late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Cafe: "When 'Fatha' [Hines] went off the air, I went to bed". He began working as a professional musician in 1931, performing around Tulsa, Oklahoma, and neighboring Arkansas.
McShann moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936, and set up his own big band, which variously featured Charlie Parker (1937–42), Al Hibbler, Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–43), Harold "Doc" West, Earl Coleman, Walter Brown, and Jimmy Witherspoon, among others. His first recordings were all with Charlie Parker, the first as the Jay McShann Orchestra on August 9, 1940.
The band played both swing and blues numbers but played blues on most of its records; its most popular recording was "Confessin' the Blues". The group disbanded when McShann was drafted into the Army in 1944. The big-band era being over, he was unable to successfully restart his career after the war ended.
Jay told the Associated Press in 2003 "You'd hear some cat play, and somebody would say he's from Kansas City.' It was Kansas City Style. They knew if on the East Coast. They knew it on the West Coast. They knew it up north, and they knew it down South."
After World War II McShann began to lead small groups featuring the blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945 and fronting McShann's band; he had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business". As well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster. McShann had a modern rhythm and blues hit with "Hands Off", featuring a vocal by Priscilla Bowman, in 1955.
In the late 1960s, McShann became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often performing with violinist Claude Williams. He continued recording and touring through the 1990s. Well into his 80s, McShann still performed occasionally, particularly in the Kansas City area and Toronto, Ontario, where he made his last recording, "Hootie Blues", in February 2001, after a recording career of 61 years. In 1979, he appeared prominently in The Last of the Blue Devils, a documentary film about Kansas City jazz.
McShann died on December 7, 2006, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 90. He was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters.
The Rolling Stones recorded a cover version of "Confessin' the Blues" on their album Five by Five (1964). The song was written by McShann and Walter Brown in the 1940s. The crime-fiction writer Elmore Leonard featured McShann as a character in his 2005 novel The Hot Kid.
Awards and honors
- Member, Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, 1998
- Member, Blues Hall of Fame
- Member, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 1989
- Pioneer Award, Rhythm and Blues Foundation
- Grammy nomination, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance, Paris All-Star Blues (A Tribute to Charlie Parker), 1991
- Grammy nomination, Best Traditional Blues Album, Goin' to Kansas City, 2003
- American Jazz Masters Grant from National Endowment for the Arts, 1986
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- 1941-43: New York – 1208 Miles (Decca)
- 1947-49: The Band that Jumps the Blues (Black Lion)
- 1954: Kansas City Memories, Jay McShann Orchestra, with Charlie Parker, Walter Brown, Al Hibbler and Paul Quinichette (Decca)
- 1957: Goin' to Kansas City Blues (RCA Victor) with Jimmy Witherspoon
- 1967: McShann's Piano (Capitol)
- 1969: Confessin' the Blues (Black and Blue)
- 1970: Jumpin' the Blues (Black and Blue) with Milt Buckner
- 1973: Kansas City Memories (Black and Blue)
- 1974: Vine Street Boogie (Black Lion) - live at Montreux Jazz Festival
- 1976: Kansas City Joys (Sonet) with Buddy Tate and Paul Quinichette
- 1976: Crazy Legs & Friday Strut (Sackville) with Buddy Tate
- 1977: Kansas City On My Mind (Black and Blue)
- 1977: After Hours (Storyville), released 1982
- 1977: The Last of the Blue Devils (Atlantic)
- 1978: A Tribute to Fats Waller (Sackville)
- 1978: Kansas City Hustle (Sackville)
- 1978: The Big Apple Bash (Atlantic)
- 1979: Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players (Chaz Jazz, 1980) with Ralph Sutton - originally released on 2 LPs as The Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players: Two Pianos Vol. I & Vol. II
- 1980: Tuxedo Junction (Sackville)
- 1982: Blowin' in from K.C. (Uptown) with Joe Thomas
- 1984: Just a Lucky So and So (Sackville)
- 1989: Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players (Chiaroscuro) with Ralph Sutton
- 1989: Paris All-Star Blues: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Limelight)
- 1991: Blue Pianos (Vagabond) with Axel Zwingenberger
- 1991: My Baby with the Black Dress On (Chiaroscuro) - released 1998
- 1990-92: Some Blues (Chiaroscuro)
- 1992: The Missouri Connection (Reservoir), with John Hicks
- Yanow, Scott. "Jay McShann: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- "Jay McShann Blog". Jaymcshann.com. September 23, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- "Gus Johnson: 1913–2000". Jazzhouse.org. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Books.google.es. November 18, 1999. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- "Jay McShann: Kansas City Blues Pianist". The Independent. December 9, 2006. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
- "Jay McShann: Discography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.