April 18, 1931|
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
December 12, 2017 (aged 86)|
Manhattan, New York
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, arranger, educator|
Willie Pickens (April 18, 1931 – December 12, 2017) was an American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and educator.
Pickens was born in Milwaukee on April 18, 1931. He studied piano formally from the age of 14. He attended Lincoln High School in Milwaukee with saxophonist Bunky Green. Pickens also studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
Later life and career
In the early 1960s, Pickens played on saxophonist Eddie Harris' first four recordings for Vee-Jay Records.:655 His period with Harris lasted between 1960 and 1966. Pickens taught music at public schools from 1966 until 1990. He was also a faculty member of the American Conservatory of Music between 1971 and 1987.
Pickens recorded with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco in 1977,:364 and drummer Louis Bellson in 1994.:109 Pickens played in drummer Elvin Jones' band between 1990 and 1997, including internationally.
According to The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, "Pickens appeared regularly at international jazz festivals and performed at Chicago Jazz Festival almost yearly from its inception." For jazz musicians in Chicago, Pickens has become "a revered mentor to younger players and a symbol of the music itself", in the words of a Chicago Tribune commentator. He also taught at Northern Illinois University's School of Music. Saxophonist Lou Donaldson once told Donald Harrison, "Willie Pickens is one of the last great bebop pianists."
Pickens died of a heart attack in Manhattan, New York, at the age of 86. His wife, Irma, died in 2015 after 55 years of marriage. A daughter, Bethany, also plays the piano professionally and has recorded with her father.
An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.
|1987||It's About Time!||Southport||Trio, with Dan Shapera (bass), Robert Shy (drums); reissued on CD with concert solo piano tracks from 1981 and 1986|
|1998||Jazz Christmas||Southport||Quartet, with Nicholas Payton (trumpet, flugelhorn), Larry Gray (bass), Robert Shy (drums)|
|2000||Ain't Misbehavin'||Concord Jazz||Duo, with Marian McPartland (piano)|
|2005||Mr Swing||Pony Canyon||Trio, with George Mraz (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums); also released as Dark Eyes|
|2005||Jazz Spirit, Volume 1||Southport||Some tracks solo piano; some tracks duo, with Bethany Pickets (piano); other tracks include Pat Mallinger (tenor sax, alto sax), Ari Brown (tenor sax), Tito Carril (flugelhorn), Marlene Rosenberg, Rob Amster, Larry Gray (bass; separately), Kobie Watkins, Robert Shy (drums; separately)|
|2005||Jazz Spirit, Volume 2||Southport||As Jazz Spirit, Volume 1; differences are Pat Mallinger (alto sax), Tito Carrillo (trumpet, flugelhorn)|
|2010*||Just Like Me||Skiptone||Duo, with Milton Suggs (vocals)|
|1961||Eddie Harris||Exodus to Jazz||Vee-Jay|
|1961||Eddie Harris||Mighty Like a Rose||Vee-Jay|
|1961||Eddie Harris||Jazz for "Breakfast at Tiffany's"||Vee-Jay|
|1961–62||Eddie Harris||A Study in Jazz||Vee-Jay|
|1963||Eddie Harris||For Bird and Bags||Exodus|
|1966||Bunky Green||Playin' for Keeps||Cadet|
|1977||Buddy DeFranco||Gone with the Wind||Storyville|
|1990s||Francine Griffin||The Song Bird||Delmark|
|1991||Elvin Jones||In Europe||Enja|
|1992||Elvin Jones||Going Home||Enja|
|1993||Elvin Jones||It Don't Mean a Thing||Enja|
|1993||Steve Grossman||Time to Smile||Dreyfus|
|1994||Ed Peterson||The Haint||Delmark|
|1995||Clark Terry||Top and Bottom Brass||Chiaroscuro|
|1997||Frank Catalano||Cut It Out||Delmark|
|1998||Von Freeman||75th Birthday Celebration||Half Note|
|1998||Von Freeman||Von & Ed||Delmark|
|1999||Malachi Thompson||Talkin' Horns||Delmark|
- Gillaspie, Deborah. "Pickens, Willie". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- Stokes, W. Royal (1993). The Jazz Scene. Oxford University Press. p. 125.
- Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. Penguin Books.
- "Willie Pickens". Northern Illinois University. Retrieved February 22, 2015.
- D'Souza, Jerry (February 22, 2009). "Elvin Jones Jazz Machine". All About Jazz.
- Reich, Howard (December 25, 2013). "Willie Pickens: The Lion in Winter". Chicago Tribune.
- Wyckoff, Geraldine (January 9, 2017). "Another Solid Week of Musical Offerings". The Louisiana Weekly.
- Reich, Howard (December 13, 2017). "Chicago piano titan Willie Pickens dies at 86". Chicago Tribune.
- Hill, Tonia (December 13, 2017). "Legendary Jazz Musician Willie Pickens Has Died". Hyde Park Herald.
- Reich, Howard (February 16, 2016). "Willie Pickens Makes a Belated Debut and Struggles with a Loss". Chicago Tribune.
- Santella, Jim (March 19, 2006). "Willie Pickens: Jazz Spirit, Volume 1 & 2". All About Jazz.
- Gribetz, Sid (May 1999) "Willie Pickens – It's About Time!". JazzTimes.