Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
JAZZ A Film By Ken Burns
Places, Spaces and Changing Faces
Jazz Lounge
Jazz in Time
Behind the Beat
Biographies
Jazz Exchange
About the Show
JAZZ Kids
Related Links
Jazz Near You
Classroom
Shop Jazz
Jazz Links
Jazz Cards
Home
Miles Davis circa 1955; Duke Ellington; Louis Armstrong; Cover of Sheet Music by Fats Waller
BiographiesSelected Artist Biography
Biographies, Life and times of the great ones Billie Holiday in Performance 1948; Benny Goodman 1936; Art Blakey at the Open Door in NYC; Awning of Village Vanguard 1960's
Louis Jordan

Powered by Oxford University Press.

NPR Audio Feature NPR's Louis Armstrong Centennial Radio Project: Louis Jordan
Jazz critic Stanley Crouch looks at the relationship between Armstrong and rhythm & blues pioneer Louis Jordan.
(Courtesy NPRJazz.org)


(1908- 1975) Saxophonist, singer, and bandleader

Louis Jordan was taught clarinet and saxophone by his father, who led the band for the Rabbit Foots Minstrels (Jordan toured with them while still in high school). He made his professional debut with Jimmy Pryor (1929), then worked with Ruby Williams and other bandleaders in Arkansas until moving to Philadelphia to join the tuba player Jim Winters (1932).

Jordan performed with Charlie Gaines (1933-5), the violinist Leroy Smith (1935-6), and Chick Webb (1936-8), and played briefly with Fats Waller and Kaiser Marshall before forming his own ensemble to work in New York. This group, which became known as the Tympany Five, was tremendously popular both in Harlem and throughout the rest of the country until the late 1950s. Jordan also appeared in films with the Tympany Five, including Follow the Boys (1944), Meet Miss Bobby Sox (1944), Beware (1946), Swing Parade of 1946 (1946), Reet, Petite and Gone (1947), and Look out Sister (1948). He led a big band briefly (1951-2), made a solo tour of England (1962), and toured Asia (1967-8), and continued to work into the 1970s.

Jordan combined showmanship and musicianship in equal parts and became a widely influential force in music, particularly, in the late 1940s and the 1950s, in the rhythm-and-blues field. As an improviser he is best remembered for his work on alto saxophone, but he also played the soprano, tenor, and baritone instruments. He wrote a number of songs, including Five Guys Named Moe, Is You Is, or Is You Ain't (Ma' Baby?), Choo Choo Ch'boogie, and Saturday Night Fish Fry.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For personal, non-commercial use only. Copying or other reproduction is prohibited.
Grove Music