Here is an eclectic selection of jazz musicians born in August.
Prepared by Louise Levy
1 August, 1978
Josh Nelson is an American jazz pianist and composer. Nelson produced his independent debut album First Stories at age 19. His second album, Anticipation, was released in 2004 with all his compositions. In 2007, Nelson signed with the jazz label Native Language Music. Nelson has been described by jazz critic Chuck Berg as a “brilliant young player whose virtuosity suggest the urbane yet bluesy tradition of Oscar Peterson and Gene Harris”, and by journalist and critic Josef Woodard as possessing “his own clean-burning modern mode of jazz”.
2 August, 1961
David Binney is an American alto saxophonist and composer. From his parents, who loved music, he heard albums by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and Jimi Hendrix. He took saxophone lessons in Los Angeles. When he was nineteen, he moved to New York City and studied with saxophonists George Coleman, Dave Liebman, and Phil Woods. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts helped him record his first album, Point Game (Owl, 1991). In the 1990s, he started his own label, Mythology Records.
3 August, 1926
“I have a simple life. I mean, you just give me a drum roll, they announce my name, and I come out and sing. In my job, I have a contract that says I’m a singer. So I sing.”
Tony Bennett is an American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz. He is also a painter, having created works under the name Anthony Benedetto that are on permanent public display in several institutions. He is the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.
4 August, 1901 – July 6, 1971
“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”
Nicknamed “Satchmo”, “Satch”, and “Pops”, Louis Armstrong was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist, and actor who was among the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz.In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
5 August, 1941
“Inspiration is not inside of us. Inspiration comes from outside. It comes from our spiritual guides and from different energies that are in the universe. If we keep in touch with god and our spiritual guides, just knowing that they exist and they are there for us, gives us the strength to say well this is a bad phase but it’s going to end and when it ends I’m going to do something good.”
Airto Moreira is a Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist. He is married to jazz singer Flora Purim, and their daughter Diana Moreira is also a singer. Coming to prominence in the late 1960s as a member of the Brazilian ensemble Quarteto Novo, he moved to the United States and worked in jazz fusion with Miles Davis and Return to Forever.
6 August, 1930 – 14 August, 2010
“My father owned a music store when I was growing up in Rock Falls, Illinois. He could play all the instruments, which you had to do when you owned a music store back then. One day, when I was three years old, he took me to a parade. When the drums passed by, I got so excited I told him wanted to learn to play them.“
Abbey Lincoln was an American jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress. She was a civil rights activist beginning in the 1960s. Lincoln made a career not only out of delivering deeply felt presentations of standards but writing and singing her own material. Her lyrics often reflected the ideals of the civil rights movement and helped in generating passion for the cause in the minds of her listeners. In addition to her musical career, she ventured into acting as well and appeared in movies such as The Girl Can’t Help It and Gentleman Prefer Blondes. She explored more philosophical themes during the later years of her songwriting career and remained professionally active until well into her seventies.
8 August, 1907 – 12 July, 2003
“At my age, I realize that my most precious possession is time, and I’ve got too much unfinished work to do to spend even a minute talking about myself.”
Benny Carter was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. With Johnny Hodges, he was a pioneer on the alto saxophone. From the beginning of his career in the 1920s, he was a popular arranger, having written charts for Fletcher Henderson’s big band that shaped the swing style. He had an unusually long career that lasted into the 1990s. During the 1980s and ’90s, he was nominated for eight Grammy Awards, which included receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.
9 August, 1980
“Let’s face it; most of the jazz musicians I know are not in this business for fame and fortune! If you are involved in any project for the ultimate reward, then you are missing the bigger picture. How we spend our days, which we spent them with – these are the real compelling measures of reward. As I said before, it is all about the journey and not the destination.”
Kat has a soul steeped in jazz. Born in Boston, she began her music theory training as a teenager at Berklee and then fell in love with the energy of New York City and went on to gain her BFA from NYU. She escaped the Bush administration by seeking asylum in the UK and studying music at the Royal Academy in London. Kat lived and worked singing jazz all over England for seven years. She has performed twice at the GRAMMY Awards with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, traded fours with Bobby McFerrin at the Blue Note Jazz Festival, and currently is back in New York with a residency at the Plaza Hotel with her quartet. Kat continues to explore the depth of jazz fusion and improvisation with her versatile, extraordinary ear and voice.
11 August, 1966
Donny McCaslin is an American jazz saxophonist. He has recorded over a dozen albums as a bandleader in addition to many sideman appearances, including on David Bowie’s final studio album, Blackstar (2016).
12 August, 1963
Karen Briggs is also known as the “Lady in Red”, is an American violinist. Born in Manhattan to a family of musicians, Briggs took up the violin at age 12 and committed to playing professionally at age 15. Briggs joined the Virginia Symphony Orchestra while still in college, but grew discontented with performing classical music and left the orchestra after four years. Since then, she has performed predominantly in the jazz and contemporary instrumental genres.
12 August, 1954
“Jazz is not something that can be defined through blunt instruments. It is much more poetic than that.”
Pat Metheny is an American jazz guitarist and composer. He is the leader of the Pat Metheny Group and is also involved in duets, solo works, and other side projects. His style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, Latin jazz, and jazz fusion. Metheny has three gold albums and 20 Grammy Awards and is the only person to win Grammys in 10 categories.
13 August, 1955 – 29 May, 2013
“Jazz is one of the few things you can do in society and express yourself freely and creatively.”
Mulgrew Miller was an American jazz pianist, composer, and educator. As a child he played in churches and was influenced on piano by Ramsey Lewis and then Oscar Peterson. Aspects of their styles remained in his playing, but he added the greater harmonic freedom of McCoy Tyner and others in developing as a hard bop player and then in creating his own style, which influenced others from the 1980s on.
14 August, 1959
Tony Monaco is an American jazz organist. Monaco played accordion from childhood and was heavily influenced by Jimmy Smith in his youth. In 1971, he switched to organ after hearing Smith play the instrument, and later received personal mentoring from Smith. In the early 2000s, he recorded his debut album in collaboration with Joey DeFrancesco, A New Generation: Paesanos on the New B3 which reached #18 on Jazzweek’s Top 100 for the year 2003, and began releasing material on Summit Records. Monaco’s career continued in the 2000s with frequent touring and performances with guitarist Pat Martino.
15 August, 1925 – 23 December, 2007
“The music field was the first to break down racial barriers, because in order to play together, you have to love the people you are playing with, and if you have any racial inhibitions, you wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Oscar Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist, virtuoso and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, but simply “O.P.” by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won eight Grammy Awards, and received numerous other awards and honours. He is considered one of the greatest jazz pianists and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.
16 August, 1929 – 15 September, 1980
“Keep searching for that sound you hear in your head until it becomes a reality.”
Bill Evans was an American jazz pianist and composer who mostly played in trios. His use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block chords, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines continue to influence jazz pianists today. During his lifetime, Evans was honored with 31 Grammy nominations and seven awards.In 1994, he was posthumously honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Evans influenced the character Seb in the film La La Land musically and in fashion.
17 August, 1918 – 16 January, 1963
Ike Quebec was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.He began his career in the big band era of the 1940s, then fell from prominence for a time until launching a comeback in the years before his death. Critic Alex Henderson wrote, “Though he was never an innovator, Quebec had a big, breathy sound that was distinctive and easily recognizable, and he was quite consistent when it came to down-home blues, sexy ballads, and up-tempo aggression.”
18 August, 1984
John Escreet is an English jazz pianist and composer currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. Escreet moved to New York in 2006. In 2008 he graduated from the Master’s Program at Manhattan School of Music, where he studied piano with Kenny Barron and Jason Moran. In September 2008 he released his debut album Consequences featuring David Binney (alto saxophone), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Matt Brewer (double bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). He also collaborated with artists including Wayne Krantz,Ari Hoenig, Adam Rogers, Chris Potter and Seamus Blake. He has also worked as a sideman with saxophonist David Binney and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
18 August, 1984 – March 2, 2023
“Beyond the sky we fly, perchance to see some greatness there:
eternal wonder! that which is born of courage here.”
Wayne Shorter was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He played a central role in three of the most significant jazz groups of the 20th century: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis’s quintet, and Weather Report. He also collaborated with musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, and Steely Dan. He was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Grammy award and won eleven Grammys in total. Shorter was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, and was captivated by bebop music as a teenager. Shorter’s love for fusion led to the formation of Weather Report. He remained active in music until his late 80s and even composed an opera, Iphigenia, with a libretto by Esperanza Spalding. Wayne Shorter’s impact on jazz cannot be overstated. The New York Times music critic Ben Ratcliff described Shorter in 2008 as “probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser”.