The Chicago Sound (1956 - 1961)

Russell Perry By

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Because it acted as a safe harbor for the New Orleans diaspora of the teens and twenties, Chicago played a key role in early jazz. By the 1950s, much of jazz was understood in the dialog between cool jazz and hard bop, aka West Coast and East Coast, with Los Angeles and New York playing inordinately important roles. But the Chicago scene was as vital as ever. In this hour, we will return to the "City with Broad Shoulders" and hear from Chicago-based musicians in the 1950s, with a focus on big-toned tenor players—Clifford Jordan, John Gilmore, Johnny Griffin and Gene Ammons. These musicians played hard bop with a bluesy, brawny edge, suffused with what Chicago native and jazz critic Larry Kart calls "an air of downhome experimentation."

And speaking of experimentation, first we turn to one of the singular individuals in jazz—Sun Ra, who was also based in Chicago.


  • Host Intro 0:00
  • Sun Ra and His Arkestra. "Saturn" from Jazz in Silhouette (Saturn) 3:33
  • Sun Ra and His Arkestra. "Enlightenment" from Jazz in Silhouette (Saturn) 7:10
  • Host speaks 12:10
  • Clifford Jordan—John Gilmore Quintet. "Status Quo" from Blowing in from Chicago (Blue Note) 13:51
  • Host speaks 19:24
  • Johnny Griffin Septet. "The Way You Look Tonight" from A Blowing Session (Blue Note) 21:44
  • Host speaks 31:18
  • Johnny Griffin Quartet. "Lover Man" from Introducing Johnny Griffin (Blue Note) 32:57
  • Wilbur Ware -Johnny Griffin Quartet. "Body and Soul" from Chicago Sound (Riverside) 40:52
  • Host speaks 44:06
  • Gene Ammons Quartet. "Till There Was You" from The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (Moodsville) 46:44
  • Gene Ammons Quartet. "Someone to Watch Over Me" from The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (Moodsville) 53:53
  • Host Outro 57:37


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