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Kai Winding

Trombonist Kai Christen Winding (pronounced ki-win-ding) was one of the founding fathers of be-bop music and truly one of the finest-ever jazz trombonists.

As a sideman to bop’s reigning kings " Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron " he was more a bridesmaid than a bride. Winding recorded too infrequently as a leader during this period and none of his compositions ever really caught on. Indeed, he was adept at putting a defining stamp on others’ compositions " a trait he picked up while outlining the artistry of Stan Kenton’s sound during the mid 1940s.

Kai was born on May 18, 1922, in Aarhaus, Denmark. He came to the United States with his family in 1934. In 1940, he made his professional debut as trombonist with Shorty Allen’s band. He played with the bands of Sonny Dunham and Alvino Rey before joining the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. After becoming a civilian in 1945, he worked with Benny Goodman’s highly popular band and moved onto Stan Kenton’s orchestra, where he helped defined the brassy Kenton sound and, quickly became a featured soloist. Thereafter, he hooked himself up with a number of emerging stars of be-bop, the “new jazz,” and recorded prolifically " most notably, as part of one of the nonets featured on the historic “The Birth of the Cool” (Capitol/1949).

Winding recorded and performed prolifically during the 1950s, as a leader and " with distinction " behind a number of significant and popular soloists such as Sonny Stitt, Billy Eckstein, Neal Hefti, Woody Herman, Chris Connor, Sylvia Syms.

Still, the trombone was considered an unusual instrument to lead a combo. So it was with prescient oddity that in 1954, producer Ozzie Cadena proposed the marriage of two trombones " Winding’s quick-witted mellifluousness with fellow trombonist J.J. Johnson’s hard-edged angularity. The two leaders clicked together musically right away (check out Savoy “Jay& Kai”) and, surprisingly, became a hugely popular club attraction and critical favorite. Jay and Kai - or “Kai and Jay” or “J.J. & K” or “J & K” or any other of a number of other combinations - was born.

The duo recorded eight highly popular " and consistently artistic " albums over the next two years for the Savoy, RCA, Bethlehem, Prestige and Columbia labels. It was during this period that Kai's great compositional skill was finally recognized with such memorable tunes as "Don't Argue," "Wind Bag," "That's How I Feel About You," "Gong Rock," "Jeanne" and "Caribe."

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Nate Petersen
trombone, bass


Album Discography



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