History of Jazz Timeline: 1954
Miles Davis has kicked the drug habit. He is currently putting together small groups. He records Walkin' with Horace Silver on piano, J.J. Johnson on trombone and Lucky Thompson on saxophone. This song signals the beginnings of Hard Bop or Funk. Miles gets a lot of credit here, but Horace Silver's contribution was probably greater.
Miles records Sonny Rollins' Oleo with a group which includes Miles on trumpet, Sonny Rollins on tenor sax, Percy Heath on bass, Horace Silver on piano and Kenny Clarke on drums.
Miles refuses to record Bag's Groove with Thelonious Monk accompanying because Monk's playing is "too disturbing".
Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis record Airegin.
Sonny Rollins takes a sabbatical from music to kick the heroin habit.
Johnny Hodges fires Coltrane for drug-related problems. Coltrane returns to Philadelphia to work in R&B groups, including one led by seminal jazz organist Jimmy Smith.
John Coltrane meets Juanita Grubbs, who goes by her Muslim first name, Naima. The couple will marry next year.
John Coltrane is working for R&B singer Big Maybelle in Cleveland. During the performance, Big Maybelle says that Coltrane is her favorite musician.
Horace Silver initiates the first version of the Jazz Messengers to record for Blue Note.
Horace Silver is currently one of the most sought after pianists in Jazz.
Pianist Bill Evans has become a master of composition and harmony.
Cecil Taylor begins to abandon the standard Jazz piano approaches. He begins to use chords, not as building blocks, but as swatches of color like the French Impressionists.
Clifford Brown wins the Downbeat critic's award for best new star on trumpet. Clifford becomes a sought after musician.
Clifford Brown and drummer Max Roach form a quintet called the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet. See CD's from this group on EmArcy.
Clifford Brown records with Art Blakey at an early live concert at Birdland.
Trombonists J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding form a quintet.
Lee Konitz has his own band now.
Saxophonist and composer Gigi Gryce and trumpeter Art Farmer co-lead a band at the Tijuana Club.
The first Newport Jazz festival occurs in Newport, Rhode Island. Pianist George Wein is responsible for inviting the musicians.
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson leaves Cootie Williams and returns to Houston to become a music teacher and part-time musician.
Tony Williams begins to play drums with his father at the age of 8. He will learn much from listening to Art Blakey and Max Roach.
Pianist Art Tatum is now seriously ill. He stops drinking, but it is probably too late.
Louis Armstrong goes on a Japanese tour.
Louis Armstrong quits Decca and records Satch Plays W. C. Handy for Columbia.
Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole co-found a school of percussion in New York.
Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin becomes the first non-American to win in Downbeat's Critic's poll.
Ray Charles does the successful I Got a Woman. Here, Ray took the tune and rhythm from a Spiritual song and substituted decidedly unspiritual words.
Elvis Presley records the first of his seminal sessions at Sun Records.
Kansas City Blues shouter Big Joe Turner records the very early Rock and Roll song Shake, Rattle and Roll. This song will be covered by the Philadelphia-area Country turned Rock and Roller Bill Haley. For awhile, Haley's version will be more popular.
Bill Haley and the Comets record Rock Around the Clock.
The U.S. Senate and the U.S. people, in general, stop taking Senator Joseph McCarthy seriously and a relatively liberal period begins.
Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre form an unusual trio at a recording session and perform a couple of free pieces.
Disclaimer: Though we have checked our facts, this timeline may contain erroneous information. If you discover errors or omissions, please bring them to our attention.