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Cultural Percussionist

Mezz Mezzrow Day

Milton Mesirow (November 9, 1899 – August 5, 1972), better known as Mezz Mezzrow, was an American jazz clarinetist and saxophonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is well known for organizing and financing historic recording sessions with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. He also recorded a number of times with Bechet and briefly acted as manager for Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow is equally well remembered as a colorful character, as portrayed in his autobiography, Really the Blues (which takes its title from a Bechet composition), co-written with Bernard Wolfe and published in 1946.

Mezzrow organized and took part in recording sessions involving black musicians in the 1930s and 1940s, including Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Frankie Newton, Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet. Mezzrow’s 1938 sessions for the French jazz critic Hugues Panassie involved Bechet and Ladnier and helped spark the “New Orleans revival”.

In the mid-1940s Mezzrow started his own record label, King Jazz Records, featuring himself with groups, usually including Sidney Bechet and often including the trumpeter Oran “Hot Lips” Page. He also played on six recordings by Fats Waller.

He appeared at the 1948 Nice Jazz Festival, following which he made his home in France and organized many bands that included French musicians like Claude Luter and visiting Americans, such as Buck Clayton, Peanuts Holland, Jimmy Archey, Kansas Fields and Lionel Hampton. With ex-Basie trumpeter Buck Clayton, he made a recording of the Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” in Paris in 1953.

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