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Did You Know?
... that the word jazz originated as a slang word in West Coast and came to be associated with music in Chicago in 1915!
Jazz music is characterized by its liveliness accompanied by strong and complex rhythms. It originated during the early years of the 20th century in the African-American community. Instruments like the saxophone, piano, trumpet, and clarinet are typically used in jazz music. The basis of jazz music has much of its roots present in blues and improvisational music. The lyrics are about every day events and feelings.
Popular American music of the time such as soul, funk, and R&B, played a very important role in changing the feel and theme of jazz music along the years. This is another reason why, jazz has evolved tremendously over the years and can be credited to have led to the creation of other music genres. This Buzzle article mentions some of the famous jazz musicians of all time.
Art Tatum
The God: Of Piano
(October 13, 1909 - November 5, 1956)
In 1989, he was posthumously bestowed the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Arthur "Art" Tatum, Jr. was born with cataracts which left him completely blind in one eye and spared very little sight in the other. Both his parents were musicians and he was raised listening to gospel music. Arthur Tatum, Sr. was a guitarist and played at the Grace Presbyterian Church and Art's mother, Mildred Hoskins played the piano. Since Art was raised in a musical family, music came quite naturally to "Art", who played by ear and learned songs by simply listening to them a few times. Tatum learned music and braille at the Columbus School for the Blind. Tatum was also taught by the visually impaired piano instructor, Overton G. Rainey, who discouraged his students from playing jazz and stopped them from improvising, and instead, insisted on focusing on traditional classical piano.

Tatum found a slot at the Toledo radio station WSPD, where he was called "Arthur Tatum, Toledo's Blind Pianist". Eventually he got his own show at the radio station. By the age of 19, he was performing at the Waiters' and Bellmens' Club which began to be visited often by artists such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, who wanted to hear this new musical sensation. Tatum was hired by Harlem Renaissance singer Adelaide Hall, who took him on her tours and recorded some of her songs with him. By then he had become well-known in the music circuit and had gained immense respect for playing "Tea for Two" at the cutting contest at Morgan's bar in 1933 in New York. In 1941, he recorded the song "Wee Wee Baby Blues" with Big Joe Turner, which became one of the most popular songs of that time! Art Tatum died from uremia which was caused by kidney failure.
Joe "King" Oliver
The King
May 11, 1885 - April 8, 1938
"If it had not been for Joe Oliver, Jazz would not be what it is today." - Louis Armstrong
Joseph Nathan Oliver was born in Louisiana and came to work in New Orleans. Joe "King" Oliver was one of the most prominent cornet players, bandleader, and composer of jazz music. He began his career by playing in brass and dance bands in New Orleans and also played at places in Storyville, the red-light district of the city. Oliver left for Chicago with his wife and daughter after the racial segregation. Jim Crow laws made it difficult for Oliver to find jobs. In Chicago he began working with fellow musicians from New Orleans, and these included clarinetist Lawrence Duhé, Bill Johnson, Paul Barbarin, and Roy Palmer. He became the bandleader for Duhé's band and began performing at some of the biggest clubs in Chicago. Oliver's popularity as a brilliant and versatile cornet player spread like wildfire and soon the band was touring in Oakland and San Francisco. During this time, people started calling him "King Oliver" and so he changed the name of his band to King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band. Oliver had taken a great liking for cornet player Louis Armstrong, whom he taught and mentored for several years.

During the 1920s, Oliver increased the number of musicians in his band, which now had nine members. They called themselves, King Oliver and his Dixie Syncopators and were performing written arrangements that incorporated more and more jazz solos. However, Joe "King" Oliver's career as a cornet artist took a downturn because of his incessant gum infection, which made it extremely difficult for him to perform. Instead, he began managing the band while he hired other artists to play the cornet during shows. Despite being such a reigning success in the jazz world, Joe "King" Oliver died a pauper. Having lost all his life, saving to a Chicago bank that shut down, he spent the remaining years of his life working as a janitor at Wimberly's Recreation Hall in Savannah. He was diagnosed with arteriosclerosis and eventually succumbed to this condition.
Louis Armstrong
The King of the Trumpet
August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971
In 1972, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to jazz music.
He was an American jazz trumpeter and singer. He was born in a poor family and had to spend his youth in poverty. His father abandoned the family when Louis was a kid. Louis attended the Fisk School for Boys where he was exposed to Creole music, a form of American folk music that evolved in the 1800s. To make a living, Louis began working as a paperboy and sold food to restaurants in order to make ends meet. Louis dropped out of school at the age of 11 and joined a group of boys who sang on the streets to make money. Armstrong used to do odd jobs for the Karnofskys, a Lithuanian-Jewish family that had immigrated to New Orleans. The Karnofskys looked after Louis and encouraged his musical talents. At the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, Louis began developing his cornet-playing skills. The visiting professor, Peter Davis provided musical training to Armstrong at the home. Soon, Armstrong's skills began to mature and he began to be recognized by the locals for his cornet playing.

He got his first job as a musician at the Henry Ponce's dance hall, where he was trained by the legendary drummer, Black Benny. Joe "King" Oliver was one of the most driving inspirations of Armstrong's career, since the "King" was not only a mentor but also a father-figure for the budding musician. Armstrong never stopped improving and kept learning from many great musicians throughout his career. He began playing with the band, Fate Marable who toured on steamboats. During this period, Armstrong learned a great deal about dealing with written arrangements and described this time as, "going to the university". In 1922, Armstrong was invited by Joe "King" Oliver to join his famous Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. He began performing in solos and freelanced in various bands. He made several recordings and appeared in many films. "Hello Dolly!" was one of his best-selling records. "Stardust", "What a Wonderful World", "Dream a Little Dream of Me" were just a few of his many famous records. Along with the playing of horn and jazz during his early years, his pebbly voice became a rage among music lovers.
Nat "King" Cole
The King: Singer and Pianist
March 17, 1919 - February 15, 1965
In 1990, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nathaniel Coles was born in Alabama and moved with his family to Chicago, when he was four years old. His father, Edward Coles worked as a baptist minister and his mother, Perlina Coles played the church organ. Nat learned to play the instrument from his mother and also took music lessons, which introduced him to Western classical music, gospel, and jazz music. He grew up listening to Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, and other jazz legends performing at the clubs near his neighborhood. Nat began his career as a teenager and formed a band along with his brother, Eddie, who played the bass. In 1936, the band made its first recording and began performing at some clubs in Chicago. He began to be called "King Cole" after the rhyme "Old King Cole". Nat also played the piano for Eubie Blake's tour, however, the tour was stopped in Long Beach.

Cole decided to stay back and returned to Chicago to play at esteemed venues such as the Edgewater Beach Hotel. During 1930, Nat formed a trio band "King Cole Swingers" along with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. They found stable earnings at the Long Beach Pike. The band was signed by Otis René of Excelsior Records, who wrote and produced the song "I'm Lost" with Nat's band. The record sales soared and brought Nat into the limelight. Thereafter, in 1943, the band signed a contract with Capitol Records and even financed the construction of the record company's distinct circular office. His song "Straighten Up and Fly Right" sold 500,000 copies and he went on to make many more hits such as "The Christmas Song", "Unforgettable", and "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer". He also made an all-jazz album titled, After Midnight.
Peggy Lee
The Queen: Singer, Songwriter, and Composer
May 26, 1920 - January 21, 2002
Apart from a Lifetime Achievement Award, she has won two more Grammy Awards.
Norma Deloris Egstrom was born in North Dakota and was the second-youngest of eight children. Her mother died when Norma was only four and her father, married a second time. Norma's stepmother was cruel and would mistreat her often. This caused her to take up part-time jobs and focus more on her singing, so that she could leave her house for good. Norma was sponsored by a local restaurant to sing at a radio show, where she was not paid but was given food. She also sang at the KOVC radio at Valley City in her hometown.

Ken Kennedy, the radio host of WDAY changed Norma's name to Peggy Lee. She was offered to sing at The Butterfly Room; the Ambassador Hotel East nightclub in Chicago. It was here, that she was approached by the "King of Swing", Benny Goodman to join his orchestra. She replaced Helen Forrest in 1941 in getting the job at the Goodman's orchestra. Penny's song "Somebody Else Is Taking My Place" reached No.1 in 1942 and became a hit single. In 1943, she sang a rendition of Lil Green's song "Why Don't You Do Right?" which sold more than a million copies and catapulted her into stardom. She is remembered for her songs, "Mañana", "Lover", "Mister Wonderful", and "Fever". In 1999, the Songwriters Hall of Fame made Peggy Lee an inductee.
Duke Ellington
The Duke: Pianist, Composer, and Orchestra Leader
April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974
In 1966, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Edward Kennedy Ellington's parents were pianists. His father, James Edward Ellington enjoyed playing operatic arias as a recreation, while his wife, Daisy Kennedy preferred playing parlor songs. Edward was given the title "Duke" by his friend Edgar McEntree, which stuck and become his stage name. Even though Duke began taking piano lessons from the age of seven, he would have preferred spending his time playing baseball. However, his interest in learning piano spiked intensely at the age of fourteen, after listening to the pianists at the Frank Holiday Poolroom.

By 1917, he had begun performing for dances with other artists in Washington D.C and had formed the group, The Duke's Serenaders, which became increasingly popular. He eventually made a career move to New York, which did not work out for the band. Thereafter, he formed the group The Washingtonians. The group made their record debut with the song "Choo Choo (Gotta Hurry Home) and "Rainy Nights and Rainy Days" in 1924. It was only after Irving Mills became the manager in 1926, did the group taste real success. Their rendition of the song "East St.Lous Toodle-Oo", and original songs; "Creole Love Call" and "Black and Tan Fantasy", made Ellington's Orchestra the official band of the Cotton Club, after King Oliver declined the job over money matters. It was Ellington's orchestral ability to adapt according to the changing demands in music, from jazz to swing and beyond, that made him the most versatile jazz legend of all time.
Ella Fitzgerald
The First Lady of Song and The Queen of Jazz: Singer
April 25, 1917 - June 15, 1996
She was the recipient of 13 Grammy Awards!
Ella Fitzgerald was also known as Lady Ella and is known for her powerful jazz and scat singing. As a child, she wanted to become a dancer and also enjoyed listening to jazz music. She lost her mother in 1932, after which she saw a downfall in life. Her school grades declined, she got into trouble with police for which she was sent to a reformatory, she escaped from there and was homeless. She rose from her trauma to make a singing debut in 1934. She made her stage debut at the New York Apollo Theater in Harlem, with Connee Boswell's songs "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection", which won her the first position and a cash prize of USD 25.00. In 1935, she performed at the Harlem Opera House with the Tiny Bradshaw Band. She soon joined Webb's Orchestra, and recorded many hit numbers. She was signed by the legendary drummer Chick Webb, with whom she recorded the song "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)". After the death of Chick Webb in 1939, she began leading the band, which was renamed Ella and her Famous Orchestra. However, she opted for an independent career in 1942.

She was signed by Decca labels the same year, and got the opportunity to record with several famous jazz artists such as Norman Granz and Louis Jordan. Her song "Flying Home" is considered to be one of the greatest scat recordings of all time. In the year 2000, her extensive studio album, The Cole Porter Songbook was placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Her role in the film, Pete Kelly's Blues, was one of her notable performances. She passed away in 1996 but is still remembered for her purity of tone, a voice range spanning three octaves and her scat singing. She is among the prominent and famous jazz vocalists of the 20th century.
Sarah Vaughan
The Divine One: Singer
March 27, 1924 - April 3, 1990
The Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown album and the song "If You Could See Me Now" were honored by the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and 1999.
At a young age of seven, Sarah started taking piano lessons and used to sing in the church choir. Her father, Asbury "Jake" Vaughan was a devout Christian and played the guitar and piano at the New Mount Zion Baptist Church. Sarah's mother was equally talented and would sing often at church. Sarah took keen interest in music since childhood and was an excellent pianist and a gifted singer. She began sneaking to nightclubs at Newark in order to perform as a pianist and singer. She eventually dropped out of high school in order to immerse herself into music. After a series of performances in small clubs, Vaughan won the Apollo Theater Amateur Night competition in 1943 by singing the song, "Body and Soul".

This win gave her the opportunity to sing at the Apollo for a week and open for none other than, Ella Fitzgerald. During her small tryst at Apollo, she was discovered by Billy Eckstine, who recommended her to the pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines. Vaughan worked as pianist and toured extensively with Earl Hines's Big band. However, she began to sing more often after the pianist and trombonist Cliff Smalls joined the band. She left the band to work with Billy Eckstine's band and recorded the song "I'll Wait and Pray". In 1945, she left the band to start her solo career. She was signed by the record label Musicraft in 1945 and recorded several popular songs such as "If You Could See Me Now", "I've Got a Crush on You", and "Body and Soul". She became a three-time Grammy Award winner. In 1989, she received the NEA Jazz Masters Award. During the same year, she began keeping unwell and was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died while watching a television movie that featured her daughter. She is remembered for her mellifluous voice and is a notable figure in jazz music.
Freddie Hubbard
Jazz Trumpeter
April 7, 1938 - December 29, 2008
He was honored with the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2006.
Freddie Hubbard started playing mellophone and trumpet in his school band. In 1958, he moved to New York and started playing with some famous jazz players like Philly Jones, J.J. Johnson, and others. In 1960, he came up with his first record as a leader, Open Sesame. In 1961, he made his renowned record, Ready for Freddie. He joined Art Blakey's band, Jazz Messengers and recorded the albums Caravan, Free For All, and Mosaic with the entourage. He left the band in 1966, to make his own group and distinct sound, which won him the "New Start" award from Downbeat jazz magazine.

It was during the 1970s that Hubbard earned recognition as one of the biggest stars. He is famous for performing bebop, hard pop and post pop styles. His works during the 1970s like "Red Clay", "Sky Dive", and others are considered as some of his best works. In 1980 and 1989, he played at the Monterey Jazz Festival and recorded the song "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)" with Elton John. In 1992, he performed at the Warsaw Jazz Festival.
Charlie Parker
Jazz Saxophonist
August 29, 1920 - March 12, 1955
He was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984.
Born on August 29, 1920, Charles Parker is one of the most prominent figures in jazz music. As a child he showed no talent in music. His father was a pianist, dancer, and singer. Parker drew inspiration from a young trombone player who trained him in the basic techniques of improvisation. Parker began playing the saxophone and soon joined his school band. In 1938, he joined Jay McShann's territory band and made his first recording with the band. Charlie Parker battled with addiction through most of his adult life. His career rose and he became popular among music lovers. He earned recognition as a jazz saxophonist and a composer.

He was instrumental in the development of bebop, which is a jazz form qualified by a fast tempo, virtuoso technique and improvisation. In 1949, Parker recorded the album, Charlie Parker with Strings with a group of chamber orchestra and jazz musicians. Some of the popular songs from this album include, "Just Friends", "If I Should Lose You", and "Summertime". His songs have set standards for several artists to seek inspiration from. He is also an iconic figure of the hipster subculture. He became addicted to morphine as a teenager, while being admitted because of an automobile accident. He substituted this addiction with heroin which contributed in his early demise. His death in 1955 meant the loss of one of the most influential people in the field of jazz music.
Django Reinhardt
King of Jazz Guitar
January 23, 1910 - May 16, 1953
In 2010, a 10 Euro coin was issued on his 100th birth anniversary by the Belgian government.
Reinhardt was perhaps the most prominent jazz musicians from Europe. This French guitarist is credited for having created a new style of playing jazz guitar and has contributed to the development of Gypsy jazz and jazz standards. He is incredibly popular for his compositions such as, "Nuages", "Minor Swing" and "Djangology". Reinhardt played solos with the index and middle finger of his left hand because his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed. As a child, he played music to make a living and thus did not acquire sufficient formal education. Thus, since he could neither read or write music, he hired a professional to note down his improvisations, so that it could be made into a Mass for symphonies and for the Gypsies. Reinhardt was greatly inspired by Louis Armstrong and jazz music in general. He met the violinist Stéphane Grappell, with whom he formed the popular instrumental jazz ensemble Quintette du Hot Club de France. He eventually was able to perform with legendary artists such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie. He also performed as Duke Ellington and His Orchestra's special guest in 1946.
Miles Davis
The Prince of Darkness: Trumpeter, Composer, and Bandleader
May 26, 1926 - September 28, 1991
He was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.
Miles Dewey Davis III, was born to a well-to-do family and was encouraged to play the piano by his mother. Davis began learning the trumpet at the age of thirteen from the musician, Elwood Buchanan, who insisted that Davis play without using vibrato. This strict training created the signature sound of Miles Davis, which was clear and round. He began playing professionally at the age of 16 during school vacations. Even though he was asked to join the Tiny Bradshaw Band, Davis's mother prohibited him from leaving school. He began his career only after graduating in 1944 from East St. Louis Lincoln High School. Thereafter, he joined the Juilliard School of Music in New York for higher studies. By 1945, Davis was playing in Charlie Parker's Quintet and toured extensively. However, he left the band in 1948 to become a freelance musician. He is credited with the creation of the "Cool Jazz" movement which he started with Gil Evans and several other musicians. The Miles Davis Nonet made the album, Birth of the Cool which failed miserably at that time. Nonetheless, this cool jazz album would inspire musicians in the years to come. Kind of Blue album by Miles Davis became the greatest selling album of jazz history. He has won a total of eight Grammy Awards for his contribution to jazz music.
Benny Goodman
The King of Swing: Clarinetist and Bandleader
May 30, 1909 - June 13, 1986
He was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986.
Benny Goodman was born to Jewish immigrants from Russia and was the ninth of twelve children. His father was a tailor, who despite a meager income, enrolled Benny and his older brother for music lessons at a synagogue. Goodman was ten years old when he started learning music and began playing the clarinet for the Jane Addams Hull House club band for boys. By the age 16, he had joined the Ben Pollack Orchestra and began recording from 1926. He was signed by Vocalion records in 1929. Benny also became a successful freelancer in New York and had put together his own big band by 1934. His band included musicians such as drummer Gene Krupa, Fletcher Henderson, Bunny Berigan and Jess Stacy, all of whom helped in starting the "Swing Era". The next five decades were spent in recording and doing shows all over the country and abroad. Goodman's performance at the Carnegie Hall is still considered to be the first and the most significant moments in the history of jazz music.

Even though Goodman and his big band continued to gain meteoric success throughout the 1930s, their popularity reduced substantially during the 1940s. Swing music was being replaced by the peppy sounds of bebop and cool jazz. Goodman made a bebop album that was a huge success and was highly regarded in the jazz community. He is also remembered for having commissioned some major chamber music recordings such as, Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet, and Rondo from Grand Duo Concertante in E flat.
Count Basie
The Count: Jazz pianist, Organist, Composer, and Bandleader
August 21, 1904 - April 26, 1984
The four-time inductee of the Grammy Hall of Fame Awards, has also won nine other Grammy Awards!
William James Basie was born in New Jersey. While he was taught how to play the piano by his mother, his father could play the mellophone. James wasn't interested in studies and never studied beyond junior high school. Instead, he worked at the Palace Theater, where he operated lights and played the piano for silent films. In 1924, he moved to Harlem, where he joined musical groups and toured often. He began to be known as "Count" Basie during 1928, when he became popular while playing with Walter Page's famous band, the Blue Devils. In 1929, he formed a band with the pianist and bandleader, Bennie Moten in Kansas City and stayed with the group until 1935. During this time, the band had unanimously voted Bennie out and had opted for Basie to lead the band, which was renamed Count Basie and his Cherry Blossoms. After Bennie's death in 1935, Basie formed his own band., Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm and moved to Chicago.

Basie's band performed at the Grand Terrace Ballroom on several occasions and recorded sessions with the producer, John Hammond in 1936. Basie made a deal with Decca Records in 1936 and began recording sessions the very next year. It was during this time that the songs "Penny from Heaven", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Jumpin' at the Woodside", and "One O'Clock Jump" were recorded. There was no stopping him thereon. He was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame for the songs, "Lester Leaps In", "Everyday (I Have the Blues)", "April in Paris", and "One O'Clock Jump". He went on to become one of the most influential jazz artists of all time.
Billie Holiday
Lady Day: Singer and Songwriter
April 7, 1915 - July 17, 1959
She has been posthumously inducted six times into the Grammy Hall of Fame since 1976.
The "Strange Fruit" singer and perhaps the best-known female jazz singer of all time; Billie Holiday was Eleanora Fagan's stage name. Holiday's father was a professional musician and her mother worked for passenger railroads. For a while, Holiday was raised by her mother's older sister, Eva Miller in Baltimore and then by Eva Miller's mother-in-law, Martha Miller looked after her. Holiday was raped at the age of eleven by a neighbor and was rescued by her mother. Thereafter, Holiday ran small errands in a local brothel in order to make ends meet. By the age of thirteen, Billie Holiday was working as a prostitute along with her mother. However, the place was raided and Holiday and her mother were sent to a workhouse. She was fourteen when she was released from the workhouse in 1929.

Billie Holiday began singing the same year and formed a band (1929-1931) with a neighbor, Kenneth Hollan who played the tenor sax. In 1932, she was discovered by producer, John Hammond who arranged her recording debut with Benny Goodman. Together they made the songs, "Your Mother's Son-In-Law" and "Riffin' the Scotch". John Hammond went on to get Holiday a contract with Brunswick Records where, she collaborated with the pianist Teddy Wilson and made the songs "What a Little Moonlight Can Do", "I Cried for You", and "Miss Brown to You". With Teddy, she also made the jazz classics, "Twenty-Four Hours a Day" and "Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town". She also shared a very close friendship with tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who is credited to have given her the moniker of "Lady Day". She went on to perform with Count Basie and later with Artie Shaw. However, racial segregation caused her to leave the band in 1938. In 1941, she and pianist, Arthur Herzog, Jr. made the song, "God Bless the Child" which became her most successful song. Holiday went on to make several more popular songs that are considered as jazz classics and have been covered by vocalists from all over the world.
Nina Simone
High Priestess of Soul: Singer, Songwriter, Pianist, and Arranger
February 21, 1933 - April 21, 2003
She received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000.
Born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone was born into a poor family in North Carolina. She started playing the piano when she was only three years old. She would sing at the church and accompany herself at the piano. She gave her first classical recital at the age of twelve. However, during her performance, her parents were made to move from the front row and shifted to the backseats of the hall. Simone stopped performing and refused to carry on until her parents were asked to return to their original seats. This incident was her first step towards fighting against racial segregation.

Nina Simone desired to become a classical pianist. However, she was rejected by the Curtis Institute because of her race. She went on to join the Juilliard School of Music. She began performing at the Midtown Bar & Grill in Atlantic City from 1954 and adopted the stage name "Nina Simone". She gained instant success from her rendition of the cover song "I Love You, Porgy" which ranked in top 20 in the U.S. Billboards. Soon she was signed by Bethlehem Records, with whom she recorded her debut album, Little Girl Blues. She sold all her rights on the album to the recording company for a mere $3,000, because of which she never received the royalty profits worth a million dollars. She played an active role during the Civil Rights Movement and sang the song "Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)" after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This song was written by the bass player, Gene Taylor. She continues to be respected and adored by musicians and fans alike and has played a vital role in maintaining the legacy of jazz music.
So, these were some of the musicians who are considered as "Jazz Royalty". These legends have dedicated every ounce of their talent and existence into making jazz music forever enchanting.