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Mezz Mezzrow

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Mezz Mezzrow occupies an odd and unique place in jazz history. Although an enthusiastic clarinetist, he was never much of a player, sounding best on the blues. A passionate propagandist for Chicago and New Orleans jazz and the rights of blacks (he meant well, but tended to overstate his case), Mezzrow was actually most significant for writing his colorful and somewhat fanciful memoirs, Really the Blues, and for being a reliable supplier of marijuana in the 1930s and '40s. In the 1920s, he was part of the Chicago jazz scene, at first helping the young white players and then annoying them with his inflexible musical opinions. Mezzrow recorded with the Jungle Kings, the Chicago Rhythm Kings, and Eddie Condon during 1927-1928, often on tenor. In the 1930s, he led a few swing-oriented dates that featured all-star integrated bands in 1933-1934 and 1936-1937. The French critic Hugues Panassie was always a big supporter of Mezzrow's playing and Mezz was well-featured on sessions in 1938 with Tommy Ladnier and Sidney Bechet; "Really the Blues" is a near-classic. Mezzrow had his own King Jazz label during 1945-1947, mostly documenting ensemble-oriented blues jams with Bechet and occasionally Hot Lips Page. After appearing at the 1948 Nice Jazz Festival, Mezzrow eventually moved to France, where he recorded fairly regularly during 1951-1955 (including with Lee Collins and Buck Clayton), along with a final album in 1959. ~ Scott Yanow

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Birth Name:

Milton Mesirow


09 October 1899 in Chicago, IL

Years Active:

'30s, '40s, '50s