Name of note, for jazz sake

2012-01-20 13:28

We can imagine there are as many formulas to raise great talents out of one’s offspring as there are protégés. However, those vying for distinction in their kids should remember that old Shakespearean maxim: that while some are born great, some become great while some have greatness thrust upon them.

So we’ve had China’s tiger mothers like author Amy Chua, whose book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother revealed a strict approach to parenting – that a tough-love regime of no sleep-overs and no television has a way of thrusting greatness onto a ­would-be star child.

There’s the absent parenting style that poverty produces too. Think here of pugilist protégés like Mike Tyson who rose to prominence despite the odds.

The jazz world, on the other hand, has found much more groovy approaches to inspiring children to achieve stellar status. Tenor saxophonist, Jackie McLean, often talked about how as a child he would tail the great innovator, Charlie Parker. It seems to have paid off; McLean is now a Hall of Famer.

Just as it worked for the grand trumpeter and innovator, Louis Armstrong, who hung out with cornetist Joe “King” Oliver during his childhood in New Orleans – King Oliver was a mentor and the music’s pioneer.

The other jazz-savvy approach has been through the choosing of names. Many jazz impresarios probably find their mojo from the names they carry. Think about the respectable bassist Herbie Tsoaeli who is an ubiquitous presence on the South African jazz scene. He shares the name of Herbie Hancock, the great jazz pianist. Hence for Tsoaeli, growing up in Cape Town and starting to play jazz at an early stage must have exerted a special type of pressure.

Saxophonist McCoy Mrubata too was tested with a great name – that of a jazz luminary, McCoy Tyner otherwise fondly known as the real McCoy. The name refers to his 1967 album Blue Note.

Buddy Wells, the rising saxophonist, also shares his name with Buddy Bolden, who led the first-ever jazz band.
Even the legendary drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, who formed The Blue Notes with the likes of Chris MacGregor and Johnny Dyani, seems to have been spurred on by the great Louis Armstrong.

The late trumpeter and mathematician, Duke Ngcukana along with saxophonist Duke Makasi draw their blessed monicker from the man credited with creating modern American music, Duke Ellington.

Perhaps of the American jazz musicians to visit our shore recently, it is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis whose father, Ellis Marsalis, named him after a fellow pianist Wynton Kelly.
Arguably, there’s no jazzman of his generation that commands attention as young Wynton has in the past quarter of a century.

These few examples give a new touch to that old somewhat clichéd question: What’s in a name? Choosing the right name might be the new way of the tiger mum or an alchemic secret to greatness hip fathers might have known for a while.

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