Jay McShann dies; linked barrelhouse, bebop


Jay McShann, one of the grand old warriors of jazz, died of a lung ailment Dec. 7 in Kansas City, Mo., where he devised his unique blend of boogie woogie, blues and jazz that helped form the foundation for the modern era of the music. He was 90.

McShann, known as "Hootie" and once dubbed "the last of the whorehouse piano players," was a world-class "tickler," if not a world-famous one. He came out of the barrelhouse line that goes back to Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Pete Johnson and Fats Waller.

But it was quite a pioneering outfit, the big band McShann formed in Kansas City in 1939, when bebop was about to be born. In addition to icon-to-be Charlie Parker, drummer Gus Johnson and bassist Gene Ramey played with the McShann band before they went on to better-known things -- Johnson with Count Basie's comeback band in the early '50s and Ramey as a stalwart rhythm-section man in the studios of New York. Other future stars included blind singer Al Hibbler, who later starred with Duke Ellington; Jimmy Forrest, who wrote "Night Train" on tenor saxophone; and tenorman Paul Quinichette, "the vice prez," who replaced Lester Young in the Basie band.

After a long hiatus to raise a family, McShann's recording career took off again in the 1960s. He toured constantly, recorded frequently and appeared at many jazz festivals, remaining active into the end of the century.

McShann recorded for labels including Onyx, Decca, Capitol, Aladdin, Mercury, Black Lion, EmArcy, Vee Jay, Black & Blue, Master Jazz, Sackville, Sonet, Storyville, Atlantic, Swingtime and Music Masters.

In 2003, his album "Goin' to Kansas City" was nominated for a traditional blues Grammy.