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Illinois Jacquet

Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet was the sixth and last child born to Gilbert Jacquet
and Margeret Trahan.  Commonly known as Illinois, he was born on 31 Oct 1922 in
Broussard, Louisiana in Lafayette parish.  The music tradition passed down from
Illinois' grandfather Jean Baptiste Jolivet Jacquet to his father Gilbert Jacquet
manifested itself in Illinois Jacquet bringing forth one of the greatest saxophone players
the world has ever known.  Illinois was but six months old when his family left Lafayette
parish and moved to Houston Texas in May of 1923. Though rightly considered a
Texas tenor, the saxophonist is as much a product of  Louisiana, where he, as well as
his Jacquet forefathers, were born.  In Texas, Illinois Jacquet came to know the lore
and the ways of the Southwest, the Afro-American culture of street chants, card parties,
fish fries, barbecues, church socials, dances and most importantly were the battle of
big bands Illinois witnessed that paraded in and out of Houston with their competitions
of music that had its own rules and creative power.   Music that had its origins in the big
city of New Orleans, that up and coming relatively new sound of jazz!...

...The music of New Orleans had been important to Illinois' father Gilbert Jacquet who
had not only played all the instruments but had no difficulty passing on the authentic
aspects of jazz to his six children.  Gilbert, who's playing expertise with instruments
included both the sousaphone and string bass, saw and encouraged the talent in young
Illinois and the rest of his children, grooming them for careers in show business
whenever he had the time away from sharpening his own 16 piece band.  At three
years old, baby Illinois was dancing and singing "If I could be with you one hour tonight"
in order to promote the minstrel show of his older brother Julius Jacquet.  It was his
first radio appearance.  By nine, when Jacquet won a dance contest sponsored by Cab
Calloway it was clear that the boy had musical talent and the will to make something of
it.  At Phillis Wheatley high school, Illinois got his first musical training in a formal
sense from Houston's Percy H. McDavid.  His first instrument was the drum set, and he
soon became very good performing in the marching band and working with
neighborhood musicians.  Then he discovered the soprano saxophone and later moved
to the alto sax.  During those developing years starting in his infancy up until his high
school years, he got to witness the music wars of the "Battle of the bands" that took
place when other big bands came to Houston and worked the Aragon Ballroom, where
old man Gilbert Jacquet was ready to unleash his local men on the visitors. With young
Illinois, the Jacquet family was comprised of an orchestra that other competing bands
found hard to beat. Illinois would play with the family orchestra until 1937.  Those were
his first experiences with the competitions of the bands and their musical imaginations
essential to jazz that formed his jazz genius.  As a teenager, Illinois would take his horn
to jam sessions, local battling band functions and competitions to hone his skills.  After
his apprenticeship with his father Gilbert Jacquet and his big band/family orchestra, it
was on to his brother Russell Jacquet's band.  At 16, he was already jammin' the blues
and playing jazz with his older brother Russell's big band "The California Playboys" as
an alto saxophone player, playing side by side with his oldest brother Julius Jacquet
who also played alto sax in the band...

...Illinois Jacquet worked with Count Basie from 1946 to 1947 recording pieces such as
"The King" and "Mutton Leg", then he relocated to New York City and put together his
own band.  From that point on, Illinois Jacquet became a bigger and bigger star,
releasing hit after hit and breaking box-office records as he travelled the country.  In
the years to come, Illinois Jacquet would extensively tour Europe, as well as the United
States and become a regular at jazz festivals around the world.  In 1948, four years
after performing in what many consider the finest jazz film ever made "Jammin The
Blues"  Jacquet brought his group onto the Ed Sullivan & television show, "Toast of
The Town," and became the first jazz musician to appear on a coast-to-coast telecast.
Illinois Jacquet has also taught at some of the finest  of American Universities,
exposing the young to the heritage of American jazz music. He was a Harvard
University teacher of Jazz music for many years starting in 1982, and has taught Jazz
music at Tufts University, University of California San Diego, University of Idaho, Crane
College, Clark College and at Howard University seminars.  Illinois has been invited to
the White House by a host of former presidents: President Dwight D. Eisenhower for
his presidential inauguration  in early 1953, President Jimmy Carter for the 25th
Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, President Ronald Reagan as part of the
Lionel Hampton and Friends concert, and also by President Bill Clinton's White
House inauguration celebration in January 1993, and later that year with Clinton's
White House Jazz festival in June of 1993.  The Eisenhower inauguration date led to a
famous incident.  After the inauguration, the band played in a park along the Potomac,
on the site where the Kennedy Center now stands.  There were three acts - Louis
Armstrong, Illinois Jacquet, and the Lionel Hampton band, which included Quincy
Jones and Monk Montgomery. As Ernestine Anderson, great jazz singer with the
Hampton band remembers it:

"...Since Louis was on first, Hampton was worried about getting upstaged,
so he told Illinois Jacquet not to play "Flyin' Home." and it made Jacquet
mad.  "I'm the one that made 'Flying Home' famous," said Jacquet.  "I'll
play it whenever and wherever I please."  Jacquet goes out there and
plays "Flyin' Home", so by the time Lionel came on, none of his stuff
worked.  He jumped up on top of the drums.  He did his sticks, he caught
them and he clapped his hands.  But it was over.   Monk Montgomery told
Quincy, "Now when we play 'Flyin Home,' I'm going to jump into the
Potomac."  So sure enough, Monk went in.  Lionel looked up, and if you
could have seen the look on his face - "What the hell is going on?"  but
when he did that, the crowd went wild!  From then on, Lionel was like,
"Yeah! Yeah, yeah!"  Like it was planned...he thought Monk did it to save
the day..." (*89*)

Probably the greatest tribute given to Illinois Jacquet was the filming and public release
by BRAVO television and films of the movie 'TEXAS TENOR: THE ILLINOIS
JACQUET STORY"  It was a television premiere on 9 October 1993 on the BRAVO
television channel.  Excerpts from the press release were as follows: