Although best known for introducing the world to Charlie Parker, pianist and bandleader Jay “Hootie” McShann should first and foremost be remembered as a blues, jazz and R&B innovator-in effect, birthing rock ‘n’ roll. After a career spanning eight decades, McShann passed away Thursday night at the age of 90.
Born James Columbus McShann on Jan. 12, 1916 in Muskogee, OK, the mostly self-taught musician-he learned piano, despite his parents’ disapproval, by listening to Earl “Fatha” Hines on late-night radio-wandered around the Midwest during his adolescence, after initially working with Don Byas in 1931. During his travels, he constantly played and developed a jazz style highly informed by the blues, retaining its rawness and emotional breadth but transforming its rhythms. Though members of the same musical clan, Jay McShann is undeniably a different beast than Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson, and the sound of Kansas City jazz soon became inextricably entwined with his name.