Born in 1917, pianist composer and arranger Tadley Ewing Peake ‘Tadd’ Dameron was known as ‘the architect of Bop’.
He worked with everyone who was anyone in jazz, mentoring a generation of musicians, from Miles Davis to Artie Shaw, Count Basie to John Coltrane.
All of Dameron’s family were musicians and he began playing piano at the age of 4, learning from his mother, as he put it “by heart and through memory”.
Despite having no formal musical education, Dameron was composing and arranging for big bands by the age of 23, drawing on classical musicians such as Ravel and Debussy for his sense of harmony. Dameron described arranging and composing as, “…just like reading a book, you can’t just have one idea and then jump to another one.. I try to make it flow coherently”.
In the early 1940’s, Dameron moved to New York and embraced the new Bebop sound, becoming one of the music’s most important arrangers and writing for its pioneers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
But like so many of his colleagues in the post war area he became addicted to heroin and in 1958 was busted, spending 3 years in prison where he succeeded in kicking his habit. Tragically, after being released from jail, Dameron developed a fatal cancer resulting in his untimely death in 1965 – he was 48 years old.
Dameron was determined to create beauty out of the ugliness he had seen in the world and his melodies brought a lyrical grace and form to the Bebop sound – and he could swing!
In the 100th anniversary of his birth, his jazz standards such as Hot House, Good Bait and Lady Bird are still played and enjoyed to this day.