Count BasieI fell in love with Count Basie's "Kansas City" sound. I chose him because unlike the musicians of the "Jazz Age" in New York and Chicago, Count Basie was forming his own sound with bandmates like Lester Young at Kansas City's "Reno Club". His band, "The Barons of Rhythm" ultimately became the "Count Basie Orchestra". He made history by being the first African American male to receive a Grammy.
Ella FitzgeraldI wanted Ella Fitzgerald in my collection because she made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy. Her vocal quality and broad range would make her one of the greatest female singers in jazz history. She would go on to win thirteen Grammys in total and sell more than 40 million albums.
Bessie SmithBessie was one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on many female jazz singers. Nicknamed "Empress of the Blues", her strong contralto voice recorded well from her very first session. She was rumored to require Ethel Waters to sing on the other side of town because she hated the competition.
Billie HolidayI resisted needlepointing Billie Holiday for many years as my intention was to focus on lesser known jazz greats. After finding this chair at a thrift store, stripping it and staining it, I realized it was calling out for a Billie Holiday needlepoint. Naturally, I obliged.
Professor LonghairI am completely inspired by Professor Longhair. Even though he was a founding father of New Orleans R&B, he was so down and out at one point that he had to resort to sweeping the floors of the record shop that had once sold his albums by the crate full. He made such a comeback ten years later that his resiliency is the stuff of legends. He made a slew of albums in his last decade of life topped off by his masterpiece "Crawfish Fiesta".