Yoko Miwa

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Remembering pianist Al Haig


“Al who?” you might be asking. Pianist Al Haig was born July 19, 1922 in Newark, NJ. You might not remember his name, but you’ve heard him play if you’ve ever heard Birth Of The Cool by Miles Davis.

Haig played with Miles, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, and Stan Getz, among others. Not a bad resume. But then, as sometimes happens in the jazz world, the spotlight moved on to other players and Haig was all but unknown, surviving mostly by playing cocktail piano gigs.

Haig’s life had a big dark spot on it: He was accused, then acquitted, of murder. That shadow never left him, and his acquittal was later disputed in a book written by his second wife.

Haig came back into prominence in 1974, at least in Europe, spurred on by a recording he made that featured drummer Kenny Clarke. Haig died of a heart attack in 1982.

Here are a few examples of Haig’s playing:

From Haig’s 1974 album Invitation, featuring Kenny Clarke on drums

From Miles Davis’s Birth Of The Cool

From a 1954 session with Bill Crow on bass and Lee Abrams on drums


  1. Thanks for reminding us all of Al Haig, a player not to be overlooked. I do remember him from my records of Charlie Parker, Dizzy, and Miles. But your birth date looks off. He obviously could not have been born in 1940. Discogs and wiki list his birth date as July 19, 1922 in Newark. But the reminder of his playing is the important thing, yes? July 23, however, is the birth date of another giant, Steve Lacy. Still miss his unique sound. Okay, so not a pianist, but still one of the masters.

    1. Thanks for the correction, Scott! You’re right, of course. I had a mistake in the date, based on AllAboutJazz’s site. I fixed the error.

    2. Hey Scott, is that you? Sandy and I would love to hear from you here in Ohio. We’re still in the same town as when you visited us (a long time ago)…

  2. Yoko,

    I just sent you a message to your own email account. It is about a potential business opportunity that you and Scott, or your management need to check out in Boston. I don’t know if it will amount to anything, or even if it is feasible to do, but thought you guys should check it out as a possible new place to play. It’s not Scullers but might be fun.

  3. Al Haig is a true Jazz Giant. From his 50’s recordings (Al Haig Esoteric), his online 60’s record (Al Haig Today), to the 70’s albums (Invitation, Serendipity, Piano Solos, Milestones, Blue Manhattan, etc), his artisttry should never be Some of the very besto Jazz piano can be found on these recordings!

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