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
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.
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.
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)…
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.
Thanks John, got it! We will check it out, please keep scouting for us and just take your commission off the top 🙂
This is for free. My commission is way too expensive for most. : )
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!
Al Haig played on Charlie Parker’s Segment, with Dorham, Davis, Potter and Roach. I won’t even try to explain how much I love that recording but I think it’s Parker’s greatest moment, and the group dynamic is perfect. Haig is nowhere near the microphone but his solo reveals a thumping groove going on with Potter. The whole thing is magic.
Dorham and Davis? Of course not. Just Dorham. Sorry about that.
Well that’s the last time I try and share my late-found love of Bop online.
Best stick to the records.
Please accept our sincere apologies Steve, these comments need to be approved since there was a filter put in place after the site was hacked. Your comments were mistakenly overlooked by the webmaster. Thanks for commenting and look forward to more to keep Bop alive online! 🙂
Yes, if Haig was almost singlehandedly responsible for bebop piano invention he wasn’t at all lucky, either in the studio where he was so often found recording on a clunky piano, or in his choice of label. His refined elegance, graceful lines, and near perfect delivery didn’t always endear him to many of his contemporaries whom he often criticised for their technical inadequacies. I think his first trio album on Esoteric is a true masterpiece not only within his particular milieu but in that of the wider refinements of jazz piano generally. A greatly underrated and neglected master.