Carlo Jackie Paris (September 20, 1924 – June 17, 2004) was an American jazz singer and guitarist.
Jackie Paris was born in Nutley, New Jersey to his father Carlo and mother Rose. He had a brother, Gene. A vocalist, Paris toured with Charlie Parker. He also tap-danced from his youth and into his years in the US Army, entertaining his fellow soldiers. He is best known for his recordings of "Skylark" and "'Round Midnight" from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. He performed and/or recorded with Terry Gibbs, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce, Charles Mingus, and others. He won many jazz polls and awards, including those of Down Beat, Playboy, Swing Journal, and Metronome.
Jackie was born in Nutley, New Jersey to an Italian-American family. His uncle Chick had been a guitarist with Paul Whiteman's famous orchestra.
He was a very popular child entertainer in vaudeville, a pint-sized song and dance man, who shared the stage with — and was encouraged by — such legendary black headliners as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and the Mills Brothers.
After serving in the army during World War II, Paris, inspired by his friend Nat King Cole, put together a trio featuring himself on guitar and vocals. The Jackie Paris Trio were a hit at the Onyx Club on New York's 52nd Street. They played at the club for an unprecedented 26 weeks, perhaps the longest-running residency in the history of Swing Street.
The first song that Jackie ever recorded was "Skylark", on one of two sessions made by his trio, for MGM Records in 1947. The composer Hoagy Carmichael once said of Paris' rendition that "the kid sings the hell out of it."
In 1949, he was the first white vocalist to tour with the famous Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He remembered an occasion when he actually did 78 consecutive one-nighters with the band. When he finally got off the road, he received an offer to join Duke Ellington's Orchestra, but at that time was too exhausted to take it. For years after, Ellington's son Mercer would tell him, "You're the only guy that ever turned down my old man."
He was the first singer to record Thelonious Monk's future jazz anthem "Round Midnight", which was produced by the famous critic Leonard Feather and featured a young Dick Hyman on piano.
He was the only vocalist to ever tour as a regular member of the Charlie Parker Quintet. Unfortunately, no recordings exist of the Parker-Paris combination (although the "Round Midnight" session mentioned above features Parker's bassist and drummer, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes), but there is a classic photograph of the two working together.
In 1953, Jackie Paris was named Best New Male Vocalist of the Year in the first ever Down Beat Critics Poll. The winning female vocalist was Ella Fitzgerald, who repeatedly named Paris as as one of her favourites.
Charlie Mingus named Paris as his favourite singer and used him on several recording sessions over a period of many decades, including 1952's "Paris In Blue" (written expressly for Paris) and the Mingus classic "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" on the album Changes Two in 1974. Paris also worked extensively with the famous bassist, composer and bandleader in clubs.
He was the only singer ever endorsed by the legendary comic and 20th century iconoclast Lenny Bruce. Bruce not only shared the bill with Paris on many occasions, he shouted Paris's praises, saying "I dig his talent. The audience loves him and he gets laughs. He is toooo muccchhh!"
Other major musicians with whom Paris recorded include Hank Jones, Charlie Shavers, Joe Wilder, Wynton Kelly, Eddie Costa, Coleman Hawkins, Bobby Scott, Max Roach, Lee Konitz, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce, Ralph Burns, Tony Scott, Neal Hefti, Terry Gibbs, Johnny Mandel, and Oscar Pettiford.
In 2001, he played to a standing room crowd — and to a standing ovation — at New York's Birdland jazz club in Times Square. He was virtually the only performer to have appeared at every incarnation of the famed night spot, from the legendary Birdland of the 1950s to the present. He last performed in New York in March, 2004 at the Jazz Standard. Reviewing that performance, Robert L. Daniels of Variety wrote that Mr. Paris's familiar, warm, crusty baritone voice had lost none of its earthy passion or velvety lustre.
a music clip featuring scenes from the feature length documentary, "Tis
Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris"