Al Haig

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Al Haig
Al Haig.jpg
Background information
Birth nameAlan Warren Haig
Born(1922-07-19)July 19, 1922
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedNovember 16, 1982(1982-11-16) (aged 60)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz, bebop
Years active1944–1982
Labels New Jazz, Spotlite
Associated acts

Alan Warren Haig (July 19, 1922 November 16, 1982) [1] was an American jazz pianist, best known as one of the pioneers of bebop.



Haig was born in Newark, New Jersey and raised in nearby Nutley. [2] In 1940, he majored in piano at Oberlin College. [3] He start performing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in 1945, [4] and performed and recorded under Gillespie from 1945 to 1946, as a member of Eddie Davis and His Beboppers in 1946 (also featuring Fats Navarro), and the Eddie Davis Quintet in 1947, under Parker from 1948 to 1950, and under Stan Getz from 1949 to 1951. The Gillespie quintet, which included Haig, recorded four 78 r.p.m. sides for Guild Records in May 1945 which are regarded as the first recordings to demonstrate all elements of the mature bebop style. [4] He was part of the nonet on the first session of Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool .

For much of the 1950s and 1960s, "Haig was all but a forgotten giant", in Brian Case's words; "Jazz pianism, ever more percussive in a crass simplification of [Bud] Powell's methods, had no room for the crystalline touch and swift, logical turnover of ideas. Haig got by with semi-cocktail piano in New York bars." [3] Although Haig is best remembered for playing bebop, he spent much of his career playing in non-jazz contexts. His work was the subject of a revival in the 1970s.

In 1969, Haig was acquitted of a murder charge. He had been accused of strangling his third wife, Bonnie, at their home in Clifton, New Jersey, on October 9, 1968. He had said in evidence that his wife had been drunk, and had died in a fall down a flight of stairs. [5] Grange Rutan, Haig's second wife, challenged Haig's account in her 2007 book, Death of a Bebop Wife. [6] Rutan's book is partly autobiographical, partly based on interviews with friends and family members. She describes Bonnie's story in detail, describing an underside to Haig that included a history of serial domestic abuse. Rutan observed that several family members sounded alarm bells regarding Haig's violent personality that went unheeded. She quotes bassist Hal Gaylor, who was talking with Haig before a performance at the Edison Hotel lounge in the early seventies, when Haig admitted to him he had caused Bonnie's death.

In 1974, Haig was invited to tour Europe by Tony Williams, owner of Spotlite Records in the United Kingdom. At the end of a very successful tour he recorded the Invitation album for Spotlite with Bibi Rovère on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. This kick-started his re-emergence and, over the next eight years, he built a strong following in Europe and toured several times, recording in the UK and France, and appearing elsewhere. He also recorded for several Japanese labels.

Haig died from a heart attack on November 16, 1982. [7]


As leader

Year recordedTitleLabelPersonnel/Notes
1952?Live in Hollywood Xanadu With Chet Baker (trumpet), Sonny Criss (alto sax), Jack Montrose (tenor sax); in concert
1954 Al Haig Trio EsotericTrio, with Bill Crow (bass), Lee Abrams (drums)
1954?Al Haig TrioPeriodTrio, with Bill Crow (bass), Lee Abrams (drums)
1954?Al Haig QuartetPeriod
1965?Al Haig Today!MintTrio, with Eddie De Haas (bass), Jim Kappes (drums)
1974Invitation Spotlite Trio, with Gilbert Rovere (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums)
1974Special Brew Spotlite Quartet, with Jimmy Raney (guitar), Wilbur Little (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1975Strings Attached Choice Quartet, with Jimmy Raney (guitar), Jamil Nasser (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1975?Chelsea Bridge East Wind
1976 Piano Interpretation Sea BreezeSolo piano
1976 Piano Time Sea BreezeSolo piano
1976?Duke 'n' Bird East Wind Solo piano
1976 Interplay Sea BreezeDuo, with Jamil Nasser (bass)
1977?Serendipity Interplay
1977Ornithology Progressive Trio, with Jamil Nasser (bass), Frank Gant (drums)
1977?A Portrait of Bud Powell Interplay
1977 Manhattan Memories Sea BreezeSome tracks trio, with Jamil Nasser (bass), Jimmy Wormworth (drums); some tracks quartet, with Nasser (bass), Eddie Diehl (guitar), Frank Gant (drums)
1977?Parisian Thoroughfare Musica
1977?Al in Paris Musica
1978?Plays the Music of Jerome KernGitaneswith Helen Merrill
1978Un Poco Loco Spotlite Trio, with Jamil Nasser (bass), Tony Mann (Anthony Arnold Pritchard) (drums)
1978Expressly Ellington Spotlite Quartet, with Art Themen (tenor sax), Jamil Nasser (bass), Tony Martin (drums)
1982Bebop Live Spotlite With Art Themen (soprano sax, tenor sax), Peter King (alto sax), Kenny Baldock (bass), Allan Ganley (drums); in concert

As sideman

With Chet Baker

With Miles Davis

With Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Lee Konitz

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Stan Getz

With Phil Woods

Main sources: [8] [9]

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  1. Harrison, Max (2016). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 2 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN   978-1561592845.
  2. Myers, Marc. "Al Haig Plays Jerome Kern", JazzWax, October 16, 2019. Accessed November 9, 2019. "Born in Newark, N.J., Haig was raised in Nutley, N.J."
  3. 1 2 Case, Brian (October 1982). "Jazz Pianists – 6 Al Haig". Music & Musicians: 10.
  4. 1 2 DeVeaux, Scott (1999). The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. University of California Press. p. 428. ISBN   978-0520216655.
  5. "Al Haig Acquitted Of Wife-Murder Charge". Down Beat . 36 (16). August 7, 1969. ISSN   0012-5768.
  6. Rutan, Grange (Lady Haig) (2007). Death of a Bebop Wife. Redwood, New York: Cadence Jazz Books. ISBN   978-1881993421.
  7. Fraser, C. Gerald (November 17, 1982). "Al Haig, 58, Dead; Early Bop Pianist". The New York Times .
  8. Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1992). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP & Cassette (1st ed.). Penguin. ISBN   978-0-14-015364-4.
  9. Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. ISBN   978-0-141-03401-0.