BlackFacts Details

Young, Cecil (c. 1920-c. 1975)

Pianist Cecil Young"s quartet exploded onto the Seattle jazz scene in 1950, introducing the rhythmic fire of bebop to an eager new audience.  His quartet"s debut record was immediately successful, and Young, known for his devilish sense of humor as well as his immense musical talents, rose to great but brief regional prominence.  

A vaudeville entertainer from New Haven, Connecticut, Cecil Young arrived in Seattle on a Palomar Theater date.  Seeking to break out of the confinements of vaudeville piano, Young soon filled the void left by pianist Dave Henderson at the New Chinatown nightclub.  For the gig Young assembled his quartet of local tenor saxophonist Gerald Brashear, white bassist Traff Hubert, and ex-Detroiter Jimmie Rodgers on drums.  After the New Chinatown gig, Taylor secured a slot at the Elks Club in Seattle’s Chinatown.  The Club had long been a center for local and national jazz performers.

The Cecil Young quartet quickly became a regional sensation.  Commanding breakneck tempos, the quartet"s aggressive rhythm section mesmerized crowds across Seattle, Tacoma, and Yakima.  Young was a modern piano player whose sparse, fierce, and harmonically sophisticated playing propelled his quartet.  Yet Young was also a complete entertainer – delighting audiences with his unique humor and talents as a tap dancer and singer.  In addition to the tenor saxophone, Gerald Brashear was also an accomplished congas player, and he frequently sang scat with Young.  (Brashear"s scat performance on the quartet"s “Who Parked the Car?” seemed to exist in a class by itself.)  

When Sid Nathan, the president of King Records, visited Seattle, Young and his manager pitched him the quartet.  Nathan was impressed, and using previously-taped performances from the Ladies Music Club (now the Harvard Exit movie theater) and the Metropolitan Theater, Nathan mastered Young"s debut album.  Released in 1951, Concert of Cool Jazz became a local hit, and its influence reached beyond Seattle, particularly to the San Francisco Bay area.