Carr Center
311 East Grand River
Detroit, Michigan
313-965-8430 Ext. 23

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Tommy Flanagan

Tommy Flanagan Trio

As a small boy he received a clarinet as a gift for Christmas but could only think about one instrument, the piano. According to Flanagan "we always had a piano in our house" and he began playing it at the age of five.


The Tommy Flanagan Trio (with bassist Wilbur Little and drummer Elvin Jones) released their first album, Tommy Flanagan Trio Overseas, in 1957. As an accompanist, Flanagan worked with Ella Fitzgerald from 1963 to 1965 and 1968 to 1978. Beginning in 1975, Flanagan began once again to perform and record as a leader. He continued to work with other players, however, forming a trio with Tal Farlow and Red Mitchell, among other projects.

Flanagan's style was both modest and exceptionally musical. He embodied many of the most important qualities associated with jazz: swing, harmonic sophistication, melodic invention, bluesy feel and humour. Interestingly, he appeared on a number of highly innovative albums. (His awkward solo on the fast and harmonically complex title-track of Giant Steps is a rare [if famous] instance on record of the usually unflappable pianist being caught off-guard.)

Tommy Flanagan is mentioned by Japanese Author Haruki Murakami in the short story, Chance Traveller, in which he describes his experiences at a Tommy Flanagan performance.

During his career, Flanagan was nominated for four Grammy Awards — two for Best Jazz Performance (Group) and two for Best Jazz Performance (Soloist).

He died on 16 November 2001, of an arterial aneurysm.

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