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Baby Face Willette
Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette (* 1933) was a hard bop and soul-jazz musician most known for playing Hammond organ. It is unclear whether he was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, or New Orleans, Louisiana.
 
His mother was a missionary who played the piano in the church where his father was a minister. His musical roots are therefore in gospel and Baby Face started out playing the piano for various gospel groups, and spent his early career travelling across the United States, Canada and Cuba. In Chicago he decided to switch from Gospel and Rhythm and Blues to playing in Jazz bands. He played piano with the bands of King Kolax, Joe Houston, Johnny Otis and Big Jay McNeely before switching to organ. In 1960 he arrived in New York City where he met Lou Donaldson and Grant Green, and played on a few Blue Note sessions with them. This led to Willette being signed to Blue Note Records, which recorded his debut album Face to Face. Willette formed his own trio in 1963 and recorded two more albums for Argo.
 
Willette taught himself to play the piano and was inspired by Jimmy Smith's work, however his playing style is heavily influenced by gospel and soul jazz. Before his time in New York City, he was based out of Milwaukee, playing with his vocalist wife Jo Gibson at clubs such as The Flame Club, The Pelican Club, The Moonglow and Max's among others. After stints in New York City, and then California, failing health forced a return to Chicago, where his family resided. He died in 1971.
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Discography
Grant’s First Stand
Blue Note BST 84064
recorded January 1961 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ/USA
Grant Green, guitar
Baby Face Willette, organ
Ben Dixon, drums
Here 'tis
Blue Note BST 84066
recorded January 1961 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ/USA
Lou Donaldson, alto sax
Grant Green, guitar
Baby Face Willette, organ
Dave Bailey, drums
Face To Face
Blue Note BST 84068
recorded January 1961 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ/USA
Baby Face Willette, organ
Fred Jackson, tenor sax
Grant Green, guitar
Ben Dixon, drums
Stop And Listen
Blue Note BST 84084
recorded May 1961 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ/USA
Baby Face Willette, organ
Grant Green, guitar
Ben Dixon, drums
Mo' Rock
Argo LPS-739
recorded March-April 1964 in Chicago, IL/USA
Baby Face Willette, organ
Grant Green, guitar
Ben Dixon, drums
Behind The 8 Ball
Argo LPS-749
recorded November 1964 in Chicago, IL/USA
Baby Face Willette, organ
Ben White, guitar
Jerold Donovan, drums
Gene Barge, alto sax

 
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