Beegie Adair Pass for the Nashville Jazz Legend
Beegie Adaira keystone of the Nashville jazz community, died Sunday, January 23 at the age of 84.
The pianist and singer was equally at home in a variety of musical contexts. She’s recorded more than 35 albums, performed in sessions for country and pop stars, composed jingles, headlined Carnegie Hall and was a jazz teacher.
Bobbe “Beegie” Long grew up in Cave City, Kentucky. After earning a music degree at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, she worked as a piano teacher. Moving to Nashville, she landed a gig with the Hank Garland Quartet. She then spent a decade in the WSMV-TV house band The awakened crew and Afternoon show.
This led her to become an in-demand session musician, playing on recordings or shows by Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, Vince Gill, Henry Mancini, Delbert McClinton, Dinah Shore, Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens, Boots Randolph, Peggy Lee, Hank Snow. , Perry Como, Eddy Arnold, Jerry Reed JJ Cale, Connie Francis, Mandy Barnett, Waylon Jennings, Neil Diamond and more.
She was in the tapes of the television programs The Johnny Cash Show and The Ralph Emery Fashion Show. Beegie Adair has also played on movie soundtracks such as Clint Eastwood In all directions but in bulk (1978), by Burt Reynolds Smokey and the bandit (1977) and Kevin Costner perfect world (1993).
In the early 1970s, she played in a 10-piece rock band called Sweet Thunder. It was there that she met multi-instrumentalist Billy Adair (1947-2014), whom she married in 1975.
She and Billy formed a successful advertising jingle business. Their clients included Purity Dairies, HCA, Allstate, United Airlines, Hamburger Helper, McDonald’s and Wrangler. A former touring musician, Billy Adair has become the backbone of the jazz program at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music.
In 1982, Beegie Adair formed the Adair-Solee quartet with saxophonist Denis Solee. This evolved into the Be-Bop Co-Op, a jazz sextet. She has also performed in The Nashville Jazz Machine, Orchestra Twelve, The Andrew Goodrich Quintet and The Jazz Corporation.
She is best known for her Beegie Adair Trio, which showcased her keyboard virtuosity backed by bass and percussion. The band made their recording debut with 1991 Getaway to New York with Bob Crenshaw (bass) and Greg Hutchinson (drums) as partners.
The trio eventually solidified with Roger Spencer (bass) and Chris Brown (drums) as the rhythm section. Among the many recordings of this formation of the Beggie Adair Trio were The Nat King Cole Collection (1998), Jazz Piano Christmas (1999), Dream Dancing: Cole Porter Songs (2000), Love, Elvis (2000), Jazz on Broadway (2005), Sentimental journey (2006) and Too wonderful for words (2015). That of the trio Franck Sinatra collection won the 1998 Nashville Music Award as Jazz Album of the Year.
His most ambitious work was the collection of six boxed CDs Centennial composers. Released in 2002 on Nashville’s Green Hill label, its 75 songs are drawn from the catalogs of Great American Songbook composers George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin.
Adair also hosted his own radio series, Improvised Thoughts. It was an early 1990s NPR chat/music show where she discussed and shared music with Tony Bennett, Marian McPartland, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Helen Merrill and others.
In 2002, Beegie Adair was honored by being named a Steinway Artist. This put her in the company of Harry Connick Jr., Billy Joel, Diana Krall, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Michel Legrand and Arthur Rubinstein. His solo concerts at Steinway & Sons galleries across the United States drew sold-out crowds.
Starting in 2011, she began making annual appearances at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. Adair also performed at other jazz venues in Manhattan, often with vocalist Monica Ramey. During this time, several of Adair’s albums became bestsellers on the national jazz music charts. She was also a top seller in Japan.
On October 7, 2016, the Beegie Adair Trio sold Carnegie Hall. It was a first for a jazz band in Nashville. She repeated the feat in 2017 and returned to the hallowed hall for several years thereafter.
Adair was an adjunct jazz teacher at Vanderbilt. She taught vocal jazz at the Nashville Jazz Workshop for several years. The Trio had a residence there and she was a member emeritus of the board of directors.
Beegie Adair died at her home in Franklin. His burial will be at Williamson Memorial Gardens. Contributions in his name may be made to the Nashville Jazz Workshop, the Billy Adair Scholarship Fund at Vanderbilt (giving.vanderbilt.edu), the Williamson County Animal Center, or the St. Joseph Indian School.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.