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Article

J. Kent Williams

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[Mjumbe ]

(b Detroit, Sept 3, 1938; d Detroit, Nov 15, 2005). American drummer, percussionist, and jazz educator. His mother sang in church. Brooks cites Elvin Jones as his first important influence. He first worked with Yusef Lateef, then joined Horace Silver’s quintet, of which he was a member from 1959 to 1964; during the same period he recorded with his fellow sidemen Junior Cook (1960) and Blue Mitchell (1961, 1963), as well as with Sonny Red (1960), Buddy Tate and Stanley Turrentine (both 1961), and Shirley Scott (1961–3). Later he performed with Wes Montgomery, Lateef (1967–70), Pharoah Sanders, James Moody (1970–72), Sonny Stitt (recording in 1972–3), Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, Randy Weston, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus (mid-1972–1973, beginning with a tour of Europe), and Abdullah Ibrahim (including recordings, 1973, 1976, 1977), and recorded with Chet Baker (...

Article

Stan Britt

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Dumfries, Scotland, April 21, 1933; d London, Feb 25, 2009). English trumpeter, flugelhorn player, bandleader, composer, writer, and teacher, brother of Mike Carr. His mother played ukulele and banjo. Carr grew up in northeast England, where he took piano lessons from the age of 12 and taught himself trumpet from 1950. After studying at King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne (1952–60, degree, English literature, diploma, education) he served in the army (1956–8), then played with his brother in a band, the Emcee Five (1960 – August 1962). He briefly joined Don Rendell in November 1962 and, after recovering from illness, formed a long-lived quintet with Rendell from 1963 to July 1969; during this period he also worked with Joe Harriott (recording in 1969), Don Byas, and John McLaughlin. In September 1969 he formed his own band, Nucleus, which rapidly became recognized internationally for its experiments with jazz-rock. As a result of its performance at the Montreux International Jazz Festival in ...

Article

Andrew Scott

(Doyle)

(b Detroit, MI, Dec 15, 1929; d North Bergen, NJ, Dec 8, 2021). American jazz pianist, composer, and pedagogue. He first encountered music through the church where his mother worked as a pianist and he first performed. After starting piano lessons at the age of four, he taught himself the boogie-woogie style of Albert Ammons before hearing bebop at a performance by Charlie Parker at Club El Sino in 1947. Having played some of his first professional engagements with Frank Rosolino, Harris became the house pianist at the Blue Bird Inn in Detroit, where he accompanied Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, and Parker, among others. After travelling to New York in 1956 to record with Thad Jones and Hank Mobley, Harris remained in Detroit until 1960, when he moved to New York to join Cannonball Adderley’s group. Harris made his first recording as a leader in 1958...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

(b New York, Feb 25, 1919; d Santa Monica, CA, Sept 7, 2013). American cellist and educator. A Strings magazine obituary gives his birth name as Fedya, but the New York Birth Index gives Frederick. After studying with Pablo Casals he became a professional musician and composer; he was music director for the 7th Army in Europe after World War II and in the early 1950s worked as a piano accompanist to the popular singers Lena Horne and Tony Bennett, among others. His jazz activities took place chiefly in the later 1950s, when he was a member of Chico Hamilton’s quintet (from 1955), made recordings with the group (until 1959, including The Chico Hamilton Quintet with Buddy Collette, 1955, PJ 1209), and appeared with it in the short film Cool and Groovy (1956) and the film documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960). He also recorded as an unaccompanied soloist (...

Article

Brian Priestley

(Daniel)

(b Philadelphia, April 13, 1920; d Sarasota, FL, May 12, 2004). American saxophonist, clarinetist, and teacher. He was a sideman in the big bands of Bob Chester (1942–4) and Woody Herman (1944–6; while with Herman he appeared in the film Earl Carroll Vanities (1945). He then studied with Lennie Tristano and other teachers, and he recorded with Tristano in 1947. With Teo Macero, Charles Mingus, and others, he was a founding member in 1953 of the Jazz Composers’ Workshop; this established an experimental movement in New York which rivaled that in Los Angeles. LaPorta studied at the Manhattan School of Music (BS clarinet 1956, MME 1957), after which he began teaching there. From 1959 to 1985 he served on the faculty at the Berklee School of Music (from 1973 the Berklee College of Music), where he performed in a faculty saxophone quartet. He also played in Herb Pomeroy’s big band from ...

Article

Luigi  

Claude Conyers

[Eugene Louis Facciuto]

(b Steubenville, OH, March 20, 1925; d New York, April 7, 2015). American jazz dance innovator and teacher. Coached by his brother, he developed an act with singing, dancing, and acrobatic tricks that made him a frequent winner of talent shows and that led to his first jobs as vaudeville emcee and band singer. After military service in World War II, he went to Hollywood seeking a career in movie musicals, but his plans were disrupted when a car accident left him partially paralyzed. He developed a series of exercises that enabled him to recover from his injuries and to begin studying ballet and tap dance. Despite initial limitations, he had an eight-year career in which he appeared in more than forty musical films, working with many leading choreographers and dancers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. His importance lies not in his performing career, however, but in the exercise routine he created for his rehabilitation, which became the first complete technique for learning jazz dance. In ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

[Andrew]

(b Wilmington, NC, Nov 3, 1927; d Marietta, GA, Oct 12, 2017). American tenor saxophonist. He moved to Boston in 1945 to enroll in the diploma program at the New England Conservatory. After graduating in 1949 he worked briefly with Roy Eldridge. Drafted in 1950, he served as an instructor in an army band in New Jersey and then, in his second year, as a soldier in the Korean War. Following his discharge in 1952 he took Sam Rivers’s place with the rhythm-and-blues saxophonist Paul “Fat Man” Robinson, whose band was based at the Knickerbocker Cafe in Boston and toured extensively; he remained with Robinson for five years. Between 1957 and 1963 he played for Lionel Hampton, with whom he toured the USA, Europe, and the Far East; among the recordings he made with Hampton is The Many Sides of Lionel Hampton (c1960, Glad Hamp 1001...

Article

Philip Greene

[Ivory, Jr.]

(b Dunedin, FL, Feb 14, 1930; d Jacksonville, FL, April 7, 2013). American pianist. From the age of five he took piano lessons and played for church services. He served in the army (1946–9), and performed in bands at the Lockbourne (Ohio) Air Force Base. After studying at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, in 1954 he joined Lionel Hampton’s band. The following year he formed the Mitchell–Ruff Duo with Willie Ruff, whom he had first met at Lockbourne, and who also played for Hampton. They performed and lectured throughout the USA, and also in the USSR, Mexico, and China; the duo appeared at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago in August 1994 and lasted for 56 years, finally disbanding only in 2011. Mitchell’s playing was elegant and stylish, and he possessed a prodigious technique.

For recording-list, films, and bibliography see Ruff, Willie.

Obituary, New York Times (April 18, 2013)...

Article

(b Gloucester, MA, April 15, 1930; d Gloucester, Aug 11, 2007). Bandleader, trumpeter, and teacher. After studying at the Schillinger House of Music (1950–52) and playing in Boston with Charlie Parker (for one week in June 1953) and Charlie Mariano (later that same year) he toured as a trumpeter with Lionel Hampton (December 1953 – April 1954) and Stan Kenton (September 1954). He then returned to Boston and worked with Serge Chaloff (1954–5). In 1955 he began teaching at Schillinger, which the previous year had taken a new name, the Berklee School of Music. While establishing himself as the cornerstone of this school’s growing jazz program he led a 16-piece swing and bop ensemble that performed regularly at The Stables (1956–60); among its sidemen were Joe Gordon, Jaki Byard (who was then playing tenor saxophone), Boots Mussulli, and later, Mariano and Bill Berry. He was also the leader of another band (...

Article

James M. Doran

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[Sarney]

(b Chicago, Oct 6, 1929). American pianist, arranger, and teacher. Simmons reported to the Lewises (2000) that he was given the forename Sarney but was originally called Billy; he registered for school as Norman. He studied piano at the Chicago School of Music (1945–9) and first performed with Clifford Jordan (1946). Around 1950 he deputized for Lou Levy for two weeks in the group led by Bill Harris (i) at the Blue Note in Chicago. After taking time off to practice in Minneapolis he returned to Chicago, where in July 1952 he began an engagement at the Capitol Lounge as a member of Coleman Hawkins’s small group. He then joined Paul Bascomb’s group (1953). Soon afterwards he worked as the house pianist at the Bee Hive (1953–6), where once again he accompanied Hawkins before forming a trio with Vernel Fournier and Victor Sproles. This trio supported such distinguished soloists as Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray (with whose sextet it recorded in ...

Article

J. Kent Williams

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Chicago, Sept 28, 1930; d Copenhagen, Jan 13, 2010). American drummer and jazz educator, son of Ben Thigpen. His birthdate has been published in reference sources as 28 December, but Lees (1991), in his essay on Thigpen, gives 28 September. He spent his infancy in St. Louis, and after his parents separated he grew up with his mother in Los Angeles, where he remained with another family after she died. His first professional engagement was with Buddy Collette in 1948. He played in rhythm-and-blues bands, joined Cootie Williams at the Savoy Ballroom, New York (September 1951 – February 1952), and then served as a drummer in the army (until November 1954). After returning to New York he worked with Dinah Washington (whose trio he joined just after his discharge), Gil Melle (late 1954–1957), Johnny Hodges, Lennie Tristano (for a few weeks only), Bud Powell (for a few months in ...

Article

James Patrick

(b Ansonia, CO, May 28, 1921). American jazz pianist. As a child performer he appeared in the original production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 1935. From 1939 to 1943 he led the house band at Monroe’s Uptown House in New York, where he was in the forefront of the modernist movement that crystallized in the bop idiom. Though his work was seldom recorded, his harmonically advanced, flowing, and lightly percussive style mark him as an important forerunner of such early modern pianists as Bud Powell, George Wallington, Al Haig, and Duke Jordan. Repelled by the influence of narcotics in jazz, from 1946 he turned increasingly to other musical opportunities. In 1968 he settled in Buffalo, New York, where he performed, lectured at SUNY, and co-directed a state prison music program. He received an honorary doctorate from Buffalo State College in 1999.

L. Feather: Inside Be-bop (New York, 1949/...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

(b New York, July 6, 1936; d Montclair, NJ, Dec 2, 2014). American double bass player and educator. He studied piano before taking up double bass. After graduating from City College of New York, he worked intermittently with Cecil Taylor (1955–9), then performed and recorded with Bernard Peiffer (1960) and Nina Simone (1960–61). From 1962 to 1966 he was a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s bop groups, and in 1963 he recorded with Gillespie’s saxophonist James Moody; his playing as a sideman with Gillespie is well represented by The Day After, from the album Something Old, Something New (1963, Phi. 600091). White then collaborated with Billy Taylor (ii) (1966), worked as a freelance, gave private lessons, and studied at the Manhattan School of Music, graduating in 1968. In addition he played with Eubie Blake, Earl Hines, Moody, Teddy Wilson, and Willie “the Lion” Smith, and recorded with a quintet led by Jimmy Owens and Kenny Barron (...

Article

Gary Kennedy

(Marie)

(b Milburn, NE, Jan 1, 1938; d Madison, WI, April 8, 2020). American pianist, keyboard player, and educator. She attended MacPhail College of Music in Minneapolis (BM and MM) and the University of Oregon (DMA 1977), and taught at Central Michigan University and the Fort Kent campus of the University of Maine. From 1977 she taught at the University of Wisconsin, where she became chair of the jazz studies department in 1998. Between 1977 and 1980 she led a quartet that included the double bass player Joe Fonda. She then formed a trio, in which the double bass player Hans Sturm and Dane Richeson were her sidemen from 1985; it may be heard to excellent effect on her recording Inside Out (1992, Wild 1910). Wildman also performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Roscoe Mitchell, with whom she recorded the album ...

Article

Gary Kennedy

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b New York, July 18, 1939; d Berkeley, CA, April 13, 2016). American alto saxophonist and educator. His year of birth has been published widely as 1941, but 1939 appears in the New York Birth Index and in his questionnaire for this dictionary. His father, a staff pianist with NBC, played classical violin, and during his childhood Yellin unwillingly took lessons on this instrument for several years. Around 1957, while attending Denver University on a basketball scholarship, he heard a recording by Art Pepper and decided to pursue a career as a saxophonist. After returning to New York he studied music with his father, and shortly afterwards he had private clarinet lessons and attended the Juilliard School, where he learned saxophone; he also received private tuition on the instrument from John La Porta. In the 1960s he worked in the big bands of Lionel Hampton (1961–5) and Buddy Rich, with whom he recorded (...