(b Welwyn Garden City, April 17, 1930). English jazz trombonist, arranger and bandleader. He studied the trombone and the double bass at the GSM in London, and formed his first traditional jazz band in 1949. In 1953 he helped to organize a band that was led by Ken Colyer, at that time the most ardent British propagandist for traditional New Orleans music. The following year Barber took over the band; Colyer was replaced by Pat Halcox, and the ensemble soon became one of the most popular and technically accomplished groups of its kind. From the mid-1950s Barber helped foster British interest in blues by bringing over such American musicians as Muddy Waters, the harmonica player Sonny Terry and the guitarist and singer Brownie McGhee. He made several tours of the USA beginning in 1959, and also recorded two albums with his American Jazz Band, which included Sidney De Paris, Edmond Hall and Hank Duncan. Barber expanded his interests, recording classic rags (scored for his band) long before the popular rediscovery of Scott Joplin, and working with musicians from other areas of jazz (notably the Jamaican saxophonists Bertie King and Joe Harriott). Renewed interest in traditional jazz in the early 1960s brought wide success to Barber and his group, which included as its singer his wife, Ottilie Patterson. After rhythm-and-blues achieved general popularity in the early 1960s he re-formed his group as Chris Barber’s Jazz and Blues Band, and, while retaining his roots in New Orleans jazz, engaged rock and blues musicians guitarist John Slaughter and the drummer Pete York. During the 1970s the band toured frequently in Europe. In ...
Charles Fox and Digby Fairweather
(b Brooklyn, NY, April 29, 1929; d Hackensack, NJ, Feb 17, 2006). American conga player, bandleader, and producer of Puerto Rican descent. He began playing percussion informally during time in Germany as part of the US occupation army (1946–9). Returning to New York City in 1949, he participated in the lively jam-session scene in Harlem, playing bongos in sessions with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1957, he replaced Mongo Santamaría in Tito Puente’s band. By 1960, he became the house percussionist for various jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside), recording his first album as leader for Riverside in 1961. The Charanga La Moderna was his first full-fledged Latin dance band, beginning in 1962. In 1963, his song El Watusi became the first Latin tune to enter the Billboard Top 20. By 1990, his salsa career stagnant, he formed a small, jazz-influenced sextet, New World Spirit, recording a number of Grammy-nominated albums....
(b Chicago, IL, 1941; d Palos Heights, IL, May 21, 2012). American polka bandleader, singer, and bass player. He was best known as the leader of his band, the Versatones. The son of two Polish immigrant musicians, he grew up in northern Wisconsin and formed a rock and roll band, which played backup for such stars as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Under the name of Eddie (or Eddy) Bell, he recorded “Hi-Yo Silver” and other songs on the Mercury label. The Lucky Four label released his well-liked novelty song, “The Great Great Pumpkin.” At the insistence of his good friend and fellow musician Chet Kowalkowski, he moved back to Chicago and joined Versatones in 1963, a six-piece polka band that played both traditional and modernized repertoire. The result ended up changing the polka world, and they were quickly invited to record. Their first disc was Polka Parade (...
(b St Peter, Barbados, 1953). English reggae guitarist, bandleader and producer. He grew up in London where in the early 1970s he co-founded Matumbi, one of the first reggae groups in Britain, and also ran the Jah Sufferer sound system. Although he recorded with such rock and punk bands as the Pop Group and the Slits, his true strength was dub music which he recorded under the name Blackbeard (Strictly Dub Wize, Tempus, 1978). Brain Damage (Fontana, 1981), released under his own name, provides an overview of Bovell's creative production, with its shrieks, deep echo effects and syncopated hi-hats. In 1979 Matumbi recorded Point of View which placed traditional reggae toasting in a big band setting. Bovell is perhaps best known for his collaborations, in the studio and on tour, with the political dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. Among their best work is Dread Beat an' Blood...
revised by Peter LaChapelle
[Donnell Clyde ]
(b Grand, OK, 1910; d Oakland, CA, Nov 5, 1969). American country music fiddler, singer, and bandleader. The son of a sharecropper, he became the leading figure on the Los Angeles western swing scene. He received violin training from a German immigrant teacher at an all-Native American school in Oregon. He traveled with several hillbilly acts, arriving in Los Angeles in 1937. Cooley performed in western movies before assuming leadership of a band originally organized by Jimmy Wakely. He stressed his Dust Bowl migrant background in publicity and claimed that he was a quarter Cherokee to promote his career. He added harpists, a fiddling trio, and as many as 20 performers to his band. In 1942 the DJ Al Jarvis proclaimed Cooley the King of Western Swing after his band placed well in a local poll to determine the King of Swing. Cooley’s “Shame on You” (OK), featuring vocals by Tex Williams, became the number-one country recording of ...
(b Stockholm, Dec 20, 1924; d Stockholm, Sept 2, 2008). Swedish jazz alto saxophonist, clarinettist and bandleader. He led his first small group in 1942 and appeared during the next few years with several Swedish dance and jazz orchestras. In 1949 he performed at the Paris Jazz Fair, which brought international recognition to Swedish jazz, and made his first recordings as a leader. From 1951 to 1968 he led a group that over the years included many of the foremost Swedish musicians, including Lars Gullin and Jan Johansson. He was also a member of the Swedish Radio Big Band (1956–65) and the leader of its successor, the Radiojazzgruppen (1967–78). He performed in America, appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, and recording with Terry Clarke (Darktown Meeting, 1978, Phon.) and Benny Carter (Skyline Dive, 1982, Phon.). He was also active in the performance of jazz-orientated popular music, such as his collaboration with Paul Simon (...
(b London, May 28, 1907; d London, Dec 23, 1958). English jazz pianist, composer and bandleader. The son of a West African barrister and a German mother, he was educated in England. During the late 1920s he travelled to the USA, where he wrote arrangements for Earl Hines’s orchestra and was commissioned by Paul Whiteman to compose new works. In 1933 he returned to Britain and formed a band made up of two clarinets, bassoon, three saxophones, piano, double bass and drums – an unconventional instrumentation for jazz and dance music at that time. For this and later ensembles he wrote many short pieces, including Serenade for a Wealthy Widow/Angry Jungle (1933, Col.), The Autocrat before Breakfast (1934, Col.), Dodging a Divorcee (1935, Col.) and Swing for Roundabout (1936, Decca). In 1934 Foresythe returned to the USA to perform with Whiteman, and the following year he recorded in New York with a band that included Benny Goodman, John Kirby and Gene Krupa; apart from this occasion, however, he made little use of improvisation. After World War II he led another band, but his final years were spent in obscurity, playing the piano in small drinking clubs in London around Soho and Kensington....
(b Manitowoc, WI, Aug 2, 1910; d Manitowoc, WI, Aug 29, 1966). American polka trumpeter and bandleader. He was the key musician to establish the Wisconsin Bohemian style of Czech American polka music, frequently called “Gosz-style.” Born on a farm in eastern Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County, he grew up in a musical family. The numerous Czechs in the area were musically active, and since the late 19th century, nearly every village had had a brass band. His father, Paul Gosz, started a family polka band in 1921, with Paul and four sons comprising most of the seven-piece band’s personnel. Like the village Czech bands, the preferred lineup included two trumpeters and two clarinet players, but the reed players were expected to double on saxophone, a modern addition. For rhythm, the band featured a tuba, piano, and drums, replacing the alto and tenor “peck horns.”
Gosz’s formal training was scanty. At age seven he took just one piano lesson. He informed the teacher he couldn’t make it to the next lesson because he had to play for a dance. At age 11 he joined his father’s band and became its bandleader in ...
(b Prague, Czechoslovakia, April 17, 1948). American jazz keyboard player, composer, producer, drummer, and bandleader of Czech birth. His mother, Vlasta Pruchova, was a jazz singer in Prague and his father played bass and vibraphone. He attended the Academy of Musical Arts in Prague and formed the Junior Trio with the bass player Miroslav Vitous and the drummer Alan Vitous, which lasted from 1962 to 1966. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR in 1968, he moved to the USA to accept a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music. However, he abandoned his studies after a year and a half to work with Sarah Vaughan.
As a member of John McLaughlin’s group the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971–3), Hammer played electric and acoustic pianos and began using the Minimoog synthesizer (on the album Birds of Fire), quickly becoming a major influence on other keyboard players. Hammer is often cited as having developed a synthesizer style that mimics that of an electric guitar, but he instead credits the influence of Indian and Eastern European music. Several albums on which Hammer performed with Elvin Jones during the early 1970s helped to introduce the synthesizer to more mainstream jazz. ...
(b Leipzig, Germany, Feb 4, 1925; d New York, NY, April 7, 2003). German jazz pianist and bandleader. She began learning to play piano at nine years old and apparently first became interested in jazz in her teens. However, she studied painting at the Academy of Arts in Leipzig and it was only around 1940, during World War II, that she began to pursue jazz performance seriously. After the war she formed her own group in Munich. She started recording with Hans Koller in the early 1950s and in 1953 founded a bop group that included Joki Freund and Emil Mangelsdorff. Together they recorded the album New Faces–New Sounds from Germany (1954, BN). Her playing impressed the critic Leonard Feather and, with his assistance in obtaining a visa, Hipp decided to move to the United States. After her arrival in New York in November 1955, Feather booked her to play at the jazz club Hickory House in ...
(b Sofia, 8 Dec 1934; d Sofia, 12 July 2008). Bulgarian conductor, composer, pianist, and arranger, of Armenian origins, remembered for his prominent role as a musician and public figure in the development of popular music in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Technical University in Sofia (1957) and studied in the Faculty of Theory at the Bulgarian State Conservatory. In 1953 he joined the band Jazz of the Young. By the end of the 1950s he played the piano also at the Satiric Theatre Orchestra and founded Studio 5, a band famous for its supportive role in promoting young singers. Following a similar purpose, later on he initiated Trombata na Vili (‘The Horn of Vili’), a radio contest for discovering new talented pop singers. Since 1960 Kazassian’s music activities have been closely associated with the newly created Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio where he took successively the positions of pianist (...
(b Poznań, April 27, 1931; d Warsaw, April 23, 1969). Polish composer, jazz pianist and bandleader . He studied the piano at the Poznań Conservatory in the late 1930s and the 40s along with medicine at the Poznań Medical Academy. In 1954 he took part in the first unofficial jazz festival in Kraków and formed his first group. In 1956 he formed a sextet which achieved success at the Sopot Jazz Festival (1956 and 1957), and in 1958 Komeda appeared in the first series of Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, Warsaw. He wrote the music for Polanski’s short film Dwaj ludzie z szafa ̧ (‘Two People with a Wardrobe’, 1958), and subsequently wrote his first score for a feature film, Do widzenia, do jutra (‘Goodbye, until Tomorrow’, 1960). He took part in performances of jazz and poetry and, from 1960, frequently toured Europe. His recording ...
revised by Digby Fairweather
(b Eton, May 23, 1921; d Barnet, Herts, April 25, 2008). English jazz trumpeter, clarinettist and bandleader. He first played jazz while a schoolboy at Eton and continued to perform during his wartime service with the Grenadier Guards. He began playing professionally when he joined George Webb’s Dixielanders in 1947, and the following year he formed his own band. Lyttelton’s early outlook, as both trumpeter and bandleader, was based on the example of Louis Armstrong, and his group initially adhered to revivalist principles; later, just as his playing reflected the influences of such musicians as Roy Eldridge and Buck Clayton, so his bands moved from the traditional New Orleans style to that used by groups during the swing era. Lyttelton’s recorded work of 1949–59 is now presented in chronology on his own label Calligraph (‘The Parlophones 1949–59’) and his later work similarly on this label. From 1949...
( b Frankfurt, Sept 5, 1928; d Frankfurt, July 25, 2005). German jazz trombonist and bandleader . He learnt the violin as a child and taught himself the guitar; his brother, the alto saxophonist Emil Mangelsdorff, introduced him to jazz. After working as a jazz guitarist, Albert took up the trombone (1948). In the 1950s he played with the bands of Joe Klimm (1950–53), Hans Koller (1953–4), with the radio orchestra of Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt (1955–7) as well as with the Frankfurt All Stars (1955–6). At the same time he led a hard bop quintet together with Joki Freund. In 1958 he became the musical director of the newly-founded Jazz Ensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks and represented Germany in Marshall Brown's International Youth Band. In 1961 he formed a quintet with Heinz Sauer, Günter Kronberg, Günter Lenz and Ralf Hübner which became one of the most celebrated European bands of the 1960s. During this time he also recorded with John Lewis (...
(bKirk Sandall, Yorks., Jan 4, 1942). English jazz guitarist, composer and bandleader. He studied the piano and violin from the age of nine, taking classical lessons and then taught himself to play acoustic guitar: he learnt blues before turning to flamenco, and then jazz. In the early 1960s he became involved with the blues movement in London, playing electric guitar with Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Alexis Korner among others; he also began playing with jazz musicians including John Surman. After working with the free jazz vibraphonist Gunter Hampel in Germany, he moved to the USA in February 1969 to join Tony Williams's group Lifetime and Miles Davis; he figures prominently on Davis’s pioneering jazz-rock album Bitches Brew (Col., 1969). McLaughlin became a disciple of the guru Sri Chinmoy in 1970, and the following year formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which achieved a popular success approaching that of the most famous contemporary rock groups. The album ...
J. Bradford Robinson
(b Okmulgee, OK, Sept 30, 1922; d Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept 8, 1960). American jazz double bass player, cellist, and bandleader. Of mixed African American and Native American heritage, he was born into a large, musical family and learned many instruments in the family’s touring band, which was based in Minneapolis. In 1943 he was engaged as a bass player for Charlie Barnet’s band, with which he traveled to New York in the same year. After working with a quintet led by Roy Eldridge (1943), he found a place in the emerging bop scene; he worked as coleader, with Dizzy Gillespie, of a combo at the Onyx (1943–4). Personal differences caused this pioneering group to disband, but one year later he and Gillespie recorded together. From 1944 Pettiford played in numerous small bop combos and in various big bands, notably Duke Ellington’s (1945–8) and Woody Herman’s (...
revised by Digby Fairweather
(b London, Jan 28, 1927; d London, Dec 23, 1996). English jazz night-club owner, tenor saxophonist and bandleader. He first played the soprano saxophone and took up the tenor instrument at the age of 15. After touring with the trumpeter Johnny Claes (1944–5), Ted Heath (1946) and others, he was one of a number of British players who worked on transatlantic liners (1946–8) solely to travel to the USA to hear the music played by such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. From 1948 he played in a number of bands including the Club Eleven, the Jazz Couriers (which he co-led with Tubby Hayes) and the Clarke-Boland Big Band, as well as leading his own quartets and quintets.
In 1959, he established Ronnie Scott’s night club in Gerard Street in Soho. It became the most important venue for jazz performance in the UK, especially after it moved to Frith Street in ...
(Ward Martin Tabares)
(b Norwalk, CT, Sept 2, 1928; d New Rochelle, NY, June 18, 2014). American jazz pianist, bandleader and composer. As a child he was exposed to Cape Verdean folk music performed by his father, who was of Portuguese descent. He began studying the saxophone and the piano in high school, when his influences were blues singers such as Memphis Slim and boogie-woogie and bop pianists, especially Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. In 1950 Stan Getz made a guest appearance in Hartford, Connecticut, with Silver’s trio, and subsequently engaged the group to tour regularly with him. Silver remained with Getz for a year, during which time three of his compositions, Penny, Potter’s Luck (written for Tommy Potter) and Split Kick, were recorded by the band for the Roost label.
By 1951 Silver had developed sufficient confidence to move to New York, where he performed with such established professionals as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Oscar Pettiford and Art Blakey. In ...
[Hezekiah Le Roy Gordon ]
(b Portsmouth, OH, Aug 13, 1909; d Munich, Germany, Sept 25, 1967). American jazz violinist, singer, and bandleader. Growing up in a musical family, Smith earned a scholarship to Johnson C. Smith University (North Carolina) but left in 1926 to join Aunt Jemima’s Revue. From 1927 to 1930, he played with the Alfonso Trent Band, serving as conductor, principal soloist, and occasional vocalist (recording “After You’ve Gone” in 1930). He moved to Buffalo, New York, in 1930 to lead his own group.
Smith moved to New York in 1936, where he led a sextet at the Onyx Club. The band moved to Los Angeles for a brief engagement at the Famous Door (1937–8) before disbanding. From 1938 to 1945, Smith formed several groups, working mostly in Chicago and New York, including another stint at Onyx (1944–5). Between 1945 and 1956, Smith toured and recorded with others (Sun Ra in ...
revised by Digby Fairweather
[Michael John David ]
(b High Wycombe, March 21, 1936). English jazz composer, pianist and bandleader . After working in an accountant’s office and studying painting he took up music professionally; he was largely self-taught and has an empirical approach to composition. Around 1960 he organized a jazz workshop in Plymouth, where he wrote for a small ensemble that included John Surman, then in 1962 he moved to London. From that time he has written pieces for a number of his own ensembles: the Mike Westbrook Band (1962–72), the Mike Westbrook Concert Band (1967–71), the multi-media group Cosmic Circus (1970–72), the jazz-rock band Solid Gold Cadillac (1971–4), the Mike Westbrook Brass Band (established in 1973 to perform in the theatre and on television), the Mike Westbrook Orchestra (formed in 1974), A Little Westbrook Music (formed in 1982) and the Dance Band (formed in ...