(b Philadelphia, PA, July 19, 1843; d Philadelphia, PA, 1918). American pianist, singer, educator, and composer. He studied music with his father Thomas à Becket Sr. (b 17 March 1808; d 6 Jan 1890) and in Philadelphia public schools. The father, a music teacher, actor and composer, wrote Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. In 1855 Thomas à Becket Jr. performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in a work written by his father. He developed into one of the finest, most sought after accompanists in the city, joining with leading artists and singing groups. Member and president of the Mendelssohn Club, he sang in a series of 35 light operas produced at the Amateur Drawing Room (1868–72) and accompanied the Orpheus Club (1877–98). An important educator, from 1873 until he died à Becket taught and played the organ at Girard College, a residential school for orphaned boys. À Becket became a member of a group of professional musicians who evaluated music teaching methods in the Philadelphia Public Schools. À Becket family archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts include diaries (...
Martha Furman Schleifer
(bToronto, Jan 27, 1910; dCanada, Nov 1970). Americanreed player. He played alto saxophone and in 1942 recorded with Jack Teagarden. After moving to Hollywood he performed and recorded with the bandleaders Horace Heidt (1943–5, 1948–9) and Skinnay Ennis (1945–8), then toured Europe and Asia and recorded with Les Brown, first on clarinet and alto saxophone (...
(b Pittsburgh, March 23, 1932). American trumpeter and flugelhorn player. He studied music in Pittsburgh (1947–50), Evanston, Illinois (with Renold Schilke of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1951–3), and at Wayne State University, Detroit (mid-1950s), where he worked for seven nights a week in the band at the Flame Show Bar. From 1956 to 1957 he played at Klein’s Showbar with Yusef Lateef, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Louis Hayes, and Tommy Flanagan, after which he was a member of Barry Harris’s band at the Bluebird Inn. He performed with Wild Bill Davis (1961), then joined Count Basie while working in a club in Washington, DC; he toured and recorded with Basie from August 1961 to July 1969, and in 1965 appeared as a soloist with the group on Blues for Ilean on the show “Jazz from WGN-TV.” After moving to Los Angeles he worked in television, and recorded with Ray Brown and Milt Jackson (both ...
Gary W. Kennedy
(b Fall River, MA, May 31, 1947). American alto saxophonist. He attended the Berklee School of Music (1966–71), after which he moved to Hollywood and worked in various local bands. He later toured internationally as a member of Ray Charles’s orchestra (1973–5), in which he succeeded David “Fathead” Newman, and then settled in Providence, Rhode Island, where he led a fusion group, Channel One (1979–84). He was a regular member of Artie Shaw’s orchestra from 1985 to 1987, and continued to work with him intermittently until 1994; during this time he also co-led a quintet with the leader of Shaw’s band, Dick Johnson. Abate performed in California, Quebec, and Spain with Jerome Richardson, and appeared with Red Rodney at Town Hall, New York, in a tribute concert to Charlie Parker. In 1991 he made his first recording as a leader and by the late 1990s he was working mainly on the East Coast and in Europe. An effective bop soloist, he has often worked in groups incorporating two saxophones. He also plays tenor and soprano saxophone, and flute....
Rainer E. Lotz
(bMinneapolis, May 7, 1900; dMinneapolis, Sept 15, 1975). Americanbandleader and violinist. He began his career playing light and classical music as a member of J. Rosamond Johnson’s orchestra (1920–25). In 1925 he recorded as a soloist with Clara Smith (If you only knowed, Col. 14058D, and You better keep the home fires burning, Col. 14062D) and began to lead his own band. The following year he directed the Savoy Bearcats, and in 1927 he reorganized the group for a tour of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay; he also took a band to England. Between 1928 and 1939 he toured extensively in Europe and visited India twice. After returning to the USA he organized a band in 1940 for Ethel Waters, toured with a small group, and then settled in Chicago, where he played regularly with a trio until 1964. Although he was not a jazz soloist, Abbey employed excellent sidemen, including Fletcher Allen, Emile Christian, Bill Coleman, Peter DuConge, and Crickett Smith. His jazz recordings as a leader remain unissued except for ...
H. Wiley Hitchcock
revised by Katherine K. Preston
(b Chicago, Dec 9, 1850; d Salt Lake City, Jan 5, 1891). American soprano and impresario. She studied first with her father and by the age of nine was performing professionally. She joined an itinerant concert troup in 1866 and after it disbanded went to New York to study with Achille Errani; her concert début there was in December 1871. In 1872 she went abroad to study with Sangiovanni in Milan and Marchesi, Wartel and Delle Sedie in Paris. Her operatic début at Covent Garden was as Marie in La fille du régiment (2 May 1876), but her contract was cancelled when she refused to sing Violetta on moral grounds.
Abbott secretly married Eugene Wetherell (d 1889); in 1876 they returned to the USA, where she gave concerts. Her American operatic début was in New York on 23 February 1877, again as Marie. In ...
(b Forestville, NY, Jan 25, 1887; d Miami Beach, FL, Jan 31, 1995). American stage director, producer, playwright, and actor. During a 92-year career in the theater Abbott influenced the development of musical comedy and helped launch many important careers. He made his Broadway acting debut in 1913 and continued to act during the 1920s. He also began working as both a playwright and director. After his first hit, The Fall Guy, Abbott began to write and stage fast-paced melodramas. In 1932 he co-produced a farce called 20th Century; it was in this genre that he defined a fast-paced theatrical style that became known as the Abbott Touch. He was the leading director of musical comedies. Abbott also wrote the books for On your Toes (1936), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940), the scores of which were composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In ...
(bNew York, Jan 30, 1927; dNew York, Oct 2, 1993). Double bass and ‘ūd player. His early influences included the music played and sung by his father, who was Sudanese, and the Middle Eastern and East European music he heard growing up in Brooklyn’s multiracial community. He began learning violin at the age of seven and later studied double bass, piano, and tuba and attended the High School of the Performing Arts in New York. At this time he played Greek, Syrian, and Gypsy music professionally at weddings and other occasions. After playing double bass with Art Blakey (1945–8), Don Byas (1946), Sam “the Man” Taylor (1954), and Randy Weston (1954–7) he worked with Thelonious Monk (1957–8), with whom he recorded in performance at the Five Spot in New York and appeared on television in the CBS series “The Seven Lively Arts,” as well as on “The Sound of Jazz” (both ...
Gary W. Kennedy
[Bland, Leroy ]
(b New York, May 10, 1947). American trumpeter and leader. He began on trumpet at the age of 13, studying formally while in college. In the 1960s he took up Islam and adopted his Muslim name. After working briefly with the Master Brotherhood he toured with rhythm-and-blues bands. In 1972 he formed his group Abdullah, which often included Vincent Chancey, and worked as music director for the dancer Diane McIntyre (1973–83). Having been involved with Sam Rivers’s Studio Rivbea from 1972, he appeared at the studio’s opening with the group Melodic Art-tette, with Charles Brackeen, Ronnie Boykins, and Roger Blank. Most notably he performed and recorded with Sun Ra’s Arkestra from 1975 until 1978, and again regularly from c1988, continuing with the band after the leader’s death in 1992.
Abdullah worked as a sideman with Rivers’s big band (1977–8), Hamiet Bluiett, Arthur Blythe (...
Gregory E. Smith
revised by Barry Kernfeld
[Michael Christian Joseph, Jr.]
(bNew York, July 2, 1942). American pianist, arranger, and composer. His father was a guitarist and bandleader. Abene performed and recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in Marshall Brown’s International Youth Band (1958) and studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music (1959–61), though he is primarily self-taught. After working with Clark Terry, Jimmy Nottingham, and others at the Cork ’n Bib on Long Island (1960) he played piano with Don Ellis (1960–61), Maynard Ferguson (1961–5), for whom he also wrote arrangements, Buddy Rich, Harry Edison, and Georgie Auld (in Las Vegas, 1963). From the mid-1960s he performed regularly in New York at the Half Note (with the quintets led by Al Cohn and Zoot Sims and by Bill Berry and Richie Kamuca, 1965–7), Bradley’s (1972–5), Sweet Basil (1978), and Freddy’s (with the singer Barbara Rankin, ...
(b Port Chester, NY, Dec 16, 1944; d Cortlandt Manor, NY, Aug 22, 2017). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. He grew up in Greenwich, CT, and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was primarily self taught until he studied at the Berklee College of Music (1962–6) and with Jack Petersen. Abercrombie joined Johnny Hammond’s touring band after the blues organist had spotted him performing with other Berklee students at Paul’s Mall in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of North Texas, in 1969 he moved to New York where he performed and recorded in Billy Cobham’s jazz-rock band Dreams (1970), joined Chico Hamilton’s group, and recorded with Gato Barbieri (1971), Barry Miles (1972), and Gil Evans (1974). Abercrombie attracted wider attention performing with Cobham’s fusion band Spectrum from 1974. He also toured with Jack DeJohnette and recorded his debut album, ...
Nicholas Michael Butler
(fl 1773–1820). Scottish violinist, viola d’amore player, and teacher. Abercromby was born in Scotland but educated in French Flanders. After hearing Abercromby play at a St Cecilia Society concert in Charleston in 1773, Josiah Quincy Jr. of Boston wrote, “A Frenchman just arrived, [who] played a first fiddle and solo incomparably, better than any I ever had heard.” During the American Revolutionary War, Abercromby remained in Charleston, where he advertised to teach guitar and dance, and performed at concerts during the British occupation of the city. He left Charleston in 1791, and over the next two decades lived in Bucks County, PA, Baltimore, Richmond, and Lexington. By 1815 he was in Tennessee, where he opened a music academy in Nashville.J. Wooldridge, E. E. Hoss, and W. B. Reese: History of Nashville, Tennessee (Nashville, TN, 1890) J. Carden: Music in Lexington before 1840 (Lexington, KY, 1980) N. B. Butler...
revised by Barry Kernfeld
(bBaltimore, March 10, 1923; dLos Angeles, Jan 27, 2000). Pianist. He studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music. After playing french horn in an army band he returned to New York, where he worked with Snub Mosley (1948), Wilbur De Paris (1948–9), Kai Winding and Bill Harris (1951–2), Chuck Wayne (1952), Sy Oliver, and Louie Bellson (1954); he also recorded with Eddie South (1947) and Louis Armstrong (1951). From 1954 to 1957 he toured and recorded with Ella Fitzgerald (he may be seen accompanying her in the film Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1955), and after a brief period of freelancing he worked from 1958 to 1959 as accompanist to Carmen McRae. During these years he recorded with groups led by Benny Carter and Oscar Pettiford (both 1955), in a leaderless rhythm section with Jimmy Raney, Pettiford, and Kenny Clarke for the educational Music Minus One label (also ...
[Abrams, Richard Louis]
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 19, 1930; d New York, Oct 29, 2017). American pianist, composer, and administrator. After receiving private piano lessons, he studied at the Chicago Musical College and taught himself the system of composition devised by Joseph Schillinger. He began to work professionally in 1948 and performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Chicago during the 1950s, accompanying visiting musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, and Max Roach. After composing and arranging for the Walter “King” Fleming band in the mid-1950s, Abrams joined the hard bop ensemble MJT+3 and made his recording debut on the group’s album DADDY-O PRESENTS MJT+3 (1957, VJ 1013). Beginning in 1961 Abrams led the Experimental Band, a composer-centered rehearsal ensemble whose members included the double bass player Donald Rafael Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, and the reed player Joseph Jarman. He subsequently co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians...
[Abramson, Raymond Joseph]
(bNew York, Jan 23, 1920). Americantenor saxophonist, brother of Lee Abrams. In the early 1940s he played in the resident band at Monroe’s Uptown House, which accompanied Coleman Hawkins in performances and on the first studio recordings of bop (16 February 1944); he remained with the group when it became the core of Dizzy Gillespie’s first big band in 1945. The following year he recorded with Kenny Clarke and (during a tour of Europe) Don Redman; his solo playing is well represented on Redman’s For Europeans Only (1946, Ste. 6020–21). His own band (formed 1947) recorded with the singer Billy Stewart (1947, 1949) and under Abrams’s name (1948); Fats Navarro and Coleman Hawkins were among his sidemen. After playing with Andy Kirk (1947–8) he rejoined Gillespie and recorded with Cecil Payne (both 1949). He toured and made recordings with Hot Lips Page (...
Charles Barber and José A. Bowen
(b Thessaloniki, Jan 6, 1903; d Salt Lake City, Sept 22, 1993). American conductor of Spanish-Portuguese descent. He was taken to Switzerland at the age of six and studied medicine at the University of Lausanne before, on Busoni’s recommendation, he moved to Berlin in 1922 to study with Weill. He conducted in provincial German theatres and finally in Berlin until 1933, when he moved to Paris to conduct the Balanchine ballet company and the première of Weill’s ballet Die sieben Todsünden. The following year he toured Australia with the British National Opera Company. On the recommendation of Walter and Furtwängler, he was hired by the Metropolitan Opera, making his début with Samson et Dalila in 1936. In an era of specialization, the mainly negative reviews for his mixed repertory of French opera and Wagner forced him out in 1938. He turned to Broadway, where he renewed his association with Weill, conducting the premières in New York of ...
(b Havana, Cuba, Feb 26, 1942). Cuban-American guitarist, composer, arranger, and educator; immigrated to the United States and naturalized in 1975. He studied piano and composition at the Conservatorio Orbón in Havana, and guitar under Héctor García and Julian Bream. Abril participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961) and was consequently incarcerated for twenty-two months in Cuba. Returning to the United States, he established a performing and recording career as a classical guitarist, whose arrangements for the instrument have been published worldwide. He holds the PhD degree in music theory from Florida State University.
A series of medical issues with his hands during the 1980s subsequently redirected his focus to composition. Rejecting atonality and traditional developmental procedures in his early works, Abril cultivated a compositional style characterized by tonal and often polytonal harmony and linear writing. Although not a folklorist, he shows an affinity for Cuban musical culture, particularly in the rhythmic component. His compositions include ...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b nr Gueydan, LA, June 27, 1913; d Basile, LA, May 13, 1981). American cajun accordionist, singer, and songwriter. He came from a musical family; his father, mother, and at least one uncle played instruments. He was among the second generation of Cajun musicians to record, in the 1930s, and helped lead a revival of accordion and traditional Cajun music after World War II. He sometimes performed with Amédé Ardoin. The titles of some of his best known songs, such as “Service Blues” and “French Blues, indicate that blues was a major influence. In 1949 Abshire had a regional (Gulf Coast) hit with “The Pine Grove Blues,” after which he named his band, the Pine Grove Boys. Its various lineups included such musicians as Will Kegley (fiddle), Ernest Thibodeaux (guitar), Atlas Frugé (steel guitar), and Robert Bertrand (fiddle and vocals), and its best known recordings were released by Swallow Records. In the 1960s Abshire performed with Dewey Balfa and his brothers at colleges and festivals across the country and in doing so helped bring Cajun music to the national folk music circuit. He was featured in several documentary films, including ...
(b Honolulu, HI, August 13, 1958). American recording artist and performer of Filipino descent. A Filipino American artist, she grew up in National City, CA, and excelled at piano, violin, and percussion during her childhood. While an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, she played keyboards in various Los Angeles jazz clubs and attracted the attention of Quincy Jones. Having been introduced to traditional Philippine music by Bayani de Leon, she studied kulintang (gong-chime) with Aga Mayo Butocan. The influence of Philippine music may be heard on her first album Adventure (Japan Sony/Epic, 1987), which was released in the United States as Jungle Wave (CBS, 1987). Her single “Adventure” reached number one on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play Charts in 1988. In the same year Academia received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to found the World Kulintang Institute and Research Studies Center; the institute released the album ...