(b Plovdiv, 19 Dec 1937). Bulgarian composer, pianist, conductor, arranger, and bandleader. He was internationally acknowledged for his innovative ideas, cross-cultural experiments, and contribution to the concept of fusion and free improvisation. Classically trained at the Bulgarian State Conservatory (1955–60) under Pancho Vladigerov (composition) and Andrey Stoyanov (piano), he is the author of numerous compositions in styles and genres including jazz, pop, symphony, chamber, film, and theatrical music. He conducted the Radio and Television Big Band in Sofia (1962–6) and led his own avant-garde quartet, Jazz Focus’65 (1965–8), which won the Critic’s Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967. In 1970 he left Bulgaria for political reasons and moved to the USA where he joined the Don Ellis Orchestra (1971–8), and later collaborated with the classical/jazz quartet Free Flight. He also played with outstanding jazz musicians including Art Pepper, Billy Cobham, and Dave Holland, among many others....
(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...
(b Cincinnati, OH, June 7, 1956). American songwriter, producer, and recording industry executive. One of the most influential African American music executives of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Reid shared songwriting or production credits on a string of major crossover albums in the 1980s and 1990s, among them Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel (1988), Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl (1988), Whitney Houston’s I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), The Bodyguard soundtrack album (1992), and TLC’s CrazySexyCool (1994). His first professional success came as a drummer for the R&B group the Deele, which featured singer Babyface Edmonds. In 1989 Reid and Edmonds began producing hits together in Los Angeles before starting LaFace Records in Atlanta under a joint partnership with Arista Records. LaFace mentored a new generation of artists including Usher, Outkast, Toni Braxton, and TLC, making Atlanta an important hub in the popular music industry. Reid and Edmonds collaborated on writing or producing 33 number one singles during their partnership, and in ...
(b New York, NY, Sept 19, 1952). American producer, composer, and guitarist. At the helm of the band Chic , Rodgers and his bass-playing production partner Bernard Edwards (1952–96) epitomized the very best of the disco era while transcending the genre with one of popular music’s most dynamic and cohesive rhythm sections. Individually with highly distinctive guitar licks, Rodgers also successfully transitioned into the 1980s, producing platinum pop records for David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, and many other major acts. This effectively made him one of that decade’s most highly regarded and commercially bankable industry figures.
Rodgers and Edwards met in 1970, becoming members of the Big Apple Band that backed R&B vocal group New York City in 1973, and eventually formed Chic in 1977, releasing an eponymous debut album that year on Atlantic Records that included the Top Ten hit and gold record “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah).” The follow-up album ...
(b Upper Darby, PA, June 22, 1948). American singer-songwriter, composer, and producer. He began his career as a teenager singing with the bands Woody’s Truck Stop and the more successful rock quartet Nazz. As a member of the latter group, he wrote two of their hit songs, “Hello, it’s me” and “Open your Eyes” (both 1968). After releasing three albums with Nazz, Rundgren left the group and worked as a solo artist, recording most of the vocal and instrumental parts himself. He cited the songwriter Laura Nyro as a significant influence. During the early 1970s Rundgren worked with a trio, Runt, recording two albums, the second entitled Runt: the Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971), and his own two-record set, Something/Anything? (1972). The latter album brought him unprecedented fame through the singles “I Saw the Light” and a new version of “Hello, it’s me.” The recordings ...
[Bridges, Claude Russell]
(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942; d Nashville, Nov 10, 2016). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with the Wrecking Crew the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, the accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in ...
(b El Palomar, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 19, 1951). Argentine musician, recording producer, and film music composer. With his bands Arco Iris and Soluna, Santaolalla was one of the pioneers of Argentine “rock nacional” in the 1960s. In 1978 he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he formed the punk-influenced band Wet Picnic. In the early 1980s his interest in folk-rock fusion helped develop a unique Latin American rock and pop sound. He has produced albums for Argentine, Mexican, Colombian, and Chilean artists such as León Gieco, Divididos, Bersuit Vergarabat, Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, Molotov, Julieta Venegas, Caifanes, Juanes, and Los Prisioneros. In the last decade Santaolalla has also produced classical-crossover recordings such as Kronos Quartet’s Nuevo and participated as a composer and performer for some tracks of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre. Santaolalla has also recorded his own solo albums: Santaolalla (1981), Gas (1995), and ...
(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...
[Westover, Charles Weedon ]
(b Grand Rapids, MI, Dec 30, 1934; d Santa Clarita, CA, Feb 8, 1990). American singer, songwriter, and producer. Growing up, he learned to play ukulele and guitar while immersing himself in country-and-western music. Throughout the second half of the 1950s, he played in a variety of bands while in the military and also in Michigan. He used several different names during his time as a performer, but finally settled on “Del Shannon” in 1960. In the same year Shannon and his fellow musician, Max Crook, were signed to Bigtop Records in New York. The two wrote and recorded the rock and roll hit “Runaway” in 1961, with the single reaching number one on the Billboard chart. In the following two years Shannon wrote and performed several other successful singles, including “So long, baby,” “Hats off to Larry,” and “Little Town Flirt.” His 1963 cover of “From Me to You” was one of the first American covers of a Beatles song. After moving to Amy Records in ...