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Megan E. Hill

(b Osaka, Japan, 1957). Jazz and blues pianist, singer, and composer of Japanese birth. She took piano lessons briefly as a child and was exposed to the blues while growing up in Osaka in the 1960s and 1970s. As a high school student, she formed the Yoko Blues Band with classmates. The band earned some success, winning first prize and a recording contract in a television-sponsored contest. In 1984 she moved to the United States to pursue a jazz and blues career in Chicago. Initially a singer, she studied piano with boogie, blues, and jazz pianist Erwin Helfer. In the early 1990s Noge established the Jazz Me Blues Band, which has played regularly in Chicago since its formation. In addition to Noge on piano and vocals, the ensemble has included Noge’s husband, Clark Dean, on soprano saxophone, saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, trombonist Bill McFarland, and bassist Tatsu Aoki. In addition to playing more conventional jazz and blues, Noge has made a name for herself through the unique compositions she has written for the group, which meld Japanese folk music styles with Chicago blues. Active in the broader Asian American community, she cofounded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in ...

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Ruth E. Rosenberg

(b Laredo, TX, Oct 30, 1951). American conguero, Latin jazz bandleader, and singer. While growing up in a Mexican American family in Los Angeles, he was exposed to Afro Cuban music as well as jazz, especially bebop and hard bop. He first performed as a conguero with the vibraphonist Cal Tjader prior to beginning his career as a bandleader. Since then Sánchez has recorded more than 20 albums for the Concord Records label and become a leading figure in Latin jazz. In 2000 he received a Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Performance for the album Latin Soul. Sánchez’s music builds upon the Latin jazz pioneered by such artists as Machito, Tito Puente, and Dizzy Gillespie. Like much salsa music, it draws upon the traditional Cuban son montuno form, often incorporating other Afro Cuban genres such as rumba, bolero, mambo, danzón, and guaguancó. Although his albums reflect some of the standard repertoire of Latin jazz and bebop, he has been innovative in integrating soul, R&B, and funk into his recordings. His album ...

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Dean Alger

[Alonzo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Feb 8, 1894; d Toronto, ON, June 16, 1970). American blues and jazz guitarist and singer. Research indicates that Johnson was born in 1894 (Alger). He was influenced by the musical activities of his family and the rich musical environment in New Orleans of the early 1900s, including the early blues, jazz, and the lyrically expressive French and Spanish music traditions. He began playing violin, developed excellent guitar skill, and by the 1920s was also recording on piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonium.

Johnson performed on violin with Charlie Creath’s band on the Mississippi riverboat St. Paul, and after winning a blues singing contest in St. Louis, he began his recording career with OKeh Records. His first recording featured “Mr. Johnson’s Blues” and “Falling Rain Blues” (OK, 1925) and was a two-sided hit. From 1925 through 1932 he made more recordings than any other bluesman. In late ...

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Jessica Bissett Perea

(Jane )

(b Newport News, VA, April 25, 1917; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 15, 1996). American jazz singer. Ella Jane Fitzgerald was raised in Yonkers, New York, and from an early age developed an affinity for performing, despite personal hardships including childhood poverty, not knowing her biological father, and her mother’s sudden death in 1932. Although her first love was dancing, her early vocal influences included popular musicians such as Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters, Leo Watson, and Louis Armstrong. In 1934 a 17-year-old Fitzgerald entered and won the Amateur Night competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and from there began singing in various Harlem clubs such as the Savoy. In 1935 Fitzgerald met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb. Webb was initially reluctant to hire the young singer; but by 1937 Fitzgerald’s voice was featured on over half of his band’s repertoire. In 1938 Fitzgerald recorded her first number-one hit with the band, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” a swinging nursery rhyme to which she also wrote the lyrics. After Webb’s untimely death in ...

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E. Ron Horton

[Herbert; Jeffrey, Herbert; Balentino, Umberto; the Bronze Buckaroo]

(b Detroit, MI, Sept 24, 1916). American jazz vocalist and actor. He began his professional singing career at 14 and then worked with such well-known jazz musicians as Erskine Tate, Earl Hines, and Blanche Calloway. In the late 1930s he made five films as America’s first black singing cowboy starting with Harlem on the Prairie (1937). He conceived the idea of making the movie himself in a conscious effort to create a character that could be a model for brown-skinned children. Jeffries, who identified his mother as Irish and his father as mixed-race Sicilian, was almost denied the role because his physical features were considered by some not to be African American enough, although he proudly identified himself as black in both professional and social terms. He successfully fought for the role, which earned him the nickname the Bronze Buckaroo, and his films appealed to a more widespread audience than expected. Jeffries worked with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from ...

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Jessica Bissett Perea

(b New York, NY, Jan 29, 1939; d Tijuana, Mexico, Oct 25, 2000). American jazz singer, lyricist, composer–improviser, multidisciplinary artist, and educator. During her 40-year career she performed internationally and recorded more than 40 albums, working with such artists as Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Enrico Rava, Andrew Cyrille, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Lyons, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Cecil Taylor, and Reggie Workman. Her vocal style reflects the influence of early mainstream jazz vocalists, including Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, and the intellectualism of postwar avant-garde jazz and experimental music. Starting in the 1960s Lee forged a new path in multidisciplinary performance that fused the aesthetics of modern dance, vocal improvisation and sound poetry (intonation, non-verbal utterances, and vocalizations), and visual arts (paintings, slide projections, and film). In the 1970s she established Earthforms Rituals, a nonprofit corporation that promoted concerts and educational programs. She also completed an MA in education at New York University in ...

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Jonas Westover

(Belle )

(b Chicago, IL, Oct 18, 1919; d Los Angeles, CA, Nov 23, 2006). American jazz singer. She began to appear in show business as a dancer on the endurance dance contest circuit, where she was occasionally invited to sing. At age 18 she became determined to become a professional singer. While working her way through numerous Chicago venues, she was seen at the Off Beat club by Gene Krupa, who hired her to sing with his band. The result for O’Day was almost instant success; not only did her recording of the song “Let me off Uptown” (1941, OK) become a huge hit, but she was also named New Star of the Year by Downbeat. Together with Krupa, O’Day recorded 34 songs plus two film shorts. She stayed with him until his group was disbanded in 1943 and returned to sing with him again in 1946. In the meantime she worked with Stan Kenton, recording a number of sides including “And her Tears Flowed like Wine” (...

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Gayle Murchison

(Estella )

(b Minot, ND, 17/July 18, 1921; d Bakersfield, CA, March 4, 1992). American jazz guitarist and singer. One of 11 children born to Elvy and Estelle Orsborn, she was raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. Both parents played guitar and at an early age Osborne learned to play ukelele, violin, guitar, and bass. She played banjo in her father’s string band at ten and by 15 was a featured instrumentalist, singer, and dancer in a local trio. After hearing Charlie Christian in Bismarck, she switched to electric guitar. One of its early pioneers, she developed a single-line playing style influenced by Christian and Django Reinhardt. She played in an all-female band that later joined Buddy Rogers’ ensemble. In November 1942 she married the trumpeter Ralph Scaffidi. After Rogers’ band broke up, its members were stranded in New York, and Osborne found work as a radio musician and session player. In the late 1940s she led her own trio and recorded with Mercer Ellington and Coleman Hawkins, among others. From ...

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John Chilton

[Oran Thaddeus ]

(b Dallas, TX, Jan 27, 1908; d New York, NY, Nov 5, 1954). American jazz trumpeter and singer. He worked as a professional musician in his home state of Texas during the 1920s and later maintained that he learned to play authentic blues by listening to the local performers there. He played with Walter Page’s Blue Devils (1928–30) then with Bennie Moten’s band (1931–3 and 1934). In 1936 he worked briefly with Count Basie’s band as a principal soloist, but left to become a solo artist at the behest of Louis Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser, a move generally regarded as having crippled a potentially illustrious career. Page gained much publicity during a brief stay with Artie Shaw’s band (1941–2). He also made many fine recordings under his own name (1938–54), often leading bands with some of the finest swing musicians, including Earl Bostic, Don Byas, J.C. Higginbotham, and Ben Webster, among his sidemen. His purposeful, exciting trumpet playing and deeply felt blues singing were probably too rugged to gain widespread favor. Throughout his career he thrived on the atmosphere of impromptu jam sessions, in which his searing tone, dramatic phrasing, and improvised blues lyrics were a source of considerable inspiration to fellow musicians....

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Mark Tucker

[Pestritto, Antonio ]

(b Middletown, CT, Oct 26, 1907; d Old Lyme, CT, Oct 31, 1969). American bandleader, singer, and saxophonist. He began playing as a sideman in the orchestras of John Cavallaro, Irving Aaronson, and Vincent Lopez, before joining Artie Shaw’s band (1936), in which he was a tenor saxophone soloist and singer; “Indian Love Call” (1938, B♭) offers a good example of his throaty, somewhat gruff vocal style. After Shaw dissolved the band Pastor formed his own in 1940, taking some of Shaw’s players with him. Many of the group’s arrangements were written by the guitarist Al Avola, although Budd Johnson, Walter Fuller, and Ralph Flanagan also made contributions. Pastor’s singing was greatly influenced, he acknowledged, by Louis Armstrong and was always an important part of his shows. In the late 1940s Pastor also performed with Betty and Rosemary Clooney. He broke up his big band in ...