(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 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 ...
John A. Emerson
(b Pueblo, CO, July 22, 1889; d Carmel Valley, nr Jamesburg, CA, Nov 9, 1959). American cellist, composer, and conductor. His father was the nationally known educator Preston Willis Search and his wife the pianist and composer Opal Piontkowski Heron, whom he married on 27 February 1923. In 1901 Search began studying cello in Jena, Germany, and subsequently he was a pupil of Joseph Adamowski at the New England Conservatory (c1903–4) and of Lino Mattioli and George Rogovoy at the Cincinnati College Conservatory (c1904–7). From 1907 to 1911 he attended the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied cello with Julius Klengel, composition with Gustav Schreck, Richard Hofmann, and Max Reger, and conducting with Arthur Nikisch. After returning from Germany he made three recital tours of the United States and was first cellist of the American SO in Chicago (1915–16). After serving as conductor of the Mare Island Naval Training Station orchestra and band (...
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 ...
(Kaulumau Wai‘ale‘ale )
(b Honolulu, HI, Oct 16, 1903; d Honolulu, HI, Jan 22, 1974). Hawaiian composer and bandleader. Born to musical parents, she learned the ancient Hawaiian style of singing, storytelling, and playing ukulele by imitating the chanting and high-pitched vocal leaps of elder master teachers. In 1926 she married Luciano Machado and accepted an invitation as the featured soloist with the Royal Hawaiian Band. A year later the Brunswick-Balke-Collender record company of Muskegon, Michigan, first recorded Machado, and thus earned the singer the widespread acknowledgement as the first woman in Hawaii to make a recording for a major record label. The San Francisco World’s Fair in 1939 brought the singer to California, and she performed throughout the West Coast for several years. On the brink of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Machado returned to Hawaii, and accepted a radio broadcast contract with the USO. She toured extensively throughout the United States until her husband’s death in ...
(b Niterói, Brazil, Feb 11, 1941). Brazilian pianist, bandleader, arranger, producer and composer, active in the United States. Formally trained in classical music, Mendes turned to jazz, participating in the bossa nova nightclub scene in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mendes and his group, the Sexteto Bossa Rio, performed at the pivotal Bossa Nova festival at Carnegie Hall, which contributed significantly to the popularity of bossa nova beyond Brazil.
In 1962, Mendes and the Sexteto Bossa Rio rode the wave of US interest in the genre, recording Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann and Cannonball’s Bossa Nova with Cannonball Adderley. He moved to the United States soon after, adapting bossa nova to the American and international pop, light jazz, and easy listening markets. Mendes arranged, produced, and performed covers of pop hits by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell, as well as Brazilian songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jorge Ben, and others. The signature sound of his group was light and upbeat with two female vocalists singing in unison and a bouncy samba-derived rhythm. His groups were named “Brasil” followed by the year they were launched: ’65, ’66, ’77, ’88, ’99, and ...
Edgardo Diaz Diaz
(b Humacao, PR, July 17, 1921; d San Juan, PR, June 18, 2002). American saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. A member of one of Puerto Rico’s most respected musical families, he was trained in the practices of old Spanish military-band traditions by his father, Juan Peña Reyes (1879–1948). After playing in a band led by his cousin Rafael González Peña and another by Armando Castro, he was hired in 1947 as saxophone soloist for the César Concepción Orchestra. Divisions within this orchestra in 1954 led him and fellow members to create the 15-piece Orquesta Panamericana, which performed various Latin American genres. The ensemble also offered an early showcase for Ismael Rivera, who was later known as el Sonero Mayor. Popularly known as La Panamericana, the group conspicuously presented fresh Afro-Puerto Rican sounds on radio and television, helping bomba and plena—genres associated with marginal barrios—to become the most visible musical products of Puerto Rico. Peña’s training in music theory with Amaury Veray and Julián Bautista led to a strong catalog of nationalist compositions, including his ...
(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 ...
(b Clarksdale, MI, Nov 5, 1931; d San Marcos, CA, Dec 12, 2007). American songwriter, guitarist, pianist, bandleader, talent scout, and record producer. He began playing piano as a boy in Clarksdale, forming the Kings of Rhythm while still in school. His musical education consisted of listening to music and playing with blues musicians such as B.B. King. Turner is often credited with writing and recording the first rock and roll record (according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), “Rocket 88,” although the track was released under the name of Jackie Brenston (a member of Turner’s band who sang and played sax on the record). Recorded in 1951 at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studios in Memphis, this uptempo R&B song provided a template for the rock and roll emerging later in the decade. The modified 12-bar blues form, boogie woogie bass line, percussive piano, guitar distortion, and rowdy sax solo became standard features of songs by Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others....
Edgardo Díaz Díaz
(b Orocovis, PR, June 9, 1941). American bandleader, composer, arranger, and performer. Although he played various brass and string instruments, he was given the title the King of the Bass. At 11 he formed a trio, played guitar, and entered the Quintón Academy of Music in Coamo, then moved at 15 to New York, where he studied trumpet with the renowned teacher Carmine Caruso. He joined the salsa band of Joe Quijano in 1958 and subsequently worked in the ensembles of Willie Rosario, Tito Rodríguez, Charlie Palmieri, and Ray Barreto. Valentín organized his own salsa group composed of two trumpets, trombone, tenor and baritone saxophones, bass, timbales, and a succession of lead singers, including Marcelino Morales, Marvin Santiago, Johnny Vazquez, Luigi Texidor, and Carlos Estremera. A recording agreement with Johnny Pacheco and Jerry Masucci earned him a position with Fania Records as main arranger and bass player in the mid-1960s. Later, he produced ...