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Bruce Johnson

(Emerson )

(b Melbourne, Australia, Jan 4, 1919; d Melbourne, Australia, June 17, 2008). Australian trumpeter, washboard player, composer, singer, and bandleader, brother of Graeme Bell. He first worked as a drummer, then in 1938 began to play cornet. Having worked in Melbourne with his brother at Leonard’s Café, he briefly led the band at Heidelberg Town Hall (1943), where he recorded with a visiting Max Kaminsky, before Graeme Bell returned from Queensland to take over the group’s leadership. He remained in Graeme’s dixieland groups during their European tours (1947–8, 1950–52), after which he worked with Max Collie (1953) and in the house band at the Melbourne Jazz Club (from 1958). Bell was active as a freelance musician and led his own band, the Pagan Pipers (a name he had used first in 1949), which with various personnel (notably Len Barnard and Ade Monsbourgh) performed and recorded for many years; among its recordings were a number of Bell’s own compositions. His playing may be heard to advantage on ...


Howard Rye

[Chabania, Jacinto ]

(b Gary, IN, Jan 23, 1908; dc 1961). American saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, and singer. He studied violin, then alto saxophone and clarinet. After playing briefly with Charlie Turner’s Arcadians he took ship for Europe with Sam Wooding (1928), with whom he recorded in Barcelona and Paris (1929). He then moved to New York, played with Chick Webb, toured with Zack Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, performed and recorded with Don Redman (late 1933 – late spring 1934) and Willie Lewis (in Europe, to c spring 1935), and worked with Claude Hopkins, both in New York and on tour (mid-1936). In October 1936 he joined Fletcher Henderson’s group, with which he made several recordings in 1937, but around February 1938 he left the group to become Cab Calloway’s music director. In April 1942 he recorded with Count Basie, and later that year, having left Calloway’s employ, he played briefly with Basie (June) and with Earl Hines (September) before rejoining Henderson (October–November). In ...


Mark Gilbert

[John Symon Asher ]

(b Bishopbriggs, Scotland, May 14, 1943; d Suffolk, October 25, 2014). Scottish bass player, singer, and composer. Having studied for three months at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow he moved to London, where he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated (late 1962 – early 1963) and then formed a group with Graham Bond, John McLaughlin, and the drummer Ginger Baker; this became known as the Graham Bond Organisation after McLaughlin left and Dick Heckstall-Smith joined. Bruce arrived in London as a jazz purist and had at first played double bass, but after using an electric bass guitar for a recording session with Ernest Ranglin in 1964 he transferred to that instrument and studied the mobile, melodic style of the Motown house bass player James Jamerson. The following year Bruce left Bond’s band because Baker felt that his bass playing was too busy and joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. He is best known as the bass guitarist, singer, and principal composer with the highly successful blues and rock group Cream (...


Johnny Simmen

revised by Howard Rye

(b Zanesville, OH, Dec 26, 1915; d New York, Nov 7, 1956). American pianist, singer, and composer. Her place of birth is usually recorded as Xenia, Ohio, but her passport file gives Zanesville. She was heard by Fats Waller while she was working as a radio musician in Cincinnati in 1932, and went on to work with him; in 1939 she sang on his recording I can’t give you anything but love (Bb 10573). She also gave solo performances. In May 1936 she went to Britain with Blackbirds of 1936, but soon left the cast. From November 1936 she worked and recorded in Europe, principally in London and Paris, where she was resident at Le Boeuf sur le Toit from July to December 1937. In February and March 1938 she was resident in London at the Havana Club and then into April at the Shim Sham. She was at the Scala in Berlin when war was declared. After her return to the USA Carlisle worked in New York nightclubs and recorded ...


Digby Fairweather

revised by Simon Adams

(Bernard )

(b London, Nov 25, 1934). English arranger, composer, and soprano and tenor saxophonist . He studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London (1953–6), and first appeared with his own band at Ronnie Scott’s in 1967. From the late 1960s he wrote compositions and arrangements for many musicians and groups, among them Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, Bing Crosby, and the orchestras of radio stations in Germany, Denmark (the Radioens Big Band), and England. In 1971 he formed a big band to play the music of Duke Ellington; its most celebrated reconstruction was recorded on the album Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige (1972, Argo 159). The band broke up in 1973, and from 1978 into the mid-1980s Cohen and Keith Nichols led the Midnite Follies Orchestra, which toured, broadcast, and made recordings (including Hotter than Hades, 1978, EMI 1001). In 1985 Cohen wrote arrangements for the 31-piece band led by the drummer Charlie Watts, and the following year he formed his own quintet, in which he plays soprano saxophone. He wrote arrangements for a big band which accompanied Cab Calloway on BBC television in ...


Bruce Johnson

[Francis James ]

(b Emmaville, Australia, Sept 10, 1904; d Sydney, 6 or April 7, 1979). Australian bandleader, trombonist, trumpeter, arranger, and singer. From 1922 he worked in Sydney and Melbourne in the bands, among others, of Bill James (1923), Frank Ellis (1924), Walter Beban (1925), Carol Laughner (1926–7), and Linn Smith (1927–8). In England he worked with Jack Hylton, Fred Elizalde, Al Collins, and Al Starita (all 1928–9). Following his return to Australia he played as a sideman and as a leader in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, and during a residency at the Sydney Trocadero (1936–9) he established a reputation as a pre-eminent swing bandleader. He led an army band (1943–5), then played again at the Sydney Trocadero (1946–51, 1954–70), after which he gradually withdrew from musical activities. The finest dance-band and swing musicians in Australia passed through the ranks of Coughlan’s band....


Val Wilmer

[Laka D; Koc, Dorota Mary]

(b Oxford, England, Jan 8, 1953). English singer, pianist, composer, and music director. From a background in rock and soul bands, notably Soulyard, from 1982 to 1988 she was a member of the Guest Stars, in which she played piano and sang; she also wrote much of the group’s material. In 1982 she co-founded the Lydia D’Ustebyn Swing Orchestra, was an organizer of Early Evening Jazz, the first women’s jazz festival held in London (at the Drill Hall), and sang in the a cappella group the Hipscats (comprising five singers, including Jan Ponsford, Jim Dvorak, and Ruthie Smith, and later the pianist Alastair Gavin). An intermittent affiliation with Carol Grimes involved work in her band and in a duo. She sang and played piano with Annie Whitehead, with whom she recorded the album Mix Up (1985, Paladin 6), then led her own band, which included Claude Deppa. In the 1990s she played with Mervyn Afrika, Kate Westbrook, the percussionist Josefina Cupido, and the saxophonists Louise Elliot and Diane McLaughlin, composed and directed music for stage shows, and taught. Laka Daisical is a propulsive pianist and exciting performer heavily influenced by African-American gospel music, as exemplified by ...


Stefano Zenni

(b Naples, Aug 17, 1960). Italian singer and composer. She studied lyrical and contemporary singing and in 1976 began her career in groups performing ethnic music. From 1980 she worked in jazz; later she sang with Kenny Wheeler (1990–95), Eliot Zigmund (1991–3), Rita Marcotulli (from 1994), John Taylor (from 1996), and Ralph Towner (from 1997). From 1994 to 1997 De Vito led the Nauplìa projects, mixing Neapolitan and Mediterranean music with jazz, and in 1996 she began working with the British composer Colin Towns. In 1998 she formed Phoné, a group with Gianluigi Trovesi and Taylor, and another trio with Taylor and Towner; she also played in Triboh with Marcotulli and Arto Tuncboyaçiyan and collaborated with the video-maker and sculptress Marisa Albanese.

De Vito’s roots are in Neapolitan melodies and Mediterranean singing (from Macedonia to North Africa and Sicily). She searches for a fusion between these elements and jazz and, with her evocative and powerful voice, mixes the music from different cultural areas in a kind of moving world music....


David Flanagan

(b Seattle, Feb 11, 1914; d Riverside, CA, June 21, 2002). American songwriter, arranger, pianist, and singer. His parents were vaudeville artists, and he learned piano from an early age. He played piano in Horace Heidt’s dance band in 1933, but for much of the 1930s worked in Hollywood as a nightclub singer and pianist and as a vocal coach for band singers. In the early 1940s he was composer and arranger for Tommy Dorsey and wrote a number of hit songs for the band which were performed by Frank Sinatra. During World War II he played briefly in Glenn Miller’s orchestra. Thereafter he worked principally as a nightclub entertainer, and issued some recordings under his own name, including Matt Dennis Plays and Sings (c1957, Kapp 1024). Dennis also arranged music for radio programs (1946–8), appeared in films and on television, and composed the song ...


Frank Driggs

[William ]

(b New Haven, CT, Aug 12, 1912; d Springfield, MA, April 14, 1978). American trumpeter, singer, and arranger. He played in the big bands of Earle Howard (1932–3) and Percy Nelson (1933–4), then worked with Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton (mid-1930s), and the pianist Jimmie Gunn (1935). From 1935 to 1937 he was a soloist with Don Albert’s band, and in 1936 recorded eight titles with the group, including his own arrangements of True Blue Lou (Voc. 3401), On the Sunny Side of the Street (Voc. 3423), and Liza (Voc. 3491). During the late 1930s and the 1940s Douglas played as a freelance in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, then from 1944 to 1945 worked with Earl Hines, recording again as a soloist on Scoops Carry’s Merry (1945), first issued on The Father Jumps (1939–45, Bb AXM2-5508). His career was brought to an end by his dependence on alcohol. Douglas patterned his style after that of Henry “Red” Allen and, although his playing was less angular than Allen’s, it had the same fire and expressiveness. (...