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Howard Rye

(b New Orleans, July 31, 1949). American singer and dancer. He majored in theater studies at Xavier University and then studied drama in Europe. On his return to New Orleans he founded the New Experience Theatre and became involved in jazz by conceiving the show One Mo’ Time, which sought to re-create an evening at the city’s Lyric Theater in 1927. The show received its première at the Toulouse Theater, where it eventually ran for six and a half years. In 1979 a One Mo’ Time company opened in New York at the Village Gate Downstairs, where the show ran for 1300 performances. A road company was formed in 1980, and troupes later toured to Britain and Australia. Bagneris himself sang and danced with each of these companies at various times. With choreography by Pepsi Bethel and music by Orange Kellin and the pianist Lars Edegran, the show featured the New Orleans Blue Serenaders, which included Walter Payton on tuba, the drummers John Robichaux and Herlin Riley, and a starring trumpeter, a role played at various times by Jabbo Smith, Bill Dillard, and Franc Williams. Among featured singers were Lillian Boutté, Sandra Reaves Phillips, and Sylvia “Kuumba” Williams. The Village Gate cast with Smith and Williams is heard on the original cast album ...

Article

(b St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1906; d Paris, France, April 12, 1975). American dancer and singer, naturalized French. She started out dancing on the streets of St. Louis with the Jones Family Band, a vaudeville troupe. After touring the South with the Dixie Steppers, she gained attention in the touring company of Shuffle Along (1921), the most important African American show of the decade. A member of the female dancing chorus, Baker stood out by making faces and embellishing dance moves, mixing comedy with the erotic persona of the black chorus girl. After appearing on Broadway in The Chocolate Dandies (1924) as That Comedy Chorus Girl, Baker travelled to Paris with La revue nègre (1925), a nightclub revue that introduced the new black performance styles of Broadway to French audiences. Her pas de deux “Danse Sauvage,” which she performed with her partner Joe Alex, introduced an explicit eroticism and exuberant physicality which marked Baker’s initial renown. Famously appearing at times with little more than a string of bananas around her waist, she made an impact on French popular culture that was immediate and enduring....

Article

Mareia Quintero Rivera

(b San Juan, PR, July 10, 1910; d Carolina, PR, July 21, 1996). American Puerto Rican composer, singer, percussionist, dancer, and drum-maker. A master of traditional bomba and plena, he was one the most prominent figures of Afro-Puerto Rican musical folklore in the 20th century. He is also known for his commitment to passing down these traditions to subsequent generations. Together with his wife, Caridad Brenes, a gifted dancer, he raised a family of skilled practitioners and maintained a lifelong practice of teaching in the community of Villa Palmeras, Santurce, the working-class area where they lived.

Cepeda was a key figure in gaining national and international recognition for Afro-Puerto Rican musical genres. In the 1940s he created an ensemble for radio performances, and he later developed a stage version of bomba, which he presented in San Juan’s major hotels. Several of his compositions were popularized by Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo. Cepeda also developed ties with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, founded in ...

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Jonas Westover

(b Santurce, PR, March 7, 1950). Puerto Rican singer, dancer, and entertainer. As a girl she honed her skills with ballet and jazz dance lessons. As a young adult she attended the Universidad de Puerto Rico and soon afterwards began to perform as a singer and to make inroads as a model and a dancer. She quickly became a major star in the Latin music world with her first album, Tú no eres hombre (1971). Within a year she was hosting her own television program, “El show de Iris Chacón,” which ran from 1972 until the mid-1980s, when she abruptly quit. As a media personality, Chacón has repeatedly found ways to market herself and keep her image and voice in the spotlight. She has appeared on film (mostly musicals), television, stage, and radio. Her radio shows, including “Iris Chacón Live” and “Caramelo y chocolate,” have run both in the United States and Puerto Rico. Her most famous song is “Spanish Rocket Ship” (...

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Barry Kernfeld

(b Smithville, VA, July 18, 1900; d Nov 1967). American clarinetist, singer, and dancer. In his social security application he gave his place of birth as Smithville (not Smithfield, as it has been published elsewhere). At the age of ten he learned clarinet from his father. When his family moved to Philadelphia he formed a band with his brother Jimmy, who played clarinet and saxophone. During the 1920s and 1930s he enjoyed much success with his own variety act; he appeared at the Sunset Café in Chicago and, around 1928, in the show Blackbirds. His best-known recordings are those he made in 1929 and 1930 as the leader of a group which included Jelly Roll Morton. These and his earlier recordings (1927–8), some of which involved Eddie Lang, display a repetitive but striking improvisatory style on clarinet, characterized by conventional blues formulas (sometimes played with a timbre that resembles that of Bubber Miley’s muted trumpet), extended passages of deliberately paced slap-tonguing, and an extraordinary cackling sound. His playing may be heard in all its variety on ...

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John Behling

(b New York, NY, Dec 8, 1925; d Beverly Hills, CA, May 16, 1990). American singer, dancer, and actor. Widely regarded as one of the greatest entertainers of his time, he sang, danced, acted, played several instruments, performed comic impersonations, and excelled at the variety entertainment format popular in American vaudeville, nightclubs, and television. His parents were vaudeville dancers frequently on tour, so Davis spent his earliest years with his grandmother. In 1928 his father took Davis on the road, where he made his debut with Will Mastin’s vaudeville review as Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget. Although he began as a dancer, as his talent and reputation grew he incorporated songs and comic impersonations into his act. His final public performance was in 1989 on a television special, The 60th Anniversary Salute to Sammy Davis, Jr. Throughout his long career Davis performed many styles of music, but he is best known for his jazz-influenced performances of Broadway show tunes. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and together they set the standard for nightclub-style performance before the dominance of rock and roll....

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Vienna, Jan 17, 1775; d Addleston, Surrey, Sept 3, 1838). English actress, singer, and dancer . Her father, an orchestral flute player, brought his family to London and she danced on stage as a child, gradually taking juvenile acting and singing parts. From 1790 she built up a repertory of roles in musical pieces, an early success being Macheath in a travesty Beggar’s opera. Hard-working, intelligent and lively, she had parts in many operas by Storace and Kelly. C. H. Wilson wrote, ‘she sings so well, acts so well, dances so well, and looks so well, that she is deservedly a great favourite of the town’. After marrying Charles Kemble in 1806 she generally acted with him but made few appearances after 1813.

BDA DNB (J. Knight) LS ‘Miss De Camp’, Thespian Magazine, 3 (1794),79–80 C. H. Wilson: The Myrtle and Vine (London, 1802) R. Fiske...

Article

Sharon O’Connell Campbell

(Lenore )

(b Statesboro, GA, March 18, 1975). American performer. Embodying the “triple-threat” performance model of singer, actor, and dancer, Sutton Foster enjoyed a rapid rise to musical theater stardom. Foster debuted on Broadway in 1993 as a chorus member and understudy for Eponine in Les Misérables (opened 1987), then played Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease (1994). She appeared in Annie (1997) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997). Foster created the role of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Millie Dillmount in California tryouts in 2000. Despite being little-known, she was cast for the show’s Broadway (2002) opening; her performance earned Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, and an Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer. Subsequently, Foster created the roles of Jo in Little Women (2005), Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone (...

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Mitsutoshi Inaba

(b Hillsborough, NC, April 4, 1929). American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer, dancer, and storyteller. He grew up on a farm in rural Orange County, North Carolina. When he was 13 or 14 years old, he learned acoustic guitar by watching his uncle and cousin. He drew repertoire from the artists he heard on the radio, such as Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He played at social gatherings in the community and added buck- and tap-dancing, which he also learned from his uncle and cousin. In 1954 he moved to Durham where he started to play electric guitar and incorporated more modern blues, including songs by Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. Teaming up with pianist Quentin “Fris” Holloway (1918–2008), Holeman performed in and around Durham. In 1976 folklorist Glenn Hinson invited Holeman to a local festival that attracted 5000 audience members. Since then he has been playing professionally. During the 1980s, he toured in and outside the United States with Holloway. While his precise finger picking––as heard in “Step It Up and Go” (...

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Barry Kernfeld

[Edgar ]

(b Pittsburgh, Aug 3, 1918; d Detroit, May 9, 1979). American singer, lyricist, and dancer. For many years he worked principally as a tap-dancer while also learning to play tuba, guitar, and drums. In the 1940s, with his dancing partner Irv Taylor, he created what came to be called (misleadingly) jazz vocalese (see Vocalese) by setting lyrics to improvisations on Panassié Stomp and Taxi War Dance by Lester Young with Count Basie’s orchestra and Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins; a decade later this type of piece became an important element in the success of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. From 1952, following King Pleasure’s popular recording of Jefferson’s Moody’s Mood for Love (based on a saxophone solo by James Moody), Jefferson was able to record his own gritty-voiced vocalese; among the four titles from his first session were a different Body and Soul (based on an uncelebrated recording of the piece by Moody) and ...