(b Port Chester, NY, Dec 16, 1944; d Cortlandt Manor, NY, Aug 22, 2017). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. He grew up in Greenwich, CT, and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was primarily self taught until he studied at the Berklee College of Music (1962–6) and with Jack Petersen. Abercrombie joined Johnny Hammond’s touring band after the blues organist had spotted him performing with other Berklee students at Paul’s Mall in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of North Texas, in 1969 he moved to New York where he performed and recorded in Billy Cobham’s jazz-rock band Dreams (1970), joined Chico Hamilton’s group, and recorded with Gato Barbieri (1971), Barry Miles (1972), and Gil Evans (1974). Abercrombie attracted wider attention performing with Cobham’s fusion band Spectrum from 1974. He also toured with Jack DeJohnette and recorded his debut album, ...
[Abrams, Richard Louis]
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 19, 1930; d New York, Oct 29, 2017). American pianist, composer, and administrator. After receiving private piano lessons, he studied at the Chicago Musical College and taught himself the system of composition devised by Joseph Schillinger. He began to work professionally in 1948 and performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Chicago during the 1950s, accompanying visiting musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, and Max Roach. After composing and arranging for the Walter “King” Fleming band in the mid-1950s, Abrams joined the hard bop ensemble MJT+3 and made his recording debut on the group’s album DADDY-O PRESENTS MJT+3 (1957, VJ 1013). Beginning in 1961 Abrams led the Experimental Band, a composer-centered rehearsal ensemble whose members included the double bass player Donald Rafael Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, and the reed player Joseph Jarman. He subsequently co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians...
[Park Frederick, III ]
(b Highland Park, MI, Oct 8, 1930; d Brooklyn, NY, Sept 10, 1986). American jazz baritone saxophonist and composer. He grew up in Rochester where he took up tenor and baritone saxophones and clarinet, but settled on baritone after moving to Detroit in 1947 as a means of finding work in the city’s fiercely competitive music scene. After serving for two years in the US Army Band, Adams returned to Detroit in 1953 and worked there with Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, and Elvin Jones, in the house band at the Blue Bird and at Klein’s. In 1956 he moved to New York and was a member of Stan Kenton’s big band for six months following a recommendation from Oscar Pettiford. From the following year, Adams spent 20 years working in big bands led by Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton, and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. During this period he also performed in small ensembles whenever possible and was in demand as a recording artist. Notably, he co-led a quintet with Donald Byrd from ...
J. Bradford Robinson
(b Dairen, China, Dec 12, 1929). Japanese jazz composer, pianist and bandleader. She studied classical music and turned to jazz only in 1947 after moving to Japan. There she was discovered by Oscar Peterson, who urged her to take up a career in the USA. After studying at Berklee College of Music (1956–9) she became a highly regarded bop pianist, especially in groups with the alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano (who was at that time her husband). She worked in Japan (1961), joined Charles Mingus in the USA (1962–3), then returned to Japan until 1965. In 1973 she founded a large rehearsal band in Los Angeles with the tenor saxophonist and flautist Lew Tabackin, whom she had married in 1969. Its first album, Kogun (1974, RCA), was commercially successful in Japan, and the group attracted increasing popularity and critical acclaim until, by ...
(b Pontiac, MI, June 12, 1957; d Philadelphia, June 27, 2017). American jazz pianist and composer. She began classical piano study at age seven with Patricia Wilhelm, who also encouraged her interest in jazz. After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School in 1975 (where trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was one of her teachers), she studied with John Malachi at Howard University (BA 1979, jazz studies) and with Nathan Davis at the University of Pittsburgh (MA 1982, ethnomusicology). She also took private piano lessons with Kenny Barron in 1979. She moved to New York in the early 1980s, where she became a member of the M-BASE collective. Allen recorded her first album as a leader, The Printmakers, in 1984 (Minor Music). After that she performed on more than 100 recordings in a variety of capacities. She worked in trios with Ron Carter and Tony Williams (on albums such as ...
[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]
(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...
Horace Clarence Boyer
(b McCormick, SC, Sept 25, 1921; d Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2008). American gospel singer, pianist, and composer. She moved to Philadelphia at an early age and sang and played at a local Church of God in Christ. In 1942 she joined a female quartet, the Spiritual Echoes, and served as their pianist for two years, leaving the group in 1944 to organize the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two friends, Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. Their first recording, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (1950), sold 500,000 copies in less than six months. Her most famous composition is “My Sweet Home” (1960). The incidental harmony of their rural singing style and Allison’s sliding technique appealed to a large number of supporters who otherwise found the gospel music of the period controlled and calculated. The group traveled and recorded with the Dixie Hummingbirds during the 1950s. Allison toured, recorded, and performed gospel music for over seven decades....
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 Memphis, TN, Feb 3, 1898; d Chicago, IL, Aug 27, 1971). American jazz pianist, singer, bandleader, and composer. She studied keyboard privately from an early age and had hopes of becoming a concert pianist. While she was enrolled at Fisk University, her mother and stepfather moved to Chicago, where in 1917 she took a job as a sheet music demonstrator, which led to her joining the Original Creole Jazz Band as its pianist. It was her first job playing jazz and she decided not to return to Fisk. She subsequently worked with several bands, including King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which she performed in San Francisco in 1921 and made her recording debut in 1923. By this time the band included louis Armstrong, whom she married in 1924. Armstrong’s place in jazz history was assured by her participation on Oliver’s Gennett recordings and Louis’ Hot Five sessions for Okeh. She played an important role in Louis’ move into a brighter spotlight before their separation in ...
Bryan S. Wright
(b Indianapolis, IN, May 21, 1888; d Pasadena, CA, Sept 1, 1972). American Composer and pianist. She was born into a musical family: her father, John Henry Aufderheide (1865–1941), was a semi-professional violinist and his sister, May Kolmer, was a noted pianist who performed with the Indianapolis SO and taught at the Metropolitan School of Music. Aufderheide learned classical piano with Kolmer, but showed more interest in popular music. While a teenager in finishing school in New York, she composed her first rag, “Dusty Rag” (1908), which was arranged by Paul Pratt and published initially by an acquaintance from Indianapolis, Cecil Duane Crabb. Following several months completing her education in Europe, in the spring of 1908 Aufderheide returned to Indiana, married Thomas M. Kaufman, and settled in Richmond, Indiana. “Dusty Rag” had not sold well in her absence owing to Crabb’s limited distribution, so when Aufderheide produced several more after her return, her father, a prominent banker, used his considerable resources to establish J.H. Aufderheide & Company to publish her works. He reissued “Dusty Rag” with greater success and in the three years that followed published roughly a dozen of his daughter’s rags, waltzes, and songs in addition to works by such other regional composers as Gladys Yelvington, Julia Lee Niebergall, Paul Pratt, and Crabb. Several of Aufderheide’s more popular piano rags were given lyrics and published in song form. Her career as a pianist and composer was brief, spanning just four years. Despite the commercial and critical success of her compositions “The Richmond Rag,” “The Thriller!,” “Buzzer Rag,” and “Blue Ribbon Rag,” by the age of 23 she had ceased composing. She and her husband adopted a daughter in ...