(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...
(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.
Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...
[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 ...
E. Ron Horton
(b Hollywood, CA, Aug 30, 1957). American jazz and pop saxophonist. With Grover Washington jr and George Benson he was at the forefront of a movement in the 1970s that combined a jazz sensibility with more mass-market styles such as funk, rock, and rhythm and blues. Albright attended Locke High School where Patrice Rushen was a fellow student. At the University of Redlands, he read business management with a minor in music; during this time he refined his saxophone technique and learned to play bass guitar. He subsequently performed and recorded with Rushen, playing the well-known saxophone solo on her hit single “Forget me nots” (Rhino, 1982). Thereafter, his career flourished as he worked with a range of artists including Anita Baker, the Winans Family, Lola Folana, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, and Quincy Jones. One of Bill Clinton’s favorite saxophonists, Albright performed at the president’s inauguration as well as at several of his private functions. As a leader, he has made nine albums and sold more than one million records in the United States; his recordings ...
Gareth Dylan Smith
[Patterson, Robert, Jr. ]
(b Philadelphia, PA, July 1, 1935; d New York, NY, Aug 13, 2009). American jazz drummer. He learned congas from the age of nine and studied percussion while in the US Army (1952–5). After attending the Granoff School in Philadelphia, he worked in jazz and rhythm-and-blues bands and in 1963 moved to New York, where he was a key figure in the free-jazz movement, performing with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Sun Ra, and Archie Shepp. In addition he collaborated with John Coltrane, including the albums Expression and Interstellar Space (both 1967, Imp.), on which Ali’s performance displays the influence of Sunny Murray and Milford Graves. Ali also learned from Elvin Jones, with whom he competed for the drum chair in Coltrane’s band. In 1967 Ali worked in Europe with Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersed, studied with Philly Joe Jones, and worked at Ronnie Scott’s, London, with Jon Hendricks and Dave Holland. The following year he returned to New York, where he played with Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean, and for five years from ...
(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 ...
(b Louisville, KY, May 25, 1924). American alto saxophonist and bandleader. He began clarinet lessons when he was ten and later took up alto saxophone. After joining the US Army at 18 years of age, Allen performed in military bands and, while stationed in Paris, formed a trio with Art Simmons and Don Byas. Allen remained in Europe following his discharge, touring with James Moody and studying clarinet at the Paris Conservatory with Ulysse Delécluse. He returned to the United States in 1951 and led dance bands and worked as a composer in Chicago. After hearing a demo recording of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in a record store, Allen sought out the bandleader during a rehearsal and began an apprenticeship. He subsequently rehearsed with the Arkestra for more than a year before joining officially in 1958. His association with the ensemble has lasted more than 50 years.
Allen worked closely with Sun Ra for much of his professional career, composing for the bandleader and performing both in concert and on more than 200 albums; he even shared a house with him. Alongside John Gilmore Allen anchored the reed section, adding flute, clarinet, oboe, and in later years wind synthesizer. He invented the morrow, a woodwind instrument combining a saxophone mouthpiece with an open-holed wooden body, and learned to play and build the kora, a West African multi-string instrument. Allen rarely worked outside the Arkestra, although he made a notable recording with Paul Bley (...
[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....
(b Tippo, MI, Nov 11, 1927; d Hilton Head, SC, Nov 15, 2016). American jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter. His style was influenced by the blues music he heard on the juke box at his father’s general store. Primarily self taught on piano and trumpet, Allison began playing professionally in Delta roadhouses and attended the University of Mississippi, Oxford. However, he left to enlist in the US Army in 1946, and during his service he played trumpet and piano and wrote arrangements for an army band. After completing a degree in English at Louisiana State University, he moved to New York in 1956 and attracted attention nationally playing piano with such leaders as Chet Baker, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, and Stan Getz.
Allison created a hybrid style that integrated country blues with urbane jazz; it can be heard on his first album, Back Country Suite...
(Pastor Gomez )
(b Sincelejo, Colombia, Feb 18, 1949). American saxophonist of Colombian birth. His father was a percussionist who performed traditional Colombian music and Almario began his career playing in this style. Influenced by the Cuban music that was popular along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Almario studied wind instruments and theory in Barranquilla, where he later moved. After a tour of the United States in 1967, he accepted an invitation to move to Miami and in 1969 was offered a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music. Two years later, while he was still studying, Almario was invited to sit in with Mongo Santamaria, who subesequently hired him as musical director for his ensemble; Almario can be heard on a number of Santamaria’s recordings, including Afro-Indio (1975, Fania). In the following years, Almario worked with Duke Ellington, Machito, Willie Bobo, and Charles Mingus. His group Koinonia, which he formed with Alex Acuña, performed West Coast jazz and promoted Christian spirituality, such as on the album ...
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 ...
Peter C. Muir
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 23, 1907; d Chicago, Dec 2, 1949). American jazz pianist. He was one of the most important figures in the popularization of boogie-woogie. Ammons began playing professionally as a teenager and performed in jazz bands and on the rent party circuit in Chicago. By the late 1920s he was working regularly as the pianist in several small bands, including those of Francis Moseley, William Barbee, and Louis D. Banks. It was with the last of these that he first recorded, in 1934. Around the same time Ammons formed his own six-piece band, the Rhythm Kings, with whom he recorded for Decca in 1936. A seminal event in Ammons’ career was his participation in the “From Spirituals to Swing” concert in Carnegie Hall in 1938 as a member of a boogie-woogie piano trio with Pete Johnson and Meade “Lux” Lewis (the latter had been a close friend and musical influence since childhood). There followed a series of successful solo and small band recordings for the fledgling labels Solo Art and Blue Note that consolidated his reputation among the jazz public. Ammons continued to perform and record in the 1940s and made an important series of more than 30 recordings with the Rhythm Kings for Mercury between ...
(b Chicago, IL, April 14, 1925; d Chicago, Aug 6, 1974). American jazz tenor saxophonist and bandleader, son of Albert (C.) Ammons. He studied music under Captain Walter Dyett at Du Sable High School and was influenced by Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. After touring with the trumpeter King Kolax in 1943, he was a member of Billy Eckstine’s seminal big band from 1944 to 1947—Eckstine is said to have given him the nickname Jug, referring to his hat size—and was also a member of Woody Herman’s Second Herd in 1949. Ammons began leading his own small groups in 1947 and had a hit with “Red Top” (named after his wife) that year. In the early 1950s he co-led a popular two-tenor band with Sonny Stitt and in the early 1960s he took part in successful collaborations in a soul-jazz idiom with several organists, including Jack McDuff and Johnny Smith. He served prison sentences for drug offences (...
Lori Burns and Jada Watson
(b Newton, NC, Aug 22, 1963). American alternative-rock singer-songwriter, pianist, and record producer. She emerged in the early 1990s amid a resurgence of female singer-songwriters and has been one of the few well known alternative-rock artists to use the piano as her primary instrument. She attended the preparatory division of the prestigious Peabody Conservatory but left the school at the age of 11. She began to play her own music in nightclubs at 14, chaperoned by her father, who was a preacher. After Amos moved to Los Angeles in her late teens to pursue a recording career, her band Y Kant Tori Read released a self-titled album (Atl., 1987). Although this was unsuccessful, Atlantic Records retained her six-album contract.
Amos’s debut solo album, Little Earthquakes (Atl., 1992), earned her critical acclaim for her vocal expressivity, pianistic virtuosity, and fearless exploration of a wide range of personal themes, notably female sexuality, personal relationships, religion, sexual violence, and coming of age. The album ...
(b Greenville, SC, Sept 12, 1916; d Norwalk, CA, April 29, 1981). Americanjazz trumpeter. Orphaned when he was four, he grew up at the Jenkins Orphanage in South Carolina. He took up trombone at the age of seven but switched to trumpet in 1929, and learned music theory as a member of the school’s band. In 1932 Anderson and a group of students left the school and formed the Carolina Cotton Pickers. He was a member of the group until 1935, after which he had stints with the orchestras of Claude Hopkins, Doc Wheeler, Lucky Millinder, Erskine Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, and Sabby Lewis, and joined Duke Ellington in 1944. Although he left Ellington’s group in 1947, he returned to work with him again during the periods 1950–59 and 1961–71. He was subsequently based in Los Angeles, playing in the studios and with big bands led by Bill Berry and Louis Bellson. Anderson was a high note specialist, often hitting pitches in the upper register during the climax of pieces; on a recording of “Satin Doll” he made with Ellington in ...
(b Chichester, England, 1971). American singer-songwriter and pianist. After the Hegarty family moved to San Jose, Ccalifornia, in 1981, Antony studied experimental theater at New York University, formed a performance collective with Johanna Constantine, and collaborated with filmmaker William Basinski (Life on Mars, 1997) and rock icon Lou Reed (The Raven, Sire, 2003; Animal Serenade, RCA, 2004). Antony has become the world’s most famous transgender musician. Male-bodied and feminine-identified, Antony retains his birth name and uses masculine pronouns professionally. His band, Antony and the Johnsons (formed in 1996), is named after the murdered African American transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.
Antony’s vocal depth, resonance, and melismatic grace evoke African American musical traditions. His tremulous vibrato and seemingly self-imposed limitations (also evident in his amateurish piano playing) express the grave earthly burdens of his lyrics. His eclectic work has been influenced by the AIDS-ravaged New York art scene (Peter Hujar), British synth-pop (Marc Almond), soul (Nina Simone, Boy George), and experimental underground music (Diamanda Galás). His band includes vocals, piano, drums, guitar, bass, cello, violin, and horns, he regularly appears with an orchestra, and he released an album of live symphonic performances with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra featuring arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and himself (...