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Jeffrey Holmes

[Randal Edward ]

(b Philadelphia, PA, Nov 27, 1945). American trumpeter, flugelhorn player, composer, arranger, and bandleader, brother of Michael Brecker. After graduating from Indiana University in 1966, he moved to New York, where he played with Clark Terry, Duke Pearson, and the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. A versatile musician, he worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears, performing on their debut album, played hard bop and soul jazz with the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and helped form the fusion group Dreams, which included his brother Michael, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie. During the 1970s he worked with Silver, Larry Coryell, Stevie Wonder, the Plastic Ono Super Band, and Cobham. He and Michael also performed and recorded (six albums) as the Brecker Brothers, garnering much critical acclaim. He continued to lead his own group into the 1980s and also recorded and toured with virtuoso performers Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke. A reunion of the Brecker Brothers in ...

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Mark C. Gridley

revised by Charles Garrett

(b Chicago, IL, March 11, 1932; d New York, NY, Feb 24, 2007). American jazz violinist, composer, and bandleader. He was influenced by the violinists Jascha Heifetz, Eddie South, and Bruce Hayden, as well as the saxophonists Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. From 1965 to 1969 he played in Chicago with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Creative Construction Company, becoming the leading violinist in the free jazz style. He then helped to organize the Revolutionary Ensemble (1971) and led his own trio (1977–9) and quintet (1982–3). In addition to collaborating with such musicians as Cecil Taylor, Joseph Jarman, and Myra Melford, he also contributed to the new music scene by serving on the board of directors of the Composer’s Forum. In his later career, he turned to creating theatrical productions, including the operas Mother of Three Sons...

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David Chevan

(b Irvington, NJ, April 3, 1936; d Geneva, NY, July 6, 1961). American jazz double bass player, composer, and bandleader. While growing up in Geneva, New York, he took up clarinet, after which he played tenor saxophone at high school. The music education program he attended at Ithaca College required that LaFaro learn a string instrument, and so at age 18 he began to focus on double bass. He subsequently played with the Buddy Morrow band from 1955 to 1956, during which period he decided to move to Los Angeles to establish himself professionally. After playing with Chet Baker’s band for a year, he moved between Chicago, where he played with Ira Sullivan, and Southern California, where he worked with Sonny Rollins, Harold Land, and Barney Kessel.

LaFaro’s move to New York in 1959 proved immediately fruitful; that year he performed with a number of important bandleaders, including Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman. In that year LaFaro also joined the Bill Evans Trio, the group in which he cemented his reputation as an innovator on his instrument. In this trio, which also featured the drummer Paul Motian, LaFaro was accorded tremendous freedom to deviate from the traditional 4/4 walking bass line. His approach to the bass within this ensemble was as much melodic as it was focused on keeping time and establishing the harmony. Additionally he was granted substantial space for improvisation, which allowed him to showcase his nimble, bebop-influenced technique. Evans’s trio recorded “Jade Visions,” a LaFaro composition with static modal harmony that served as a showcase for his prodigious technique....

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Charles Garrett

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Jeffery S. McMillan

(b Philadelphia, PA, July 10, 1938; d New York, NY, Feb 19, 1972). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. One of the charismatic individualists to emerge in the late 1950s, he began playing vibraphone at 12, but soon thereafter turned to trumpet. He studied music at Jules E Mastbaum Vocational Technical High School and privately with the trumpeter Tony Marchione, but learned jazz by playing in Philadelphia rehearsal bands, sitting in with visiting professionals, and leading his own combo from age 15. After graduation in 1956, Morgan played a week with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, and made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note. He was a featured soloist on “A Night in Tunisia” with Gillespie until the band dissolved in January 1958. After a short period of freelancing, he joined a revamped edition of the Jazz Messengers and stayed until ...

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Michael Baumgartner

(b Oakland, CA, Feb 19, 1955). American jazz saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, and leader. He grew up in Berkeley, where he received his first musical training, in stride and ragtime piano. At the age of nine he began playing alto saxophone and at the age of 11 tenor saxophone. From the age of 12 through his later teens he led several R&B bands. He continued his formal training at Pomona College in Los Angeles, where stanley Crouch and Margaret Kohn were among his teachers. After his graduation in 1975 Murray moved to New York where he began playing the loft circuit with such experimental musicians as Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, and Julius Hemphill. His first steady engagement came with the Ted Daniels’ Energy Band; its members were Hamiett Bluiett, Lester Bowie, and Frank Lowe. After his first European tour in 1976, Murray established the renowned World saxophone quartet ...

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A. Scott Currie

(b Bronx, NY, Jan 10, 1952). American jazz bass player, bandleader, and composer. He grew up listening to such swing artists as Duke Ellington and played trumpet, trombone, and cello. Inspired by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler, he took up bass in his teens and had formal studies, first with Paul West, then with richard Davis , Art Davis, and milt Hinton at Jazzmobile. Later he studied privately with jimmy Garrison and Wilbur Ware and developed a unique style featuring a propulsive alternation between rapid-fire upper-register playing and low punctuating open-string strums, along with vamps, walking “freebop” lines, and lyrical arco work. In 1973 Parker launched his professional career in the downtown New York loft-jazz scene, performing with Muntu and the Music Ensemble, and making his recorded debut on Frank Lowe’s album Black Beings (1973, ESP). Soon he was playing in bands led by Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry at Carnegie Hall and the Five Spot Café, jointly organizing loft concerts and festivals, and leading his own Centering Orchestras. By the early 1980s he had become Taylor’s main bass player and he eventually filled the chair from ...

Article

John-Carlos Perea

[James Gilbert ]

(b Salem, OR, June 18, 1941; d Portland, OR, Feb 10, 1992). American tenor and soprano saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and composer. Of Native American (Creek and Kaw) heritage, he was raised in Oregon and Oklahoma. Early musical influences included tap dance, big band jazz, Southern Plains powwow music and dance, and peyote music. Pepper moved to New York in 1964 and joined the Free Spirits (1966), an early fusion jazz ensemble featuring Larry Coryell and Bob Moses. After forming the group Everything is Everything (1967) with former members of Free Spirits Chris Hills and Columbus Baker, Pepper recorded “Witchi Tai To,” a composition fusing a peyote song with jazz, rock, and country influences. Released on Everything is Everything featuring Chris Hills (Vanguard Apostolic, 1969), “Witchi Tai To” peaked at number 69 on the Billboard pop charts. By 2011 it had been covered by at least 90 artists ranging from Brewer & Shipley, Jan Garbarek, and Oregon to the Paul Winter Consort and Joy Harjo. Pepper released four albums as a leader: ...

Article

Bruce Boyd Raeburn

(Carl )

(b Careening Cay, nr Bocas del Toro, Gran Colombia [now Panama], Aug 6, 1902; d New York, NY, Dec 11, 1963). American jazz bandleader, arranger, and pianist. His father taught music, and Russell was a teenaged multi-instrumentalist before replacing a theater pianist caused him to concentrate on piano. He learned about jazz by performing for American servicemen in the Panama Canal Zone. After his family won a lottery in 1919, he moved to New Orleans to pursue a career as a jazz musician, establishing himself with Albert Nicholas’s band at Anderson’s Annex in 1922. When King Oliver was organizing his Dixie Syncopators in 1924, he sent for Russell, Nicholas, and Barney Bigard, after which Russell became Oliver’s chief arranger. While in Chicago he also pursued various side projects, including the Chicago Hottentot recordings with Nicholas, Bigard, Johnny St. Cyr, and George Mitchell. After Oliver’s relocation to New York in ...

Article

Chip Henderson

[John Henry ]

(b Birmingham, AL, June 25, 1922; d Colorado Springs, CO, June 11, 2013). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. Smith’s first exposure to music was through his father, who played banjo. By the age of 13 he had taught himself to play the guitar. Smith’s early influences included Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, and Andrés Segovia. As a teenager he performed with the Fenton Brothers Dance Band and Uncle Lem and his Mountain Boys. Smith enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the start of WWII. Unable to fly, Smith played cornet in the Air Corps band. After the war he was hired as a staff guitarist for NBC Studios in New York and performed regularly with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Symphony. From 1951 to 1965 Smith recorded for the Roost label. His recording of “Moonlight in Vermont” (1952) became one of the top-selling instrumental singles of all time. In ...

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Mark Berresford

(Coleman )

(b Brunswick, MO, Feb 7, 1882; d New York, NY, March 9, 1961). American clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher. His first professional engagement (c1897–8) was with a “pickaninny” band led by Nathaniel Clark Smith. In 1902 he was assistant leader of P.G. Lowery’s band with Forepaugh and Sells Circus and later that year joined Mahara’s Minstrels band under the leadership of W.C. Handy. In 1903 he formed his own band in Minneapolis, where he made the first recordings by an African American band. Sweatman moved to Chicago in 1908, where he led trios at the Grand and Monogram theaters. In 1911 he made his first vaudeville appearance, and in late 1916 made the first records recognizable as jazz performances. In 1918 Sweatman’s band was signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia, their records rivalling those by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He continued to work through the 1920s and early 1930s in vaudeville, and in ...

Article

Walter van de Leur

(b Terre Haute, IN, Aug 10, 1908; d Caldwell, NJ, July 1, 1965). American bandleader, pianist, composer, and arranger. After completing his piano and composition studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, Thornhill worked as an arranger for various orchestras, including those of Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, and Skinnay Ennis. His 1937 arrangement of “Loch Lomond” for Maxine Sullivan became a hit record. In 1940 he founded his own band, which he said would be “something new and arresting, an orchestra different from others on the scene.” The Claude Thornhill Orchestra featured atypical instruments for a jazz band: two French horns, flutes, and bass clarinets. Impressionistic arrangements of European classics formed an important part of Thornhill’s musical palette, whereas other swing bands played mostly danceable music. For instance, the band performed arrangements of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Granados’s Spanish Dance, no.5, and Brahms’s Hungarian Dance no.5. Thornhill incorporated impressionistic touches in his own pieces, such as “Portrait of a Guinea Farm” (...

Article

Ryan D.W. Bruce

[Randolph Edward ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 6, 1926). American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and club owner. Weston did not identify with his classical music lessons as a youth, choosing instead to explore a percussive piano style under the influence of Duke Ellington. Other early influences include Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Art Tatum, and Coleman Hawkins. Weston’s playing was transformed after attending a concert by Hawkins and Thelonious Monk in 1945: Monk became Weston’s mentor from 1947–9, and inspired his heavy attack and improvisatory rhythmic displacements. He was hired by Marshall Stearns in 1949 to provide demonstrations of different jazz styles for university lectures given throughout the United States; their work lasted eight summers and fostered Weston’s interest in African music.

Beginning with his debut in 1954, his early recordings acquired critical recognition and included band members such as Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Coleman Hawkins. Some of his compositions of the time, especially “Little Niles” and “Hi-Fly,” gained popularity and have been recorded by many others. Weston also worked with arranger ...