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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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Howard Rye

(fl Los Angeles, mid-1930s–1954). American drummer, singer, and dancer. He began his musical career in Dallas in the early 1930s in the Sharps and Flats, a band led by his elder brother Bert Johnson, a trombonist. While he was primarily a dancing frontman with this group, he was also featured on tom-toms. Both brothers moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s, where Cee Pee joined the band of the alto saxophonist Emerson Scott at the Onyx Club, Hollywood. He took over leadership of the group during a residency at the Paradise Club, and during a succession of engagements at such venues as the Del Mar Club (1940), the Rhumboogie, Sugar Hill (1942), and Billy Berg’s Swing Club he led one of the most prominent West Coast big bands of the era; among his sidemen were Teddy Buckner, Karl George, Buddy Banks (i), Marshal Royal, Jack McVea, Johnny Miller, and Buddy Collette. Alton Redd was the band’s second drummer, filling in when Johnson was featured on tom-toms or engaged in showmanship. The band made many visits to the film studios, some of which probably remain to be identified. Johnson continued to lead bands until at least ...

Article

Rainer E. Lotz

[Jackson, Laurence ]

(b Baltimore, Feb 23, 1921; d May 1974). American singer and tap-dancer. He first sang professionally at the age of 11, touring with Don Redman. During a period at Dickie Wells’s club in New York he learned to tap-dance, and from the mid-1930s he performed with several dance groups. He worked steadily through the 1940s, appearing with the bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and others; during a tenure as a tap-dancer at the Spotlite Club, New York, he traded fours with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Bud Powell (c1947). Laurence emphasized footwork, performing tap-dances almost as if they were drum solos, and he was one of the few jazz dancers who felt comfortable with the rhythms of bop. Illness prevented him from working for many years, but he later recorded as a leader the album Dancemaster (c1958–60, CJ 30), accompanied by such all-star musicians as Paul Quinichette, Bobby Jaspar, and Roland Hanna. He visited London about ...

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Howard Rye

[Marion Joseph ]

(b Indianapolis, July 22, 1915). American trumpeter, singer, and dancer. From 1932 he was featured as a singer and dancer in New York shows, notably Blackbirds of 1939. In 1941 he was a master of ceremonies at Kelly’s Stable and took part in jam sessions as a drummer at Monroe’s Uptown House. He recorded as a singer with Count Basie in May 1942, and he may be seen in the soundie A Song and Dance Man (1943). In 1944–5 he toured North Africa and Asia as a member of a USO unit led by Alberta Hunter; this tour included a month’s residency in Casablanca. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Miller worked around New York; he recorded again as a singer with Basie in 1947 and 1949. In 1953, as a member of Mezz Mezzrow’s band, he traveled to France, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco, and Belgium, where he recorded under his own name with a band in which Buck Clayton and Kansas Fields were sidemen; on ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

[Willis ]

(b Chicago, Dec 10, 1913; d New York, Jan 28, 1976). American trumpeter, cornetist, violinist, singer, and dancer. He learned piano from the age of six, initially taking lessons from his mother. Later he took up violin, taught himself trumpet, and marched as a drum master in high school. From 1932 to 1937 he led a sextet in Chicago, then worked, principally as a trumpeter, with Earl Hines (February 1937 – December 1938) and Horace Henderson (January 1939 – March 1940). In 1940, after spending eight months performing as a solo act – singing, dancing, and playing both trumpet and violin – he joined Duke Ellington, with whom he remained until 1963 apart from a few periods, including nine months’ leave in 1944 to lead his own quartet. While with Ellington, Nance continued to make use of all his talents. He often performed as a singer and dancer, and the full and penetrating tone he obtained on violin was the highlight of many of the band’s recordings, including ...

Article

Howard Rye

[Sonnie ]

(b Youngstown, OH, May 5, 1925; d New York, Feb 7, 1957). American singer, dancer, and drummer. He was brought up in Chicago by the vaudeville duo Butterbeans and Susie (Joe and Susie Edwards). In 1948 he was the drummer and leader of the band at the Cincinnati Cotton Club; among his sidemen was King Kolax, with whom he first recorded in December in Los Angeles. In 1949 he joined Lionel Hampton, in whose band he worked for the remainder of his professional career. He can be seen performing Hamp’s Gumbo in the short film Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra (1949), and his passionate blues shouting is heard to good effect in Money Ain’t Everything/Worried Life Blues (1952, Peacock 1595) with a small group nominally led by Gladys Hampton. Parker toured Europe with Hampton in late 1953 and again in 1954–5. He suffered a cerebral haemorrhage during a concert at Valenciennes, France, in ...

Article

John Storm Roberts

[Pozo Gonzales, Luciano ]

(b Havana, Cuba, Jan 7, 1915; d New York, NY, Dec 2, 1948). Cuban drummer, singer, and dancer. His drumming and singing were rooted in Santeria, the lucumí faith derived from West African rituals. On 29 September 1947 he and the bongo player Chiquitico performed in a concert at Carnegie Hall with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie—a landmark event in the history of fusing elements of jazz and Latin music. Pozo was murdered before he could fully develop his ideas with Gillespie, but during his brief career in the United States he provided the starting point for much popular music of the late 1940s and the 50s. The collaboration between the two men, which produced the infectious “Manteca” (1947), supplied the initiative for American musicians, and some of the listening public, to appreciate fully the tradition of Latin music.

D. Gillespie and A. Fraser: To Be, or Not … to Bop: Memoirs...

Article

John L. Clark Jr.

(b Chattanooga, TN, 2 June ?1900; d New York, NY, May 30, 1956). American singer, trumpeter, and dancer. Daughter of a mixed-race couple who were both entertainers and musicians, she learned several instruments before deciding to concentrate on trumpet. By the 1920s she was touring the T.O.B.A. circuit with various revues, and in 1926 she visited Shanghai. In 1935, her performance in Blackbirds of 1934 brought her to England, where she began making records that showed her chief instrumental and vocal influence to be Louis Armstrong. After a brief return in 1936 to the United States, where she performed with Earl Hines in Chicago and made films in Hollywood, Snow moved to Europe, where she made more films and recordings. She was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp in Denmark in 1940 and was badly injured before being exchanged in 1943. After a recuperation period she continued touring and recording until her death during a comeback appearance at the Palace Theatre. Snow stands out from other women performers of her time in that she was known as much as an instrumentalist as a singer. Her extensive touring probably cost her the name recognition that professional stability might have brought, but her recordings show her to have been a fine, swing-influenced trumpeter and vocalist....

Article

Rainer E. Lotz

[Henry ]

(b Atlanta, July 14, 1907; d New York, Oct 17, 1962). American singer and dancer. He began his career in Atlanta at an early age and first worked on the Theater Owners' Booking Association circuit in 1920. During the 1920s and 1930s he toured the USA, performing in nightclubs and theaters for vaudeville and minstrel shows, and became particularly well known for his song Bring it on home. He also appeared in several revues, notably Blackbirds of 1933–4. Williams’s nickname “Rubberlegs” describes his “legomania” dancing, which combined high kicks, wriggles, shimmies, and other steps; the short film Smash your Baggage (1933) clearly demonstrates his style of tap-dancing. Williams performed with Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb, and Dicky Wells; he sang his own composition That’s the Blues on a recording with Clyde Hart (1945, Contl 6013), and recorded under his own name accompanied by Herbie Fields’s band (...