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Franya Berkman

[Sangitananda, Turiya]

(b Detroit, MI, Aug 27, 1937; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 12, 2007). American jazz pianist, organist, harpist, composer, and spiritual teacher, wife of john Coltrane and mother of Ravi Coltrane. Raised in a musical family in Detroit, she studied piano between the ages of seven and ten, then percussion at North Eastern High School. A keyboard protégée, she played for gospel choirs during her teen years and attended bebop jam sessions with her half-brother, a bass player, Ernest Farrow (1928–69). Early piano mentors include Barry Harris and Terry Pollard.

From 1956 to 1960, she played organ with the Premieres in Detroit and accompanied the saxophonists Yusef Lateef and Sonny Stitt. In 1960, she married the singer Kenneth “Pancho” Hagood and moved to Paris, where she befriended Bud Powell and gave birth to a daughter, Michelle. After returning to New York, she played with Johnny Griffin and Lucky Thompson. Between ...

Article

Marcello Piras

(b Westfield, MA, June 17, 1837; d New York, NY, Sept 5, 1903). American banjoist, composer, and teacher. Born into a musical family, which relocated to Elmira, New York, soon after his birth, he began studying piano at six and was a proficient performer at 12. When he was 14 he heard a banjo “in the hands of a colored man” (George Swayne Buckley) who was playing with thumb and first finger; in 1901 he notated those two tunes from memory thus producing what is possibly the oldest known document of African American banjo music. Despite family opposition, Converse devised a pioneering academic technique for the five-string instrument, both absorbing the “stroke” approach, inherited from slaves, and adapting the fingerpicking method of classical guitar. By 1853 he had started concertizing, touring with minstrel companies, and teaching. He edited Thomas Briggs’s Banjo Instructor (Boston, 1855) and may have had a hand in Phil Rice’s ...

Article

Noal Cohen

[Grice, George General; Qusim, Basheer]

(b Pensacola, FL, Nov 28, 1925; d Pensacola, FL, March 14, 1983). American jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, arranger, music publisher, and teacher. Known more as a composer and arranger than as an instrumentalist, he was nonetheless an alto saxophonist out of the Charlie Parker tradition with a lyrical bent and a recognizable style and sound. He studied clarinet initially and after serving in the US Navy (1944–6) attended the Boston Conservatory (to 1952). His first exposure came through an encounter with the saxophonist Stan Getz in Boston who recorded several of Gryce’s compositions. After moving to New York in 1953, Gryce was soon a part of the city’s vibrant milieu, recording with the drummer Max Roach and the pianist Tadd Dameron. Throughout his career, Gryce collaborated with a number of noted trumpet players including Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Richard Williams. With Byrd, he co-led the Jazz Lab, which made a number of highly regarded recordings in ...

Article

Andrew Scott

(Doyle)

(b Detroit, MI, Dec 15, 1929). American jazz pianist, composer, and pedagogue. He first encountered music through the church where his mother worked as a pianist and he first performed. After starting piano lessons at the age of four, he taught himself the boogie-woogie style of Albert Ammons before hearing bebop at a performance by Charlie Parker at Club El Sino in 1947. Having played some of his first professional engagements with Frank Rosolino, Harris became the house pianist at the Blue Bird Inn in Detroit, where he accompanied Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, and Parker, among others. After travelling to New York in 1956 to record with Thad Jones and Hank Mobley, Harris remained in Detroit until 1960, when he moved to New York to join Cannonball Adderley’s group. Harris made his first recording as a leader in 1958 for the Argo label. Throughout the 1960s, he enjoyed working relationships with Coleman Hawkins and the A&R man Don Schlitten, for whom Harris recorded for Riverside and Xanadu. Although an active performer and recording artist, he solidified his place as an important jazz pedagogue through his codification of passing-note scales, his employment of moving diminished chords, and his ability to demystify bebop’s complexities. Harris created the Jazz Cultural Center as a hub for his educational initiatives in ...

Article

Lars Helgert

(George)

(b Vallejo, CA, Sept 30, 1954). American composer and bass player. He studied bass as a youth with Charles Manning and then under Charles Siani at San Francisco State University, where he received a BA in music. He also studied Japanese gagaku music with Togi Suenobu and has become proficient on the shō, sheng, and other Asian instruments. Izu has performed with Cecil Tayor, Steve Lacy, and James Newton, and has been an important figure in Asian American jazz. He was a founding member of the groups United Front and Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra, performing on the latter’s Grammy-nominated recording of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Far East Suite (1999, Asian Improv). He has also worked with Jon Jang’s Pan Asian Arkestra. Izu has served as artistic director of the Asian American Jazz Festival and on the faculty of Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts....

Article

Mark C. Gridley

revised by Barry Long

[Charles Frank ]

(b Rochester, NY, Nov 29, 1940). American jazz flugelhorn player, composer, and bandleader. While studying at the Eastman School (BMEd 1963) he recorded with his brother, the pianist Gap Mangione, for the Riverside label as the Jazz Brothers. With an early style that bore similarities to early Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, his work with bandleaders such as Woody Herman (1965), Maynard Ferguson (1965), and Art Blakey (1965–7), drew wider attention. Following a brief tenure on the Eastman faculty (1968–1972), Mangione concentrated on flugelhorn, and his work began to synthesize jazz elements, string arrangements, and a pop sensibility. Following the success of his album Land of Make Believe (1973, Mer.), he moved to Herb Alpert’s A&M label to record Bellavia (1975, A&M) and won his first Grammy Award, for Best Instrumental Composition, for its title track. He began to draw a large following with performances of catchy original melodies, particularly “Land of Make Believe” and “Feels So Good,” with simplified arrangements and a reduced improvisational element that attracted widespread radio airplay. Strong sales for a jazz artist, including an extraordinary two million copies of his album ...

Article

Gregory N. Reish

(b Seattle, WA, Aug 5, 1961). American multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator. A teenaged multi-instrument prodigy in country and bluegrass styles, he won the National Junior Fiddle Championships (1974–7), the Grand Masters Fiddle Championship (1975), the National Flatpick Guitar Championship (1975), and the National Mandolin Championship (1979). His early mentor was noted Texas-style fiddler benny Thomasson , and he later studied with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.

In 1980 O’Connor joined the David Grisman Quintet as guitarist, absorbing Grisman’s progressive blend of bluegrass and swing-era “hot club” jazz. Two years later he became violinist in The Dregs (formerly The Dixie Dregs), a jazz-rock fusion band. O’Connor’s early solo recordings, such as On the Rampage (Rounder, 1980) and Meanings of (Warner Bros., 1985), showcase his virtuosity on guitar and violin and demonstrate the influence of Grisman and the Dregs. Since 1982 O’Connor has worked extensively as a session musician, recording with numerous bluegrass, country, and pop artists....