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Article

Val Wilmer

[Cecil Valentine ]

(b Kingston, Jamaica, March 28, 1926; d Romford, Oct 10, 2009). Jamaican trumpeter, flugelhorn player, conductor, arranger, bandleader, journalist, and broadcaster. Self-taught on clarinet, he changed to trumpet to play with the big bands of the drummer Redver Cooke and the saxophonist Eric Deans, then formed the Beboppers with Ernest Ranglin and Dizzy Reece. He performed annually with the Jamaica All-Stars, and in 1950 he formed a septet which included Joe Harriott. From 1954 he promoted concerts and festivals, organizing the annual Big Band, which featured the island’s leading talents, notably Wilton “Bogey” Gaynair, Don Drummond, and the pianist (later politician) Seymour “Foggy” Mullings. Ranglin, Roland Alphonso, and the trombonist Emanuel “Rico” Rodriguez joined this ensemble to accompany such visiting artists as Sarah Vaughan, Donald Byrd, and Jimmy Owens. Bradshaw, who played in a raw, direct style influenced by Dizzy Gillespie, was a tireless promoter of Jamaican music. For 25 years he served as president of the Jamaican Federation of Musicians, and he arranged the island’s national anthem. Although he recorded extensively and toured throughout the Americas playing reggae, jazz was his preferred mode of expression. Among the guests who appeared with his poll-winning small group are Roy Haynes, Reece, Coleridge Goode, and Byard Lancaster. In the 1990s he travelled to England annually, playing in Birmingham with Andy Hamilton’s band....

Article

Alex Harris Stein

(b New York, NY, June 27, 1928). American writer. After graduating from Hamilton College (1950) and serving in the military (1950–51), he worked as a magazine editor in New York (1952–58) before striking out on his own as a freelance writer. He has since published prolifically on a wide range of subjects and is best known for his series of historical novels for young adults. Collier is also a jazz trombonist, and he has published six books on jazz. His first, The Making of Jazz (1978), was well received and became one of the first widely used textbooks on jazz history. His subsequent works, however, have sparked controversy, owing to his tendency to stake out provocative positions. For example, in his biography of Duke Ellington (1987), Collier contends that Ellington never realized his early potential later in his career. In ...

Article

Alex Harris Stein

(b Toronto, ON, Feb 13, 1913; d Escondido, CA, May 27, 2001). American writer and record producer. In 1934 she settled in Chicago, where she became active as a jazz journalist and promoter, writing for the Chicago Herald-Examiner and Down Beat, founding the Chicago Rhythm Club, and promoting listening concerts featuring such performers as Earl Hines and Billie Holiday. At one such concert, Dance was responsible for bringing together Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson in one of the first highly publicized interracial collaborations in jazz. She also produced her first recordings for the Okeh label (1935). In 1937 she relocated to New York, where she produced many of the legendary Duke Ellington small band recordings, collaborated with Red Norvo, Mildred Bailey, and Bob Crosby, and managed Chick Webb, organizing swing battles at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem featuring the Webb Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald. Among the many concerts that she organized was Benny Goodman’s historic ...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(b New Rochelle, NY, May 18, 1951). American writer. In 1986 he became jazz critic for the New York Post. During the course of his career he also contributed to the periodicals Crescendo International (later Crescendo & Jazz Music), Coda, Down Beat, Jazz Times, Modern Drummer, Mississippi Rag...

Article

Michael C. Heller

(Waldo )

(b Oklahoma City, OK, March 1, 1913, d New York, NY April 16, 1994). American novelist, essayist, and cultural critic. He is best known as the author of the landmark novel Invisible Man (1952). Ellison was also a renowned commentator on jazz, a recurrent theme throughout his writing. A talented trumpet player during his youth, Ellison entered Tuskegee Institute on a music scholarship in 1933. His focus shifted to literature by the late 1930s, and he wrote short stories and book reviews for several publications. He catapulted to fame with the publication of Invisible Man and was one of the world’s foremost African American intellectuals for the remainder of his life. He published several influential collections of essays, including many on jazz, and worked continuously on a second novel, which remained unfinished upon his death. Musicians appear as key guides for the protagonists in both of his novels....

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(b Minneapolis, Jan 22, 1952). American percussionist, clarinetist, pianist, and critic. His father was an orchestral percussionist. Having been exposed to jazz at an early age, he took up drums when he was nine and studied informally with his father. Later he learned piano (1966–7) until he tired of reading music, though he resumed playing the instrument from 1969, took up clarinet in 1972, and doubled on bass clarinet from 1989 to 1992 and alto clarinet from 1992. Around the age of 17 he played in a rock band, but because he wished to explore freer types of music he formed the experimental group Blue Freedom; it was later known as Blue Freedom New Art Transformation and from 1973 as the Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble (MFFJE), which from 1975 functioned primarily as a duo with the guitarist Steve Gnitka; the two men toured Europe in ...

Article

Michael C. Heller

(Mitchell )

(b Brooklyn, NY, March 21, 1948). American jazz and film critic and historian. After studying English at Grinnell College (BA 1972), he returned to New York and began writing on film for the Hollywood Reporter (1972) and on jazz for Down Beat (1972–3). Citing influence from the writers Martin Williams and Dan Morgenstern, he decided to focus his efforts exclusively on jazz and in 1973 was hired as a music critic by the Village Voice. His regular column “Weather Bird” became highly influential during the next three decades. Unlike critics who concentrated primarily on recent performances, Giddins wrote on a range of topics, including the legacies of historical figures, contemporary developments, and issues relating to jazz advocacy and education. From the 1980s he began publishing collections of his essays as well as book-length monographs, including biographies of Charlie Parker (1987), Louis Armstrong (...

Article

Daniel Zager

(b New York, Dec 18, 1928; d Feb 23, 2019). American writer. After attending the University of Missouri (1946–50) and Columbia University (1950) he worked for Prestige Records (1950–55). With Leonard Feather he collaborated on The Encyclopedia of Jazz (1955), for which he was an assistant writer and editor, and The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties (1966), and he was an author with Feather of The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies (1976) and the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999). Gitler wrote for such periodicals as Metronome, Jazz Magazine, Down Beat (of which he was an associate editor), and Jazz Times, produced film scripts on Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton for the US Information Service, and was a commentator for radio station WBAI, New York; he also taught at CUNY. Among his more notable writings is ...

Article

Lars Helgert

(b New York, NY, March 1, 1917; d Berkeley, CA, June 3, 1975). American jazz and rock critic. He studied at Columbia University (1934–8), where he was a jazz writer for the Columbia Spectator, and frequently attended performances at New York jazz clubs. In 1939 he co-founded Jazz Information, one of the earliest jazz magazines, and served as its editor until publication ceased in 1941. From 1942 until 1945 he was employed by the Office of War Information, spending time overseas. Gleason wrote for Down Beat from 1947 to 1961 (he also served as an associate editor) and for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1950 until his death. He founded another jazz periodical, Jazz: a Quarterly of American Music, which was published from 1958 to 1960. In 1967 he was a co-founder of Rolling Stone, to which he contributed for the next eight years. He also wrote for ...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(b Reading, PA, Dec 18, 1932). American writer. He learned clarinet from the age of 12 and taught himself to play alto saxophone. After studying music theory at Florida State University (BA 1961) he played with the pianist John Benson Brooks (c1961–3), whose trio explored 12-tone composition and improvisation. From the early 1960s Heckman contributed to Down Beat, Metronome, and Jazz Review, and in the process he wrote a number of musical analyses of jazz performances (notably “Miles Davis Times Three,” DB, xxix/23 (1962), 16), which was an unusual practice at the time. Around the same period he played occasionally with Don Ellis, broadcast a jazz radio show on WBAI-FM in New York (1963–4), and performed in the October Revolution in Jazz (1964). From 1964 to 1972, with the tenor saxophonist Ed Summerlin, he co-led the ensemble Improvisational Jazz Workshop, in which Steve Kuhn, Ron Carter, Steve Swallow, Ed Shaugnessy, and Charli Persip were among their sidemen; the group recorded an eponymous album in ...

Article

Daniel Zager

(b Laramie, WY, 1909; d Brielle, nr Spring Lake, NJ, Nov 19, 1967). American writer. After graduating in 1930 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a degree in engineering he moved to Illinois, and from 1935 until the end of World War II he worked as an engineer in Chicago. He took a great interest in jazz recordings, and from 1935 to the 1960s he contributed a column entitled “The Hot Box” to Down Beat which contained important discographical and biographical material on jazz musicians. In the mid-1940s he also wrote for Esquire’s Jazz Book. Hoefer moved in 1951 to New York, where he provided material for the periodicals Metronome, Jazz, and Melody Maker; from 1958 to 1961 he was an editor of Down Beat. His writings are notable for their accuracy and unusual attention to detail.

(selective list)

“Bix Beiderbecke,” “Bessie Smith,” The Jazz Makers...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

(b New York, March 2, 1923; d El Cerrito, CA, March 1, 2015). Record producer. After graduating from Columbia University (BA English 1943) and serving in the army he worked for a publishing company; from 1948 he wrote for Record Changer, published by his former classmate Bill Grauer. In 1952 he and Grauer initiated for RCA Victor’s X label a series of 10-inch albums of reissues of important recordings by such artists as Johnny Dodds, Jelly Roll Morton, Bennie Moten, and King Oliver. In the following year they founded the record company and label Riverside, which at first offered a similar series of reissues but soon made many important new recordings in bop and related styles, including seminal albums by Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans (ii); Keepnews acted as producer for most of these sessions himself. Following a period during which he undertook freelance work he ran the company and record label ...

Article

Daniel Zager

[Leonard S. ]

(b Albany, NY, July 24, 1942). American writer. He studied philosophy at the University of Rochester (BA 1964) and Brown University (MA 1966, PhD 1969) and from 1969 taught philosophy at the University of Santa Clara; he also studied piano with Lennie Tristano. Among his published writings are The Great Jazz Pianists (1983), a collection of interviews with 27 jazz pianists that includes biographical material and discographies, and articles for Down Beat, Keyboard, and Guitar Player. He received the first Ralph J. Gleason Memorial Fund Award for Jazz Criticism at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1976. In the early 1980s he moved from Berkeley, California, to Lexington, Massachusetts.

(selective list)

The 101 Best Jazz Albums: a History of Jazz on Records (New York, 1980) [listeners’ guide] The Great Jazz Pianists, Speaking of their Lives and Music (New York, 1983) with D. Perlo: Jazz Portraits: the Lives and Music of the Jazz Masters...

Article

Steve Smith

(Marc )

(b Chicago, Dec 26, 1950). American writer. He learned piano and flute as a child and pursued his formal education at Syracuse University (1970–72), Mills College (1972), and Roosevelt College (1973–5); he also studied boogie-woogie, swing, and blues piano with leading players in Chicago. In 1975 he embarked on his writing career, working for Down Beat (as associate editor, 1978–81), The Wire, Musical America, Tower Pulse!, the Village Voice, the Washington Post, Billboard, the New York Times Book Review, and Jazziz. He contributed scripts for jazz shows on NPR and held editorial positions at Guitar World (1982–3), Ear (1987–92), the JVC Jazz Festival program guide published by Tower Pulse! (from 1994), and Rhythm Music (1996–7). Mandel was a founder of the Jazz Journalists’ Association: in 1992 he became its president and in 1997 editor of its website, ...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(David )

(b Toronto, Nov 6, 1951). Canadian writer and photographer. He studied at York University in Toronto (BFA 1973) and worked as a contributor to Coda (1973–6, 1988), DownBeat (as its Toronto correspondent, 1975–92), and Jazz Forum (as its Canadian correspondent, 1977–90), as well as writing on jazz for other periodicals; in 1978 he became the jazz critic for the Toronto Globe and Mail. Having served as a subject editor on jazz and English-language popular music for the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1981), he was one of its associate editors for the second edition (1992). Miller has also written liner notes, notably providing the overview and notes for Radio Canada International’s Anthology of Canadian Jazz (1991), and has published many of his photographs of jazz musicians. Throughout his career he has concentrated on jazz musicians and the development of jazz in Canada, and he is the author of two collections of biographical essays and a history of the early years of jazz in Canada....

Article

Paula Morgan

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(Michael)

(b Munich, Oct 24, 1929). American writer. He grew up in Vienna, but left in 1938 and spent the next nine years as a refugee in Denmark and Sweden. After moving to the USA in 1947 he studied history at Brandeis University (1953–6). From 1958 to 1961 he was the New York correspondent for Jazz Journal. He then served as editor of Metronome (1961), Jazz (1962–3), and Down Beat (New York editor, 1964–6, editor 1966–73) magazines; during the 1960s he also produced jazz concerts in New York and for television. In the mid-1970s he held appointments as visiting lecturer in jazz at Brooklyn College and the Peabody Institute, and in 1976 he became director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers, in which capacity he has worked as an editor of the Journal of Jazz Studies (from 1982 the Annual Review of Jazz Studies...

Article

Monk Rowe

(Lee )

(b Nokomis, AL, May 12, 1916). American writer. His birthday appears incorrectly in some general reference sources as 12 June; a telephone call to his home confirmed 12 May. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and attended Tuskegee Institute (BS 1939), where he first began writing and later taught English (1943–6, 1946–51), while at the same time working for a master’s degree in literature from New York University (1948). He helped train the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and remained in the air force until 1962, when he retired as a major. Between 1970 and 1976 he published five books. The first, The Omni-Americans (1970), analyzes racial relations and American culture; Stomping the Blues (1976), for which he won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award, explores the significance of jazz and blues. A lengthy collaboration with Count Basie resulted in Basie’s autobiography, ...

Article

(b Little Rock, AR, June 19, 1945; d Valhalla, NY, Nov 20, 1997). American writer. As a youth he played reed instruments with rock, country, and soul bands, and later performed as a member of an eclectic group called the Insect Trust, with which he recorded two albums. He was a co-founder of the Memphis Blues Festival in 1966, and the following year graduated from the University of Arkansas. In New York thereafter he became a widely published freelance writer on jazz, rock, and the avant garde. From 1975 he was a regular reviewer for the New York Times and in 1981 he was appointed to its staff of jazz and pop critics. Palmer wrote four books, the most important of which was a study of the Delta blues (Deep Blues, New York and London, 1981). He held teaching positions at Bowdoin College, Memphis State University, Brooklyn College, CUNY, Yale University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Mississippi, where he worked after leaving the ...

Article

Daniel Zager

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[Robert (D.) ]

(b New York, c1945). American writer. He studied clarinet and drums and played drums in workshops with Jaki Byard (1968–71) and Cedar Walton (1972). In the 1960s and 1970s he wrote for American and European periodicals, including Down Beat, Jazz Journal, and Jazz Forum, and in 1975 he began publishing the monthly magazine Cadence, which in the following years printed many wide-ranging interviews with jazz and blues musicians and reviews of recordings. Later he formed Cadence Jazz Records (1980), which by the late 1990s had issued more than 100 recordings; North Country Record Distribution (1983), which distributes the jazz and blues recordings of more than 900 small independent labels; Cadence Jazz Books (1992), which publishes reference books, histories, and discographies; and CIMP (1996), for which he had produced about 100 recordings by the turn of the century. He donated his extensive indexed collection of books and journals, covering jazz and blues literature in the English language, to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library (...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(b New York, Oct 31, 1950). American writer. After studying music at CUNY and at the guitar center of the New School for Social Research he worked as an editor, feature writer, and columnist for the periodical of Tower Records, Pulse (1983–91), and contributed numerous articles to Down Beat (1984–93). While serving as a music critic for The Nation (from 1986) he was a columnist for 7 Days (1987–9) and Taxi (1988–90); he then wrote essays for Atlantic Monthly and taught at CCNY (both from 1991). As both a music critic and a feature writer he has contributed to the New York Post (1988–90), the New York Daily News (from 1993), and Fi (1996–9), and he has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and Musician...