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Article

J. Kent Williams

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[Mjumbe ]

(b Detroit, Sept 3, 1938; d Detroit, Nov 15, 2005). American drummer, percussionist, and jazz educator. His mother sang in church. Brooks cites Elvin Jones as his first important influence. He first worked with Yusef Lateef, then joined Horace Silver’s quintet, of which he was a member from 1959 to 1964; during the same period he recorded with his fellow sidemen Junior Cook (1960) and Blue Mitchell (1961, 1963), as well as with Sonny Red (1960), Buddy Tate and Stanley Turrentine (both 1961), and Shirley Scott (1961–3). Later he performed with Wes Montgomery, Lateef (1967–70), Pharoah Sanders, James Moody (1970–72), Sonny Stitt (recording in 1972–3), Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, Randy Weston, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus (mid-1972–1973, beginning with a tour of Europe), and Abdullah Ibrahim (including recordings, 1973, 1976, 1977), and recorded with Chet Baker (...

Article

Stan Britt

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Dumfries, Scotland, April 21, 1933; d London, Feb 25, 2009). English trumpeter, flugelhorn player, bandleader, composer, writer, and teacher, brother of Mike Carr. His mother played ukulele and banjo. Carr grew up in northeast England, where he took piano lessons from the age of 12 and taught himself trumpet from 1950. After studying at King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne (1952–60, degree, English literature, diploma, education) he served in the army (1956–8), then played with his brother in a band, the Emcee Five (1960 – August 1962). He briefly joined Don Rendell in November 1962 and, after recovering from illness, formed a long-lived quintet with Rendell from 1963 to July 1969; during this period he also worked with Joe Harriott (recording in 1969), Don Byas, and John McLaughlin. In September 1969 he formed his own band, Nucleus, which rapidly became recognized internationally for its experiments with jazz-rock. As a result of its performance at the Montreux International Jazz Festival in ...

Article

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

Laurence Libin

(b Jirapa, Ghana, June 22, 1958). Ghanaian xylophone maker, player, and teacher. Born into a family of gyilli makers and players in northwest Ghana, Doozie began playing at six years of age. When he was 12 his father taught him to make his first gyilli and he was a practised maker by age 15. After secondary school Doozie moved to Accra to become a xylophonist with the Ghana Dance Ensemble. He was also an instructor at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. Among other appointments, he has performed with the National SO Ghana and has been associated with the Institute of African Studies and the music and performing arts departments of the University of Ghana. In 1990 he established a workshop to produce xylophones; he made the xylophones used in the Broadway production of The Lion King. He has also restored instruments in museum collections. He continues to teach and perform and is managing director of Dagarti Arts and Music in Accra and a member of the Arts Council of Ghana. He is also involved in promoting fair trade practices. Doozie’s xylophone bars—from eight to 18 for each instrument—are made of aged, fire-dried planks of wood from male shea trees. Gourd resonators are affixed under the bars, which are tied to the curved frame. The tips of the wooden beaters are padded with rubber recycled from tyres....

Article

Luca Cerchiari

(Richard)

( Dallas, TX, Feb 3, 1933). American alto saxophonist and music educator. He was raised in California, where he studied clarinet before switching to alto saxophone. He has also played tenor and baritone saxophones, flute, piano, oboe, and percussion. Handy started his career performing in San Francisco with the blues musicians Lowell Fulson and Pee Wee Crayton and the jazz musicians Freddie Redd, Pat Martino, and Bobby Hutcherson. He then moved in 1958 to New York, where he formed his own group and worked with the pianist Randy Weston and the bass player and composer Charles Mingus (including the album Mingus Ah Um, 1959, Col.). In 1959 he recorded his first album, for Roulette. After studying music at San Francisco State College (BA 1963), he had a parallel career as a teacher, working at San Francisco State University and Conservatory, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University, among other institutions. He rejoined Mingus 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

John Bass

[William]

(b Los Angeles, Oct 11, 1936; d Inglewood, CA, May 3, 2001). American jazz drummer, recording artist, and educator. He played drums from an early age, and his first professional experiences came backing up the rhythm-and-blues performers Amos Milburn and Bo Diddley. After turning his attention to jazz in the late 1950s, Higgins performed and recorded with Dexter Gordon and Thelonious Monk. He was also a member of the Jazz Messiahs with the trumpeter Don Cherry and of Ornette Coleman’s quartet with Cherry and the bass player Charlie Haden; he played with the latter group during a residency at the Five Spot in New York. Higgins performed on three of Coleman’s recordings: Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman (1958, Cont.), which included the bass player Don Payne and the pianist Walter Norris; The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959, Atl.); and Change of the Century...

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

Vera H. Flaig

(b Balandugu, Guinea, West Africa, 1950). Drummer, director, and teacher of Guinean birth. Mamady Keïta began his official apprenticeship with the village djembéfola at the age of eight. By his late teens, he was lead drummer of Ballet D’Joliba. By 22 he became the company’s first drummer to act as artistic director. Upon his retirement from the ballet in 1986, Keïta played briefly for the national ballet in Côte D’Ivoire before settling in Belgium where he founded an international djembé school called Tam Tam Mandingue.

Keïta came to live in the United States in 2004. At his first official workshop as an American resident, Keïta announced: “I spent fifteen years cleaning up the djembé drumming in Europe. Now it is time to do the same in America.” Despite the growing popularity of the djembé, Keïta was surprised by the lack of understanding about its history and music within American drum circles. Keïta, together with six other ...

Article

Brian Priestley

(Daniel )

(b Philadelphia, April 1, 1920; d Sarasota, FL, May 12, 2004). American saxophonist, clarinetist, and teacher. He was a sideman in the big bands of Bob Chester (1942–4) and Woody Herman (1944–6; while with Herman he appeared in the film Earl Carroll Vanities (1945). He then studied with Lennie Tristano and other teachers, and he recorded with Tristano in 1947. With Teo Macero, Charles Mingus, and others, he was a founding member in 1953 of the Jazz Composers’ Workshop; this established an experimental movement in New York which rivaled that in Los Angeles. LaPorta studied at the Manhattan School of Music (BS clarinet 1956, MME 1957), after which he began teaching there. From 1959 to 1985 he served on the faculty at the Berklee School of Music (from 1973 the Berklee College of Music), where he performed in a faculty saxophone quartet. He also played in Herb Pomeroy’s big band from ...

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....

Article

(b Gloucester, MA, April 15, 1930; d Gloucester, MA, August 11, 2007). Bandleader, trumpeter, and teacher. After studying at the Schillinger House of Music (1950–52) and playing in Boston with Charlie Parker (for one week in June 1953) and Charlie Mariano (later that same year) he toured as a trumpeter with Lionel Hampton (December 1953 – April 1954) and Stan Kenton (September 1954). He then returned to Boston and worked with Serge Chaloff (1954–5). In 1955 he began teaching at Schillinger, which the previous year had taken a new name, the Berklee School of Music. While establishing himself as the cornerstone of this school’s growing jazz program he led a 16-piece swing and bop ensemble that performed regularly at The Stables (1956–60); among its sidemen were Joe Gordon, Jaki Byard (who was then playing tenor saxophone), Boots Mussulli, and later, Mariano and Bill Berry. He was also the leader of another band (...

Article

James M. Doran

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[Sarney ]

(b Chicago, Oct 6, 1929). American pianist, arranger, and teacher. Simmons reported to the Lewises (2000) that he was given the forename Sarney but was originally called Billy; he registered for school as Norman. He studied piano at the Chicago School of Music (1945–9) and first performed with Clifford Jordan (1946). Around 1950 he deputized for Lou Levy for two weeks in the group led by Bill Harris (i) at the Blue Note in Chicago. After taking time off to practice in Minneapolis he returned to Chicago, where in July 1952 he began an engagement at the Capitol Lounge as a member of Coleman Hawkins’s small group. He then joined Paul Bascomb’s group (1953). Soon afterwards he worked as the house pianist at the Bee Hive (1953–6), where once again he accompanied Hawkins before forming a trio with Vernel Fournier and Victor Sproles. This trio supported such distinguished soloists as Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray (with whose sextet it recorded in ...

Article

James Patrick

(b Ansonia, CO, May 28, 1921). American jazz pianist. As a child performer he appeared in the original production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 1935. From 1939 to 1943 he led the house band at Monroe’s Uptown House in New York, where he was in the forefront of the modernist movement that crystallized in the bop idiom. Though his work was seldom recorded, his harmonically advanced, flowing, and lightly percussive style mark him as an important forerunner of such early modern pianists as Bud Powell, George Wallington, Al Haig, and Duke Jordan. Repelled by the influence of narcotics in jazz, from 1946 he turned increasingly to other musical opportunities. In 1968 he settled in Buffalo, New York, where he performed, lectured at SUNY, and co-directed a state prison music program. He received an honorary doctorate from Buffalo State College in 1999.

L. Feather: Inside Be-bop (New York, 1949/...

Article

Martin McCain

(b Asheville, NC, Feb 15, 1948). American bass trombonist. Vernon studied with Bill Hill and Gail Williams at Brevard College and Georgia State University. Edward Kleinhammer and Arnold Jacobs of the Chicago Symphony also served as mentors. Vernon’s orchestral career began in 1971 as bass trombonist with the Baltimore Symphony. A one-year appointment with the San Francisco Symphony in 1980 was followed by a five-season position with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1986, Vernon succeeded his mentor, Edward Kleinhammer, in the Chicago Symphony. He has taught on the faculty of DePaul University and has also served in similar positions at Brevard Music Center, Catholic University, Northwestern University, and the Curtis Institute. Many of Vernon’s students have been appointed to major orchestras including Blair Bollinger with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Vernon has premiered numerous works including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s and Frank Siekmann’s Concertos for bass trombone and most recently Christian Lindberg’s ...