(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
[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 ...
(b Sarita, TX, Oct 31, 1931; d Corpus Christi, TX, June 2, 2004). American accordionist, songwriter, and composer. He is one of the first Texas Mexican accordionists to achieve success as a full-time musician. At age six he learned harmonica from his mother, and after hearing early recordings by Narciso Martínez he turned to the accordion. By age 18 he had formed his own Conjunto, Tony de la Rosa y su Conjunto, and begun recording with San Antonio’s Rio Records. In 1950 he took over from Martínez as the house accordionist at Ideal Records in Alice, Texas. He accompanied many of the label’s top artists, was one of the first to travel the migrant circuit extensively across Texas and the Southwest, and made more than 100 recordings. He is best known for such polkas as “Atotonilco” and “Frijoles bailan” and for some important innovations to the conjunto style. Having also played in local honky tonk and Texas swing bands, he added drums and electric bass, which were the driving force behind the polka-inspired dance rhythms they played. These instruments provided a solid two-step rhythm for dancing and slowed down the pace enough for the accordion and ...
revised by Kelly Hiser
(b Kankakee, IL, March 22, 1942; d San Rafael, CA, Sept 25, 1996). American composer, trombonist, conductor, and double bassist. He attended the University of Illinois, where he studied trombone with Robert Gray and composition with Kenneth Gaburo, herbert Brün , and salvatore Martirano (BM in performance 1965). He studied jazz improvisation with lee Konitz and electronic music with richard b. Hervig at the University of Iowa (1970–71). He was a member of the Harry Partch Ensemble (1961–2) and the Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players (1963–6) and was an associate artist at the University of Iowa Center for New Music and New Performing Arts (1969–74). From 1974 to 1984 English lived in Europe, where he performed widely as a soloist and with jazz and new music ensembles, at festivals, and on radio. He collaborated with his wife Candace Natvig, a singer and violinist; in ...
(b San Antonio, TX, March 11, 1939). American accordionist and songwriter. He inherited his nickname Flaco (“skinny”) from his accordionist father, santiago Jiménez . Like many Texas-Mexican musicians of his generation, he was born into a musical family—his grandfather Patricio played the accordion, as does his younger brother Santiago Jr.—and has played the three-row, diatonic Hohner button accordion; his father played the two-row model. He began performing in his father’s conjunto band at the age of seven, accompanying him on the bajo sexto. By age 16 he was playing accordion and had his own conjunto band, Los Caporales. This was during the early rock-and-roll years when such artists as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly made a lasting impression on him. In 1973 he recorded with Doug Sahm, a founding member of 1960s San Antonio’s rock pioneers Sir Douglas Quintet. Jiménez developed a syncopated and lively modern accordion sound by ornamenting and extending simple folk melodies and using fermatas. He has continued to mine blues, country, R&B, and pop music to update his style and as a result has collaborated with Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Dr. John, and Los Super Seven, among others. He has received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship and multiple Grammy Awards....
(b San Antonio, TX, April 25, 1913; d San Antonio, Dec 18, 1984). American accordionist, songwriter, and composer, father of the accordionists Flaco Jiménez and Santiago Jiménez Jr. He is known as a pioneering accordionist and composer of many classic polkas. With encouragement from his accordion-playing father Patricio Jiménez, he began playing at age eight. Although he released his first recording, “Dices pescao” (Decca), in 1936, he was best known for weekly live performances on a Spanish-language radio program, La hora anáuhuac, which aired in the 1940s on San Antonio’s KCOR. He recorded two popular polkas, “Viva Seguin” and “La piedrera,” in 1942 for the Mexican Victor label, the latter written while he worked in a quarry. They were his most popular and have been widely performed and recorded by musicians since. Compared with that of Narciso Martínez, his main rival, Jiménez’s playing style was smoother with less syncopation and fewer 16th notes; he never graduated to the three-row button accordion. However, his precision and rich musicality has remained unmatched. Like Martínez, Jiménez could not make a living from music, and in the 1960s he moved to Dallas and worked as a janitor. He returned to San Antonio in ...
[Kuczynski, Julius Frank Anthony ]
(b Milwaukee, WI, Feb 18, 1914; d Louisville, KY, March 7, 2000). American country music accordionist, bandleader, songwriter, and vocalist. His musical career was inspired by his father, John, a Polish American who led a local polka band. At 15, he began learning accordion and, in 1930, met popular bandleader Wayne King who suggested the youth take the surname “King” in the interest of simplicity. His first band, the King’s Jesters, played both country music and polkas. In 1934, the group filled in for Gene Autry’s band when Autry, then a star of WLS’s National Barn Dance, toured Wisconsin. King joined Autry (who dubbed him “Pee Wee”) in Louisville until the singer left to launch his Hollywood film career. He briefly led a Louisville band known as the Log Cabin Boys, then in 1937 organized the Golden West Cowboys, who joined the Grand Ole Opry with a distinctive, progressive repertoire blending country, pop, polkas, waltzes, and western swing. From ...
Paul André Bempéchat
(b Long Beach, NY, Jan 12, 1955). American composer and flutist. She attended Yale College (BA 1975) and Yale School of Music (MM, flute performance, 1976). She studied flute with john Wummer , Herbert Tichman, and Thomas Nyfenger, and composition with jonathan d. Kramer , Robert Moore, and Frank Lewin. Internationally acclaimed, she has composed more than 200 art songs, with settings that seek to retain the integrity of each poem while deploying the fullest resources of the voice. She has won the Boston Art Song Competition (2000) and the Best American Art Song Competition (2004, Men with Small Heads), and has received the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award in Music Composition several times. A mentor to many composers, performers, and scholars, she is regularly invited to conduct masterclasses and workshops throughout North America and across the world.
Her prosodic techniques encompass stream-of-consciousness and French didacticism. The work of multiple poets within single, larger forms evince her sharp attention to the integrity of individual movements and the cohesion of an entire composition. This is demonstrated in, among other works, the oratorio-cantata ...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b Pointe Noire, nr Church Point, LA, Oct 28, 1928; d nr Eunice, LA, Oct 8, 1955). American accordionist, vocalist, and songwriter. He was one of the most influential musicians in Cajun music. Born into a musical family, which also included Angelas, Rodney, Vinesse, Eddie, Homer, and Felton Lejeune, Iry was nearly blind and thus hard to employ. Music allowed him to support his family, with whom he lived in his adopted hometown of Lacassine. He was a prolific songwriter, adapting many songs from the earlier repertoire of Amédé Ardoin. In his teens when World War II ended, he led the return of the diatonic accordion in Cajun music, which had dropped the instrument and the French language in favor of western swing and country music, and the English language, which attended the Americanization of the 1930s. In 1948, he went with Virgil Bozman’s Oklahoma Tornadoes to Houston to record “Love Bridge Waltz” and “Evangeline Special” for Opera Records, in French and in a style that harked back to the traditional sounds of earlier in the century. The record was surprisingly popular, especially among Cajuns who were increasingly concerned about drifting away from their cultural and linguistic heritage. He recorded all of his subsequent records with Eddie Shuler of Goldband Records of Lake Charles, Louisiana. He became a mainstay on the Cajun dance circuit, and though he recorded only a couple of dozen more sides before he died in an automobile accident, they are virtually all still being played by contemporary Cajun and Creole musicians. He was a poetic lyricist, a soulful vocalist, and a virtuoso accordionist, easily among the most imitated in Cajun music....
(b Kenedy, TX, Feb 13, 1924; d San Antonio, TX, Dec 15, 2000). American accordionist and songwriter. A Texas-Mexican musician, Longoria is known equally for his innovations to the conjunto accordion sound as he is for his playing and singing. His interest in instrument-making led to important sonic and stylistic changes in the accordion sound. He tuned reed pairs an octave apart to produce a deeper, sonido ronco (hoarse sound) that added volume and enriched the accordion voice. He removed the standard set of bass stops, replacing it with a larger one, and added a fourth row to the traditional three-row model; this allowed for more notes and enhanced the melody. Longoria’s modifications expanded the instrument’s possibilities years before manufacturers addressed them. Today, most Texas-Mexican accordionists have new accordions retuned and altered to create the distinct Texas-Mexican “sound.” In the 1930s and 40s, while other popular accordionists such as Narciso Martínez where known for instrumental dance pieces, Longoria’s songs featured his voice, including the more sophisticated ...
Stephen D. Winick
(b New York, NY, Dec 21, 1951). American traditional Irish accordionist and composer. He began playing the button accordion in his native Brooklyn, at six years old. Two of his uncles were musicians, and his mother encouraged him to take up playing. At age 15 he met the Galway-born accordionist Sean McGlynn, who became his teacher and mentor. In the 1970s he relocated to Maryland, where he began playing with the Washington, DC area band The Irish Tradition, which also featured Brendan Mulvihill and Andy O’Brien. In 1986 he won the all-Ireland championship for button accordion and he and Mulvihill won for accordion/fiddle duet.
Since the 1980s McComiskey has been part of the touring ensemble The Green Fields of America. In the 1980s he formed the Baltimore Ceili Band, a loose group of musicians that congregates for festivals, parties, and community events. The Ceili band has helped revitalize the Irish music scene in the Baltimore area. In the 1990s McComiskey founded the band Trian, with Liz Carroll and Dáithí Sproule, and toured and recorded with them. He has also played and recorded with the Pride of New York....
(b Joplin, MO, July 24, 1939). American alto and tenor saxophonist and composer. One of the most inventive bebop alto saxophonists in the tradition of Charlie Parker, he possesses a fluid melodic style that reflects the initial influence of Johnny Hodges. At age nine he moved to Detroit and at 13 started playing saxophone. He began studies with barry Harris when he was 18 and landed his first professional gigs with the pianist a year later in a band that also featured Lonnie Hillyer. McPherson arrived in New York in 1959 and the following year joined Charles Mingus, with whom he played for the next decade and a half. He made his first album as a leader, Bebop Revisited!, for Prestige in 1964 and recorded frequently for that label for the next five years. During the 1970s he made three records each for the Mainstream and Xanadu labels, the dates for the latter offering some of the purest bebop of its time. He relocated to San Diego in ...
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 ...
(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 ...
[Melvin James ]
(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.
In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....
Edgardo Diaz Diaz
(b Humacao, PR, July 17, 1921; d San Juan, PR, June 18, 2002). American saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. A member of one of Puerto Rico’s most respected musical families, he was trained in the practices of old Spanish military-band traditions by his father, Juan Peña Reyes (1879–1948). After playing in a band led by his cousin Rafael González Peña and another by Armando Castro, he was hired in 1947 as saxophone soloist for the César Concepción Orchestra. Divisions within this orchestra in 1954 led him and fellow members to create the 15-piece Orquesta Panamericana, which performed various Latin American genres. The ensemble also offered an early showcase for Ismael Rivera, who was later known as el Sonero Mayor. Popularly known as La Panamericana, the group conspicuously presented fresh Afro-Puerto Rican sounds on radio and television, helping bomba and plena—genres associated with marginal barrios—to become the most visible musical products of Puerto Rico. Peña’s training in music theory with Amaury Veray and Julián Bautista led to a strong catalog of nationalist compositions, including his ...
[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: ...
(b El Reno, OK, Sept 25, 1923; d Orlando, FL, Dec 26, 2011). American jazz reed player and composer. Rivers’s parents were gospel musicians, and his grandfather was a music scholar. He grew up in Chicago and Little Rock, Arkansas, studying piano, reeds, and trombone. After attending Jarvis Christian College and serving in the Navy, he enrolled in the Boston Conservatory (1947–53). In Boston, Rivers played with Herb Pomeroy, Quincy Jones, Charlie Mariano, and Joe Gordon. From 1955–7 he toured with R&B bands in Florida and with Billie Holiday before returning to Boston in 1958, where he played with Hal Galper and Tony Williams.
Rivers moved to New York in 1964 and worked briefly with Miles Davis (Miles in Tokyo, 1964) before signing with Blue Note and releasing Fuchsia Swing Song (1964), Contours (1965), and A New Conception (1966...
William Kirk Bares
(b Sharon, CT, Nov 17, 1935). American trombonist, ethnomusicologist, and composer. A well regarded jazz soloist, he is perhaps best known as a musical collaborator with ecumenical tastes. Strongly influenced by New Orleans jazz at a young age and seasoned by work in traditional jazz bands as a student at Yale, he transitioned easily to the collective free improvisation scenes of 1960s and 70s New York. Early partners included Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Sheila Jordan, Enrico Rava, Carla Bley, John Tchicai, and Milford Graves; he worked with the last two in the New York Art Quartet. The open spirit of his early work is preserved on Archie Shepp’s Four for Trane (1964, Imp.), to which he contributed adventurous arrangements, and his own eclectic Blown Bone (1976, Phillips), which features several of the above artists.
Rudd’s subsequent collaborations have extended his longtime interest in non-Western music. He has carried out research for Alan Lomax’s cantometrics project (from early 1980s) and taught ethnomusicology at Bard College (...