(b Port Chester, NY, Dec 16, 1944; d Cortlandt Manor, NY, Aug 22, 2017). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. He grew up in Greenwich, CT, and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was primarily self taught until he studied at the Berklee College of Music (1962–6) and with Jack Petersen. Abercrombie joined Johnny Hammond’s touring band after the blues organist had spotted him performing with other Berklee students at Paul’s Mall in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of North Texas, in 1969 he moved to New York where he performed and recorded in Billy Cobham’s jazz-rock band Dreams (1970), joined Chico Hamilton’s group, and recorded with Gato Barbieri (1971), Barry Miles (1972), and Gil Evans (1974). Abercrombie attracted wider attention performing with Cobham’s fusion band Spectrum from 1974. He also toured with Jack DeJohnette and recorded his debut album, ...
[Abrams, Richard Louis]
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 19, 1930; d New York, Oct 29, 2017). American pianist, composer, and administrator. After receiving private piano lessons, he studied at the Chicago Musical College and taught himself the system of composition devised by Joseph Schillinger. He began to work professionally in 1948 and performed regularly at the Cotton Club in Chicago during the 1950s, accompanying visiting musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, and Max Roach. After composing and arranging for the Walter “King” Fleming band in the mid-1950s, Abrams joined the hard bop ensemble MJT+3 and made his recording debut on the group’s album DADDY-O PRESENTS MJT+3 (1957, VJ 1013). Beginning in 1961 Abrams led the Experimental Band, a composer-centered rehearsal ensemble whose members included the double bass player Donald Rafael Garrett, Jack DeJohnette, Roscoe Mitchell, and the reed player Joseph Jarman. He subsequently co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians...
[Park Frederick, III ]
(b Highland Park, MI, Oct 8, 1930; d Brooklyn, NY, Sept 10, 1986). American jazz baritone saxophonist and composer. He grew up in Rochester where he took up tenor and baritone saxophones and clarinet, but settled on baritone after moving to Detroit in 1947 as a means of finding work in the city’s fiercely competitive music scene. After serving for two years in the US Army Band, Adams returned to Detroit in 1953 and worked there with Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, and Elvin Jones, in the house band at the Blue Bird and at Klein’s. In 1956 he moved to New York and was a member of Stan Kenton’s big band for six months following a recommendation from Oscar Pettiford. From the following year, Adams spent 20 years working in big bands led by Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton, and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. During this period he also performed in small ensembles whenever possible and was in demand as a recording artist. Notably, he co-led a quintet with Donald Byrd from ...
J. Bradford Robinson
(b Dairen, China, Dec 12, 1929). Japanese jazz composer, pianist and bandleader. She studied classical music and turned to jazz only in 1947 after moving to Japan. There she was discovered by Oscar Peterson, who urged her to take up a career in the USA. After studying at Berklee College of Music (1956–9) she became a highly regarded bop pianist, especially in groups with the alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano (who was at that time her husband). She worked in Japan (1961), joined Charles Mingus in the USA (1962–3), then returned to Japan until 1965. In 1973 she founded a large rehearsal band in Los Angeles with the tenor saxophonist and flautist Lew Tabackin, whom she had married in 1969. Its first album, Kogun (1974, RCA), was commercially successful in Japan, and the group attracted increasing popularity and critical acclaim until, by ...
(b Pontiac, MI, June 12, 1957; d Philadelphia, June 27, 2017). American jazz pianist and composer. She began classical piano study at age seven with Patricia Wilhelm, who also encouraged her interest in jazz. After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School in 1975 (where trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was one of her teachers), she studied with John Malachi at Howard University (BA 1979, jazz studies) and with Nathan Davis at the University of Pittsburgh (MA 1982, ethnomusicology). She also took private piano lessons with Kenny Barron in 1979. She moved to New York in the early 1980s, where she became a member of the M-BASE collective. Allen recorded her first album as a leader, The Printmakers, in 1984 (Minor Music). After that she performed on more than 100 recordings in a variety of capacities. She worked in trios with Ron Carter and Tony Williams (on albums such as ...
[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]
(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...
Horace Clarence Boyer
(b McCormick, SC, Sept 25, 1921; d Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2008). American gospel singer, pianist, and composer. She moved to Philadelphia at an early age and sang and played at a local Church of God in Christ. In 1942 she joined a female quartet, the Spiritual Echoes, and served as their pianist for two years, leaving the group in 1944 to organize the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two friends, Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. Their first recording, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (1950), sold 500,000 copies in less than six months. Her most famous composition is “My Sweet Home” (1960). The incidental harmony of their rural singing style and Allison’s sliding technique appealed to a large number of supporters who otherwise found the gospel music of the period controlled and calculated. The group traveled and recorded with the Dixie Hummingbirds during the 1950s. Allison toured, recorded, and performed gospel music for over seven decades....
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
(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 ...
(b Memphis, TN, Feb 3, 1898; d Chicago, IL, Aug 27, 1971). American jazz pianist, singer, bandleader, and composer. She studied keyboard privately from an early age and had hopes of becoming a concert pianist. While she was enrolled at Fisk University, her mother and stepfather moved to Chicago, where in 1917 she took a job as a sheet music demonstrator, which led to her joining the Original Creole Jazz Band as its pianist. It was her first job playing jazz and she decided not to return to Fisk. She subsequently worked with several bands, including King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which she performed in San Francisco in 1921 and made her recording debut in 1923. By this time the band included louis Armstrong, whom she married in 1924. Armstrong’s place in jazz history was assured by her participation on Oliver’s Gennett recordings and Louis’ Hot Five sessions for Okeh. She played an important role in Louis’ move into a brighter spotlight before their separation in ...
Bryan S. Wright
(b Indianapolis, IN, May 21, 1888; d Pasadena, CA, Sept 1, 1972). American Composer and pianist. She was born into a musical family: her father, John Henry Aufderheide (1865–1941), was a semi-professional violinist and his sister, May Kolmer, was a noted pianist who performed with the Indianapolis SO and taught at the Metropolitan School of Music. Aufderheide learned classical piano with Kolmer, but showed more interest in popular music. While a teenager in finishing school in New York, she composed her first rag, “Dusty Rag” (1908), which was arranged by Paul Pratt and published initially by an acquaintance from Indianapolis, Cecil Duane Crabb. Following several months completing her education in Europe, in the spring of 1908 Aufderheide returned to Indiana, married Thomas M. Kaufman, and settled in Richmond, Indiana. “Dusty Rag” had not sold well in her absence owing to Crabb’s limited distribution, so when Aufderheide produced several more after her return, her father, a prominent banker, used his considerable resources to establish J.H. Aufderheide & Company to publish her works. He reissued “Dusty Rag” with greater success and in the three years that followed published roughly a dozen of his daughter’s rags, waltzes, and songs in addition to works by such other regional composers as Gladys Yelvington, Julia Lee Niebergall, Paul Pratt, and Crabb. Several of Aufderheide’s more popular piano rags were given lyrics and published in song form. Her career as a pianist and composer was brief, spanning just four years. Despite the commercial and critical success of her compositions “The Richmond Rag,” “The Thriller!,” “Buzzer Rag,” and “Blue Ribbon Rag,” by the age of 23 she had ceased composing. She and her husband adopted a daughter in ...
[Lucas, Lemuel Eugene]
(b Gainesville, TX, June 24, 1900; d Palm Springs, CA, Jan 24, 1972). American singer, composer, and pianist. He received his stage name from his stepfather. He began his career by joining the circus at the age of 15 and soon thereafter reached New Orleans where he played piano in parlor houses. After military service in World War I, he met Roy Bergere, with whom he subsequently toured in a vaudeville duo. Austin began writing songs and moved on to work for Mills Music in New York as a demo singer. After he made his first recording for Victor Records (1924), his crooning style, influenced by African American work songs and cowboy singers, came to the attention of the producer Nat Shilkret, who teamed him with Aileen Stanley for a duet, “When my Sugar Walks down the Street” (Vic., 1925). Within months Austin became a star in his own right with hit songs such as “Ain’t she Sweet” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” and continued this streak throughout the 1920s with “My Blue Heaven” and “Girl of My Dreams,” among others. Austin then started his own music company, recorded with Fats Waller, and performed extensively on radio and in concert. In the early 1930s he also appeared in several Hollywood films as a singing cowboy. His singing style soon became outdated, and he began other ventures, including starting nightclubs in New Orleans, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, as well as traveling shows. He revived his singing career in the 1950s, when he appeared on television and in nightclubs. Austin composed or copyrighted 85 songs. His last appearance was at a New Year’s Eve concert in Miami in ...
John L., Jr. Clark
(b Chattanooga, TN, Sept 19, 1887; d Chicago, IL, July 10, 1972). American jazz and blues pianist, composer, bandleader, arranger, and music director. After studying at Roger Williams University (Nashville) and Knoxville College, she performed on the TOBA circuit and toured accompanying her second husband Buster Austin. In the early 1920s Austin moved to Chicago, where for almost 20 years she directed shows for touring stage performers as the music director and bandleader at the Monogram and Joyland theaters. From 1923 to 1926 she also led the house band at Paramount Records, accompanying blues singers and making instrumental recordings featuring such jazz musicians as Tommy Ladnier, Al Wynn, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmy O’Bryant. After working in a defense plant during World War II, Austin returned to music, working in dancing schools. Her final recording, in 1961 for Riverside Records, was a reunion with her friend Alberta Hunter and several musicians she had previously worked with in Chicago....
(b General Terán, Nuevo León, México, June 29, 1911; d Donna, TX, Dec 1, 1990). Mexican accordionist, songwriter, and composer, active in the United States. Ayala was born into a musical family: his father played clarinet and accordion, his sisters played violin, and his brothers played accordion and guitar. In order to make a living, the Ayalas crossed the border to live in Donna, Texas, working in agriculture. Ayala accompanied his father at the age of ten on the tambora (small hand drum) playing polkas and huapangos in traditional Mexican tamborliero (drum and clarinet ensemble) style. He briefly played guitar in a local orquesta and with popular accordionist, Chon Alanis. Greatly influenced by Alanis, he switched to the accordion in the mid-1930s. Though he played professionally in the Rio Grande Valley region, he did not record until 1947, more than ten years after his contemporaries Narciso Martínez and Santiago Jiménez. His first recordings were made for an early Mexican American record label, Mira, which eventually became Falcón Records. His recordings earned him the title “El monarca del acordeón” (the Monarch of the Accordion) for his rapid-fire, uniquely syncopated playing style and eloquent articulation. He is also recognized for following Jiménez’s lead by featuring the ...
[Walker, William Vincent]
(b Mobile, AL, Sept 20, 1947; d Harlem, NY, April 11, 2011). American jazz violinist and composer. He moved with his mother to the Bronx as a young child and attended school in Harlem where he played the conga. Bang took up violin at the age of 12 and played it in his school orchestra. After studying with a scholarship at the Stockbridge School, MA (1961–3), he served a tour of combat duty in the Vietnam War and subsequently joined the anti-war movement. Bang was inspired to take up violin again by the records of Ornette Coleman and Leroy Jenkins. He purchased an instrument at a pawnshop in 1968 and was playing professionally by 1972 after studying with Jenkins and practicing with Eric Dolphy records. He was active in the New York avant-garde loft scene, leading the Survival Ensemble and playing with Sam Rivers and Frank Lowe, and in ...
Charles Fox and Digby Fairweather
(b Welwyn Garden City, April 17, 1930). English jazz trombonist, arranger and bandleader. He studied the trombone and the double bass at the GSM in London, and formed his first traditional jazz band in 1949. In 1953 he helped to organize a band that was led by Ken Colyer, at that time the most ardent British propagandist for traditional New Orleans music. The following year Barber took over the band; Colyer was replaced by Pat Halcox, and the ensemble soon became one of the most popular and technically accomplished groups of its kind. From the mid-1950s Barber helped foster British interest in blues by bringing over such American musicians as Muddy Waters, the harmonica player Sonny Terry and the guitarist and singer Brownie McGhee. He made several tours of the USA beginning in 1959, and also recorded two albums with his American Jazz Band, which included Sidney De Paris, Edmond Hall and Hank Duncan. Barber expanded his interests, recording classic rags (scored for his band) long before the popular rediscovery of Scott Joplin, and working with musicians from other areas of jazz (notably the Jamaican saxophonists Bertie King and Joe Harriott). Renewed interest in traditional jazz in the early 1960s brought wide success to Barber and his group, which included as its singer his wife, Ottilie Patterson. After rhythm-and-blues achieved general popularity in the early 1960s he re-formed his group as Chris Barber’s Jazz and Blues Band, and, while retaining his roots in New Orleans jazz, engaged rock and blues musicians guitarist John Slaughter and the drummer Pete York. During the 1970s the band toured frequently in Europe. In ...
(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...
(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 13, 1909; d New Orleans March 13, 1994). American guitarist, banjoist, singer, composer, and writer, husband of the singer Blue Lu Barker. His great-uncle Louis Arthidore was a clarinet virtuoso who played with the Onward Brass Band and his grandfather Isidore Barbarin played alto horn; on the latter’s advice he studied clarinet (with Barney Bigard) and ukulele, banjo, and guitar (with Bernard Addison). He also learned drums with Louis and Paul Barbarin. Barker performed professionally in the 1920s in Mississippi and Florida, before moving in 1930 to New York, where he played guitar in the groups of James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, and Henry “Red” Allen and in the swing orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and Cab Calloway. In the 1940s he switched to six-string banjo and took part in the dixieland revival. During the same period he worked with West Indian musicians and recorded for Spotlite with Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker. Before returning to New Orleans in ...
(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920; d New Orleans, June 23, 2019). American trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its début at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.
Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with Fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man, and an in-house bandleader. From ...
(b Baltimore, MD, Sept 26, 1940). American jazz alto and soprano saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. He began playing in Baltimore, where his father owned the well-known club the North End Lounge. He attended the Juilliard School between 1957 and 1958 and then studied at the Peabody Conservatory. After moving to New York he worked with Charles Mingus (1962–4) and Max Roach (1964 and 1968–9, when he traveled to Europe and the Middle East). He also performed and recorded with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1965–6) and Miles Davis (1970–71). Between 1969 and 1974 Bartz led his own ensemble, Ntu Troop, which recorded six albums blending African music and funk with jazz. In the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked occasionally with Woody Shaw’s group as well as with McCoy Tyner. After playing with Kenny Barron (1990s), Bartz was a member of the ensemble Sphere (...
(b Philadelphia, PA, July 29, 1945; d Woodbury, CT, July 22, 2008). American guitarist, composer, and producer. After graduating from high school, he moved to New York and played with a jazz trio in the club Chuck’s Compository. He also worked as a studio musician and jingle writer, which eventually led to collaborations with Gil Evans. Beck was among the first jazz guitarists to incorporate rock guitar techniques, including the use of a distorted tone, into his playing. He was also a key figure in the fusion movement of the 1970s, along with the Brecker Brothers and David Sanborn. In 1967 he participated in recording sessions with Miles Davis’s second quintet (alongside Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Tony Williams). Although the music from this session was not immediately released, it influenced Davis’s later fusion of jazz and rock on such albums as Bitches Brew. From the 1970s through the 2000s, Beck recorded and performed with many notable jazz musicians, including Woody Herman, Larry Coryell, Kai Winding, Don Grolnick, Sanborn, Atilla Zoeller, Red Mitchell, and John Abercrombie. He also invented and performed on an instrument he called the alto guitar. Beck remained an in-demand session guitarist throughout his life, performing on albums by popular musicians including James Brown and Paul Simon. He also founded and ran the company Code Works, which specialized in creating jingles and songs for television and radio commercials....