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Article

Stephen Montague

revised by Kelly Hiser

(Arthur )

(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 ...

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Stephen D. Winick

(b New York, NY, July 13, 1965). American traditional Irish fiddler, banjo player, and bandleader. Eileen Ivers was raised in the Bronx by Irish parents. She took up the fiddle at age nine, taking lessons with Irish fiddler Martin Mulvihill. She began competing in the All-Ireland championships as a teen, and ultimately won 35 championships, including nine solo fiddle titles and a tenth on tenor banjo, making her the most successful American-born competitor in the All-Ireland’s history.

During the 1980s, Ivers was a founding member of Cherish the Ladies, played with Mick Moloney’s ensemble The Green Fields of America, and toured and recorded in an influential duo with accordionist John Whelan. In 1990, she was invited to record and tour with the pop duo Hall & Oates, which she did for over a year. She then returned to New York, where she immersed herself in the multicultural music scene. In ...

Article

Mark C. Gridley

revised by Charles Garrett

(b Chicago, IL, March 11, 1932; d New York, NY, Feb 24, 2007). American jazz violinist, composer, and bandleader. He was influenced by the violinists Jascha Heifetz, Eddie South, and Bruce Hayden, as well as the saxophonists Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. From 1965 to 1969 he played in Chicago with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Creative Construction Company, becoming the leading violinist in the free jazz style. He then helped to organize the Revolutionary Ensemble (1971) and led his own trio (1977–9) and quintet (1982–3). In addition to collaborating with such musicians as Cecil Taylor, Joseph Jarman, and Myra Melford, he also contributed to the new music scene by serving on the board of directors of the Composer’s Forum. In his later career, he turned to creating theatrical productions, including the operas Mother of Three Sons...

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J. Bradford Robinson

(b Baltimore, MD, Dec 31, 1908; d Hollywood, CA, June 14, 1952). American jazz double bass player and bandleader. Originally a trombonist, he played tuba and double bass with Fletcher Henderson (1930–34, 1935–6) and Chick Webb (1934–5), attracting attention with his strong pulse and walking bass lines. In 1937 he established his own small group at the Onyx Club, New York, with the trumpeter Frankie Newton and the alto saxophonist Pete Brown. The following year the band’s personnel stabilized into a sextet: Charlie Shavers (trumpet), Russell Procope (alto saxophone), Buster Bailey (clarinet), Billy Kyle (piano), O’Neill Spencer (drums), and Kirby, with the frequent addition of the singer Maxine Sullivan (Kirby’s wife). From 1938 to 1942 this group was perhaps the leading small jazz ensemble in the swing style and gained a nationwide from its many recordings and network radio broadcasts. The group concentrated on a chamber jazz style with intricate arrangements (many of them by Shavers), a subdued dynamic level, light swing, and extremely precise ensemble playing. In this way they presaged many cool jazz groups of the late 1940s and early 1950s, particularly those of Lennie Tristano. From ...

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David Chevan

(b Irvington, NJ, April 3, 1936; d Geneva, NY, July 6, 1961). American jazz double bass player, composer, and bandleader. While growing up in Geneva, New York, he took up clarinet, after which he played tenor saxophone at high school. The music education program he attended at Ithaca College required that LaFaro learn a string instrument, and so at age 18 he began to focus on double bass. He subsequently played with the Buddy Morrow band from 1955 to 1956, during which period he decided to move to Los Angeles to establish himself professionally. After playing with Chet Baker’s band for a year, he moved between Chicago, where he played with Ira Sullivan, and Southern California, where he worked with Sonny Rollins, Harold Land, and Barney Kessel.

LaFaro’s move to New York in 1959 proved immediately fruitful; that year he performed with a number of important bandleaders, including Stan Kenton and Benny Goodman. In that year LaFaro also joined the Bill Evans Trio, the group in which he cemented his reputation as an innovator on his instrument. In this trio, which also featured the drummer Paul Motian, LaFaro was accorded tremendous freedom to deviate from the traditional 4/4 walking bass line. His approach to the bass within this ensemble was as much melodic as it was focused on keeping time and establishing the harmony. Additionally he was granted substantial space for improvisation, which allowed him to showcase his nimble, bebop-influenced technique. Evans’s trio recorded “Jade Visions,” a LaFaro composition with static modal harmony that served as a showcase for his prodigious technique....

Article

Daniele Buccio

(Henry )

(b Canton, OH, Aug 18, 1905; d West Redding, CT, July 31, 1978). American composer, violinist, bandleader, recording engineer, and producer. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University, he performed as a light classical violinist in the United States and Europe. During the 1930s he studied conducting with Maurice Frigara in Paris. After a near-fatal car accident in 1940, he organized his own dance band, the Light Brigade, which recorded for RCA and Columbia. After he disbanded it at the turn of the decade, Light devoted himself to management, working for several record companies before becoming president of Waldorf Music Hall Records in 1954. He founded his own label, Grand Award, in 1956 and had success with Dixieland and honky-tonk piano albums. In 1959, he founded Command Records on which he released Persuasive Percussion, the first in a successful series of high-fidelity albums that used stereo technology to great advantage. Over the next two decades, he continued to produce hit albums drawing on the latest technological savvy and packaged with covers usually designed by Josef Albers. Musicians who appeared on Light’s albums include the Free Design, Doc Severinsen, Dick Hyman, Bobby Byrne, and Bobby Hackett. In ...

Article

Dick Spottswood

[Joseph Emmett ]

(b Weaverville, NC, July 20, 1898; d Concord, NC, June 12, 1971). American singer, fiddler, and bandleader. A breakdown fiddler who played in an early country style similar to that of Fiddlin’ John Carson, J.E. and his younger brother Wade formed Mainers’ Mountaineers while both were full-time employees at a cotton mill in Concord, North Carolina. They performed informally until they appeared with the Lay Brothers on WSOC in nearby Gastonia. In 1934 they signed with Crazy Water Crystals, a laxative company that sponsored them on the powerful stations WBT (Charlotte) and WPTF (Raleigh) and provided enough exposure to let them become full-time performers. When Wade left to seek other opportunities in 1937, J.E. promptly formed a new band with Leonard “Handsome” Stokes, George Morris, and DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins, who was developing an advanced banjo style that anticipated the three-finger approach that Earl Scruggs perfected in the 1940s. Drinking problems led to J.E.’s band firing him in ...

Article

Dick Spottswood

[Eckhart ]

(b Buncombe County, NC, April 21, 1907; d Flint, MI, Sept 12, 2011). American singer, banjo player, guitarist, and bandleader. Formed Mainers’ Mountaineers with his brother J.E. from 1934–36 and thereafter with his own Sons of the Mountaineers, Mainer furthered the growth and development of mountain string band music in the 1930s. In an era that saw the rising popularity of western swing, honky-tonk, and Hollywood cowboy songs, the Mainers successfully recycled traditional tunes and kept the sound of rural fiddle and banjo prominent on Southeastern radio, in small performance venues, and on more than 150 recordings made for RCA between 1935 and 1941. Mainer versions of “Down in the Willow Garden,” “Wild Bill Jones,” “Riding on That Train 45,” “Maple on the Hill,” and “Old Ruben” became folk and bluegrass classics.

On invitation from Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, Mainer’s band performed in concert with the Golden Gate Quartet, Josh White, and Burl Ives at the White House in ...

Article

Gregory N. Reish

(James )

(b Sneedville, TN, Aug 10, 1927; d Nashville, TN, May 14, 2005). American bluegrass and country singer, guitarist, and bandleader. Known as the “King of Bluegrass,” Martin began his career as guitarist and lead singer of bill Monroe ’s Blue Grass Boys from late 1949 to 1954, also working occasionally with the Osborne Brothers. Martin contributed to some of the Blue Grass Boys’ most influential and highly regarded recordings for Decca during this period. In 1955, Martin formed his own group, the Sunny Mountain Boys. Based initially in Detroit, the band’s lineup featured the young Kentucky banjoist J.D. Crowe, joined later by mandolinist Paul Williams. In 1956, Martin signed with Decca, producing a string of country hits into the 1960s.

Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys presented a hard-edged style that appealed to a wide range of country music fans. His own driving rhythm guitar and highly expressive lead vocals, coupled with Williams’s pure high tenor harmony and Crowe’s blues-inflected banjo backup, produced some of the most memorable and commercially successful recordings of the era without the stylistic concessions to folk revivalism that other bluegrass bands were making. Their repertory included secular and often raucous Martin songs such as “You don’t know my mind” (Decca, ...

Article

Gregory N. Reish

(b York, PA, Feb 1, 1939). American bluegrass singer, guitarist, banjoist, and bandleader. In an era of bluegrass’s increasing eclecticism, McCoury emerged as a leading voice of bluegrass purism, simultaneously bringing the music to a wider audience through broad-minded collaborations. Growing up in York County, Pennsylvania, McCoury became proficient on guitar and banjo, playing the latter in the three-finger style popularized by Earl Scruggs. After working with regional bands in Pennsylvania and Maryland, McCoury joined bill Monroe ’s Blue Grass Boys in early 1963, initially as baritone singer and banjoist, but later as a guitarist. McCoury remained with Monroe for one year, recording three songs as a Blue Grass Boy in January 1964.

Returning to Pennsylvania, McCoury formed The Dixie Pals in 1967. They maintained a busy part-time touring schedule and recorded albums for various labels. Most notable is High on a Mountain (Rounder, 1973), which showcases McCoury’s powerful and rustic vocal style and his emerging songwriting skills. McCoury’s teenaged sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) joined The Dixie Pals in the 1980s, bringing a new level of instrumental virtuosity to the band’s sound. In ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Blinky ]

(b Frederiksted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Aug 17, 1934). Crucian guitarist, saxophonist, band leader, and singer. He was the son of Ivan McIntosh, a saxophonist active during the early 20th century, and Ethel McIntosh, a singer. He learned music from them as a youth and soon joined a “scratch band,” a local ensemble feature cane flute, gourd rasp, guitar, drum, and bass. By the age of 15, he had joined his father’s group as a guitarist, learning an older repertoire and touring widely throughout the island. During this same period, McIntosh learned traditional songs from his mother, who also encouraged him to study with local storytellers and folk performers. He also joined a carnival-oriented ensemble titled the Wild Indians. By 1955 he created his own “scratch band” called the Pond Bush Hot Shots. In the 1960s he was invited to become the lead alto sax player for the Joe Parris Hot Shots, the country’s leading quadrille group, with whom he recorded into the 1970s. Although he was an active musician during his life, McIntosh labored primarily for the Department of Public Works in St. Croix, as reflected in the name of his next band, Blinky and the Roadmasters (formed in ...

Article

[Mac; Pappy]

(b Allatoona, GA, Jan 26, 1900; d Battletown, KY, Jan 3, 1970). American fiddler and string band leader. He began fiddling at age 11 and learned much of his early technique and repertoire from his father, a trained violinist. After his family moved to Atlanta in 1913, McMichen began competing in the annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions, winning eighth place in 1915 while only in his mid-teens. Lowe Stokes, a slightly older Georgia fiddler, taught him the long-bow style of fiddling, which employs long, gliding bow strokes and intricate fingering to produce a highly ornamented cascade of notes. McMichen eventually mastered this style, and his dynamic, improvisational fiddling won him, he claimed, the National Old-Time Fiddling Championship an unprecedented 18 times.

Around 1918 McMichen organized his first band, the Home Town Boys, which performed traditional tunes as well as contemporary jazz and popular songs. The group made its radio debut on Atlanta’s WSB in ...

Article

Stephen D. Winick

[Michael ]

(b Limerick, Ireland, Nov 15, 1944). traditional Irish singer, mandolinist, banjo player, and bandleader of Irish birth. Moloney became interested in traditional Irish music as a university student. He began bringing his banjo and a tape recorder to music sessions in County Clare, where he met members of the Tulla Ceilidh band, as well as accordionist Tony MacMahon, fiddler Sean Keane (who would later join The Chieftains), banjo player Des Mulclair, and uilleann piper Willie Clancy. Inspired by the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners, he and his friend Donál Lunny formed several folk groups. In the late 1960s, Moloney, along with his roommate, guitarist and singer Paul Brady, was asked to join the folk group the Johnstons, which performed a combination of traditional Irish songs and modern singer-songwriter material by such writers as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. They became immensely popular in Ireland, recorded many albums, and were able to tour widely on both sides of the Atlantic....

Article

A. Scott Currie

(b Bronx, NY, Jan 10, 1952). American jazz bass player, bandleader, and composer. He grew up listening to such swing artists as Duke Ellington and played trumpet, trombone, and cello. Inspired by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler, he took up bass in his teens and had formal studies, first with Paul West, then with richard Davis , Art Davis, and milt Hinton at Jazzmobile. Later he studied privately with jimmy Garrison and Wilbur Ware and developed a unique style featuring a propulsive alternation between rapid-fire upper-register playing and low punctuating open-string strums, along with vamps, walking “freebop” lines, and lyrical arco work. In 1973 Parker launched his professional career in the downtown New York loft-jazz scene, performing with Muntu and the Music Ensemble, and making his recorded debut on Frank Lowe’s album Black Beings (1973, ESP). Soon he was playing in bands led by Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry at Carnegie Hall and the Five Spot Café, jointly organizing loft concerts and festivals, and leading his own Centering Orchestras. By the early 1980s he had become Taylor’s main bass player and he eventually filled the chair from ...

Article

J. Bradford Robinson

[Passalaqua, Joseph Anthony Jacobi ]

(b New Brunswick, NJ, Jan 13, 1929; d Los Angeles, CA, May 23, 1994). American jazz guitarist and bandleader. Soon after beginning his career he began to take drugs and spent many years in prisons, hospitals, and halfway houses. In 1961, together with other jazz musicians in Synanon, a self-help organization for drug addicts, he issued a collective album which attracted some critical attention to his easygoing manner and astounding technical prowess. He then worked for several years in Los Angeles studios, recording with Johnny Griffin, Gerald Wilson, and Les McCann, among others, but remained more or less in obscurity until 1973, when he was retained for the Pablo label and recorded his first solo album, Virtuoso. The success of this recording catapulted him to fame and Pass immediately began to dominate jazz popularity polls for his instrument. For the rest of the decade and through the 1980s he was in high demand for concerts, festivals, and recording sessions, notably as an accompanist to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, and as a member of Oscar Peterson’s groups....

Article

J. Bradford Robinson

(b Okmulgee, OK, Sept 30, 1922; d Copenhagen, Denmark, Sept 8, 1960). American jazz double bass player, cellist, and bandleader. Of mixed African American and Native American heritage, he was born into a large, musical family and learned many instruments in the family’s touring band, which was based in Minneapolis. In 1943 he was engaged as a bass player for Charlie Barnet’s band, with which he traveled to New York in the same year. After working with a quintet led by Roy Eldridge (1943), he found a place in the emerging bop scene; he worked as coleader, with Dizzy Gillespie, of a combo at the Onyx (1943–4). Personal differences caused this pioneering group to disband, but one year later he and Gillespie recorded together. From 1944 Pettiford played in numerous small bop combos and in various big bands, notably Duke Ellington’s (1945–8) and Woody Herman’s (...

Article

Walter van de Leur

(Albert )

(b Faith, SD, Oct 27, 1913; d Lafayette, LA, Aug 2, 1966). American bandleader and bass saxophonist. He started as a bandleader in 1933. He led various “sweet” dance bands for almost a decade, but in 1941 he decided to modernize his band. Raeburn sought to fuse swing and modern art music and believed that such “hip music” would eventually appeal to audiences. He steered his orchestra away from the well-traveled road of conventional swing by using such forward-looking arranger-composers as Eddie Finckel, Johnny Mandell, Johnny Richards, and Dizzy Gillespie, the last of whom played briefly in the band. Raeburn was the first to record Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.” Other notable musicians in the orchestra were Pete Candoli, Johnny Bothwell, Benny Harris, Sonny Berman, Don Lamond, Roy Eldridge, and Buddy DeFranco.

From 1944 to 1946 Raeburn worked with pianist, composer, arranger George Handy, a student of Aaron Copland. The orchestra’s repertory now became truly innovative. In originals such as “Dalvatore Sally” and “Yerxa,” Handy ignored the unspoken conventions of the dance band. “This Raeburn band is by no means a dance organization,” ...

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John A. Emerson

(b Pueblo, CO, July 22, 1889; d Carmel Valley, nr Jamesburg, CA, Nov 9, 1959). American cellist, composer, and conductor. His father was the nationally known educator Preston Willis Search and his wife the pianist and composer Opal Piontkowski Heron, whom he married on 27 February 1923. In 1901 Search began studying cello in Jena, Germany, and subsequently he was a pupil of Joseph Adamowski at the New England Conservatory (c1903–4) and of Lino Mattioli and George Rogovoy at the Cincinnati College Conservatory (c1904–7). From 1907 to 1911 he attended the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied cello with Julius Klengel, composition with Gustav Schreck, Richard Hofmann, and Max Reger, and conducting with Arthur Nikisch. After returning from Germany he made three recital tours of the United States and was first cellist of the American SO in Chicago (1915–16). After serving as conductor of the Mare Island Naval Training Station orchestra and band (...

Article

Chip Henderson

[John Henry ]

(b Birmingham, AL, June 25, 1922; d Colorado Springs, CO, June 11, 2013). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. Smith’s first exposure to music was through his father, who played banjo. By the age of 13 he had taught himself to play the guitar. Smith’s early influences included Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, and Andrés Segovia. As a teenager he performed with the Fenton Brothers Dance Band and Uncle Lem and his Mountain Boys. Smith enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the start of WWII. Unable to fly, Smith played cornet in the Air Corps band. After the war he was hired as a staff guitarist for NBC Studios in New York and performed regularly with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Symphony. From 1951 to 1965 Smith recorded for the Roost label. His recording of “Moonlight in Vermont” (1952) became one of the top-selling instrumental singles of all time. In ...

Article

John Bass

[Hezekiah Le Roy Gordon ]

(b Portsmouth, OH, Aug 13, 1909; d Munich, Germany, Sept 25, 1967). American jazz violinist, singer, and bandleader. Growing up in a musical family, Smith earned a scholarship to Johnson C. Smith University (North Carolina) but left in 1926 to join Aunt Jemima’s Revue. From 1927 to 1930, he played with the Alfonso Trent Band, serving as conductor, principal soloist, and occasional vocalist (recording “After You’ve Gone” in 1930). He moved to Buffalo, New York, in 1930 to lead his own group.

Smith moved to New York in 1936, where he led a sextet at the Onyx Club. The band moved to Los Angeles for a brief engagement at the Famous Door (1937–8) before disbanding. From 1938 to 1945, Smith formed several groups, working mostly in Chicago and New York, including another stint at Onyx (1944–5). Between 1945 and 1956, Smith toured and recorded with others (Sun Ra in ...