(b Concord, NH, March 7, 1940). American filmmaker, composer, violinist, and media artist. He began playing violin in his youth and studied with Ronald Knudsen. He became fascinated with the physics of sounds and interested in intonation, the harmonic series, long-held tones, and the act of close listening. He attended Harvard University and received an AB in mathematics in 1962. While at Harvard he met Henry Flynt and Christian George Wolff and became involved with the post-Cagean avant garde based in New York. In 1959 Conrad met La Monte Young, who became a frequent collaborator in the mid-1960s. Conrad credits an encounter with the music of 17th-century composer and violinist Heinrich Ignaz Biber in the late 1950s with a profound transformation of his musical thinking, drawing his attention to variable tunings and the role of timbre as an aesthetic concern. Conrad’s exposure to the music of Ali Akbar Khan also heightened his interest in drones as a basis for musical performance....
revised by Jason Mellard
[Theron Eugene ]
(b Beauregard Parish, LA, Sept 21, 1912; d Houston, TX, Oct 6, 1996). American country-music guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Raised in Houston and encouraged to pursue a musical career by the western swing pioneer Milton Brown, he played steel guitar with Leon Selph’s Blue Ridge Playboys (1934–5), a group that also included Floyd Tillman and Moon Mullican, and the Bar X Cowboys (1936–40). His song “Truck Driver’s Blues” (Decca, 1939), reputedly the first trucking song in country music, became a hit for Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers. In 1940 Daffan formed his own band, the Texans, with whom he recorded several popular songs, including the classic “Born to Lose” (OK, 1943), and published several compositions under the pseudonym Frankie Brown. Amid changes in his band’s lineup, Daffan followed the western swing migration to California in the 1940s before returning to Texas after World War II. In this period Daffan worked with former bandmates Bruner, Mullican, and Tillman to create the style which became known as ...
M. Rusty Jones
[Al Laurence Dimeola ]
(b Jersey City, NJ, July 22, 1954). American jazz fusion guitarist and composer. He is known especially for his technical virtuosity and for combining Latin, world, and jazz styles. His guitar influences include Larry Coryell, Tal(madge Holt) Farlow, and Kenny Burrell. He was also inspired by the tangos of Ástor Piazzolla, with whom he developed a close friendship. He enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1971, where he remained until 1974 when he was invited to join the fusion group Return to Forever with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White. The group released three recordings with Di Meola, including the Grammy award-winning No Mystery (1975), before disbanding in 1976. The group reunited for a tour in 2008. Di Meola’s career as a leader began with the production of Land of the Midnight Sun (1976). Recordings on which he is recognized as leader now number over 20 albums. He has collaborated with luminaries such as Jaco Pastorius, Jan Hammer, and Chick Corea. One of his most successful collaborations was his trio with guitarists John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia. Their ...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b Lafayette, LA, Feb 14, 1951). American fiddler, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Doucet has become arguably the most widely recognized Cajun musician ever. His formative influences within Cajun and Creole music include acknowledged masters such as Dewey Balfa, Canray Fontenot, and especially Dennis McGee, as well as lesser-known but no less important masters such as Varise Conner, Lionel Leleux, and Hector Duhon. Other influences include the folk rock, country, and swamp pop influences of his youth. Doucet first approached Cajun music in the 1970s in a group called Bayou des Mystères. He then founded a rock-country-Cajun fusion band called Coteau, the first such band to attract the attention of the younger university crowds. After Coteau dissolved, Doucet turned to his long-running band Beausoleil, which was informed by an eclectic collection of influences that reflect the complex history of Cajun music, including traditional, classical, rock, and jazz elements. Beausoleil has played all over the world and recorded more than 30 albums for many labels, including Swallow, Arhoolie, Rounder, Rhino, and Alligator. These albums have garnered 11 Grammy nominations and two wins. Doucet has also recorded albums with other musicians, including Marc and Ann Savoy, Ed Poullard, and his brother David Doucet. He has performed with symphony orchestras and with the Fiddlers Four. Along the way, he has made ingenious use of old material, for example, turning unaccompanied ballads that John and Alan Lomax collected in Louisiana in ...
[Robert Lee ]
(b Spraggs, OK, Feb 5, 1908; d Houston, TX, May 27, 1971). American steel guitarist and composer. He pioneered the amplified steel guitar in country music. The son of a country fiddler, he gravitated to Hawaiian steel at age nine and studied the instrument via correspondence with guitarist Walter Kolomoku. Dunn, who also played trombone, was playing professionally by 1927. His love of jazz led him to create improvisational lines emulating the trombone (he admired Texas-born jazz trombone great Jack Teagarden) or the trumpet by blending aggressive technique with the rough, primitive tone of early electric amplification. In late 1934 he joined Milton Brown and the Musical Brownies in Fort Worth, Texas. He was showcased on various numbers, including his original instrumental “Taking off” (1935, Decca). After Brown’s death in 1936, Dunn performed and recorded with Texas groups led by pianist Roy Newman, ex-Brownies fiddler Cliff Bruner, Leon “Pappy” Selph, the Modern Mountaineers, and Bill Mounce. He also led his own band, the Vagabonds. After World War II Navy service, he resumed performing in Houston until he retired around ...
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 ...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b Anse des Rougeau, near Basile, LA, Oct 16, 1918; d near Welsh, LA, July 29, 1995). American fiddler, vocalist, and songwriter. The son of renowned but unrecorded Creole accordionist Adam Fontenot, he picked up the fiddle to play with his father and his cousin Amédé Ardoin, another Creole accordionist. His Creole style influenced just about all contemporary Creole fiddlers, such as Ed Poulard and Cedric Watson, as well as many Cajun fiddlers, including Dewey Balfa and Michael Doucet. He eventually joined Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin as the core of first the Duralde Ramblers and later the Ardoin Family Band. In 1964, they were recorded by Ralph Rinzler, who was doing fieldwork for the Newport Folk Festival. They performed at Newport in 1966 and recorded their first album, Les blues du bayou, on the way home. With the Ardoin Family Band, Fontenot took his pre-zydeco Creole music to many parts of the country, becoming a fixture on the folk festival circuit. Fontenot was a virtuoso musician and a gifted composer, with influences ranging from early Creole styles to jazz, swing, country, and blues. He and Ardoin were awarded National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships in ...
Anthony S. Lis
(b Corsicana, TX, March 31, 1928; d Nashville, TN, July 19, 1975). American country music singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A fan of Jimmie Rodgers from childhood, he played honky tonks in Waco and Dallas by age 16. In 1945, Frizzell married; while serving a jail-sentence in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, he wrote a number of songs dedicated to his wife, including “I love you a thousand ways.” In April 1950 Frizzell recorded a demo of his song “If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time” at the studio of Dallas promoter Jim Beck; his voice caught the attention of producer Don Law, who signed him to Columbia. In fall 1950 Columbia released “If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time” backed with “I love you a thousand ways;” both sides reached number one on Billboard’s country singles charts. At one point in the early 1950s, Frizzell placed four songs in the top ten of ...
(b Redwood City, CA, April 19, 1954). American composer, guitarist, instrument builder, educational technology specialist, and media designer. He attended classes with Robert Sheff, robert Ashley , and terry Riley at Mills College (1972–3) and studied at Canada College in Redwood City (1973–4), California, Cabrillo College in Aptos, California (1974–5), San Francisco State University (1975–6), and Virginia Commonwealth University (1976–7). In the late 1970s he collaborated with Serge Tcherepnin on the construction of the Modular Music System. In the early 1980s he was appointed technical director at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music and in 1989 he became a lecturer at California State University in Hayward; then he taught at Diablo Valley College, Expression College for Digital Arts, and San Jose State University. He held composer residencies at Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (1992), Amsterdam’s Steim (...
(b Seguin, TX, July 6, 1953). American country/folksinger-songwriter. She grew up in a musical home, began playing guitar at a young age, and started writing songs at the age of six. When she was 14 she began performing in honky-tonks. After college Griffith taught kindergarten by day and performed in honky-tonks at night. It was not until 1977 that she decided to pursue a career in music. She self-promoted her first two albums at folk festivals and formed her own backing band, the Blue Moon Orchestra. In 1987 she landed a recording contract with MCA Nashville and made her major-label debut with the critically acclaimed album Lone Star State of Mind, charting a single with the title track. The album also featured Julie Gold’s song “From a Distance,” which has become Griffith’s signature tune. After several unsuccessful albums Griffith transferred to MCA’s pop division in 1989 and recorded her first pop-oriented album, ...
Suzanne L. Moulton-Gertig
(b Stockton, CA, Nov 11, 1953). American harpist, composer, and entertainer. She studied classical harp with Linda Wood at the University of California, Berkeley. An NEA grant supported her study of jazz and, in 1982, she launched a touring career. About this time, she started to amplify the instrument. In 1989, Henson-Conant was signed to GRP Records, with which she made three recordings. She also went on a world tour and recorded for the Laika label (in Germany) as well as her own White Cat company. In 1998, tiring of transporting a concert harp on tour, she asked the Camac Harp Company to design an 11-pound solid-body electric lever harp that could be strapped onto her body. Describing herself as a jazz-pop-comedy-folk-blues-flamenco-Celtic harpist, Henson-Conant mixes music with theatrical and storytelling elements in her performances. She writes solo harp music and symphonic music featuring her harp and voice. The soundtrack of her ...
(b Los Angeles, CA, Dec 4, 1944). American country-rock singer, songwriter, bassist, mandolinist, and guitarist. He was a mainstay of Los Angeles–area folk-rock and country-rock music of the 1960s and 1970s and a successful commercial country music artist in the 1980s. Since the early 1980s he has been a purveyor of a seamless hybrid of bluegrass, country duo harmony, Bakersfield honky tonk, and West Coast country rock.
Hillman took up the guitar and the mandolin during the urban folk revival. Focusing on the latter, he played traditional bluegrass with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (1962–3) and the Golden State Boys, which became The Hillmen (1963–4). In 1964 he joined the Byrds. At first the group’s reticent bassist, he increasingly contributed as songwriter and vocalist to albums starting with the group’s fourth, Younger Than Yesterday (Columbia, 1967). Recruiting local bluegrass and country players, especially guitarist Clarence White, Hillman helped lay the foundations of country rock. With later Byrds recruit Gram Parsons, he firmly established that genre with the Byrds’ ...
Wendy F. Hsu
(b Taipei, Taiwan, Dec 15, 1973). Rock musician and songwriter of Taiwanese birth. Hsu moved to Houston, Texas, with his family in 1989. His brother, Kevin Hsu, was a pop star in Taiwan who signed to Golden Point/BMG. Self-taught in guitar, keyboards, voice, and drums, Hsu formed in 2001 the alternative rock band Johnny Hi-Fi, which has toured extensively in the United States and Asia. As a songwriter Hsu writes songs in both English and Mandarin Chinese. He has collaborated with Taiwanese recording artists and producers and has had success overseas. His song titled “Don’t Go,” performed by Richie Ren, reached the top 10 pop music chart in Taiwan. Hsu also has toured with Taiwanese rock musician Chang Chen-Yue on his US tour in 2004.
In 2004 Hsu began organizing the Asian Rock Fest in recognition of Asian American Heritage Month in May. An annual festival series, Asian Rock Fest has brought together Asian American artists and showcased rock music talent including Eyes Like Knives, Kite Operations, Carol Bui, Burning Tree Project, Festizio, Vudoo Soul, Jack Tung, and Johnny Hi-Fi. The first Asian Rock Fest took place at The Pianos in New York. The festival continued to feature Asian American musicians after Hsu’s relocation to the west coast in ...
(b Lake Forest, IL, 1957). American jazz violinist and composer. Known for his unconventional violin technique, Hwang participated in downtown New York’s free jazz scene in the late 1970s and early 80s and became increasingly associated with Asian American jazz in the 1980s and 90s. His more recent work emphasizes cross-cultural themes, especially as they relate to the Chinese experience in the United States.
Hwang spent his childhood in Waukegan and Highland Park, Illinois, before attending New York University. In New York he frequented “loft jazz” performances, which featured experimental players such as David Murray, Lester Bowie, Charles “Bobo” Shaw, and Frank Lowe. Hwang was mentored by alto saxophonist Will Connell Jr. who had come to New York after his tenure with Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in Los Angeles. Hwang and Connell Jr. teamed with bassist William Parker and percussionist Takeshi Zen Matsuura to form the quartet Commitment. Commitment achieved modest local success, toured Germany, and recorded a self-titled album in ...
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...
(David Kahekilimamaoikalanikeha )
(b Honolulu, Hawaii, March 31, 1953). Hawaiian singer, songwriter, and slack key guitarist. One of Hawaii’s most prolific songwriters, Reverend Dennis Kamakahi is responsible for Hawaiian-language standards such as “Koke‘e” and “Wahine Ilikea” and English songs like “Golden Stallion” and “Maui Mountain Morning.” He composes in a poetic style inspired by earlier masters of the Hawaiian form such as Queen Lili‘uokalani and Sam Li‘a Kalainaina. Traces of country and folk can be heard in the melodies. He is also a warm, evocative singer and a ki ho‘alu (slack key guitar) master.
Kamakahi was raised in Honolulu, though his family has close ties to the island of Moloka‘i. He first learned slack key from his grandfather at age ten but cites popular artists such as Gabby Pahinui and others as main influences. During high school at Kamehameha Schools, Kamakahi formed a trio with Aaron Mahi and Kalena Silva. They received valuable mentoring from older artists such as Kahauanu Lake and The Sons of Hawaii. In ...
Paula J. Bishop
(b Honolulu, HI, April 12, 1956). Hawaiian slack-key guitarist, arranger, and composer. He first became interested in ki ho’alu, or slack-key guitar, after hearing a recording of renowned player Keola Beamer. He learned to play slack key by listening to recordings of Beamer, and later studied with Peter Medeiros at the University of Hawai’i and privately with Sonny Chillingworth. He performs on both nylon and steel-string guitars and typically uses a four-finger picking method. He incorporates Spanish, Brazilian, American folk, Japanese, and other non-Hawaiian influences into his compositions and style. His playing technique is notable for the alternating bass in imitation of the double bass typical of a Hawaiian band, and for arpeggiations played evenly with the thumb and three fingers; he is known for producing a balanced and artistic sound. He often expands the standard slack-key tonic-dominant-subdominant harmonic language with added chord tones.
Kotani has released five unaccompanied solo albums. His choice of material includes original compositions and interpretations of slack key and Hawaiian standards. He is a featured artist on several slack key compilation albums, two of which won Grammy Awards (...
(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....
Wendy F. Hsu
(Taro Ono )
(b New York, NY, Oct 9, 1975). American rock songwriter, singer, guitarist, and musician; son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Sean Lennon was born in New York City on his father’s 35th birthday. He attended a boarding school in Switzerland and, briefly, Columbia University. His earliest musical endeavors were associated with his mother Yoko Ono. On Season of Glass, he recited a story that his father used to tell him. He also collaborated with his mother on the albums It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) and Starpeace. In 1995, with Sam Koppelman and Timo Ellis, Sean Lennon formed his own band called IMA (Japanese for “now”). Fusing influences from contemporary indie rock music and New York City’s downtown experimental music scene, IMA performed with Yoko Ono and recorded for her 1995 album Rising. In 1996, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori of the New York-based electro hip-hop group Cibo Matto invited Lennon to play bass with the group on a tour. Subsequently Lennon recorded for Cibo Matto’s second album ...
(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 ...