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Mary Talusan

(b Anaheim, CA, Nov 15, 1970). American jazz percussionist and composer. Of Filipino heritage, Ibarra grew up in Houston, Texas. She received a music diploma from Mannes College and a BA from Goddard College. She studied drums with Buster Smith and Vernel Fournier and percussion with Milford Graves. She also played with William Parker and his big band, The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. In the 1990s, Ibarra became interested in Philippine musical traditions and took lessons on kulintang from master artist Danongan Kalanduyan. She joined the avant-garde free jazz quartet led by David S. Ware and became well known in the New York jazz scene. She collaborated on several albums with a number of respected musicians such as Assif Tsahar, Cooper-Moore, Charles Burnham, Chris Speed, Wadada Leo Smith, and Pauline Oliveros, notably on the album ...

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Michael Baumgartner

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 25, 1931; d New York, NY, Nov 22, 2011). American jazz drummer and composer. He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he began playing guitar and drums at the age of 12. During the Korean War he studied at the Navy School of Music in Washington before being stationed in Brooklyn from November 1953. After his discharge in September 1954 he moved to New York, entered the Manhattan School of Music and took private lessons on drums and timpani. In the mid- to late 1950s he accompanied various musicians, including Tony Scott, Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford (in both his quintet and big band), Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. In 1956 Motian began collaborating with Bill Evans, appearing on the pianist’s first album. Subsequently he was the drummer in Evans’s first and second trios (1959–64). He continued his career as an experienced drummer of piano trios, first with Paul Bley’s group (...

Article

John L. Clark Jr.

(b Chicago, IL, June 22, 1903; d Palm Springs, CA, June 7, 1971). American jazz drummer and bandleader. Born into a wealthy family, he began playing drums and was hired by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, with whom he played and recorded in 1923. While with this band he became known as perhaps the best white drummer in the style and influenced the next generation of players, including Dave Tough and Gene Krupa.

After a year on the West Coast with the Harry Bastin band, he took over Bastin’s group in 1925. For the next 15 years Pollack led big bands, primarily in Chicago and New York, before settling in Los Angeles in the late 1930s. His first band included such later jazz worthies as Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Glenn Miller.

By the early 1930s Pollack had replaced his early stars with younger musicians. His affair with singer Doris Robbins caused friction in the new band and most of the musicians left to form a cooperative group later fronted by Bob Crosby. Pollack again reformed, using other young musicians including Harry James and Irving Fazola....

Article

Gareth Dylan Smith

[Charles D. ]

(b New York, NY, Dec 15, 1931; d New York, NY, March 16, 1988). American jazz drummer. He is widely acknowledged as one of the great, if underappreciated, jazz drummers, developing a new vocabulary on the instrument in the early 1960s along with Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell. He came to fame in the explorative, pioneering, and avant-garde band of bassist Charles Mingus, which he joined in 1956 after upstaging Mingus’s then-drummer Willie Jones at a jam session. The new vitality and energy that he brought to the band was evident from his recording debut, The Clown (1957), and is perhaps exemplified on Mingus’s most popular album, Mingus Ah Um (1959). Prior to joining Mingus on drums, Richmond had studied reeds, piano, and percussion at the Music Center Conservatory in Brooklyn, and had worked as a tenor saxophonist on tour with Paul Williams, among others....

Article

(b Savannah, GA, July 17, 1933). American jazz drummer. Riley moved to New York at age four and as a teenager began music studies with Cecil Scott, in whose band he also played. After returning to Harlem following his service as a member of the 187th Airborne band (1951–2) he joined the second wave of New York bebop players, working regularly with Randy Weston and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, first at Minton’s and then from 1960 as a member of his two-tenor quintet with Johnny Griffin. Subsequently he became a busy sideman, performing with Sonny Rollins (appearing on the classic The Bridge), among others. He became a favorite of piano players including Ahmad Jamal, Billy Taylor, and Ray Bryant, for his tasteful, sympathetic swing. After three weeks opening for Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot, playing with Bobby Timmons, Junior Mance, and Walter Bishop, Jr., Monk asked him to play on ...

Article

Michael Fitzgerald

[Granville William ]

(b Miami, FL, Sept 3, 1932). American jazz drummer. Roker moved to Philadelphia at age ten and was introduced to music in school bands and local drum and bugle corps, in which he played by ear. Formal studies began at age 23, following service in the US Army from 1952 to 1955. He began playing jazz in Philadelphia with Sam Reed in 1956, worked with Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Oliver, and Johnny Coles, and met Kenny Barron, McCoy Tyner, and Reggie Workman in local jam sessions.

With the encouragement of Workman, Roker moved to New York in 1959, playing for two years and recording three albums with Gigi Gryce. His next long-term engagements were in the trios of Ray Bryant and Junior Mance. Preferring to stay in New York rather than travel, Roker joined Mary Lou Williams, working steadily at the Hickory House in the mid-1960s. Concurrently he collaborated with Duke Pearson in both a big band and small groups and appeared on numerous recordings for various labels, including Blue Note....

Article

J. Bradford Robinson

[Dav(e)y; David Jaffray]

(b Oak Park, IL, April 26, 1907; d Newark, NJ, Dec 9, 1948). American jazz drummer. As a member of the Austin High School Gang in the mid-1920s he had a formative influence on Chicago-style jazz. In the late 1920s he toured Europe, where he made his first recordings in Berlin (1927), and took part in numerous recording sessions with Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, and others in New York. Incapacitated, mainly by alcoholism, from 1929 to 1935, he then joined Tommy Dorsey’s big band (1936–7), replaced Gene Krupa in the Benny Goodman Orchestra (1938), then rejoined Dorsey (1939). He was a leading drummer of the swing period. Two prominent features of his playing with Dorsey—his ride patterns on Chinese cymbal (and later on large Turkish cymbal) and his irregular bass drum figures—were far in advance of their time, becoming widespread only in the bop style of the 1940s. He also adapted to the progressive big band style as a member of Woody Herman’s first “Herd” (...

Article

Matthew Alan Thomas

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Jan 20, 1960). American percussionist. He began playing snare drum at nine years old and performed with the Pittsburgh Youth SO as a teenager. He studied classical percussion at Duquesne University before transferring to Berklee College of Music, where he met Kevin Eubanks, Branford Marsalis, and Wallace Roney. He frequently performed on vibraphone as a Berklee student and played with Marvin “Smitty” Smith in the school’s fusion ensemble. Watts recorded and toured regularly with Wynton Marsalis’s quintet (1982–8). His acting debut came when he was invited to play the role of fictional drummer Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues (1990).

Watts collaborated with pianist Kenny Kirkland and bassist Charles Fambrough on his first album as bandleader Megawatts (1991, Sunnyside). After making several recordings with Branford Marsalis, Watts moved to Los Angeles to play with Branford in the Tonight Show Band (...