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Article

Dean Alger

[Alonzo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Feb 8, 1894; d Toronto, ON, June 16, 1970). American blues and jazz guitarist and singer. Research indicates that Johnson was born in 1894 (Alger). He was influenced by the musical activities of his family and the rich musical environment in New Orleans of the early 1900s, including the early blues, jazz, and the lyrically expressive French and Spanish music traditions. He began playing violin, developed excellent guitar skill, and by the 1920s was also recording on piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonium.

Johnson performed on violin with Charlie Creath’s band on the Mississippi riverboat St. Paul, and after winning a blues singing contest in St. Louis, he began his recording career with OKeh Records. His first recording featured “Mr. Johnson’s Blues” and “Falling Rain Blues” (OK, 1925) and was a two-sided hit. From 1925 through 1932 he made more recordings than any other bluesman. In late ...

Article

Megan E. Hill

(b Osaka, Japan, 1957). Jazz and blues pianist, singer, and composer of Japanese birth. She took piano lessons briefly as a child and was exposed to the blues while growing up in Osaka in the 1960s and 1970s. As a high school student, she formed the Yoko Blues Band with classmates. The band earned some success, winning first prize and a recording contract in a television-sponsored contest. In 1984 she moved to the United States to pursue a jazz and blues career in Chicago. Initially a singer, she studied piano with boogie, blues, and jazz pianist Erwin Helfer. In the early 1990s Noge established the Jazz Me Blues Band, which has played regularly in Chicago since its formation. In addition to Noge on piano and vocals, the ensemble has included Noge’s husband, Clark Dean, on soprano saxophone, saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, trombonist Bill McFarland, and bassist Tatsu Aoki. In addition to playing more conventional jazz and blues, Noge has made a name for herself through the unique compositions she has written for the group, which meld Japanese folk music styles with Chicago blues. Active in the broader Asian American community, she cofounded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in ...

Article

Gayle Murchison

(Estella )

(b Minot, ND, 17/July 18, 1921; d Bakersfield, CA, March 4, 1992). American jazz guitarist and singer. One of 11 children born to Elvy and Estelle Orsborn, she was raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. Both parents played guitar and at an early age Osborne learned to play ukelele, violin, guitar, and bass. She played banjo in her father’s string band at ten and by 15 was a featured instrumentalist, singer, and dancer in a local trio. After hearing Charlie Christian in Bismarck, she switched to electric guitar. One of its early pioneers, she developed a single-line playing style influenced by Christian and Django Reinhardt. She played in an all-female band that later joined Buddy Rogers’ ensemble. In November 1942 she married the trumpeter Ralph Scaffidi. After Rogers’ band broke up, its members were stranded in New York, and Osborne found work as a radio musician and session player. In the late 1940s she led her own trio and recorded with Mercer Ellington and Coleman Hawkins, among others. From ...

Article

John Chilton

[Oran Thaddeus ]

(b Dallas, TX, Jan 27, 1908; d New York, NY, Nov 5, 1954). American jazz trumpeter and singer. He worked as a professional musician in his home state of Texas during the 1920s and later maintained that he learned to play authentic blues by listening to the local performers there. He played with Walter Page’s Blue Devils (1928–30) then with Bennie Moten’s band (1931–3 and 1934). In 1936 he worked briefly with Count Basie’s band as a principal soloist, but left to become a solo artist at the behest of Louis Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser, a move generally regarded as having crippled a potentially illustrious career. Page gained much publicity during a brief stay with Artie Shaw’s band (1941–2). He also made many fine recordings under his own name (1938–54), often leading bands with some of the finest swing musicians, including Earl Bostic, Don Byas, J.C. Higginbotham, and Ben Webster, among his sidemen. His purposeful, exciting trumpet playing and deeply felt blues singing were probably too rugged to gain widespread favor. Throughout his career he thrived on the atmosphere of impromptu jam sessions, in which his searing tone, dramatic phrasing, and improvised blues lyrics were a source of considerable inspiration to fellow musicians....

Article

Mark Tucker

[Pestritto, Antonio ]

(b Middletown, CT, Oct 26, 1907; d Old Lyme, CT, Oct 31, 1969). American bandleader, singer, and saxophonist. He began playing as a sideman in the orchestras of John Cavallaro, Irving Aaronson, and Vincent Lopez, before joining Artie Shaw’s band (1936), in which he was a tenor saxophone soloist and singer; “Indian Love Call” (1938, B♭) offers a good example of his throaty, somewhat gruff vocal style. After Shaw dissolved the band Pastor formed his own in 1940, taking some of Shaw’s players with him. Many of the group’s arrangements were written by the guitarist Al Avola, although Budd Johnson, Walter Fuller, and Ralph Flanagan also made contributions. Pastor’s singing was greatly influenced, he acknowledged, by Louis Armstrong and was always an important part of his shows. In the late 1940s Pastor also performed with Betty and Rosemary Clooney. He broke up his big band in ...

Article

John-Carlos Perea

[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: ...

Article

John Storm Roberts

[Pozo Gonzales, Luciano ]

(b Havana, Cuba, Jan 7, 1915; d New York, NY, Dec 2, 1948). Cuban drummer, singer, and dancer. His drumming and singing were rooted in Santeria, the lucumí faith derived from West African rituals. On 29 September 1947 he and the bongo player Chiquitico performed in a concert at Carnegie Hall with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie—a landmark event in the history of fusing elements of jazz and Latin music. Pozo was murdered before he could fully develop his ideas with Gillespie, but during his brief career in the United States he provided the starting point for much popular music of the late 1940s and the 50s. The collaboration between the two men, which produced the infectious “Manteca” (1947), supplied the initiative for American musicians, and some of the listening public, to appreciate fully the tradition of Latin music.

D. Gillespie and A. Fraser: To Be, or Not … to Bop: Memoirs...

Article

Yoko Suzuki

[Elvira; Meeks, Elvira; Goldberg, Elvira; Avelino, Elvira]

(b Los Angeles, CA, Sept 20, 1928). American jazz alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and bandleader. Her father Alton Redd was a jazz drummer from New Orleans. Redd started to sing in church at about age 5 and played alto saxophone at about 12, studying with her great-aunt Alma Hightower, a noted music educator in Los Angeles. In about 1948 she formed a band with her first husband, trumpeter Nathaniel Meeks, and began performing professionally as a saxophonist and singer. She had her first son when she was in her late 20s and her second son a few years later. Between 1957 and 1961 she performed less often and taught at public schools. During the 1960s she performed at the renowned club Ronnie Scott’s for ten weeks and toured with Earl Hines and Count Basie. Leonard Feather produced her two albums, Bird Call (1962) and Lady Soul...

Article

Luca Cerchiari

[Jimmie; Hunter, James George]

(b Spokane, WA, Aug 19, 1918; d Burbank, CA, May 28, 1996). American pianist and singer. A refined keyboard player and an occasional vocalist, he possessed a style that in some ways recalled Cole Porter’s. Initially self-taught, Rowles then studied at Gonzaga University in Spokane. His professional career began in the 1940s in California, where he performed with Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Woody Herman, and Dexter Gordon, among others. The following decade he spent more time accompanying singers, including Peggy Lee, Anita O’Day, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Mel Tormé, and such instrumental soloists as Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and Ray Brown. He recorded as a leader for Liberty, Pacific Jazz, Clef, and Verve and also worked as a studio musician for film and television. His later years included additional performing, touring (with Ella Fitzgerald), festival performances, and recording for Atlantic and Columbia, among other labels. One of his best known compositions, “The Peacocks,” has been covered by many interpreters and was featured in the film ...

Article

Chris Albertson

[Cladys ]

(b Pembroke, GA, Dec 24, 1908; d New York, NY, Jan 16, 1991). American jazz trumpeter, valve trombonist, and singer. Sent by his mother to the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston South Carolina at age six, he learned to play trombone at ten and made fund-raising tours with one of the orphanage’s brass bands. Around 1925 he was given nine dollars and sent home to his mother, but went to his sister in Philadelphia and on to Atlantic City, where bandleader Charlie Johnson hired him and eventually brought him to New York’s Small’s Paradise. He replaced Bubber Miley on a 1927 Duke Ellington recording session, declined an invitation to stay in the orchestra, and accepted a job with James P. Johnson’s and Fats Waller’s Broadway show Keep Shufflin’. When the show disbanded in Chicago at the end of 1928, Smith remained and found ample work. An imaginative trumpeter with a fiery style, he was often likened to Louis Armstrong, which prompted producer Mayo Williams to have him form a quintet that could be the Brunswick label’s answer to Armstrong’s popular Hot Five recordings. The Rhythm Aces recorded 20 selections and sales were disappointing, but these performances would, with time, establish his importance to the evolution of jazz trumpet style. Roy Eldridge, who cited Smith as a vital influence, would later serve as an inspiration to Dizzy Gillespie....

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 ...

Article

John L. Clark Jr.

(b Chattanooga, TN, 2 June ?1900; d New York, NY, May 30, 1956). American singer, trumpeter, and dancer. Daughter of a mixed-race couple who were both entertainers and musicians, she learned several instruments before deciding to concentrate on trumpet. By the 1920s she was touring the T.O.B.A. circuit with various revues, and in 1926 she visited Shanghai. In 1935, her performance in Blackbirds of 1934 brought her to England, where she began making records that showed her chief instrumental and vocal influence to be Louis Armstrong. After a brief return in 1936 to the United States, where she performed with Earl Hines in Chicago and made films in Hollywood, Snow moved to Europe, where she made more films and recordings. She was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp in Denmark in 1940 and was badly injured before being exchanged in 1943. After a recuperation period she continued touring and recording until her death during a comeback appearance at the Palace Theatre. Snow stands out from other women performers of her time in that she was known as much as an instrumentalist as a singer. Her extensive touring probably cost her the name recognition that professional stability might have brought, but her recordings show her to have been a fine, swing-influenced trumpeter and vocalist....