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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 ...

Article

Charles Fox

(b London, May 28, 1907; d London, Dec 23, 1958). English jazz pianist, composer and bandleader. The son of a West African barrister and a German mother, he was educated in England. During the late 1920s he travelled to the USA, where he wrote arrangements for Earl Hines’s orchestra and was commissioned by Paul Whiteman to compose new works. In 1933 he returned to Britain and formed a band made up of two clarinets, bassoon, three saxophones, piano, double bass and drums – an unconventional instrumentation for jazz and dance music at that time. For this and later ensembles he wrote many short pieces, including Serenade for a Wealthy Widow/Angry Jungle (1933, Col.), The Autocrat before Breakfast (1934, Col.), Dodging a Divorcee (1935, Col.) and Swing for Roundabout (1936, Decca). In 1934 Foresythe returned to the USA to perform with Whiteman, and the following year he recorded in New York with a band that included Benny Goodman, John Kirby and Gene Krupa; apart from this occasion, however, he made little use of improvisation. After World War II he led another band, but his final years were spent in obscurity, playing the piano in small drinking clubs in London around Soho and Kensington....

Article

Michael Fitzgerald

(b Prague, Czechoslovakia, April 17, 1948). American jazz keyboard player, composer, producer, drummer, and bandleader of Czech birth. His mother, Vlasta Pruchova, was a jazz singer in Prague and his father played bass and vibraphone. He attended the Academy of Musical Arts in Prague and formed the Junior Trio with the bass player Miroslav Vitous and the drummer Alan Vitous, which lasted from 1962 to 1966. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR in 1968, he moved to the USA to accept a scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music. However, he abandoned his studies after a year and a half to work with Sarah Vaughan.

As a member of John McLaughlin’s group the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971–3), Hammer played electric and acoustic pianos and began using the Minimoog synthesizer (on the album Birds of Fire), quickly becoming a major influence on other keyboard players. Hammer is often cited as having developed a synthesizer style that mimics that of an electric guitar, but he instead credits the influence of Indian and Eastern European music. Several albums on which Hammer performed with Elvin Jones during the early 1970s helped to introduce the synthesizer to more mainstream jazz. ...

Article

Dave Laing

(b Pinner, June 30, 1939). English composer, bandleader and record producer. While writing arrangements for the band of the Coldstream Guards during his national service he composed the teenbeat ballad Look for a Star, recorded by Garry Mills in 1960. He became one of the busiest journeymen in British pop music during the 1960s showing a chameleon-like ability to adapt to the changing fashions. As recording manager for Pye Records throughout the decade, Hatch wrote and produced a beat group hit for The Searchers (Sugar and Spice), the dramatic ballad Joanna for Scott Walker, and a sequence of bright ballads for Petula Clark. Co-written with his wife, the singer Jackie Trent, these included Downtown, Don’t sleep in the subway and I know a place. Trent’s own recordings of Hatch-Trent songs included the more conventional ballad Where are you now (my love).

Hatch was also a highly successful composer of television theme tunes. He wrote the themes for the soap operas ...

Article

Claire Levy

(b Sofia, 8 Dec 1934; d Sofia, 12 July 2008). Bulgarian conductor, composer, pianist, and arranger, of Armenian origins, remembered for his prominent role as a musician and public figure in the development of popular music in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Technical University in Sofia (1957) and studied in the Faculty of Theory at the Bulgarian State Conservatory. In 1953 he joined the band Jazz of the Young. By the end of the 1950s he played the piano also at the Satiric Theatre Orchestra and founded Studio 5, a band famous for its supportive role in promoting young singers. Following a similar purpose, later on he initiated Trombata na Vili (‘The Horn of Vili’), a radio contest for discovering new talented pop singers. Since 1960 Kazassian’s music activities have been closely associated with the newly created Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio where he took successively the positions of pianist (...

Article

[Christopher]

(b Poznań, April 27, 1931; d Warsaw, April 23, 1969). Polish composer, jazz pianist and bandleader . He studied the piano at the Poznań Conservatory in the late 1930s and the 40s along with medicine at the Poznań Medical Academy. In 1954 he took part in the first unofficial jazz festival in Kraków and formed his first group. In 1956 he formed a sextet which achieved success at the Sopot Jazz Festival (1956 and 1957), and in 1958 Komeda appeared in the first series of Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, Warsaw. He wrote the music for Polanski’s short film Dwaj ludzie z szafa ̧ (‘Two People with a Wardrobe’, 1958), and subsequently wrote his first score for a feature film, Do widzenia, do jutra (‘Goodbye, until Tomorrow’, 1960). He took part in performances of jazz and poetry and, from 1960, frequently toured Europe. His recording ...

Article

Bryan S. Wright

(b Tamaqua, PA, May 1868; d Miami, FL, Sept 30, 1933). American Bandleader and composer. Born to a German immigrant cigar maker and his American-born wife, Krell began musical training as a child, studying both brass instruments and piano. In his teens he led local bands, writing arrangements for them. He moved to Chicago sometime around 1890, where he married and began leading a touring band professionally. His first published composition, “Our Carter: A Beautiful Ballad” (with Silas Leachman), appeared in 1893, dedicated to the recently assassinated Chicago mayor, Carter Harrison Sr. In the seven years that followed, Krell published an additional 16 pieces, mostly waltzes, marches, or cakewalks. He is best remembered for his “Mississippi Rag,” copyrighted 27 January 1897, which is the earliest copyrighted piece designated “Rag” in the title. The piece does not follow the classic AABBACCDD piano rag form, but like many early so-called rags, it strings together several lightly syncopated melodic strains in imitation of a “cakewalk patrol.” Krell evokes the sound of a passing parade band, beginning with a quiet, repetitive opening motive that crescendos to a boisterous middle section, concluding with a return to the opening motive that decrescendos to a quiet finish. Although Krell originally conceived of the piece for band, it became famous through a piano reduction arrangement. Although Krell published no new pieces after ...

Article

Dave Laing

[Hans]

(b Bremen, April 17, 1929; d FL, June 9, 2015). German composer and bandleader. An accomplished jazz bass player, James Last confected an easy-listening style in which almost any type of music could be reduced to a medley of soft pop dance tunes. After leading his own band and working as an arranger and record producer, in 1965 he perfected his formula with the album Non-Stop Dancing which linked together the melodies of 26 recent hit songs over a cheerful dance rhythm. The party atmosphere was cemented by the addition of laughter, cheers and clapping between each section, and the success of this album led Last and his orchestra to undertake annual European tours for a number of years. Further volumes of Non-Stop Dancing followed as well as albums based on themes, such as Classics Up To Date, In South America and James Last plays Andrew Lloyd Webber...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

[Mahavishnu]

(bKirk Sandall, Yorks., Jan 4, 1942). English jazz guitarist, composer and bandleader. He studied the piano and violin from the age of nine, taking classical lessons and then taught himself to play acoustic guitar: he learnt blues before turning to flamenco, and then jazz. In the early 1960s he became involved with the blues movement in London, playing electric guitar with Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Alexis Korner among others; he also began playing with jazz musicians including John Surman. After working with the free jazz vibraphonist Gunter Hampel in Germany, he moved to the USA in February 1969 to join Tony Williams's group Lifetime and Miles Davis; he figures prominently on Davis’s pioneering jazz-rock album Bitches Brew (Col., 1969). McLaughlin became a disciple of the guru Sri Chinmoy in 1970, and the following year formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra, which achieved a popular success approaching that of the most famous contemporary rock groups. The album ...

Article

Špela Lah

(b Črna na Koroškem, Slovenia, July 11, 1930). Slovenian composer and conductor. Considered one of the greatest Slovenian musicians of the 20th century, he has left a special mark on Slovenian pop song, chanson, and popular music as far as both music composition and interpretation are concerned. His father, Franz Shiffer, was an opera singer, and his mother, Ljudmila Sepe, a music teacher. His music career began when he was a student of piano and trumpet at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana, and a trumpeter at the Dance Orchestra of RTV Ljubljana (1950–70).

His love for jazz is reflected in several of his compositions, which are characterized by a rich harmonic language. For his opus of almost 200 songs and over 40 instrumental works he received numerous awards, and, by participating in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1966 and 1970, he took Slovenian song beyond the boundaries of his homeland. Among his enduring songs are ‘Med iskrenimi ljudmi’ (‘Among Honest People’), ‘Pridi, dala ti bom cvet’ (‘Come on, I’ll give you a flower’), ‘Šuštarski most’ (‘Cobbler’s Bridge’), ‘Zemlja pleše’ (‘Earth Dances’), and many others....

Article

Bill Dobbins

(Ward Martin Tabares)

(b Norwalk, CT, Sept 2, 1928; d New Rochelle, NY, June 18, 2014). American jazz pianist, bandleader and composer. As a child he was exposed to Cape Verdean folk music performed by his father, who was of Portuguese descent. He began studying the saxophone and the piano in high school, when his influences were blues singers such as Memphis Slim and boogie-woogie and bop pianists, especially Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. In 1950 Stan Getz made a guest appearance in Hartford, Connecticut, with Silver’s trio, and subsequently engaged the group to tour regularly with him. Silver remained with Getz for a year, during which time three of his compositions, Penny, Potter’s Luck (written for Tommy Potter) and Split Kick, were recorded by the band for the Roost label.

By 1951 Silver had developed sufficient confidence to move to New York, where he performed with such established professionals as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Oscar Pettiford and Art Blakey. In ...

Article

Charles Fox

revised by Digby Fairweather

[Michael John David ]

(b High Wycombe, March 21, 1936). English jazz composer, pianist and bandleader . After working in an accountant’s office and studying painting he took up music professionally; he was largely self-taught and has an empirical approach to composition. Around 1960 he organized a jazz workshop in Plymouth, where he wrote for a small ensemble that included John Surman, then in 1962 he moved to London. From that time he has written pieces for a number of his own ensembles: the Mike Westbrook Band (1962–72), the Mike Westbrook Concert Band (1967–71), the multi-media group Cosmic Circus (1970–72), the jazz-rock band Solid Gold Cadillac (1971–4), the Mike Westbrook Brass Band (established in 1973 to perform in the theatre and on television), the Mike Westbrook Orchestra (formed in 1974), A Little Westbrook Music (formed in 1982) and the Dance Band (formed in ...