(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...
(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920; d New Orleans, June 23, 2019). American trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its début at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.
Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with Fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man, and an in-house bandleader. From ...
(b Melbourne, Australia, Jan 4, 1919; d Melbourne, Australia, June 17, 2008). Australian trumpeter, washboard player, composer, singer, and bandleader, brother of Graeme Bell. He first worked as a drummer, then in 1938 began to play cornet. Having worked in Melbourne with his brother at Leonard’s Café, he briefly led the band at Heidelberg Town Hall (1943), where he recorded with a visiting Max Kaminsky, before Graeme Bell returned from Queensland to take over the group’s leadership. He remained in Graeme’s dixieland groups during their European tours (1947–8, 1950–52), after which he worked with Max Collie (1953) and in the house band at the Melbourne Jazz Club (from 1958). Bell was active as a freelance musician and led his own band, the Pagan Pipers (a name he had used first in 1949), which with various personnel (notably Len Barnard and Ade Monsbourgh) performed and recorded for many years; among its recordings were a number of Bell’s own compositions. His playing may be heard to advantage on ...
(b Gaston, NC, Aug 28, 1936; d Baltimore, May 16, 2012). American bandleader, singer, guitarist, and composer. He was a musical icon of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He was widely known as “The Godfather of Go-go” and renowned for his live performances, which emphasized continuous, percussion-driven grooves and audience participation, all staples of the Go-go genre he developed in the 1970s. Brown’s early years were marked by poverty and crime, and he first developed his guitar playing while incarcerated at the Lorton Penitentiary. With his band the Soul Searchers, Brown developed a distinctive sound that is grounded in funk and soul, but also heavily influenced by jazz and Latin genres. His hit songs include “Bustin’ Loose,” “We Need Some Money,” and “Go-Go Swing.” In 1992, Brown recorded The Other Side with vocalist Eva Cassidy, a critically-acclaimed album of jazz and blues material. He received a NARAS Governors Award and an NEA Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award, and continued to record and perform regularly until his death in ...
(b Barnwell, SC, May 3, 1928; d Atlanta, Dec 25, 2006). American soul and funk singer, composer, arranger and bandleader. Born into extreme poverty in the rural South, he began his career as a professional musician in the early 1950s with the gospel-based group, the Flames. By 1956 the group had recorded the rhythm and blues hit Please, Please, Please (Federal, 1956) and changed their name to James Brown and the Famous Flames. This early recording established what was to become a stylistic trademark: insistent repetition of a single phrase (in this case, the song's title) resulting in a kind of ecstatic trance. This approach and Brown's characteristic raspy vocal timbre and impassioned melismas display his debt to the black American gospel tradition. His stage shows, dancing and inspired call-and-response interactions with the audience also convey the fervour of a sanctified preacher.
The first decade of Brown's recording career saw him alternating energetic dance numbers such as ...
[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]
(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...
(b Marlin, TX, April 25, 1950). American jazz and rhythm-and-blues flutist, singer, bandleader, composer, and producer. She started to play flute in the Lincoln High School band in Dallas. Studying both classical and jazz flute, she continued her musical training at Texas Southern University and Southern Methodist University. In 1971 she moved to New York, where a relative, Eddie Preston, played trumpet with Duke Ellington. Because of this connection, she had the opportunity to play with Ellington’s band. She also competed in the Apollo Theater’s amateur night, winning first place for seven consecutive weeks. Blue Note Records signed Humphrey in 1971 and had recorded six of her albums by 1976, including Blacks and Blues (1973, BN). She performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 and 1977. She also appeared on “Another Star” from Stevie Wonder’s album Songs in the Key of Life (1975–1976, Tamia). After switching to Epic she recorded three more albums for that label: ...
(b New York, NY, March 11, 1950). American singer, composer, and conductor, son of Robert McFerrin. He studied at the Juilliard Pre-College Division prior to his family’s relocation to California in 1958. His earliest instruments were clarinet and piano. He attended Cerritos College and Sacramento State College, but left before graduation to pursue employment as a pianist. His singing career began in 1977. He became known in jazz circles through appearances at the Playboy Jazz Festival in 1980 and with Wynton Marsalis at the Kool Jazz Festival in 1982; a recording of the latter concert was released as The Young Lions (Elektra, 1982). McFerrin’s self-titled first solo album (1982, Elek. Mus.) was followed by The Voice (1984, Elek. Mus.) and Spontaneous Inventions (1986, BN). He also recorded with Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Al Jarreau, and Quincy Jones in the 1980s. McFerrin is best known for his Grammy-winning song “Don’t worry, be happy,” which appeared on the album ...
(b Grand Roy, July 9, 1935). Trinidadian vocalist, composer and bandleader born in Grenada. His family moved to Trinidad when he was one year old. He sang as a church choirboy, and made his professional début at 19, performing in the annual calypso tent competition held during Carnival under the sobriquet Little Sparrow. In 1956 he changed his name to Mighty Sparrow and won the Calypso Monarch Competition with his road march Jean and Dinah. That same year he initiated the famous ‘calypso wars’ with his friend Lord Melody, performing at the Young Brigade Calypso Tent. The following year, his tune Carnival Boycott was taken up as an anthem to demand better competitive conditions and pay for calypsonians, masqueraders and pan-men, and which led to the founding of the Carnival Development Committee. In subsequent years, his songs Teresa (1958) and The Yankees Back (1960) also became instant hits....
[Masawwir, Damu Mustafa Abdul ]
(b St. Matthews, SC, Feb 2, 1942). American electric guitarist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. Ulmer grew up in a musical family. By the age of four he began to learn the guitar from his father. From the ages of seven to thirteen he played guitar and sang with his father’s gospel group, the Southern Sons. Ulmer moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1959 and began to immerse himself in the city’s rhythm and blues scene. From 1959 to 1964 Ulmer performed with the Del Vikings, the Savoys, and Jewel Brenner’s Swing Kings. In 1964 he moved to Columbus, Ohio. From 1964 to 1967 he studied jazz and performed with organist Hank Marr. Ulmer relocated to Detroit, Michigan, in 1967 and began his tenure with soul-jazz organist “Big” John Patton. During his time in Detroit (1967–71) Ulmer became interested in contemporary rock styles, including the music and tonal innovations of guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Soon after Ulmer moved to New York City in ...