(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
John L., Jr. Clark
(b Chattanooga, TN, Sept 19, 1887; d Chicago, IL, July 10, 1972). American jazz and blues pianist, composer, bandleader, arranger, and music director. After studying at Roger Williams University (Nashville) and Knoxville College, she performed on the TOBA circuit and toured accompanying her second husband Buster Austin. In the early 1920s Austin moved to Chicago, where for almost 20 years she directed shows for touring stage performers as the music director and bandleader at the Monogram and Joyland theaters. From 1923 to 1926 she also led the house band at Paramount Records, accompanying blues singers and making instrumental recordings featuring such jazz musicians as Tommy Ladnier, Al Wynn, Johnny Dodds, and Jimmy O’Bryant. After working in a defense plant during World War II, Austin returned to music, working in dancing schools. Her final recording, in 1961 for Riverside Records, was a reunion with her friend Alberta Hunter and several musicians she had previously worked with in Chicago....
(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 Montreal, Canada, Nov 10, 1932; d Montreal, Jan 3, 2016). Canadian jazz pianist, composer, record producer, and bandleader. He was established by the age of 17, when Oscar Peterson recommended him as his replacement for the last year of an engagement at the Alberta Lounge in Montreal. After moving to New York to attend the Juilliard School (1950–54), he became part of the traditional and modern music scenes and recorded his first album as leader, with Charles Mingus and Art Blakey among his sidemen (Introducing Paul Bley, 1953, Debut). He also played with other notable musicians such as Ben Webster, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, and Charlie Parker during the 1950s. In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles where he performed at the Hillcrest Club. His quintet, which included Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, and Ornette Coleman, became Coleman’s quartet when Bley left for New York in ...
[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 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. ...
Gary W. Kennedy
(b New York, Dec 9, 1954). American record producer, composer, bandleader, and percussionist. He began playing percussion at the age of nine and as a teenager he performed with local Latin bands and with Carla Bley. After studying art at Cooper Union in New York and then independently in the western Sahara, India, Haiti, and Europe, he worked with Chico Freeman. In 1979 he founded the record company and label American Clavé, the first release of which was Jerry Gonzalez’s album Ya yo ma curé; other artists presented by the label include the Argentinian bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla. In 1984 Hanrahan formed the group Conjure, which performs his own compositions and uses lyrics based on the poetry of Ishmael Reed. From the mid-1980s into the 1990s he performed internationally in both small groups and large orchestras, collaborating with, among others, Olu Dara, Lester Bowie, David Murray, Don Pullen, D. D. Jackson, Kenny Kirkland, Billy Bang, Jean-Paul Bourelly, Steve Swallow, Anthony Cox, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Andy Gonzalez, Jack Bruce, Billy Hart, Ignacio Berroa, Little Jimmy Scott, the Latin percussionist Milton Cardona, the avant-rock guitarist Arto Lindsay, and the blues singer Taj Mahal. Hanrahan usually serves as a conductor, but he also plays guitar and sings. His eclectic style of music blends elements of rock, jazz, blues, and popular song over various rhythmic structures, which are often based on Latin music. He likens his role to that of a film director and has been called “the Jean-Luc Godard of music.”...
(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 ...
(b Niterói, Brazil, Feb 11, 1941). Brazilian pianist, bandleader, arranger, producer and composer, active in the United States. Formally trained in classical music, Mendes turned to jazz, participating in the bossa nova nightclub scene in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mendes and his group, the Sexteto Bossa Rio, performed at the pivotal Bossa Nova festival at Carnegie Hall, which contributed significantly to the popularity of bossa nova beyond Brazil.
In 1962, Mendes and the Sexteto Bossa Rio rode the wave of US interest in the genre, recording Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann and Cannonball’s Bossa Nova with Cannonball Adderley. He moved to the United States soon after, adapting bossa nova to the American and international pop, light jazz, and easy listening markets. Mendes arranged, produced, and performed covers of pop hits by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell, as well as Brazilian songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jorge Ben, and others. The signature sound of his group was light and upbeat with two female vocalists singing in unison and a bouncy samba-derived rhythm. His groups were named “Brasil” followed by the year they were launched: ’65, ’66, ’77, ’88, ’99, and ...
[Melvin James ]
(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.
In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....
(b New York City, Feb 28, 1938; d New York City, June 6, 1993). American vibraphone player, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader and producer. He trained at the Juilliard School of Music and launched his career in 1957, recording with Joe Loco. In 1960 he contributed to Johnny Pacheco’s first charanga album, El güiro de macorina and launched his own band in 1963, recording Introducing Louie Ramírez. Through the 1960s he performed with Joe Cuba and was a member of the Alegre All-Stars and, with the vocalist Pete Bonet, led the house band at New York City’s Corso Club in the late 1960s. Through the 70s and 80s he was a staff producer for Fania Records and its subsidiary labels Vaya, Inca, Cotique and Tico, and was also acting president of Alegre Records. As a producer, arranger and composer, he influenced the growing sophistication of New York salsa during this time, evident on his own tunes ...
(b Thunder Bay, ON, Nov 28, 1949). Canadian pianist, composer, musical director, actor, producer, and bandleader. He has been musical director for David Letterman’s late-night shows since 1982. Prior to working with Letterman, Shaffer was a featured performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He has served as musical director and producer for the Blues Brothers and cowrote the 1980s dance hit “It’s raining men.” He has served as musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony since its inception in ...
Gary W. Kennedy
(b Spokane, WA, Jan 6, 1944). American trumpeter, arranger, conductor, and record producer. He began playing piano at the age of four and took up trumpet when he was ten; in his early teens he organized a dixieland ensemble and later he formed a dance band. He studied music at Gonzaga University, Spokane (BA 1967), and trumpet performance at the Manhattan School of Music (MM 1970). After graduation he worked in show bands and with Gene Roland’s rehearsal big band, and from the late 1970s he was a member of Philly Joe Jones’s septet. In the 1980s he played with Jones’s Dameronia, for which he also wrote arrangements and served as music director. Following the drummer’s death in 1985 Sickler led the group, which recorded under his leadership in 1989. For a while each year between 1987 and 1991 he led a quartet for nightclub appearances in Paris. During the same period he toured Japan as a member of Art Blakey’s big band (...
Howard Rye and Alyn Shipton
[Calhoun, Charles E. [Chuck]]
(b Atchison, KS, Nov 16, 1901; d Altamonte Springs, FL, April 1, 1999). American bandleader, singer, pianist, arranger, and record producer. He was brought up in St. Joseph and Kansas City, Missouri, and began his professional career at the age of five as a singer and dancer in a traveling variety act with his parents, who gave him a formal musical education. Having played piano in a trio with the saxophonist Theodore Thyus, he formed his first band, the Blues Serenaders, in 1918, initially a quartet of piano, drums, violin and cello, though it later developed into a larger ensemble with woodwind and brass; Coleman Hawkins played cello and later C-melody saxophone with the band. Stone directed, played piano, and arranged music for the group, which performed a variety act in the St. Joseph area that involved dancing and conjuring tricks; with the help of the agent Frank Rock, he established an early network of venues for touring appearances, and in the early 1920s he pioneered jazz radio broadcasting in St. Joseph. He continued to lead the Blues Serenaders until ...
(b Clarksdale, MI, Nov 5, 1931; d San Marcos, CA, Dec 12, 2007). American songwriter, guitarist, pianist, bandleader, talent scout, and record producer. He began playing piano as a boy in Clarksdale, forming the Kings of Rhythm while still in school. His musical education consisted of listening to music and playing with blues musicians such as B.B. King. Turner is often credited with writing and recording the first rock and roll record (according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), “Rocket 88,” although the track was released under the name of Jackie Brenston (a member of Turner’s band who sang and played sax on the record). Recorded in 1951 at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studios in Memphis, this uptempo R&B song provided a template for the rock and roll emerging later in the decade. The modified 12-bar blues form, boogie woogie bass line, percussive piano, guitar distortion, and rowdy sax solo became standard features of songs by Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others....
Ryan D.W. Bruce
[Randolph Edward ]
(b Brooklyn, NY, April 6, 1926). American jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and club owner. Weston did not identify with his classical music lessons as a youth, choosing instead to explore a percussive piano style under the influence of Duke Ellington. Other early influences include Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Art Tatum, and Coleman Hawkins. Weston’s playing was transformed after attending a concert by Hawkins and Thelonious Monk in 1945: Monk became Weston’s mentor from 1947–9, and inspired his heavy attack and improvisatory rhythmic displacements. He was hired by Marshall Stearns in 1949 to provide demonstrations of different jazz styles for university lectures given throughout the United States; their work lasted eight summers and fostered Weston’s interest in African music.
Beginning with his debut in 1954, his early recordings acquired critical recognition and included band members such as Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Coleman Hawkins. Some of his compositions of the time, especially “Little Niles” and “Hi-Fly,” gained popularity and have been recorded by many others. Weston also worked with arranger ...