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Article

Abercrombie, John  

Barry Long

(b Port Chester, NY, Dec 16, 1944; d Cortlandt Manor, NY, Aug 22, 2017). American jazz guitarist, composer, and bandleader. He grew up in Greenwich, CT, and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He was primarily self taught until he studied at the Berklee College of Music (1962–6) and with Jack Petersen. Abercrombie joined Johnny Hammond’s touring band after the blues organist had spotted him performing with other Berklee students at Paul’s Mall in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of North Texas, in 1969 he moved to New York where he performed and recorded in Billy Cobham’s jazz-rock band Dreams (1970), joined Chico Hamilton’s group, and recorded with Gato Barbieri (1971), Barry Miles (1972), and Gil Evans (1974). Abercrombie attracted wider attention performing with Cobham’s fusion band Spectrum from 1974. He also toured with Jack DeJohnette and recorded his debut album, ...

Article

Akiyoshi, Toshiko  

J. Bradford Robinson

(b Dairen, China, 12 Dec 1929). Japanese jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader.

She was born to Japanese parents in Manchuria. She began classical piano at seven and was playing professionally in her teens. She studied classical music and turned to jazz only in 1947 after moving to Japan. There she was discovered by Oscar Peterson, who urged her to take up a career in the United States. After studying at Berklee College of Music (1956–9) she became a highly regarded bop pianist, especially in groups with the alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano (to whom she was married from 1959 to 1967). She worked in Japan (1961), joined Charles Mingus in the United States (1962–3), then returned to Japan until 1965. In 1973 she founded a large rehearsal band in Los Angeles with the tenor saxophonist and flautist Lew Tabackin, whom she had married in ...

Article

Allen, Marshall  

Barry Long

(b Louisville, KY, May 25, 1924). American alto saxophonist and bandleader. He began clarinet lessons when he was ten and later took up alto saxophone. After joining the US Army at 18 years of age, Allen performed in military bands and, while stationed in Paris, formed a trio with Art Simmons and Don Byas. Allen remained in Europe following his discharge, touring with James Moody and studying clarinet at the Paris Conservatory with Ulysse Delécluse. He returned to the United States in 1951 and led dance bands and worked as a composer in Chicago. After hearing a demo recording of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in a record store, Allen sought out the bandleader during a rehearsal and began an apprenticeship. He subsequently rehearsed with the Arkestra for more than a year before joining officially in 1958. His association with the ensemble has lasted more than 50 years.

Allen worked closely with Sun Ra for much of his professional career, composing for the bandleader and performing both in concert and on more than 200 albums; he even shared a house with him. Alongside John Gilmore Allen anchored the reed section, adding flute, clarinet, oboe, and in later years wind synthesizer. He invented the morrow, a woodwind instrument combining a saxophone mouthpiece with an open-holed wooden body, and learned to play and build the kora, a West African multi-string instrument. Allen rarely worked outside the Arkestra, although he made a notable recording with Paul Bley (...

Article

Alpert, Herb  

Terence J. O’Grady

revised by Bryan Proksch

(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 ...

Article

Ayala, Ramón  

Elijah Wald

[Ramón Covarrubias]

(b Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Dec 8, 1945). Mexican accordionist, singer, and bandleader. Born in Monterrey and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Ramón Ayala has been the foremost figure in norteño music along the Gulf Coast and Texas border region since the 1970s. He first became famous in the 1960s as the accordionist and coleader of Los Relámpagos del Norte, with the singer-songwriter Cornelio Reyna; then formed his own band, Los Bravos del Norte, in 1971. In Mexico, Ayala is regarded as part of a great generation of border bandleaders, along with Carlos y José and Los Cadetes de Linares. North of the border, though, he has far outstripped his peers, and only California’s Los Tigres del Norte rival his ongoing popularity. Unlike the Tigres, who have consistently pushed norteño in new directions, Ayala is a traditionalist, and his success is due as much to his image as a hard-working, old-fashioned bearer of the classic tradition as to his intricate accordion passages and his keen eye for good material, from gunfighter corridos to romantically mournful ...

Article

Barber, Patricia  

Chadwick Jenkins

(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, ...

Article

Barretto, Ray  

Jairo Moreno

(b Brooklyn, NY, April 29, 1929; d Hackensack, NJ, Feb 17, 2006). American conga player, bandleader, and producer of Puerto Rican descent. He began playing percussion informally during time in Germany as part of the US occupation army (1946–9). Returning to New York City in 1949, he participated in the lively jam-session scene in Harlem, playing bongos in sessions with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1957, he replaced Mongo Santamaría in Tito Puente’s band. By 1960, he became the house percussionist for various jazz labels (Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside), recording his first album as leader for Riverside in 1961. The Charanga La Moderna was his first full-fledged Latin dance band, beginning in 1962. In 1963, his song El Watusi became the first Latin tune to enter the Billboard Top 20. By 1990, his salsa career stagnant, he formed a small, jazz-influenced sextet, New World Spirit, recording a number of Grammy-nominated albums....

Article

Bartholomew, Dave  

Randolph Love

(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 ...

Article

Bartz, Gary  

Michael Fitzgerald

(Lee)

(b Baltimore, MD, Sept 26, 1940). American jazz alto and soprano saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and vocalist. He began playing in Baltimore, where his father owned the well-known club the North End Lounge. He attended the Juilliard School between 1957 and 1958 and then studied at the Peabody Conservatory. After moving to New York he worked with Charles Mingus (1962–4) and Max Roach (1964 and 1968–9, when he traveled to Europe and the Middle East). He also performed and recorded with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1965–6) and Miles Davis (1970–71). Between 1969 and 1974 Bartz led his own ensemble, Ntu Troop, which recorded six albums blending African music and funk with jazz. In the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked occasionally with Woody Shaw’s group as well as with McCoy Tyner. After playing with Kenny Barron (1990s), Bartz was a member of the ensemble Sphere (...

Article

Blade, Brian  

Daniel John Carroll

(b Shreveport, LA, July 25, 1970). American jazz drummer, bandleader, and composer. During his early years he became acquainted with gospel and soul music, studied violin, recorder and melodic percussion and eventually began playing drums in his father’s church. While in high school he began listening to John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and other jazz musicians and worked with the Polyphonics, a jazz group led by Dorsey Summerfield Jr. After moving to New Orleans in 1988 to attend Loyola University, Blade studied and played with several local jazz musicians including Ellis Marsalis, John Mahoney, Harry Connick Jr., and Alvin Red Tyler. In 1997 he formed a trio with Joshua Redman and Christian McBride and later performed in another trio with Larry Grenadier and Pat Metheney. In 1998 Blade and Jon Cowherd started recording together as leaders of the group Fellowship; its first album was Brian Blade Fellowship (1998...

Article

Blazonczyk, Sr. [Bell], Eddie  

Jonas Westover

[Eddy]

(b Chicago, IL, 1941; d Palos Heights, IL, May 21, 2012). American polka bandleader, singer, and bass player. He was best known as the leader of his band, the Versatones. The son of two Polish immigrant musicians, he grew up in northern Wisconsin and formed a rock and roll band, which played backup for such stars as Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. Under the name of Eddie (or Eddy) Bell, he recorded “Hi-Yo Silver” and other songs on the Mercury label. The Lucky Four label released his well-liked novelty song, “The Great Great Pumpkin.” At the insistence of his good friend and fellow musician Chet Kowalkowski, he moved back to Chicago and joined Versatones in 1963, a six-piece polka band that played both traditional and modernized repertoire. The result ended up changing the polka world, and they were quickly invited to record. Their first disc was Polka Parade (...

Article

Bley, Carla  

Ursel Schlicht

[Borg, Lovella May]

(b Oakland, CA, May 11, 1936). American jazz composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist, and organist. She is best known for her idiosyncratic multi-genre compositions for large ensembles and her sense of humor, omnipresent throughout her oeuvre. Her harmonic language and rich chordal structures are inspired by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Gil Evans, then infused with rock, tango, Indian music, and the music of European composers, including Kurt Weill and Eric Satie, often in the form of parody and satire. Her experimentalism is widespread and ranges from avant-garde jazz to big band, small formats, chamber music, and soundtracks. During the 1960s she was at the center of the free jazz movement and was instrumental in co-creating independent musicians’ collectives, labels, and distribution services.

Except for music lessons from her father, a church musician who taught her piano from age three, she was largely self-taught. In her teens, she went to New York to immerse herself in the music she admired. She listened nightly to first-rate jazz, working at the Birdland jazz club, where she met the pianist Paul Bley, who encouraged her to compose. They married in ...

Article

Bley, Paul  

Ryan Bruce

(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 ...

Article

Bloom, Jane Ira  

Jeffrey Holmes

(b Boston, MA, Jan 12, 1955). American soprano saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. She began playing piano, took up alto saxophone at the age of eight, and switched to the soprano instrument in her early teens. She studied with Herb Pomeroy before attending Yale University (BA 1976; MM 1977). After moving to New York, she studied with George Coleman. In addition to collaborating with such artists as David Friedman, Ed Blackwell, Charlie Haden, Bob Brookmeyer, Jay Clayton, Fred Hersch, and Kenny Wheeler, she has performed and recorded with various trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets, alongside Wheeler, Julian Priester, Mark Dresser, and Bobby Previte, among others. Her critically acclaimed recordings, which number more than a dozen, are at once contemporary, mainstream, and exploratory. Bloom has also composed for film and television, and for the American Composers Orchestra, St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, and the Pilobolus, Paradigm, and Philadanco dance companies. She has been granted two Chamber Music America artist fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a commission by the NASA Art Program, and the Charlie Parker Fellowship for Jazz Innovation. Among her many other honors are four Jazz Journalist awards, the Downbeat Critics Poll award for soprano saxophone, the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz award, and the International Women in Jazz Masters awards. Her musical voice has been fueled by a vigorous involvement with the visual arts and dance. Her well regarded work on the soprano saxophone sometimes incorporates live electronic effects. From ...

Article

Bohannon  

G. Theroux

[Bohannon, Hamilton Frederick]

(b Newman, GA, March 7, 1942; d Atlanta, GA, April 24, 2020). American drummer, bandleader, and producer. He received a BA in music education from Clark College in Atlanta and taught music in public schools. While in Atlanta, he met Jimi Hendrix, who became a major influence on his style. He began his professional performing career in 1965 as a drummer for Stevie Wonder. In 1967 he became the leader of the Motown’s leading road band—known on radio as Bohannon and the Motown Sound—and spent the next five years on tour backing such acts as Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Spinners, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the Four Tops. When Motown moved its headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles, Bohannon left the company and signed a contract with Dakar, a small label based in Chicago. There he began writing and arranging, and produced a series of disco albums, dominated by his percussion playing, which blended mellow funk with primitive, irrepressible rhythms. In ...

Article

Bovell, Dennis  

Roger Steffens

[Blackbeard]

(b St Peter, Barbados, 1953). English reggae guitarist, bandleader and producer. He grew up in London where in the early 1970s he co-founded Matumbi, one of the first reggae groups in Britain, and also ran the Jah Sufferer sound system. Although he recorded with such rock and punk bands as the Pop Group and the Slits, his true strength was dub music which he recorded under the name Blackbeard (Strictly Dub Wize, Tempus, 1978). Brain Damage (Fontana, 1981), released under his own name, provides an overview of Bovell's creative production, with its shrieks, deep echo effects and syncopated hi-hats. In 1979 Matumbi recorded Point of View which placed traditional reggae toasting in a big band setting. Bovell is perhaps best known for his collaborations, in the studio and on tour, with the political dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. Among their best work is Dread Beat an' Blood...

Article

Brecker, Randy  

Jeffrey Holmes

[Randal Edward ]

(b Philadelphia, PA, Nov 27, 1945). American trumpeter, flugelhorn player, composer, arranger, and bandleader, brother of Michael Brecker. After graduating from Indiana University in 1966, he moved to New York, where he played with Clark Terry, Duke Pearson, and the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. A versatile musician, he worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears, performing on their debut album, played hard bop and soul jazz with the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and helped form the fusion group Dreams, which included his brother Michael, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie. During the 1970s he worked with Silver, Larry Coryell, Stevie Wonder, the Plastic Ono Super Band, and Cobham. He and Michael also performed and recorded (six albums) as the Brecker Brothers, garnering much critical acclaim. He continued to lead his own group into the 1980s and also recorded and toured with virtuoso performers Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke. A reunion of the Brecker Brothers in ...

Article

Brown, Chuck  

David Font-Navarrete

(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 ...

Article

Brown, James  

David Brackett

(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 ...

Article

Brown, Ray(mond Matthews)  

David Chevan

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Oct 13, 1926; d Indianapolis, IN, July 2, 2002). American jazz double bass player, bandleader, and composer. After playing the piano as a young child, he switched to the bass when he got to high school, reportedly because he saw that there were too many pianists. While still in Pittsburgh, he played with the Jimmy Hinsley Sextet and the Snookum Russel Band, all the while absorbing the influence of key New York bass players, especially that of Jimmy Blanton who was working with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. One can hear this influence in Brown’s insistent rhythmic drive and in the melodicism of his walking bass lines. After high school, Brown moved to New York, where his friendship with the pianist Hank Jones led him to early gigs with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, and Charlie Parker, all of whom admired his expansive, clear tone. The Gillespie group, which included the pianist John Lewis, the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and the drummer Kenny Clarke, was the foundation for the Modern Jazz Quartet. As he made an impression in bebop circles, Brown also became involved with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, through which he met the pianist Oscar Peterson—in whose trio he played from ...