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Bacharach, Burt (F.)  

Michael J. Budds

(b Kansas City, MO, May 12, 1928; d Los Angeles, Feb 8, 2023). American composer and pianist. He learnt the cello, drums, and piano from an early age and developed a particular interest in jazz. He played as a night club pianist, and then served in the army, touring as a pianist (1950–52). He went on to study music at the Mannes College of Music, New York, the New School of Social Research, and McGill University, Montreal, and gained a scholarship to the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, California. His composition teachers included Milhaud, Martinů, and Cowell. Bacharach became an accompanist for Vic Damone, subsequently working with such performers as Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart, to whom he was married from 1953 to 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he toured internationally with Marlene Dietrich. Bacharach began writing arrangements and composing songs in the mid-1950s, working at the Brill Building and collaborating with the lyricist Hal David (...


Coleman, Cy  

Geoffrey Block

[Kaufman, Seymour]

(b New York, June 14, 1929; d New York, Nov 18, 2004). American composer and pianist. The son of Russian immigrants, he began to play the piano at the age of four, and performed recitals at the Steinway and Carnegie halls by seven. He studied counterpoint and orchestration at the New York College of Music and developed a serious interest in jazz, within a few years performing in New York nightclubs with his trio and starting a long recording career as a jazz pianist. A collaboration with the lyricist Joseph Allan McCarthy yielded several song hits between 1952 and 1956, including Why try to change me now?, I'm gonna laugh you right out of my life and Tin Pan Alley, the last of which appeared in Coleman's first Broadway venture, the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953). By the late 1950s he had produced an impressive list of song standards with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, which included ...


Colón, Willie  

Lise Waxer

[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 (...


Gilberto, João  

Gerard Béhague

(do Prado Pereira de Oliveira)

(b Juazeiro, Bahia, Brazil, June 10, 1931; d Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 6, 2019). Brazilian popular singer, composer, and guitarist. He moved to Rio de Janeiro at the age of 18, singing mostly Romantic samba-canções in various groups and frequenting the nightclub Plaza in Copacobana and the Murray Recordshop in downtown Rio de Janeiro. His first solo recording came in 1952, but it was the July 1958 record containing Jobim’s Chega de Saudade and his own Bim-bom that called attention to his new singing style, unassuming but secure and very intimate. In April 1958 he had accompanied on the guitar the pop singer Elisete Cardoso singing Chega de Saudade, and revealed for the first time his distinctive guitar beat that came to be known as the violão gago (stammering guitar), a trademark of the bossa nova made up of previously unknown syncopated patterns on the samba beat. In November of the same year he recorded Jobim’s ...


Langford, Gordon  

David Ades

(Maris Colman) [Colman, Gordon Maris]

(b Edgware, May 11, 1930). English arranger, composer and pianist. He was an accomplished pianist from childhood, playing a Mozart concerto in a public concert at the age of 11, and winning a Middlesex scholarship to the RAM where he also studied trombone. Early attempts at composition were influenced by Debussy and Ravel, and later by the Russian Romantics, Rachmaninoff and Skryabin. His first BBC broadcast as a pianist was in 1951 while serving with the Royal Artillery Band. By the 1960s, after a variety of engagements as both player and arranger, Langford had established himself as a respected pianist in concerts and on numerous broadcasts such as ‘Music in the Air’ and ‘Friday Night is Music Night’. His reputation as an arranger and composer also grew steadily.

In 1971 he won an Ivor Novello Award for his march from the Colour Suite, and became more involved in brass band music. At the same time he was increasingly in demand to orchestrate West End musicals and feature films, and also contributed mood music to publishers' recorded music libraries. He has written many arrangements for the King's Singers and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. In ...


Palmieri, Eddie  

Lise Waxer


(b East Harlem, New York, Dec 15, 1936). American pianist, percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger. Following his older brother Charlie, he took up the piano when he was eight, but at 13 he began playing the timbales in his uncle’s band, Chino y sus Almas Tropicales. Returning to the piano in 1951, he formed a nine-piece band with timbalero Joey Quijano. He replaced his brother Charlie in Johnny Segui’s band in 1955, then joined Tito Rodríguez in 1958. In 1961 he formed the ensemble La Perfecta. Modifying the flute-and-violin charanga format popular at the time, Palmieri used trombones in place of violins and coined the ‘trombanga’ sound that became his trademark and influenced later salsa bands. In his band were such leading musicians as the timbalero Manny Oquendo, the trombonist Barry Rogers and the vocalist Ismael Quintana. Complementing the group’s dynamic swing, Palmieri forged a percussive piano style, incorporating modal jazz influences from contemporary pianist McCoy Tyner. Among his representative tunes from this period are ...


Plessas, Mimis  

Ioannis Tsioulakis

(b Athens, Oct 12, 1924). Greek composer and pianist. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Athens, before moving to New York where he completed a doctorate in chemistry at Cornell University. While in the United States, Plessas pursued a career as a piano player specialising in jazz, and in 1951 he received a music award for a performance at the University of Minnesota. Upon his return to Greece in the mid-1950s Plessas became more active as a composer, and in 1959 he started his career as a film composer which made him hugely popular during the 1960s and 1970s. He has composed music for over 100 films but it was especially his songs for musicals produced by Finos Films, performed on screen by prominent singers such as Giannis Poulopoulos, Marinella, and Tzeni Vanou, and actors including Rena Vlachopoulou and Mairi Chronopoulou, that rendered him one of the most celebrated popular musicians of that period. From the 1980s onwards, Plessas focused more on jazz and art music, recording music with his jazz quartet and composing operas and instrumental pieces. His ‘folk opera’ ...


Puente, Tito  

Lise Waxer

(b New York City, April 20, 1923; d New York City, May 31, 2000). American percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger. He began performing with Los Happy Boys and other local bands as a child prodigy, and as a teenager played with Noro Morales and Machito. Following wartime service in the US Navy (...


Santamaría, Mongo  

Lise Waxer


(b Havana, April 7, 1927; d Miami, Feb 1, 2003). Cuban percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger. He first began to learn the violin, but switched to percussion as a child. He left Cuba in 1948, moving to Mexico with his cousin, the bongo player Armando Peraza. They played in Pérez Prado’s mambo band, then moved to New York City in 1950, where they were known as the Black Cuban Diamonds. Santamaría soon found work with Tito Puente, working in the band for seven years alongside percussionist Willie Bobo. During this time he recorded various albums of authentic Cuban religious and secular drumming, both with Puente and under his own name. With Bobo he left to join Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz group in 1958. In 1961 Santamaría put together a charanga ensemble, and recorded with the Cuban vocalist La Lupe in 1963, helping to launch her US career. By the mid-1960s he turned to the Latin crossover vein, with widely popular hits such as ...