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Caribbean Jazz Project  

Gary W. Kennedy

revised by Barry Kernfeld

Group formed by the vibraphonist and marimba player Dave Samuels in summer 1993 for a concert at Central Park Zoo in New York; its other original members were the alto saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, the pianist Dario Eskenazi, the six-string electric bass guitarist Oscar Stagnaro, the drummer Mark Walker, the steel drums player Andy Narell, and the percussionist Luis Conte. After performing in Lexington, Kentucky (February 1994), the group recorded an eponymous album (1995, Heads Up 3033–2) and toured extensively; it continued to perform on a part-time basis to about 2013, when ill health forced Samuels’s retirement. In its initial recordings the group’s style of Latin-jazz fusion approached easy-listening music, but in concert performance and later albums a more substantial jazz component was present, and Narell emerged as its most engaging soloist and accompanist. The Caribbean Jazz Project won Grammy awards for its albums The Gathering...

Article

Epoque Quartet  

Ian Mikyska

Czech string quartet, founded 1999. Its line-up has remained constant since its foundation: David Pokorný and Vladimír Klánský on violins, Vladimír Kroupa on viola, and Vít Petrášek on cello. Although classical repertoire remains central to their professional lives, the Epoque Quartet is remarkable for the breadth and professionalism of its ‘crossover’ work. The quartet has performed with the leading artists of Czech popular music, arranged world music from various traditions (most recently with the clarinettist Irvin Venyš for their CD Irvin_Epoque), and given the premières of over 80 pieces, the style of which ranges from rock- and jazz-influenced music to contemporary art music, mostly by Czech composers including Jan Kučera, Petr Wajsar, Jan Dušek, Gabriela Vermelho, and others.

Their open-mindedness and long-standing interest in various musical fields allows them to perform stylistically in a way classically-trained ensembles often find problematic, particularly in terms of rhythm, feeling, and energy when performing jazz- and rock-influenced repertoire....

Article

Jazz Messengers  

Charles Garrett

Article

Leviev, Milcho  

Claire Levy

(b Plovdiv, 19 Dec 1937). Bulgarian composer, pianist, conductor, arranger, and bandleader. He was internationally acknowledged for his innovative ideas, cross-cultural experiments, and contribution to the concept of fusion and free improvisation. Classically trained at the Bulgarian State Conservatory (1955–60) under Pancho Vladigerov (composition) and Andrey Stoyanov (piano), he is the author of numerous compositions in styles and genres including jazz, pop, symphony, chamber, film, and theatrical music. He conducted the Radio and Television Big Band in Sofia (1962–6) and led his own avant-garde quartet, Jazz Focus’65 (1965–8), which won the Critic’s Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967. In 1970 he left Bulgaria for political reasons and moved to the USA where he joined the Don Ellis Orchestra (1971–8), and later collaborated with the classical/jazz quartet Free Flight. He also played with outstanding jazz musicians including Art Pepper, Billy Cobham, and Dave Holland, among many others....

Article

McKinney’s Cotton Pickers  

John Chilton

Jazz ensemble formed in Springfield, Ohio, from the Synco Jazz Band, a group organized by the drummer William McKinney (b Cynthiana, KY, 17 Sept 1895; d Cynthiana, KY, 14 Oct 1969) shortly after World War I. In 1923 McKinney decided to conduct the band himself and consequently engaged the drummer Cuba Austin as its percussionist. At the behest of their agent the band became known as McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. With their musical versatility and inspired showmanship they blended comedy routines and light music with jazz numbers arranged by their trumpeter, John Nesbitt. From 1927, when the multi-instrumentalist don Redman became its music director and principal arranger, the band developed its own distinctive style, which highlighted the precision of the saxophones and brass and emphasized the buoyancy of the rhythm section.

The band’s first recordings, in July 1928, helped establish the group nationally and brought widespread praise for the brilliance of Redman’s arrangements and the solo improvisations of Prince Robinson on reed instruments. The Cotton Pickers’ golden era took place during their long residence at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit (beginning in ...

Article

Medeski, Martin & Wood  

Michael Baumgartner

[MMW]

Jazz fusion trio formed in New York in 1991 by the keyboard player (Anthony) John Medeski (b Louisville, KY, 28 June 1965), the drummer Billy Martin (b New York, NY, 30 Oct 1963), and the bass player Chris(topher Barry) Wood (b Pasadena, CA, 25 Nov 1969). Martin’s teacher, the drummer Bob Moses, who had previously performed with Medeski and Wood, brought the three musicians together. MMW began its career at the Village Gate as an acoustic jazz trio. While Wood continued to play acoustic bass primarily, Medeski began performing on several vintage electronic instruments—including a Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, clavinet, and analog synthesizers—which gave the trio with its distinctive sound. MMW frequently crossed the boundary between jazz and rock music, appearing with Phish and on the alternative rock circuit. The trio also performed at conventional jazz festivals such as Newport, Monterey, Montreal, Montreux, and the North Sea Jazz Festival. Their prolific recording activity began with five albums for the independent labels Gramavision and Indirecto Records (...

Article

Oregon  

Steve Larson

Jazz chamber ensemble. Its original members were Paul McCandless (oboe, english horn, bass clarinet), Glen Moore (double bass, violin, piano, flute), Ralph Towner (acoustic guitar, piano, french horn, trumpet, flugelhorn), and Collin Walcott (tablā, sitar, clarinet, percussion). They all played in the Paul Winter Consort before forming their own group in 1970; the percussionist Trilok Gurtu joined the group after Walcott’s death in 1984 and the drummer Mark Walker replaced Gurtu in 1993. Oregon’s style combines an eclectic mix of classical music, modern jazz, and non-Western musics and prefigured developments in what was subsequently marketed as world music; the timbre and sensitivity of their chamber style offered a sonic precedent for new age music. Their sensitive interaction in performance has allowed them to improvise collectively without assuming rigidly defined roles. Their recordings include pieces based upon complex harmonies, such as “Yellow Bell,” and others based on a drone or free improvisation. While the soaring oboe in “Icarus” is typical, the fact that the musicians play 60 to 80 different instruments has given the group a wide palette of sounds. The group was still performing and touring in the early 2010s and has continued to push and blur musical boundaries, as evidenced by their acclaimed collaboration in ...

Article

Paramountorkestern  

Erik Kjellberg

Swedish band. Formed in 1926 by the violinist Folke “Göken” Andersson (1902–76), it had from six to nine members at various times. Among those who were members of the band were the trumpeters Gösta “Smyget” Redlig, Gösta “Chicken” Törnblad, and Ragge Läth; the saxophonists Sam Jacobsson, Tony Mason, and Olle Henricson; the pianists Nils Lind and Nils Soderman; the banjoists Curt Ljunggren and Jean Paban; and the drummer Anders Soldén. The Paramountorkestern was the first important jazz band in Sweden; it gave many performances on radio and made about 100 recordings (including ...

Article

Preservation Hall Jazz Band  

Bruce Boyd Raeburn

Jazz ensembles. Emerging from impromptu sessions at Larry Borenstein’s Associated Artists Gallery on St. Peter Street in the 1950s, Preservation Hall was established in 1961 under the administration of Allan and Sandra Jaffe to ensure a place for New Orleans jazz bands to play free from commercial imperatives. The key to success was recording and touring, which created an international awareness of the Hall and its musicians. A succession of more than 25 bands, often working simultaneously, have operated under the Preservation Hall brand: Kid Thomas Valentine and George Lewis (first US tour 1963), George Lewis with Punch Miller (Japan tours 1963–5), De De Pierce (European tour 1967; Newport Festival 1970), Kid Thomas with Louis Nelson, Albert Burbank, and Emanuel Paul (tours of Australia, Japan, Canada, and Europe 1971; USSR 1972). By the mid-1970s trumpeter Percy Humphrey led the principal touring band, featuring his brother Willie on clarinet. The band continued an active schedule of national and international touring for 20 years, complemented by three LPs for CBS (...

Article

UMO  

Pekka Gronow

revised by Atro Mikkola

[Uuden Musiikin OrkesteriNew Music OrchestraUMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra]

Finnish big band. Founded in 1975 as a co-operative band by the country’s leading jazz musicians, UMO became a full-time state-funded professional orchestra in 1984 with the support of the ministry of culture, the city of Helsinki, and YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company). Its first conductor was Heikki Sarmanto, but his duties were soon taken over by Esko Linnavalli, who held the post for 15 years (1975–90). He was followed by Markku Johansson (1992–3), the arranger Rick Shemaria (1994–6), Eero Koivistoinen (1996–8), Sarmanto again (from 1998), and the pianist Kirmo Lintinen (1999–2000).

From 2000 to 2008 the orchestra selected a committee comprised of its members to outline its artistic direction. In 2009 Lintinen and the saxophonist Kari Heinilä started a two-year term as a director group, to which the trombonist Antti Rissanen, Koivistoinen, and the singer Aija Puurtinen were added in ...