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Barry Kernfeld

[Benoit, Jean-Louis ]

(b Philadelphia, May 18, 1926; d nr Paris, Feb 10, 1997). American organist and leader. His father was from Martinique. A child prodigy, he grew up in Baltimore, where he was taught by his grandmother; his grandfather was a Baptist minister, and Bennett directed their church choir from the age of 12. After military service (1943–6), during which time he played tuba and thereby developed his ability to invent bass lines, he began his jazz career in Baltimore (1947), leading a piano trio modeled after that of Nat “King” Cole. In 1949, under the influence of Wild Bill Davis, he began to play organ, an instrument he used professionally from 1951. By 1956 he was performing in a style much closer to that of Jimmy Smith rather than Davis, and from 1957 to 1959 he toured the Midwest and the East Coast with his own hard-bop organ trio. The following year he moved to Paris, where he performed at the Blue Note with Jimmy Gourley or René Thomas in Kenny Clarke’s trio, accompanying numerous distinguished guest soloists (until ...


Alyn Shipton

(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....


Mark Gilbert and Barry Kernfeld

(b Dortmund, Germany, April 23, 1959). German drummer, bandleader, and record producer. He grew up in a musical family and played trumpet, clarinet, and piano as a youth; he then took up drums and studied classical percussion at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Trossingen (1977–81). After attending the Drummers’ Collective in New York (1981–2) he either performed as a drummer or directed big bands. In the 1980s he concentrated on fusion, but later he became known for his mainstream and big-band work; apart from these activities he was first timpanist in the SWF-Rundfunkorchester from 1981. Between 1986 and 1993 his own big band played with such guest soloists as Art Farmer, Slide Hampton, Bob Mintzer, Jiggs Whigham, Jim Snidero, Barbara Dennerlein, Ack van Rooyen, and Silvia Droste. As a sideman Berg worked with, among others, the quartet of Louis Stewart and the guitarist Heiner Franz (...


Gary W. Kennedy

(b New York, March 30, 1949). American arranger, composer, and conductor. His mother played piano, and he studied classical music at grade school and was exposed to jazz at high school. After studying at the Berklee School of Music (1966) he performed in local jazz groups while attending Ithaca College (BMus 1971). He then moved to New York (1971), where he formed his own rehearsal band, played trumpet with Jimmy Maxwell (1972–80) and Lee Castle (1973), performed with and arranged for Mercer Ellington (1974), Chuck Israels’s National Jazz Ensemble (1975–80), and Gunther Schuller (1980), and composed and arranged for, among others, the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Buddy Rich’s big band, Clark Terry, Bill Watrous, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz’s nonet, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In addition he continued his education at the Eastman School (...


Vidar Vanberg

(b Hamar, Norway, Dec 3, 1909; d Oslo, Jan 25, 1987). Norwegian violinist and bandleader. He studied music in Dresden, Germany, and played jazz from the early 1930s. Having been a member of the Funny Boys, the Scala-orkesteret, and Røde Mølle’s Melody Boys, from 1939 to 1946 he led the Bristolorkesteret, a swing group in Oslo comprised of ten to eleven instrumentalists and a singer that made many recordings (including Swing it herr lektor/Swing ling lei, 1941, Col. GN806). From 1946 he led the dance orchestra of Norsk Rikskringkasting, which consisted principally of musicians who had belonged to the Bristolorkesteret. Later he was a guest conductor in Scandinavia and New York and of several European radio orchestras and became increasingly involved in popular orchestral music; he retired from work as a professional musician in 1976. In addition to his principal instrument Bergh played tenor saxophone and double bass....


Kevin Whitehead

(b Durban, South Africa, June 29, 1948). South African tenor and alto saxophonist and bandleader. He played guitar from the age of 12, took up clarinet when he was 17, and changed to tenor saxophone a year later. Playing either the tenor or the alto instrument he worked in pop and blues bands in Cape Town and Durban and in jazz groups with the drummer Dick Xhosa and Pat Matshikiza, among others. He left South Africa in 1973 and spent one year in London and another in Ann Arbor, Michigan, working with theater troupes. One such troupe took him in 1975 to Amsterdam, where he settled. In the late 1970s he worked with Theo Loevendie, Burton Greene, Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Reijseger, and Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra. Bergin moved to Tuscany in 1980 and worked for a year with Honsinger, who remains a frequent collaborator in the Netherlands, where the two men perform in various combinations (sometimes including dancers), fluidly mixing verbal and musical improvisation. In the 1980s Bergin also recorded with Harry Miller, the tenor saxophonist J. C. Tans, and Barry Altschul. He has frequently run workshops and jam sessions in Amsterdam, and, along with Miller, he has helped infuse jazz there with a South African strain – tuneful and harmonically straightforward. In ...


Günther Huesmann

(b Düsseldorf, Germany, June 22, 1910; d Frankfurt am Main, Germany, May 21, 1979). German bandleader, trombonist, and arranger. He moved to Berlin in 1934, when he began to study trombone; he played with Heinz Wehner from 1934 and the Goldene Sieben from 1936, and in 1938 formed his own big band, with which he made numerous recordings (...


Rainer E. Lotz

[Bick, Herman ]

(b Reval [now Tallinn], Estonia, c1900; d ?Hollywood, CA). Estonian bandleader, pianist, and arranger. He toured Europe in the early 1920s as a concert pianist and conductor, then settled in Berlin as music director of the Vox company. Between 1928 and 1930 he recorded several titles as a novelty pianist and as leader of his own studio dance bands; these include ...


Christopher Palmer, Clifford McCarty, Martin Marks and Nathan Platte

(b New York, NY, 4 April 1922; d Ojai, CA, 18 Aug 2004). Composer and conductor. He was trained as a pianist but also studied composition with Israel Citkowitz, Roger Sessions, Ivan Langstroth and Stefan Wolpe. He attended New York University, then enlisted in the Army Air Corps (1942); he arranged and composed music for some 80 programs for the Armed Forces Radio Service and was a concert pianist for three years after his discharge. Norman Corwin then engaged him to score radio drama, which led to composition for films; Bernstein's third film, Sudden Fear (1952), attracted favorable attention. In 1955, despite suffering career difficulties due to McCarthyism (see Marmorstein), he rose to sudden prominence with his score for The Man with the Golden Arm. In this, as in several scores that followed (e.g. Walk on the Wild Side, 1962), he effectively blended jazz into a modern symphonic idiom to suit gritty stories and contemporary settings. He subsequently became known for his rousing scores for westerns and action films (notably ...


Steven Strunk

revised by Barry Kernfeld

[William Richard; Beez]

(b Benton Harbor, MI, Sept 14, 1930; d Los Angeles, November 13, 2002). American trumpeter, cornetist, and bandleader. Born into a musical family, he traveled from infancy with his father, a professional double bass player. He studied piano from about the age of five and took up trumpet as a teenager. After traveling with midwestern territory bands (1947–50) and serving in the air force (1951–4) he studied at the Cincinnati College of Music (1954) and the Berklee School of Music (1955–7). While in Boston he played with Herb Pomeroy. From March to September 1957 he was with Woody Herman, but he returned to Boston, then performed in Cincinnati, and in 1960 briefly rejoined Herman. He worked with Maynard Ferguson (1960–61) and toured with Duke Ellington (1961–4), and became known for the obbligato he played for the tap-dancer Bunny Briggs on Ellington’s album ...


Otto Flückiger

(b Berne, Jan 11, 1912; d Zurich, Nov 28, 1999). Swiss double bass player, singer, and bandleader. In 1935 he joined the Dutch band the Harlem Kiddies, with which he toured Europe until 1939, and in 1937 he recorded I’m in the mood for love in a trio with Coleman Hawkins (first issued on the album 1935–1965: 30 Jahre Jazz Made in Switzerland, 1935–65, EMI 13C152-33894–5). Bertschy married the Dutch singer Kitty Ramon, who sang in his group the Swing Kiddies. During the war he served in the Swiss Army; he also performed and recorded (1941) with Teddy Stauffer’s Original Teddies. After a period with the Lanigiros (1942–6), with which he recorded My Melancholy Baby (1942, Col. ZZ1104), he formed the Continentals, a ten-piece ensemble with which he toured Europe until it disbanded in 1963; the group’s recordings include the album Undecided (...


Michel Laplace

(b Bordeaux, France, Sept 28, 1945). French trumpeter, arranger, and bandleader. He studied trumpet at the conservatory in Bordeaux, but began on drums, which he played until 1984, most notably for a spell with the soprano saxophonist Marc Laferrière (1973–80). He was also an able harmonica player in the style of the bluesmen Jimmy Reed and Little Walter, and in 1973 recorded with François Guin’s group the Four Bones. As an organist he performed with Tiny Grimes. Biensan played trumpet with the clarinetist Christian Morin (1964–70), Guin (1971–3), Candy Johnson (1974), Jimmy Forrest, Bill Coleman, Benny Waters, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and Doc Cheatham (variously in the years 1979–84), Daniel Huck (1981), the Ornicar Big Band (1982), Gérard Badini (from 1984) and François Laudet (from 1993). In 1986 he formed his own septet, Ellingtomania. His swinging style is well represented on the albums ...


Erik Kjellberg

revised by Lars Westin

[Gunnar ]

(b Helsinki, Feb 17, 1934). Swedish tenor saxophonist and bandleader of Finnish birth. He moved to Sweden in 1945 and gained recognition in the early 1950s in Gothenburg, where he worked with the drummer Kenneth Fagerlund (1951–4). From 1954 to 1959 he led groups which worked at Nalen in Stockholm; these often involved Åke Persson and performed arrangements by Jan Johansson and others. The recording On the Alamo (1955), which Björksten made as the leader of a quintet that included Persson, shows to advantage his fluent technique, large tone, and rhythmic spark. After several years of inactivity he recorded again as a leader (1972, 1979). Although he pursued a profession outside of music, he continued to perform and record as a leader, and in 1987 he made a trio album with Mel Lewis and Ulf Johansson as his sidemen. Björksten published an essay, “Om musikkritik” [On music criticism] in ...


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...


Frank Driggs

revised by Howard Rye

[Andrew ]

(b Quitman, MS, June 10, 1898; d Baldwin Park, CA, Feb 12, 1992). American trumpeter and bandleader. In 1979 he moved to Chicago and two years later became involved in music; he studied with W. L. Jackson (Erskine Tate’s stepfather). He played his first job on Labor Day 1922, in Gary, Indiana, with, among others, Lester Boone. He then worked for the pianist Glover Compton and Doc Cook, rehearsed with Jelly Roll Morton (1925), and spent two weeks with King Oliver at the Plantation, replacing Tommy Ladnier when the latter went to Europe, until Bob Shoffner could join. After returning to Cook he led a band for six weeks at the Charleston Café (late 1925). Having accepted an invitation to travel to Los Angeles to join the Sunnyland Band, directed by Buster Wilson, he arrived at Thanksgiving (presumably 1925 rather than 1926), but very soon left and worked for the violinist and saxophonist Johnny Mitchell in a band that included Lionel Hampton and Les Hite. In ...


Lewis Porter

[Abdullah ibn, Buhaina]

(b Pittsburgh, Oct 11, 1919; d New York, Oct 16, 1990). American jazz drummer and bandleader. By the time he was a teenager he was playing the piano full-time, leading a commercial band. Shortly afterwards he taught himself to play the drums in the aggressive swing style of Chick Webb, Sid Catlett and Ray Bauduc, and he joined Mary Lou Williams as a drummer for an engagement in New York in autumn 1942. He then toured with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra (1943–4). During his years with Billy Eckstine’s big band (1944–7) Blakey became associated with the modern-jazz movement, along with his fellow band members Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro and others.

In 1947 Blakey organized the Seventeen Messengers, a rehearsal band, and recorded with an octet called the Jazz Messengers. He then travelled in Africa, probably for more than a year, to learn about Islamic culture. In the early 1950s he performed and broadcast with such musicians as Charlie Parker, Davis and Clifford Brown, and particularly with Horace Silver, his kindred musical spirit of this time. Blakey and Silver recorded together on several occasions, including the album ...


Jonas Westover


(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 (...


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 ...


J. Bradford Robinson

(b Oakland, CA, May 11, 1938). American jazz composer, bandleader and keyboard player. She learnt the fundamentals of music from her father, a church musician, but is otherwise self-taught. At the age of 17 she moved to New York, where she wrote jazz tunes for musicians such as George Russell, Jimmy Giuffre and her husband at the time, the pianist Paul Bley. In 1964, with her second husband, the trumpeter Mike Mantler, she formed the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra, known from 1965 as the Jazz Composer's Orchestra. In 1966 she helped found the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association, a novel non-profit organization which commissions, produces and distributes commercially unviable jazz. In 1968 they founded the New Music Distribution Service, a pioneering outlet which extends far beyond jazz and into the realms of avant-garde and electronic recording and composition, to supply albums and scores that are otherwise difficult to obtain. Although already highly regarded by this time among critics, Bley first came to public notice with ...


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 ...