(b Lee’s Summit, MO, Aug 12, 1954). American jazz-fusion guitarist, composer and bandleader. He started on the trumpet, but at the age of 14 took up the guitar. In his late teens he enrolled at the University of Miami but was so proficient that he was appointed as a guitar instructor in his second semester. In 1973 he began teaching the guitar at the Berklee College of Music and in 1974 he joined Gary Burton’s group, at which point he took up the 12-string electric guitar to differentiate his sound from that of Burton’s other guitarist, Mick Goodrick. He left Burton in 1977 and formed a quartet that included the keyboard player and composer Lyle Mays, who has remained as Metheny’s longstanding associate into the 1990s. Away from the quartet, Metheny and Mays joined Joni Mitchell (1979), and Metheny spent two months in 1980 performing with the tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, the double bass player Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. In ...
(b Nogales, AZ, April 22, 1922; d Cuernavaca, Mexico, Jan 5, 1979). American double bass player, pianist, composer, and bandleader. One of the key figures of the transition from bebop to more adventurous approaches, Mingus was a virtuoso bassist whose unusual bandleading methods created a large body of original compositional material....
(b Houston, TX, Jan 21, 1975). American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. He began learning piano through the Suzuki method at the age of six and was first exposed to jazz through his father’s recording of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight.” He attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (1993) before moving to New York in order to attend the Manhattan School. He studied with jaki Byard , Andrew Hill, and Muhal Richard Abrams, among others, and began playing with David Murray and Greg Osby as a senior (1997). Following graduation (BMus) he was invited to join Osby for a European tour and made his recording debut on the saxophonist’s album Further Ado (1996, BN). Other collaborators at the time include Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, and his Manhattan classmate Stefon Harris.
Moran’s activity led to a contract with Blue Note and his debut as a leader, ...
Jeffery S. McMillan
(b Philadelphia, PA, July 10, 1938; d New York, NY, Feb 19, 1972). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. One of the charismatic individualists to emerge in the late 1950s, he began playing vibraphone at 12, but soon thereafter turned to trumpet. He studied music at Jules E Mastbaum Vocational Technical High School and privately with the trumpeter Tony Marchione, but learned jazz by playing in Philadelphia rehearsal bands, sitting in with visiting professionals, and leading his own combo from age 15. After graduation in 1956, Morgan played a week with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, and made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note. He was a featured soloist on “A Night in Tunisia” with Gillespie until the band dissolved in January 1958. After a short period of freelancing, he joined a revamped edition of the Jazz Messengers and stayed until ...
(b Long Beach, CA, Feb 10, 1947; d Brooklyn, NY, Jan 29, 2013). American cornetist, composer, and conductor. His older brother, the bass player Wilber Morris, introduced him to jazz at an early age and he began learning cornet at age 14. He studied with Charles (F.) Lloyd in high school and sat in with J.R. Monterose and George Morrow after graduation. Following a tour of duty as an army medic in Vietnam he studied with Bobby Bradford and performed with David Murray in Horace Tapscott’s band. He moved to San Francisco in 1971 and played with Ray Anderson, Frank Lowe, and Charles Moffett, who became an important influence. Following a move to New York in 1975, Morris collaborated with Lowe, Murray, and Hamiet Bluiett before leaving for Paris, where he led his own group and recorded with Lowe and Steve Lacy. He spent the late 1970s moving between the United States and Europe, teaching jazz improvisation at the Royal Conservatory in Belgium (...
Dominic A. Fragman
(b Worcester, MA, Jan 25, 1949). American percussionist, bandleader, and composer. He began playing drums as a child, was befriended by Gene Krupa at age six, and later studied with Louie Bellson. He also worked under the tutelage of Joshua Leavitt, the director of the Peabody Conservatory and the principal percussionist of the National Symphony Orchestra. By age 16 he was performing regularly with Duke Ellington’s bass player Billy Taylor. In 1970 he relocated to San Francisco and established himself as a bandleader in such jazz venues as Keystone Korner. After meeting Cecil Taylor and his longtime alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons in San Francisco, Murphy moved to New York. There he managed Rashied Ali’s club, Ali’s Alley, and became Lyons’s first-choice drummer until the saxophonist’s death in 1986. During the 1980s Murphy led recording dates at CBS and RCA with a band that included Mary Anne Driscoll, Karen Borca, Lyons, and Dewey Johnson. He has subsequently collaborated with the pianist Larry Willis and the poet Jere Carroll, performing works that link the worlds of bebop and the avant garde and have been noted as a new direction in the jazz and art arena. In addition to leading pioneering recordings and ensembles, Murphy is also renowned for his innovative approach to the drum set. He is a fluent, compositionally minded master drummer and has performed with numerous musicians across a vast spectrum of genres....
(b Oakland, CA, Feb 19, 1955). American jazz saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, and leader. He grew up in Berkeley, where he received his first musical training, in stride and ragtime piano. At the age of nine he began playing alto saxophone and at the age of 11 tenor saxophone. From the age of 12 through his later teens he led several R&B bands. He continued his formal training at Pomona College in Los Angeles, where stanley Crouch and Margaret Kohn were among his teachers. After his graduation in 1975 Murray moved to New York where he began playing the loft circuit with such experimental musicians as Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, and Julius Hemphill. His first steady engagement came with the Ted Daniels’ Energy Band; its members were Hamiett Bluiett, Lester Bowie, and Frank Lowe. After his first European tour in 1976, Murray established the renowned World saxophone quartet ...
(b Whiteville, TN, Dec 14, 1931; d Memphis, TN, May 26, 1989). American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. Born into a musical family that included his father, a drummer, and his brother Calvin, a guitarist, he grew up in Memphis where he heard major jazz artists. His influences included Nat “King” Cole, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and the little known Oscar Dennard. In his early career he worked with Booker Little, George Coleman, Sonny Criss, Jamil Nasser, and Charles Lloyd. He attended Tennessee State College before being drafted into the US Army in 1953. Following his discharge, in 1955 he moved to New York where he remained until 1961. An Atlantic album and appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival (1956) were both enthusiastically received. Newborn subsequently recorded four albums for Victor and two for Roulette in the 1950s. During a period in Los Angeles (...
[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 O’Neil, NE, April 18, 1902; d Eugene, OR, Dec 12, 1986). American bandleader, composer, and songwriter. He studied cornet and by 1916 had joined the vaudeville circuit. He started his first band in 1926 in Los Angeles, where he auditioned and befriended the young singer Bing Crosby at the Lafayette Hotel. Owens’ transformation into a prominent figure in Hawaiian music began when he was hired in 1934 to be the director of the band at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. Actively studying the area’s traditions, native music, songs, and lyrics, Owens became one of the first to write down many of these tunes, often orchestrating them for use by his band the Royal Hawaiians. During his first year in residence, he composed the famous song “Sweet Leilani,” which became the band’s signature piece. The number was heard during a visit to the islands by Crosby, who requested its inclusion in his upcoming film, ...
David F. Garcia
(b Bronx, NY, Nov 21, 1927; d New York, NY, Sept 12, 1988). American pianist, arranger, and bandleader. Initially self-taught, Palmieri started piano lessons at seven. He began performing professionally in 1943 with the Osario Selasie Orchestra, eventually making his first recording, “Se va la rumba,” with the Rafael Muñoz Band in 1946. He pursued training in harmony, composition, and arranging with Otto Chesna while continuing piano studies with Margaret Allison Bonds. After performing with Tito Puente’s band from 1951 to 1953 he joined Pupi Campo’s band performing on Jack Paar’s Today show on CBS Television. In 1959 he debuted his popular charanga, La Orquesta Duboney, featuring Johnny Pacheco on flute. La Duboney recorded Cuban charanga music and American pop-inspired music for United Artists Records, while also popularizing the pachanga with Alegre Records in the early 1960s. Palmieri supplemented his performance career with teaching assignments in the public schools and at City College of New York in the early 1970s. For the next two decades he recorded and performed mostly as a featured artist with New York–based Latin bands, including that of his younger brother, Eddie Palmieri. Beloved and respected by musicians for his musical talent, knowledge, and professionalism, Palmieri was one of the most important Puerto Rican musicians to popularize and develop Latin music in New York....
A. Scott Currie
(b Bronx, NY, Jan 10, 1952). American jazz bass player, bandleader, and composer. He grew up listening to such swing artists as Duke Ellington and played trumpet, trombone, and cello. Inspired by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler, he took up bass in his teens and had formal studies, first with Paul West, then with richard Davis , Art Davis, and milt Hinton at Jazzmobile. Later he studied privately with jimmy Garrison and Wilbur Ware and developed a unique style featuring a propulsive alternation between rapid-fire upper-register playing and low punctuating open-string strums, along with vamps, walking “freebop” lines, and lyrical arco work. In 1973 Parker launched his professional career in the downtown New York loft-jazz scene, performing with Muntu and the Music Ensemble, and making his recorded debut on Frank Lowe’s album Black Beings (1973, ESP). Soon he was playing in bands led by Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry at Carnegie Hall and the Five Spot Café, jointly organizing loft concerts and festivals, and leading his own Centering Orchestras. By the early 1980s he had become Taylor’s main bass player and he eventually filled the chair from ...
Edgardo Diaz Diaz
(b Humacao, PR, July 17, 1921; d San Juan, PR, June 18, 2002). American saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. A member of one of Puerto Rico’s most respected musical families, he was trained in the practices of old Spanish military-band traditions by his father, Juan Peña Reyes (1879–1948). After playing in a band led by his cousin Rafael González Peña and another by Armando Castro, he was hired in 1947 as saxophone soloist for the César Concepción Orchestra. Divisions within this orchestra in 1954 led him and fellow members to create the 15-piece Orquesta Panamericana, which performed various Latin American genres. The ensemble also offered an early showcase for Ismael Rivera, who was later known as el Sonero Mayor. Popularly known as La Panamericana, the group conspicuously presented fresh Afro-Puerto Rican sounds on radio and television, helping bomba and plena—genres associated with marginal barrios—to become the most visible musical products of Puerto Rico. Peña’s training in music theory with Amaury Veray and Julián Bautista led to a strong catalog of nationalist compositions, including his ...
[James Gilbert ]
(b Salem, OR, June 18, 1941; d Portland, OR, Feb 10, 1992). American tenor and soprano saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and composer. Of Native American (Creek and Kaw) heritage, he was raised in Oregon and Oklahoma. Early musical influences included tap dance, big band jazz, Southern Plains powwow music and dance, and peyote music. Pepper moved to New York in 1964 and joined the Free Spirits (1966), an early fusion jazz ensemble featuring Larry Coryell and Bob Moses. After forming the group Everything is Everything (1967) with former members of Free Spirits Chris Hills and Columbus Baker, Pepper recorded “Witchi Tai To,” a composition fusing a peyote song with jazz, rock, and country influences. Released on Everything is Everything featuring Chris Hills (Vanguard Apostolic, 1969), “Witchi Tai To” peaked at number 69 on the Billboard pop charts. By 2011 it had been covered by at least 90 artists ranging from Brewer & Shipley, Jan Garbarek, and Oregon to the Paul Winter Consort and Joy Harjo. Pepper released four albums as a leader: ...
Ryan D. W. Bruce
(b Roanoke, VA, Dec 25, 1941; d New York, NY, April 22, 1995). American jazz pianist, organist, composer, and bandleader. His early training ranged from classical music to gospel and the blues. His modern piano style took shape in 1964 after he left his studies as a pre-med student at Johnson C. Smith University to study with the AACM pianist muhal richard Abrams . Pullen then moved to New York, where he associated himself with the avant-garde jazz scene, recorded with the Giuseppe Logan Quartet (1964–5), and released a self-produced duo album with drummer Milford Graves (1966). Pullen financially supported himself by accompanying various gospel and R&B artists during the late 1960s and accepting a one-year position as Nina Simone’s musical director; he also worked as an arranger for King Records (c1968–9). He became known for his performances and four recordings with the Charles Mingus orchestra (...
Robert H. Dickow
[Blount, Herman ‘Sonny’; Bourke, Sonny; Le Sony’r Ra]
(b Birmingham, AL, May 1914; d Birmingham, May 30, 1993). American jazz composer, bandleader and keyboard player. He played the piano in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1946–7 (using the names Herman ‘Sonny’ Blount and Le Sony’r Ra), and first attracted attention as an arranger. During the mid-1950s his Myth-Science (or Solar) Arkestra became significant in Chicago and began to issue recordings; it also played in the film documentary The Cry of Jazz (1959), for which Sun Ra composed the score. He moved to New York in 1960, by which time he had begun to develop a unique and highly inventive ensemble style that was to attract a considerable following, particularly among European jazz enthusiasts. In the 1970s Sun Ra and the Arkestra settled in Philadelphia. They reached large audiences by touring and lecturing at American colleges and universities, by performing in Europe, and above all by appearing on the nationally broadcast television programme ‘Saturday Night Live’ (...
John L. Clark
(b Piedmont, WV, July 29, 1900; d New York, NY, Nov 30, 1964). American jazz composer, arranger, bandleader, and alto saxophonist. Both of his parents were professional musicians, and he was exposed to many instruments as a child, eventually settling on woodwinds, although he was also proficient on trumpet, violin, and piano. He graduated from Storer College in 1920 with a degree in music.
By 1922 Redman had moved to Pittsburgh, where he began playing for Billy Paige’s Broadway Syncopators. With this group he began experimenting with crafting specialty arrangements to show off a specific ensemble, and this tailored repertoire distinguished the group when it went to New York in 1923. Paige’s group broke up shortly after that, but Redman found employment in recording studios, where his musicianship and leadership made him valuable to contractors such as fletcher Henderson . Redman became a regular musician on dozens of recordings organized by Henderson. This informal network of black musicians became a working band that summer when they were hired (with Henderson as leader) by the Club Alabam....
J. Bradford Robinson
[Rajonsky, Milton M.]
(b Great Barrington, MA, April 14, 1924; d Van Nuys, CA, Nov 7, 1994). American jazz and film composer, arranger, trumpeter and bandleader. He studied at the High School of Music and Art, New York, and played professionally with Will Bradley and Red Norvo while still a teenager. After military service he was a member of Woody Herman's big band (1945–49), where he attracted attention as an arranger. Later he contributed scores to Stan Kenton's band (1950–51). In Los Angeles he led groups with former Kenton sidemen, most notably Art Pepper. He supervised such jazz film scores as The Wild One (1954, composed by Leith Stevens) and The Man with the Golden Arm (1955, composed by Elmer Bernstein), and also served as an artistic director for Atlantic Records (1955) and RCA Victor (from 1954). From the 1960s he turned increasingly to Hollywood studios as a composer of music for films and television and a supervisor of soundtrack recording sessions. He resumed playing jazz in the 1980s on the flugelhorn, and in ...
Bruce Boyd Raeburn
(b Careening Cay, nr Bocas del Toro, Gran Colombia [now Panama], Aug 6, 1902; d New York, NY, Dec 11, 1963). American jazz bandleader, arranger, and pianist. His father taught music, and Russell was a teenaged multi-instrumentalist before replacing a theater pianist caused him to concentrate on piano. He learned about jazz by performing for American servicemen in the Panama Canal Zone. After his family won a lottery in 1919, he moved to New Orleans to pursue a career as a jazz musician, establishing himself with Albert Nicholas’s band at Anderson’s Annex in 1922. When King Oliver was organizing his Dixie Syncopators in 1924, he sent for Russell, Nicholas, and Barney Bigard, after which Russell became Oliver’s chief arranger. While in Chicago he also pursued various side projects, including the Chicago Hottentot recordings with Nicholas, Bigard, Johnny St. Cyr, and George Mitchell. After Oliver’s relocation to New York in ...