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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...

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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 ...

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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

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

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 ...

Article

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

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

Gary Theroux

[Bohannon, Hamilton Frederick ]

(b Newman, GA, March 7, 1942). 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

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

John W. Rumble

(b Westmoreland, TN, Oct 21, 1915; d Nashville, TN Jan 7, 1998). American record producer, arranger, and bandleader. Adept at piano and other instruments, he began playing professionally by age 15, following his family’s move to Nashville. By 1940, he was leading his own dance band and broadcasting on local radio, and in 1942, with fellow WSM musicians Marvin Hughes and Beasley Smith, he composed “Night Train to Memphis,” a hit for rising Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff. After World War II, Bradley became WSM’s music director.

In 1947, Decca Records country recording chief Paul Cohen tapped Bradley to head the company’s Nashville office and assist in sessions. Bradley recorded for the Bullet, Coral, and Decca labels, and he made his reputation by working with Decca hit makers Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, Bobby Helms, and Brenda Lee, the last gaining pop stardom before releasing a series of country hits in the 1960s. After assuming Cohen’s position in ...