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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

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

Jeffrey Holmes

[Randal Edward ]

(b Philadelphia, PA, Nov 27, 1945). American trumpeter, flugelhorn player, composer, arranger, and bandleader, brother of Michael Brecker. After graduating from Indiana University in 1966, he moved to New York, where he played with Clark Terry, Duke Pearson, and the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. A versatile musician, he worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears, performing on their debut album, played hard bop and soul jazz with the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and helped form the fusion group Dreams, which included his brother Michael, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie. During the 1970s he worked with Silver, Larry Coryell, Stevie Wonder, the Plastic Ono Super Band, and Cobham. He and Michael also performed and recorded (six albums) as the Brecker Brothers, garnering much critical acclaim. He continued to lead his own group into the 1980s and also recorded and toured with virtuoso performers Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke. A reunion of the Brecker Brothers in ...

Article

David Font-Navarrete

(b Gaston, NC, Aug 28, 1936; d Baltimore, May 16, 2012). American bandleader, singer, guitarist, and composer. He was a musical icon of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He was widely known as “The Godfather of Go-go” and renowned for his live performances, which emphasized continuous, percussion-driven grooves and audience participation, all staples of the Go-go genre he developed in the 1970s. Brown’s early years were marked by poverty and crime, and he first developed his guitar playing while incarcerated at the Lorton Penitentiary. With his band the Soul Searchers, Brown developed a distinctive sound that is grounded in funk and soul, but also heavily influenced by jazz and Latin genres. His hit songs include “Bustin’ Loose,” “We Need Some Money,” and “Go-Go Swing.” In 1992, Brown recorded The Other Side with vocalist Eva Cassidy, a critically-acclaimed album of jazz and blues material. He received a NARAS Governors Award and an NEA Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award, and continued to record and perform regularly until his death in ...

Article

Marcello Piras

(b Reinerton, PA, March 14, 1912; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 4, 2001). American clarinetist, saxophonist, bandleader, arranger, and songwriter. His father, an amateur musician, taught him to read music. He started performing at nine and was leading his Royal Serenaders at 14. He studied at Ithaca Conservatory (1926–9, teachers including Patrick Conway and Wallingford Riegger), New York Military Academy (1929–32), and Duke University (1932–6). At this last he led his Duke Blue Devils, who recorded in 1936–7. In 1938 he recruited a band, later called Les Brown and His Band of Renown, which flourished by 1941—mostly thanks to scores by Ben Homer (“Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” 50,000 records sold) and Frank Comstock—and was modeled after Jimmie Lunceford, and later after Count Basie. Trumpeter Billy Butterfield and reedman Abe Most were its most prominent soloists. Their biggest hit was “Sentimental Journey” (...

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David Chevan

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Oct 13, 1926; d Indianapolis, IN, July 2, 2002). American jazz double bass player, bandleader, and composer. After playing the piano as a young child, he switched to the bass when he got to high school, reportedly because he saw that there were too many pianists. While still in Pittsburgh, he played with the Jimmy Hinsley Sextet and the Snookum Russel Band, all the while absorbing the influence of key New York bass players, especially that of Jimmy Blanton who was working with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. One can hear this influence in Brown’s insistent rhythmic drive and in the melodicism of his walking bass lines. After high school, Brown moved to New York, where his friendship with the pianist Hank Jones led him to early gigs with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, and Charlie Parker, all of whom admired his expansive, clear tone. The Gillespie group, which included the pianist John Lewis, the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and the drummer Kenny Clarke, was the foundation for the Modern Jazz Quartet. As he made an impression in bebop circles, Brown also became involved with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, through which he met the pianist Oscar Peterson—in whose trio he played from ...

Article

Richard Wang

[David Warren]

(b Concord, CA, Dec 6, 1920; d Norwalk, CT, Dec 5, 2012). American jazz composer, pianist and bandleader. He received early training in classical music from his mother, a pianist, and by the age of 13 he was performing professionally with local jazz groups. He was a music major at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, studied compositon with Milhaud (1946) and, with fellow students, founded the experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble, which recorded in 1949 as the Dave Brubeck Octet. Also in 1949, he organized the Dave Brubeck Trio. With the addition of the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond (1951), Brubeck thereafter led a quartet. In 1967 Brubeck disbanded, ostensibly to concentrate on composing, but he soon formed a new quartet that included Gerry Mulligan (until 1972).

The Brubeck quartet was immensely popular on college campuses in the 1950s; the album Jazz at Oberlin...

Article

Yoko Suzuki

[Mary Jane]

(b Toronto, Oct 22, 1955). Canadian jazz soprano saxophonist, flutist, bandleader, and composer. Her first instrument was the clarinet. Starting around the age of 17, she took intensive classical piano lessons for three years, leading to her developing tendonitis. While taking some time off, she went to San Francisco and heard the music of Charles Mingus’s band, which inspired her to play jazz. After returning to Toronto, she took up flute and saxophone and studied jazz at a local music school. She also enrolled in the music program at York University where she played alto saxophone and flute. After listening to Steve(n Norman) Lacy, Bunnett decided to play soprano saxophone. With an Artist’s Council grant, she went to Paris to study with Lacy in the early 1990s. Although she plays a range of saxophones, her main instruments are soprano saxophone and flute. She made her first recording in ...

Article

Yoko Suzuki

(b Lancaster, PA, April 19, 1915; d Washington, DC, Nov 19, 1964). American tenor saxophonist and bandleader. She played in a few different all-girl bands before joining the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in late 1943. She participated in the group’s USO tour in 1945 and stayed in the band until 1949. During the Sweethearts’ tour in American cities, she participated in jam sessions at local clubs and battled with such notable saxophonists as Jimmy Forrest and Gene Ammons, which black newspapers excitedly reported. She also performed with her all-star girl combo—which consisted of selected members from the Sweethearts—at the Baby Grand Café in New York in October 1948. In early 1949 she formed her own all-girl band and toured in the South, California, Nevada, and other West Coast cities over the course of three months. Burnside remained active in the early 1950s, playing at Joe’s Rendezvous in Chicago, the Parker House in Pittsburgh, and a local theatre in Panama. After moving to Washington, DC, she worked at the Musicians’ Union from ...