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Lewis Porter

(William )

(b Hamlet, NC, Sept 23, 1926; d Huntington, NY, July 17, 1967). American tenor and soprano saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, husband of Alice Coltrane and father of Oran and Ravi Coltrane. His parents, Alice Blair and John Robert Coltrane, were both amateur musicians. He was an only child and grew up in High Point, North Carolina, within an extended family including, among others, his first cousin Mary and her parents. Around the fall of 1939, he received his first instrumental experience playing alto horn, then clarinet, in a community band. When he joined the high school band the next year, he took up alto saxophone. His father, uncle, and mother’s parents all died between 1938 and late 1940, and after his high school graduation in June 1943, he joined his devastated family in Philadelphia, where they had moved, and found a factory job. Around 1944, Coltrane began taking saxophone lessons and theory classes. Johnny Hodges was his idol until ...

Article

Yoko Suzuki

(b Huntington, NY, Aug 6, 1965). American jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist, bandleader, and composer, son of john Coltrane and Alice Coltrane. Raised first on Long Island and then in the suburbs of Los Angeles, he started to play clarinet during junior high school. He quit playing for four years after his brother John Jr. died in 1982 but he resumed at the age of 21 when he switched to the saxophone and started to study jazz at the California Institute of the Arts. One of his earliest touring experiences was with his mother in Europe in 1989. After moving to New York in 1991, he performed with the drummer Elvin Jones for two years. In his early years in New York, he worked with various musicians including Geri Allen, JoAnne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, Antoine Roney, and Steve Coleman, who produced Coltrane’s debut album in 1998. As a sideman, Coltrane recorded in the 1990s with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, David Murray, Ryan Kisor, Wallace Roney, Steve Coleman, Billy Childs, and Cindy Blackman, among others. One of his most notable performances was a concert in ...

Article

Ronnie Pugh

revised by Peter LaChapelle

[Donnell Clyde ]

(b Grand, OK, 1910; d Oakland, CA, Nov 5, 1969). American country music fiddler, singer, and bandleader. The son of a sharecropper, he became the leading figure on the Los Angeles western swing scene. He received violin training from a German immigrant teacher at an all-Native American school in Oregon. He traveled with several hillbilly acts, arriving in Los Angeles in 1937. Cooley performed in western movies before assuming leadership of a band originally organized by Jimmy Wakely. He stressed his Dust Bowl migrant background in publicity and claimed that he was a quarter Cherokee to promote his career. He added harpists, a fiddling trio, and as many as 20 performers to his band. In 1942 the DJ Al Jarvis proclaimed Cooley the King of Western Swing after his band placed well in a local poll to determine the King of Swing. Cooley’s “Shame on You” (OK), featuring vocals by Tex Williams, became the number-one country recording of ...

Article

Chip Henderson

(b Galveston, TX, April 2, 1943; d New York, Feb 19, 2017). American guitarist and bandleader. He began studying the piano at the age of four and settled on the guitar in his early teens. When he was seven, his family moved from Texas to Richmond, WA, where he later played in rock and country-and-western groups. His early guitar influences were Chuck Berry and Chet Atkins; his guitar teacher later introduced him to the music of the jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, and Les Paul. In 1965 he moved to New York. Within a year he had replaced Gabor Szabo in Chico Hamilton’s band and was a member of the early rock-fusion group Free Spirits. Wider recognition came when Coryell left Hamilton and worked in Gary Burton’s quartet (1967–8), one of the first ensembles to combine rock, jazz, and country-music styles. In 1969...

Article

Dina M. Bennett

(b Tunica, MS, July 1, 1935; d Austin, March 16, 2017). American blues harmonica player, singer, and bandleader. Known as “Superharp,” he grew up in the cotton fields of Mississippi and began learning to play the harmonica by the age of nine. After his parents died, he went to live with blues harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (II) who became his mentor. As Williamson’s opening act, the two traveled together and played in various juke joints throughout the South. Soon thereafter, Cotton met Howlin’ Wolf in an Arkansas juke joint and went on the road with him. In the mid-1950s, he became Muddy Waters’ harp player, and in 1958 he recorded “Sugar Sweet” and “Close to You” with the Muddy Waters band on Chess Records. Cotton served as alternating harp player with Little Walter on Waters’ recording sessions until the 1960s. In 1966, he left Waters’ band and a year later formed the Jimmy Cotton Blues Band. As a bandleader and solo artist, Cotton became famous for his animated playing style and his back flips on stage. In the 1970s, he recorded several albums for Buddah Records, including ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 30, 1947). American jazz and avant-garde pianist and bandleader. She studied classical piano at the Peabody Music School in Baltimore and piano and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music. For the first six years after graduation, she did not pursue music professionally; however, hearing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme inspired her to learn jazz. She studied jazz harmony with Charles Banacos and then joined the Creative Music Studio run by Karl Berger in Woodstock, New York. It was there that she met Anthony Braxton; she toured with his ensemble the Creative Music Orchestra in 1978. The 1980s witnessed an explosion of creative output from Crispell. She recorded albums as an unaccompanied soloist (Rhythms Hung in Undrawn Sky, 1983, Leo), in a trio with Billy Bang and John Betsch (Spirit Music, 1981–2, Cadence Jazz), duos with the drummer Doug James (...

Article

Thomas Goldsmith

(b Lexington, KY, Aug 27, 1937). American bluegrass banjoist and bandleader. Of the inspired five-string banjoists who built on Earl Scruggs’ genre-defining breakthroughs of the late 1940s and early 1950s, few have had the individualistic talent and impact of J.D. Crowe. Also influenced by rhythm and blues and early rock and roll, Crowe first stood out as a banjoist and baritone singer with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys (1956–62). He started the Kentucky Mountain Boys in Lexington along with Doyle Lawson and Red Allen in the mid-1960s. In 1972 he formed the New South with several budding stars including Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, and Jerry Douglas, heavily influencing the burgeoning New grass revival with folk-pop material and adventurous instrumental approaches. Crowe turned his focus back to tradition in 1980 as a co-founder with Rice of the Bluegrass Album Band, which performed repertoire associated with Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley with an ever-changing lineup featuring such leading lights as Rice, Douglas, Lawson, Todd Phillips, Vassar Clements, and Bobby Hicks. Crowe announced his retirement in ...

Article

Edgardo Diaz Diaz

[Calderón, Gilberto Miguel ]

(b New York, NY, April 22, 1931; d New York, NY, Feb 15, 2009). American Bandleader and percussionist. As a member of the Nuyorican community, he became known as the father of Latin boogaloo for his pioneering blend of various Afro-Caribbean styles with R&B and soul, along with lyrics that alternated between English and Spanish. In 1954 he founded the José Calderón Sextet, which later became known as the Joe Cuba Sextet. This group featured timbale and vibraphone (reminiscent of Tito Puente’s mambo style), conga drums, piano, and bass, as well as the singer Cheo Feliciano. Their release of “To be with you” in 1962 predated the emergence of slow-paced Latin soul, whereas “El pito” (1965) heralded the Latin boogaloo era with its 1-2-3-4 clappings, cha-cha-cha-related rhythms, blues-related keyboard riffs, ostinato whistles evoking street noises together with the code switching between English and Spanish common among Nuyoricans. This musical framework was considerably enriched and developed in “Bang Bang” (...

Article

Harry B. Soria Jr.

[Albert R. ]

(b Honolulu, HI, Oct 1, 1879; d Honolulu, HI, Jan 23, 1933). Composer, arranger, publisher, pianist, and bandleader, active in Hawaii. Cunha’s compositions early in the 20th century spearheaded the development of the hapa haole song, featuring predominantly English lyrics with some references to Hawaii and the Hawaiian language, earning him the title of “Father of Hapa Haole Songs.” His innovation is credited with making Hawaii’s music accessible to a much wider audience, which rapidly grew to global proportions over the next few decades.

Cunha left Hawaii to attend Yale University, where he excelled in sports, the Yale Glee Club, and composed Yale’s “Boola, Boola.” Rather than practice law after graduation, he toured the mainland United States performing a new kind of Hawaiian song, combining the popular ragtime rhythm of American music with Hawaiian songs. Cunha returned to Hawaii and composed his first hapa haole song, “Waikiki Mermaid,” in ...

Article

David Brackett

[Ousley, Curtis]

(b Fort Worth, TX, Feb 7, 1934; d New York, Aug 13, 1971). American tenor saxophonist and bandleader. As one of the most versatile studio saxophonists of the 1950s and 60s in New York, King Curtis appeared on countless recordings as a session musician, mostly for Atlantic Records. He worked with artists as diverse as the post-doo-wop Coasters (notably Yakety Yak) and the rockabilly singer Buddy Holly (Reminiscing, which he co-wrote). In addition, he recorded successfully under his own name (1962–70). These recordings capitalized on the popularity of soul jazz, using blues-derived harmonic progressions, open-ended vamps and syncopated riffs. In the late 1960s he became the musical director for Aretha Franklin and was working on John Lennon's album Imagine at the time of his death in 1971. King Curtis was inspired by such saxophonists as Louis Jordan, Illinois Jacquet, Earl Bostic and Gene Ammons. Although he was influenced by the rhythm and blues ‘honkin'’ style of the 1940s and 50s, his playing reveals a debt to jazz as well. With a searing edge to his sound resembling gospel vocal tones, his style frequently featured a staccato, stuttering technique, combined with melodic mobility and a variety of slurs, bends and use of the instrument's harmonic register....