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Chadwick Jenkins

[Hapgood, Hattie L.]

(b Los Angeles, CA, Oct 29, 1916; d Los Angeles, CA, Nov 21, 2002). American jazz pianist, singer, and composer. She was raised in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending the University of Chicago, she worked as a dance studio accompanist in the early 1940s for the choreographer Willie Covan, who trained such figures as Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple. She began to mold her style in the manner of Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. The recording mogul Jules Bihari gave her the name Hadda Brooks, and it was for his label Modern Music Records that she recorded her first hit, “Swingin’ the Boogie” (1945), after which she soon earned the billing Queen of the Boogie. Charlie Barnet suggested that Brooks learn to sing the song You won’t let me go, and it became her first vocal release in 1947. That same year Brooks was cast in the film ...

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E. Ron Horton

[Tony]

(b San Francisco, CA, March 17, 1953). American percussionist, composer, and scholar. He is a California-based artist and educator whose world travels and ethnic heritage have had a major influence on his musical career. His mother was a native of Tokyo, Japan, and his father was of African American and Choctaw decent. He grew up in a military family, moving between California, Germany, and Japan during his formative years. His career in music began in earnest after he returned to San Francisco in 1980. In 1985 he moved to New York and further developed his career while studying jazz performance at Rutgers University. He subsequently earned a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, studying ethnomusicology, a field that allowed him to focus on the musical styles that reflected his cultural heritage. He then began an extensive relationship with the Smithsonian Institute working as the curator of American musical culture, director of the Jazz Oral History program, and a performer in the Smithsonian Jazz Trio. 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

Sumanth Gopinath

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 2, 1943). American political activist and singer/songwriter. Despite severe poverty, Brown studied piano at an early age and began writing songs at 16. After a semester at Temple University, she left for Los Angeles, hoping to become a professional songwriter. She had an affair with a married white novelist, screenwriter, and songwriter, Jay Richard Kennedy, who encouraged her to embrace leftist politics and her black identity. She began performing with the support of Stanley Crouch, Horace Tapscott, and the Underground Musicians Association (UGMA), shortly before becoming closely involved with the Black Panther Party (BPP). Under Tapscott’s musical direction Brown recorded Seize the Time (1969, Vault Records), an extraordinary album that provided the name for Bobby Seale’s famous memoir of the BPP’s early years and became an underground classic. Its songs include musical manifestos, portraits of individuals she had known through her political activities, and a memorial for murdered BPP members Bunchy Carter and John Huggins (“Assassination”). Brown’s declamatory, theatrical singing style is highlighted in “The End of Silence,” which featured poignantly in William Klein’s film ...

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David Brackett

(b Barnwell, SC, May 3, 1928; d Atlanta, Dec 25, 2006). American soul and funk singer, composer, arranger and bandleader. Born into extreme poverty in the rural South, he began his career as a professional musician in the early 1950s with the gospel-based group, the Flames. By 1956 the group had recorded the rhythm and blues hit Please, Please, Please (Federal, 1956) and changed their name to James Brown and the Famous Flames. This early recording established what was to become a stylistic trademark: insistent repetition of a single phrase (in this case, the song's title) resulting in a kind of ecstatic trance. This approach and Brown's characteristic raspy vocal timbre and impassioned melismas display his debt to the black American gospel tradition. His stage shows, dancing and inspired call-and-response interactions with the audience also convey the fervour of a sanctified preacher.

The first decade of Brown's recording career saw him alternating energetic dance numbers such as ...

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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Andrew Raffo Dewar

(b Atlanta, GA, Sept 8, 1931; d Fort Lauderdale, FL, Oct 18, 2010). American jazz composer, alto saxophonist, writer, and visual artist. He studied music in high school, but dropped out to join the army in 1953 and performed in bands while stationed in Japan. From around 1955 to 1958, he was enrolled at Clark College in Atlanta, studying there with the flutist Wayman Carver. During this period he performed with the group Stardusters led by the rhythm-and-blues trumpeter and educator Lloyd Terry. He spent two years as a pre-law student at Howard University before moving in 1962 to New York, where he met the saxophonists Archie Shepp and Ornette Colemen, and the writer LeRoi Jones. In 1965 Brown took part in his first recording sessions, as a sideman with Shepp (Fire Music, 1965, Imp.) and John Coltrane (Ascension, 1965, Imp.) and as a leader (...

Article

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 ...