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Gerard Béhague

[Vianna Filho, Alfredo da Rocha ]

(b Rio de Janeiro, April 23, 1897/8; d Rio de Janeiro, Feb 17, 1973). Brazilian composer, flautist, saxophonist, arranger and bandleader. His father was an amateur flute player and cultivator of the old choro. Around the age of ten Pixinguinha played the cavaquinho and accompanied his father, who also taught him the flute. He participated in carnival band parades (1911–12), played in night clubs and in the orchestra of the Rio Branco cinema, specializing in musical comedies and operettas. His talents as a flautist were widely recognized and through this he formed his first significant group, Os Oito Batutas, with other important musicians of the period, such as Donga, China and Nelson Alves. Originally including flute, three guitars, singer, cavaquinho, mandoline, tambourine, reco-reco and ganzá, they were presented at the Cinema Palais in 1919 with a typically national repertory that included waltzes, polkas, tangos, maxixes...

Article

Ioannis Tsioulakis

(b Athens, Oct 12, 1924). Greek composer and pianist. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Athens, before moving to New York where he completed a doctorate in chemistry at Cornell University. While in the United States, Plessas pursued a career as a piano player specialising in jazz, and in 1951 he received a music award for a performance at the University of Minnesota. Upon his return to Greece in the mid-1950s Plessas became more active as a composer, and in 1959 he started his career as a film composer which made him hugely popular during the 1960s and 1970s. He has composed music for over 100 films but it was especially his songs for musicals produced by Finos Films, performed on screen by prominent singers such as Giannis Poulopoulos, Marinella, and Tzeni Vanou, and actors including Rena Vlachopoulou and Mairi Chronopoulou, that rendered him one of the most celebrated popular musicians of that period. From the 1980s onwards, Plessas focused more on jazz and art music, recording music with his jazz quartet and composing operas and instrumental pieces. His ‘folk opera’ ...

Article

John Snelson

(Ashwell)

(b Folkestone, March 23, 1906; d Worplesdon, nr Guildford, April 24, 1976). English composer, lyricist and pianist. He studied law at Cambridge then attended the RAM, and in 1929 became a professional composer, also writing his own song lyrics. He contributed to radio revues, particularly in collaboration with the lyricist Eric Maschwitz (editor of the Radio Times and later director of Variety at the BBC), both achieving success with their radio operetta Good-Night Vienna (1931, broadcast 7 January 1932). Through its subsequent association with Jack Buchanan, who starred in the film of the show (1932), the title song remains one of Posford’s few lasting works. A further planned radio operetta with the author Herbert Farjeon, One Day in Summer, was abandoned in May 1934. Posford also appeared on radio as a guest pianist between 1930 and 1945, playing his own works in programmes such as ‘Vaudeville’ and ‘Keyboard Cavalcade’....

Article

Lise Waxer

[Prado, Pérez]

(b Matanzas, Dec 11, 1916; d Mexico City, Sept 14, 1989). Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger. After a formal musical training in Matanzas he moved to Havana in the early 1940s, where he played the piano and arranged for the orchestra of Paulina Alvarez (1942) and the well-known Orquesta Casino de la Playa (1943–6). His growing incorporation of big band jazz influences was not well received, and he left Cuba in 1947, settling in Mexico City the following year. Establishing a mambo big band, he made several recordings through the next decade, including his famous Mambo No.5 and Qué rico el mambo. While often criticized for falsely claiming to have invented the mambo, his popularization of this genre in mainstream North America is undisputable, and his recordings of Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White (1955) and Patricia (1958) made it to the top of the US charts for several weeks....

Article

Lise Waxer

(b New York City, April 20, 1923; d New York City, May 31, 2000). American percussionist, bandleader, composer and arranger. He began performing with Los Happy Boys and other local bands as a child prodigy, and as a teenager played with Noro Morales and Machito. Following wartime service in the US Navy (...

Article

Simon Collier

(b Buenos Aires, Dec 2, 1905; d Buenos Aires, July 24, 1995). Argentine tango pianist, bandleader and composer. Trained at a private conservatory in Buenos Aires, he started as a cinema pianist but soon found a place in tango bands, including those of Roberto Firpo, Pedro Maffia, and Pedro Laurenz. After 1929 he jointly led the Vardaro-Pugliese Sextet, one of the most distinguished ensembles of the 1930s, and only in late 1939 did he form his own first band, which made the first of its more than 600 recordings in 1943. His own virtuosic piano skills contributed much to his band, whose sophisticated arrangements pushed the ‘evolutionist’ trend in tango music to its limits: Pugliese has been aptly described as the Wagner of the tango. The band toured to the Soviet Union and China (1960), to Mexico and Cuba (1981) and to Japan (...

Article

(b New York, Oct 7, 1901; d nr Palm Springs, CA, Oct 23, 1942). American composer and pianist. He studied music at the Damrosch Institute, where his teachers included Gallico and Clarence Adler, and law at Brown University. He began a career as a lawyer, but in 1926 became a pianist for Broadway musicals and also toured as a vaudeville accompanist and arranger. While playing in a piano duo with Adam Carroll in Arthur Schwartz’s The Little Show (1929), he composed ‘Moanin’ Low’, which was the most successful song of the production. He then went to Hollywood as a rehearsal pianist. From 1930 until his death in an aeroplane crash he composed songs for over 50 films for Paramount (1930–38) and 20th Century-Fox (1938–42), mostly with the lyricist Leo Robin. Many were for Bing Crosby, others for Betty Grable; ‘Thanks for the Memory’, introduced by Bob Hope in ...

Article

Lise Waxer

(b New York City, Feb 28, 1938; d New York City, June 6, 1993). American vibraphone player, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader and producer. He trained at the Juilliard School of Music and launched his career in 1957, recording with Joe Loco. In 1960 he contributed to Johnny Pacheco’s first charanga album, El güiro de macorina and launched his own band in 1963, recording Introducing Louie Ramírez. Through the 1960s he performed with Joe Cuba and was a member of the Alegre All-Stars and, with the vocalist Pete Bonet, led the house band at New York City’s Corso Club in the late 1960s. Through the 70s and 80s he was a staff producer for Fania Records and its subsidiary labels Vaya, Inca, Cotique and Tico, and was also acting president of Alegre Records. As a producer, arranger and composer, he influenced the growing sophistication of New York salsa during this time, evident on his own tunes ...

Article

Andrew Lamb

(b London, Dec 21, 1905; d New York, Nov 3, 1958. American songwriter and pianist of English birth. He toured Europe in dance orchestras and composed music for shows in Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, Berlin and London, before moving in 1929 to New York. There he became an accompanist for the vaudevillian Mack Gordon (b Warsaw, Poland, 21 June 1904; d New York, 1 March 1959), with whom he formed a songwriting partnership. They contributed items to several Broadway revues, notably the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931, and then became a highly successful team in Hollywood, first for Paramount (1933–6) and then for 20th Century-Fox (1936–8). During this period they wrote songs for several popular films, including all those starring Shirley Temple, producing such standards as Did you ever see a dream walking? (1934), Paris in the Spring (1935), You hit the spot...

Article

Simon Collier

(b Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, June 8, 1911; d Buenos Aires, Jan 18, 1986). Argentine tango singer, guitarist and songwriter. He worked initially on the radio and in film, later joining the bands of Julio De Caro, Horacio Salgán (1944) and, most notably, Aníbal Troilo (1947), with which he recorded the classic version of Homero Manzi and Aníbal Troilo’s Sur. After 1950 he worked as a solo artist, with a guitar accompaniment or backed by a variety of tango groups. In 1965 he performed in Washington and New York, and later toured Latin America and Japan. His Buenos Aires nightclub El Viejo Almacén, established in 1969, was one of the recognized strongholds of the tango at a time when its popularity was in decline. In a field dominated by tenors and baritones, Rivero was the first successful bass tango singer. His instinctive grasp of the tango rhythm was complemented by a deliberate phrasing reminiscent of folk music, in which Rivero took a lifelong interest. He also became one of the leading experts on ...