(b Philadelphia, June 30, 1951). American jazz fusion bass guitarist and bandleader. He first played the accordion, but quickly changed to the violin, then the cello and the double bass, before taking up the bass guitar, which he played in rhythm and blues and rock bands at school. In 1971 he played the double bass and the bass guitar with Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson. While touring and recording with Stan Getz the following year, he became a founder-member of Chick Corea’s group Return to Forever; from this time he concentrated on playing the electric instrument, and recorded eight albums with the band, as well as his own disc, School Days (1976, Nemperor). After leaving in 1977, Clarke initiated several projects as a leader, playing with both jazz musicians and rock groups. His single Sweet Baby (1981, Epic), made with the keyboard player George Duke, reached the US top 20, and in ...
(b Parsons, KS, Nov 12, 1911; d New York, NY, Dec 8, 1991). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and arranger. He grew up in a musical family, picking up trumpet at the age of 16. After playing in several ensembles in California, he took a band to Shanghai, China, in 1934 and in doing so became one of the first jazz musicians to visit Asia. There he worked with the composer Li Jinhui. After returning to the United States in 1936, Clayton traveled to Kansas City, where he joined the Count Basie Orchestra during its now-famous run at the Reno that year. Following service in the army (1943–6), Clayton performed for 32 years, maintaining New York as a base and playing at the Café Society, the Savoy Ballroom (with Jimmy Rushing), and the Newport Jazz Festival. In addition he toured Europe in the 1950s, Japan and Australia in ...
Matthew D. Clayton II
(b Chicago, IL, Sept 20, 1956). American alto saxophonist and bandleader. Raised on the South Side of Chicago, he started playing saxophone at the age of 14. He was initially attracted to the funk and soul music of his youth, especially the alto saxophone of Maceo Parker playing with James Brown. Through his father’s jazz record collection and the sound of Charlie Parker, Coleman had developed an ear for jazz by his late teens. As he became proficient as a saxophonist, he gravitated towards the Chicago saxophonists Bunky Green and Von Freeman for first-hand guidance and inspiration.
In 1978, while practicing his saxophone in the park, Coleman had an epiphany. He was interrupted by buzzing bees, noticed their hovering and jerky motion, and tried to mimic their motion in music. This approach has dictated the shape of his music ever since. Rather than playing in sweeping linear motions, he instead developed a theory that he called Symmetry, which involves producing symmetrical motions around tones based on the 12 intervals of the chromatic scale. Symmetry is a fundamental concept in his music, and he combines it with more traditional means of composing and improvising in the jazz idiom....
(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 ...
(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 ...
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 ...
(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...
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 ...
(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 (...
(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 ...