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John Curry

(bNew York, Jan 30, 1927; dNew York, Oct 2, 1993). Double bass and ‘ūd player. His early influences included the music played and sung by his father, who was Sudanese, and the Middle Eastern and East European music he heard growing up in Brooklyn’s multiracial community. He began learning violin at the age of seven and later studied double bass, piano, and tuba and attended the High School of the Performing Arts in New York. At this time he played Greek, Syrian, and Gypsy music professionally at weddings and other occasions. After playing double bass with Art Blakey (1945–8), Don Byas (1946), Sam “the Man” Taylor (1954), and Randy Weston (1954–7) he worked with Thelonious Monk (1957–8), with whom he recorded in performance at the Five Spot in New York and appeared on television in the CBS series “The Seven Lively Arts,” as well as on “The Sound of Jazz” (both ...

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Val Wilmer

(Stanley )

(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...

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Val Wilmer

[Emanuel Nii-Moi ]

(b Jamestown, Accra, Gold Coast [now Ghana], June 7, 1931; d London, Sept 15, 1993). Ghanaian conga and bongo player. He was educated at the Royal School in Accra and began playing drums as a child. Following a brief spell in the army he traveled to Britain in 1947, settled in Yorkshire, undertook factory work, and purchased his first pair of bongos. He then moved to London and entered the entertainment business as a fire-eater, dancer, and drummer. Thereafter he became a firm fixture in modern-jazz groups, playing with Ronnie Scott, Phil Seamen, Sammy Walker, and the trombonist Ken Wray, and following other African percussionists into Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists. In 1955 he joined Cab Kaye. Having changed permanently from bongos to conga drums, he played with Shake Keane and Tubby Hayes. For more than six years his propulsive beat was a key element in the success of the singer and organist Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Acquaye worked with the Nightimers, led by the American soul singer Herbie Goines, and the jazz-tinged rock bands of Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, as well as with the Animals and the Rolling Stones. The first African to have a visible presence in postwar British popular music, he rejoined Fame intermittently but devoted his time increasingly to community teaching. The percussion workshops Adzido and Dade Krama enabled him to return to the pure drumming and chants of his youth....

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Val Wilmer

(Peter )

(b Cape Town, Oct 18, 1950). South African pianist, composer, and arranger. He grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town with the guitarist Russell Herman, studied music at the University of Cape Town, and played in various groups with Herman, including Oswietie, with which they toured South Africa and Angola. After joining Sipho Gumede in the funk-jazz group Spirits Rejoice he traveled along Africa’s west coast as far as Gabon, then in 1979 he settled in London. There he worked with Julian Bahula’s Jazz Africa and with Dudu Pukwana, and in 1981 he founded the trio (later, sextet) District Six with Herman and Brian Abrahams, the latter serving as the group’s leader. In 1984 Afrika performed in the USA as a member of Hugh Masekela’s group, and in 1986 he recorded with Pukwana. He led his own quartets and quintets and accompanied the singer Carmel, and during the same period he collaborated with Masekela, Courtney Pine, and the reed player David Jean-Baptiste and performed frequently as an unaccompanied soloist. In ...

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(bIsmâ’ ilîya, Egypt, June 8, 1931). Frenchsinger and pianist. He studied music in Paris and played piano with Don Byas (1955) and Stephane Grappelli (1957). He was a singer with the Blue Stars (1955–6), toured and recorded with the Double Six (1959–65), and took part in a session with Jon Hendricks and others (1965). Aldebert was married to the singer Monique Dozo (b Monaco, 5 May 1931; later known as Monique Aldebert-Guérin), who had sung with Bernard Peiffer (1947) and performed in Paris clubs with Byas, Django Reinhardt, Bobby Jasper, the Double Six (with which she recorded in 1959 and 1964), and Bill Coleman (1966). After moving to the USA (1967) the couple settled first in Las Vegas, where they appeared in revues, and then in Los Angeles (...

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Jacques Aboucaya

(b Oran, Algeria, Oct 25, 1961). French pianist and composer. After taking lessons in classical piano he went to the USA to study at the Berklee College of Music (1981–3) and then at the Manhattan School of Music (MM composition). He appeared in the BMI Jazz Composition Workshop under the direction of Bob Brookmeyer (1984) and wrote for Mel Lewis’s orchestra. Based in New York from 1985, he worked in clubs with such musicians as Joshua Redman, Bobby Watson, Ernie Watts, and Sonny Fortune and toured Brazil with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet. In 1987 he formed a quartet with the saxophonist Tim Ries for a tour of Europe, and then in 1990 recorded his first album as a leader, with Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart as his sidemen. He composed for a Belgian chamber orchestra and for the Orchestre National de Jazz in Paris. Amsallem has continued to play with Ries, and in the course of working in both the USA and Europe he recorded with the saxophonist in a trio with Leon Parker (...

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Charles de Ledesma

(b Johannesburg, March 13, 1938). South African percussionist. He was a popular drummer in Philip Tabane’s band Malombo, one of the foremost groups playing kwela (a style of urban popular music in South Africa). In 1973 he moved to London and formed the group Jabula, which played an amalgam of African music and rock; in 1977 this joined forces with a band led by Dudu Pukwana to form Jabula/Spear, which recorded the album Thunder in our Hearts (1977, Car. 2009). Later Bahula worked to promote African music in London, though he also played occasionally with the group Jazz Afrika and with a new group under the name Jabula. In the late 1980s he worked with Dick Heckstall-Smith in the band Electric Dream.

R. Cotterrell, ed.: Jazz Now: the Jazz Centre Society Guide (London, 1976) C. de Ledesma: “Afro Jazz: Evolution and Revolution,” The Wire, no.12 (1985), 26, esp. 38...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

[Benjamin, Beatrice Bertha; Beatty; Satima]

(b Cape Town, South Africa, Oct 17, 1936). South African singer. The name Sathima, which means “person with a kind heart,” was given to her by Johnny Dyani and was originally spelled Satima. She sang standards and show tunes in local groups as a teenager and was performing professionally by the late 1950s. From 1959 she worked with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand, with whom she moved to Zurich in 1962 to escape the politics of apartheid in South Africa. In Paris in 1963 she made her first recording as a leader, accompanied by a small group under the direction of Duke Ellington that included Svend Asmussen, the double bass player Johnny Gertze, and Makaya Ntshoko, with either Brand, Billy Strayhorn, or Ellington on piano; the results were not issued until 34 years later. In 1965 Benjamin performed with Ellington’s orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, and in the same year she married Brand, after which she often sang in his groups; Brand took the Muslim name Abdullah Ibrahim in ...

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Kevin Whitehead

(b Durban, South Africa, June 29, 1948). South African tenor and alto saxophonist and bandleader. He played guitar from the age of 12, took up clarinet when he was 17, and changed to tenor saxophone a year later. Playing either the tenor or the alto instrument he worked in pop and blues bands in Cape Town and Durban and in jazz groups with the drummer Dick Xhosa and Pat Matshikiza, among others. He left South Africa in 1973 and spent one year in London and another in Ann Arbor, Michigan, working with theater troupes. One such troupe took him in 1975 to Amsterdam, where he settled. In the late 1970s he worked with Theo Loevendie, Burton Greene, Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Reijseger, and Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra. Bergin moved to Tuscany in 1980 and worked for a year with Honsinger, who remains a frequent collaborator in the Netherlands, where the two men perform in various combinations (sometimes including dancers), fluidly mixing verbal and musical improvisation. In the 1980s Bergin also recorded with Harry Miller, the tenor saxophonist J. C. Tans, and Barry Altschul. He has frequently run workshops and jam sessions in Amsterdam, and, along with Miller, he has helped infuse jazz there with a South African strain – tuneful and harmonically straightforward. In ...

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Robert Pernet

[Alfons ]

(b Tongeren, Belgium, July 17, 1908; d Brussels, April 11, 1974). Belgian tenor saxophonist and violinist. He began his career in the mid-1920s playing in an orchestra led by his brother Jeff Candrix in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Morocco, and Italy. While working in Belgian nightclubs he met Gus Deloof and the trombonist Jules Testaert. In 1929 he formed the Carolina Stomp Chasers, which performed in Paris and Italy, and in 1931 he played and recorded in Germany with Bernard Etté and worked in France with Robert De Kers, in Spain, and in Belgium with Jean Omer and the Hot Melodians, led by Chas Remue. He then resumed his association with Deloof, and the two men composed jazz numbers together. In the mid-1930s Candrix played all over Belgium and formed an orchestra which became the basis of his big band (1937). He recorded prolifically as a leader from ...

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André Clergeat

(b Philippeville, Algeria, Jan 6, 1951). French double bass player and leader. His parents were of Italian origin. He took up violin at around the age of six, before the family moved to Strasbourg, and he studied violin and double bass until 1973 at the conservatories in Strasbourg and Paris. Having played in the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, directed by Pierre Boulez (1973–7), he turned to jazz, joining Jacques Thollot’s quintet and beginning what became a longstanding collaboration with the pianist François Couturier – first in a duo and later in a quintet. He also played with Michel Portal, Daniel Humair, Aldo Romano, and Jean-Louis Chautemps and was a member of John McLaughlin’s quintet (1981–2), the Vienna Art Orchestra (1982–3), and François Jeanneau’s Pandemonium. In 1990 he formed, with Couturier, the group Passagio. After having taught double bass at the conservatory in Lyon, he became, in ...

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(b Cluj-Napoca, Romania, June 26, 1940). Romanian pianist . He studied piano at the National Conservatory in Bucharest. At the age of 18 he formed a quintet, with which he toured Austria and Switzerland, and in 1969 he traveled to South Africa as the leader of a trio with Charly Antolini and J.A. Rettenbacher. In the 1970s he worked as a studio musician for radio stations in Germany and toured successfully in Japan. Cicero’s recordings as an unaccompanied soloist and a leader include rather innocuous albums of his improvisations on themes by classical composers (1965–7, 1970, 1983, 1986–7); examples of these and of his own jazz compositions may be heard on My Lyrics: Eugen Cicero in Tokyo (1977, Denon YX7510ND). He also recorded in more conventional jazz styles as a sideman with Leo Wright (1972), as the leader with Toots Thielemans of a quintet (...

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(b Cape Town, Feb 2, 1944; d Cape Town, March 11, 1998). South African tenor saxophonist. Self-taught, he played penny whistle as a child and changed to alto saxophone at the age of 18. He first performed with the trio of Abdullah Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand) at a variety concert in 1959, and during the 1970s he made several recordings with the pianist, including the popular Mannenburg (which is his nickname) and Blues for a Hip King. In the 1980s he played at several benefit concerts for the emerging mass democratic movement and collaborated with the electric bass guitarist Paul Abrahams and Robbie Jansen to form Sabenza. This group issued its first album in 1987 and toured Europe the following year. In the 1990s Coetzee performed throughout South Africa with Sabenza and made two further recordings with Ibrahim.

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Robert Pernet

(b Liège, Belgium, Feb 7, 1907; d Wavre, Belgium, Feb 10, 1987). Belgian pianist . After working in cinemas and music halls he performed in Switzerland (1928) and France (1929). In 1930 he toured Algeria and worked in Paris, and from 1931 to 1934 he was pianist, organist, and arranger at a nightclub in Liège. Colignon then played with Fud Candrix’s orchestra, often as a principal soloist (1935–40), and led his own group in Brussels. After World War II he was in Antwerp, and later he held residencies in Brussels (1947–53) and Charleroi. Thereafter he worked in Germany, mainly as an organist. He made recordings as an unaccompanied soloist (1937–8), as a leader (1939, 1941–2), and as a sideman with Candrix (1937–40), Kutte Widmann and the clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Jack Lowens (both 1942), and René Compère (...

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Val Wilmer

Family of musicians. Three brothers, all guitarists, were born in Cardiff to an African father from the Cape Verde Islands and a Welsh mother of English and African-American origin.

(b Cardiff, July 31, 1912; d Stanstead Abbots, Herts, July 17, 2005). British guitarist and leader. He started on violin before changing to banjo and then to guitar when the instrument became popular. He spent ten years as a seamen and then, after working locally with his wife, the pianist Clare Deniz, and his younger brother (2) Joe Deniz in the Blue Hawaiians, in 1935 he moved with them to London, where he was active as a freelance and worked with the double bass player Jack Davies. In 1937 he joined Joe for a season as second guitarist in Ken “Snakehips” Johnson’s band, then worked at Adelaide Hall’s nightclub with the Nigerian pianist and organist Fela Sowande. A leading participant in wartime jam sessions until he was drafted into the navy, he also worked with the bandleaders Harry Roy, Phil Green, Louis Levy, Al Jennings, and Edmundo Ros. He became noted for his driving rhythm-section work, and by ...

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Val Wilmer and Gary W. Kennedy

(b Cape Town, May 10, 1958). South African trumpeter and leader. His grandfather led a brass band and choir, and his father was a trombonist. In the mid-1970s Deppa moved with his family to England, where he was taught and inspired by Harry Beckett, Kathy Stobart, and others. He joined the Grand Union Orchestra (early 1980s) and the Jazz Warriors (mid-1980s) and worked in Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, with which he recorded in 1988; that year he performed with the last two groups at the International New Jazz Festival Moers. From around the same time he was a regular member of Louis Moholo’s group Viva la Black, with which in 1993 he toured the recently liberated South Africa, where the group performed and gave workshops. Around 1989 he formed a lasting association with Andy Sheppard, intially as a member of the saxophonist’s big band Soft on the Inside, with which he recorded, toured, and appeared in the video of the same name; later he worked in Sheppard’s fusion quintet In Co-Motion and his big band Big Co-Motion, which toured Nigeria from November to ...

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Charles de Ledesma and Barry Kernfeld

(Mbizo )

(b East London, South Africa, Nov 30, 1945; d Berlin, Oct 24, 1986). South African double bass player and singer. He grew up in a musical family and studied piano and sang before taking up double bass, which he first played with Mongezi Feza and the percussionist Dick Nkosa. After working with the pianist Tete Mbambisa he joined Chris McGregor’s group the Blue Notes, with which he performed in France at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes--Juan-les-Pins (1964), worked at clubs in Zurich and Geneva (1964–5), and traveled to London (1965). In 1966 he performed and recorded with Steve Lacy in a quartet with Enrico Rava and Louis Moholo in Britain, Italy, and South America, where they were stranded. Over the next few years he played in Britain with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Musicians Co-op, and McGregor’s newly formed Brotherhood of Breath. Dyani then settled in Copenhagen (...

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Lara Pellegrinelli

(b Omaha, NE, Sept 1, 1956). Bass player of Nigerian descent. He learned classical violin for two years and began playing double bass and electric bass guitar while at high school in Portland, Oregon; he continued his education at Mount Hood Community College, where he studied privately with faculty members. After graduation he performed in Portland for three years and spent a brief period in Los Angeles. Essiet then moved to Europe and toured there with Don Moye’s quartet in 1982. The following year he settled in New York, where he worked with Abdullah Ibrahim to 1988 and in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1988 until the leader’s death in 1990; he also toured with Mary Cook (autumn 1986) and recorded in the trio Triangular under Ralph Peterson, Jr. (1988). In the 1990s he toured and recorded as a member of Bobby Watson’s group Horizon (...