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Bruce Johnson

(Emerson )

(b Melbourne, Australia, Jan 4, 1919; d Melbourne, Australia, June 17, 2008). Australian trumpeter, washboard player, composer, singer, and bandleader, brother of Graeme Bell. He first worked as a drummer, then in 1938 began to play cornet. Having worked in Melbourne with his brother at Leonard’s Café, he briefly led the band at Heidelberg Town Hall (1943), where he recorded with a visiting Max Kaminsky, before Graeme Bell returned from Queensland to take over the group’s leadership. He remained in Graeme’s dixieland groups during their European tours (1947–8, 1950–52), after which he worked with Max Collie (1953) and in the house band at the Melbourne Jazz Club (from 1958). Bell was active as a freelance musician and led his own band, the Pagan Pipers (a name he had used first in 1949), which with various personnel (notably Len Barnard and Ade Monsbourgh) performed and recorded for many years; among its recordings were a number of Bell’s own compositions. His playing may be heard to advantage on ...

Article

Howard Rye

[Chabania, Jacinto ]

(b Gary, IN, Jan 23, 1908; dc 1961). American saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, and singer. He studied violin, then alto saxophone and clarinet. After playing briefly with Charlie Turner’s Arcadians he took ship for Europe with Sam Wooding (1928), with whom he recorded in Barcelona and Paris (1929). He then moved to New York, played with Chick Webb, toured with Zack Whyte’s Chocolate Beau Brummels, performed and recorded with Don Redman (late 1933 – late spring 1934) and Willie Lewis (in Europe, to c spring 1935), and worked with Claude Hopkins, both in New York and on tour (mid-1936). In October 1936 he joined Fletcher Henderson’s group, with which he made several recordings in 1937, but around February 1938 he left the group to become Cab Calloway’s music director. In April 1942 he recorded with Count Basie, and later that year, having left Calloway’s employ, he played briefly with Basie (June) and with Earl Hines (September) before rejoining Henderson (October–November). In ...

Article

Mark Gilbert

[John Symon Asher ]

(b Bishopbriggs, Scotland, May 14, 1943; d Suffolk, October 25, 2014). Scottish bass player, singer, and composer. Having studied for three months at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow he moved to London, where he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated (late 1962 – early 1963) and then formed a group with Graham Bond, John McLaughlin, and the drummer Ginger Baker; this became known as the Graham Bond Organisation after McLaughlin left and Dick Heckstall-Smith joined. Bruce arrived in London as a jazz purist and had at first played double bass, but after using an electric bass guitar for a recording session with Ernest Ranglin in 1964 he transferred to that instrument and studied the mobile, melodic style of the Motown house bass player James Jamerson. The following year Bruce left Bond’s band because Baker felt that his bass playing was too busy and joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. He is best known as the bass guitarist, singer, and principal composer with the highly successful blues and rock group Cream (...

Article

Johnny Simmen

revised by Howard Rye

(b Zanesville, OH, Dec 26, 1915; d New York, Nov 7, 1956). American pianist, singer, and composer. Her place of birth is usually recorded as Xenia, Ohio, but her passport file gives Zanesville. She was heard by Fats Waller while she was working as a radio musician in Cincinnati in 1932, and went on to work with him; in 1939 she sang on his recording I can’t give you anything but love (Bb 10573). She also gave solo performances. In May 1936 she went to Britain with Blackbirds of 1936, but soon left the cast. From November 1936 she worked and recorded in Europe, principally in London and Paris, where she was resident at Le Boeuf sur le Toit from July to December 1937. In February and March 1938 she was resident in London at the Havana Club and then into April at the Shim Sham. She was at the Scala in Berlin when war was declared. After her return to the USA Carlisle worked in New York nightclubs and recorded ...

Article

Digby Fairweather

revised by Simon Adams

(Bernard )

(b London, Nov 25, 1934). English arranger, composer, and soprano and tenor saxophonist . He studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London (1953–6), and first appeared with his own band at Ronnie Scott’s in 1967. From the late 1960s he wrote compositions and arrangements for many musicians and groups, among them Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, Bing Crosby, and the orchestras of radio stations in Germany, Denmark (the Radioens Big Band), and England. In 1971 he formed a big band to play the music of Duke Ellington; its most celebrated reconstruction was recorded on the album Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige (1972, Argo 159). The band broke up in 1973, and from 1978 into the mid-1980s Cohen and Keith Nichols led the Midnite Follies Orchestra, which toured, broadcast, and made recordings (including Hotter than Hades, 1978, EMI 1001). In 1985 Cohen wrote arrangements for the 31-piece band led by the drummer Charlie Watts, and the following year he formed his own quintet, in which he plays soprano saxophone. He wrote arrangements for a big band which accompanied Cab Calloway on BBC television in ...

Article

Bruce Johnson

[Francis James ]

(b Emmaville, Australia, Sept 10, 1904; d Sydney, 6 or April 7, 1979). Australian bandleader, trombonist, trumpeter, arranger, and singer. From 1922 he worked in Sydney and Melbourne in the bands, among others, of Bill James (1923), Frank Ellis (1924), Walter Beban (1925), Carol Laughner (1926–7), and Linn Smith (1927–8). In England he worked with Jack Hylton, Fred Elizalde, Al Collins, and Al Starita (all 1928–9). Following his return to Australia he played as a sideman and as a leader in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, and during a residency at the Sydney Trocadero (1936–9) he established a reputation as a pre-eminent swing bandleader. He led an army band (1943–5), then played again at the Sydney Trocadero (1946–51, 1954–70), after which he gradually withdrew from musical activities. The finest dance-band and swing musicians in Australia passed through the ranks of Coughlan’s band....

Article

Val Wilmer

[Laka D; Koc, Dorota Mary]

(b Oxford, England, Jan 8, 1953). English singer, pianist, composer, and music director. From a background in rock and soul bands, notably Soulyard, from 1982 to 1988 she was a member of the Guest Stars, in which she played piano and sang; she also wrote much of the group’s material. In 1982 she co-founded the Lydia D’Ustebyn Swing Orchestra, was an organizer of Early Evening Jazz, the first women’s jazz festival held in London (at the Drill Hall), and sang in the a cappella group the Hipscats (comprising five singers, including Jan Ponsford, Jim Dvorak, and Ruthie Smith, and later the pianist Alastair Gavin). An intermittent affiliation with Carol Grimes involved work in her band and in a duo. She sang and played piano with Annie Whitehead, with whom she recorded the album Mix Up (1985, Paladin 6), then led her own band, which included Claude Deppa. In the 1990s she played with Mervyn Afrika, Kate Westbrook, the percussionist Josefina Cupido, and the saxophonists Louise Elliot and Diane McLaughlin, composed and directed music for stage shows, and taught. Laka Daisical is a propulsive pianist and exciting performer heavily influenced by African-American gospel music, as exemplified by ...

Article

Stefano Zenni

(b Naples, Aug 17, 1960). Italian singer and composer. She studied lyrical and contemporary singing and in 1976 began her career in groups performing ethnic music. From 1980 she worked in jazz; later she sang with Kenny Wheeler (1990–95), Eliot Zigmund (1991–3), Rita Marcotulli (from 1994), John Taylor (from 1996), and Ralph Towner (from 1997). From 1994 to 1997 De Vito led the Nauplìa projects, mixing Neapolitan and Mediterranean music with jazz, and in 1996 she began working with the British composer Colin Towns. In 1998 she formed Phoné, a group with Gianluigi Trovesi and Taylor, and another trio with Taylor and Towner; she also played in Triboh with Marcotulli and Arto Tuncboyaçiyan and collaborated with the video-maker and sculptress Marisa Albanese.

De Vito’s roots are in Neapolitan melodies and Mediterranean singing (from Macedonia to North Africa and Sicily). She searches for a fusion between these elements and jazz and, with her evocative and powerful voice, mixes the music from different cultural areas in a kind of moving world music....

Article

David Flanagan

(b Seattle, Feb 11, 1914; d Riverside, CA, June 21, 2002). American songwriter, arranger, pianist, and singer. His parents were vaudeville artists, and he learned piano from an early age. He played piano in Horace Heidt’s dance band in 1933, but for much of the 1930s worked in Hollywood as a nightclub singer and pianist and as a vocal coach for band singers. In the early 1940s he was composer and arranger for Tommy Dorsey and wrote a number of hit songs for the band which were performed by Frank Sinatra. During World War II he played briefly in Glenn Miller’s orchestra. Thereafter he worked principally as a nightclub entertainer, and issued some recordings under his own name, including Matt Dennis Plays and Sings (c1957, Kapp 1024). Dennis also arranged music for radio programs (1946–8), appeared in films and on television, and composed the song ...

Article

Frank Driggs

[William ]

(b New Haven, CT, Aug 12, 1912; d Springfield, MA, April 14, 1978). American trumpeter, singer, and arranger. He played in the big bands of Earle Howard (1932–3) and Percy Nelson (1933–4), then worked with Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton (mid-1930s), and the pianist Jimmie Gunn (1935). From 1935 to 1937 he was a soloist with Don Albert’s band, and in 1936 recorded eight titles with the group, including his own arrangements of True Blue Lou (Voc. 3401), On the Sunny Side of the Street (Voc. 3423), and Liza (Voc. 3491). During the late 1930s and the 1940s Douglas played as a freelance in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, then from 1944 to 1945 worked with Earl Hines, recording again as a soloist on Scoops Carry’s Merry (1945), first issued on The Father Jumps (1939–45, Bb AXM2-5508). His career was brought to an end by his dependence on alcohol. Douglas patterned his style after that of Henry “Red” Allen and, although his playing was less angular than Allen’s, it had the same fire and expressiveness. (...

Article

André Clergeat

[Robert ]

(b Cleveland, Oct 21, 1935). American pianist, composer, and singer. He grew up in a family of musicians and learned piano and organ from a young age; later he studied harmony and composition at the Cleveland Institute and took up vibraphone. Having begun his career in dance bands, he appeared in Dick Shelton’s quintet (1954) and then formed his own group, the Metronomes, with his cousin Bob Cunningham. Around 1967 a friend from Cleveland, Albert Ayler, persuaded him to move to New York, where he formed a short-lived trio with Wilbur Ware and Leroy Williams. In 1968 he became piano accompanist and music director for the singer Brook Benton, recorded with Booker Ervin, and joined a free-jazz workshop run by Bill Dixon. He recorded with Ayler in August 1969, during the saxophonist’s rhythm-and-blues period; he also played with Frank Foster and Roland Kirk before emigrating in autumn ...

Article

Val Wilmer

(Ann )

(b London, April 7, 1944). English singer, composer, and percussionist. She started singing on the streets of London in the 1960s, then formed the Race, singing blues with English, Jamaican, and Nigerian musicians. She performed with Lol Coxhill, Roy Babbington, and others in the group Delivery, led by the pianist Steve Miller (1970–72), then went to the USA (1974), where she recorded albums in Nashville and Memphis with leading soul session musicians. After returning to England she continued to sing blues, soul, and jazz with her own bands. She became associated with free improvisers in groups such as Maggie Nicols’s Contradictions and worked in the 1970s with a new wave of women jazz players, including Laka Daisical, the Guest Stars, and Annie Whitehead. While leading the ensembles Carol and the Crocodiles and Eyes Wide Open, she worked with the saxophonist Angèle Veltmeijer, Steve Lodder, the guitarist Maciek Hrybowicz, the double bass player Mario Castronari, and others, and wrote jazz-oriented material. Grimes formed musical partnerships with the singer Ian Shaw and the pianist Janette Mason, worked with Alan Barnes and the guitarist Tony Rémy, and collaborated with Indian singers and the Sudanese electric bass guitarist Sami El Salahi. For theater she wrote and produced the autobiographical ...

Article

James M. Doran

(b North Little Rock, AR, April 19, 1906; d North Little Rock, Feb 1, 1937). Arranger, pianist, and singer. He studied piano with his mother. After working with Alphonso Trent he organized his own group (1924) and played in studios in Hollywood while working in local bands, among them Mutt Carey’s Jeffersonians. In Chicago he arranged Beau Koo Jack for Louis Armstrong’s recording with his Savoy Ballroom Five (1928); he also performed with and wrote arrangements for Jimmy Wade (1928), played with Jimmie Noone (1928–9), and worked as an arranger for Earl Hines and Paul Howard (both 1929). He then joined the bandleader Sammy Stewart (1929), with whom he traveled to New York (1930). In the early 1930s Hill became known as one of the best arrangers in Harlem, and he worked with Benny Carter, Claude Hopkins, and Andy Kirk (all ...

Article

Géza Gábor Simon

(b Budapest, 1967). Hungarian pianist, violinist, singer, arranger, and composer. He began to learn violin when he was six and took piano lessons from the age of eight; following his graduation as a violinist from the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest he taught classical violin in the Kodály Musical High School in Kecskemét. A ragtime and traditional jazz player, Ittzés has arranged and recorded rags and early jazz tunes which were popular in Hungary in the first three decades of the 20th century. He has regularly toured Europe and the USA as the leader of the Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band (which he founded in 1985) and as an unaccompanied ragtime soloist. He is chairman of the Kecskemét Jazz Foundation (founded in 1991), and from 1992 he has directed Eastern Europe’s biggest traditional-jazz event, the annual International “Bohém” Ragtime and Jazz Festival. He published Four Rags (Kecskemét, ...

Article

(b Montgomery, AL, Feb 3, 1895). Singer and composer. He gained his nickname on account of his short stature. He grew up in Kansas City, where at the age of 15 he began singing in local clubs and cinemas. After touring from 1912 to 1914 he worked at the Paradise Cafe in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and at the Sunset Cafe in Chicago, alternating between the two venues until 1926. He was based in Chicago from 1927 to 1941 and, though he occasionally made tours and performed elsewhere – notably in 1930 with Bennie Moten in Kansas City – he worked mostly with his own group. Jaxon made a number of recordings during this period, including You got to wet it (1929, Voc. 1472); among the musicians who accompanied him were Bob Shoffner and George Mitchell (1933), the Harlem Hamfats (1937–8), Barney Bigard (1939...

Article

Reg Cooper and Barry Kernfeld

(Joseph )

(b Chicago, Oct 10, 1921; d Montclair, NJ, August 2, 2002). American singer, pianist, and arranger, brother of Irene Kral. While working with a quartet in Chicago he met the singer Jackie (Jacqueline Ruth) Cain (b Milwaukee, 22 May 1928; d Montclair, N.J., 15 September 2014), with whom he formed a duo, Jackie and Roy. They joined Charlie Ventura in 1948; Kral, who was also Ventura’s pianist, contributed many excellent arrangements to the band, including Flamingo and Pennies from Heaven. After leaving Ventura the couple married in June 1949, formed a bop sextet, then in 1950 moved to Chicago, where they appeared in their own television show. Their musical collaboration was interrupted by the birth of two daughters (Anita O’Day temporarily took Cain’s place in the first instance) during the 1950s, but nonetheless they returned to Ventura for eight months in 1953 and worked as a duo in New York, Las Vegas (...

Article

Philip Greene and Barry Kernfeld

[David Alden ]

(b Boston, June 19, 1917; d Westport, CT, Oct 3, 1966). American singer and arranger. He learned drums for a year at the age of ten, and later, in the late 1930s, spent three summers as the drummer in a trio. As a member of Gene Krupa’s band (1944–5) he sang with Buddy Stewart on What’s this?, which included the first recorded example of a bop vocal line. He briefly joined Harry James, recorded as a leader (1946), led a singing group in a Broadway show, Are You with it? (1946–7), and recorded with Stan Kenton (1947). While continuing to lead a small singing group, Lambert made broadcasts with Charlie Parker (1949), and later recorded with him (1953). He worked as a studio contractor and arranger in the 1950s, and collaborated with Jon Hendricks to record ...

Article

Jessica Bissett Perea

(b New York, NY, Jan 29, 1939; d Tijuana, Mexico, Oct 25, 2000). American jazz singer, lyricist, composer–improviser, multidisciplinary artist, and educator. During her 40-year career she performed internationally and recorded more than 40 albums, working with such artists as Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Enrico Rava, Andrew Cyrille, Roland Kirk, Jimmy Lyons, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Cecil Taylor, and Reggie Workman. Her vocal style reflects the influence of early mainstream jazz vocalists, including Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, and the intellectualism of postwar avant-garde jazz and experimental music. Starting in the 1960s Lee forged a new path in multidisciplinary performance that fused the aesthetics of modern dance, vocal improvisation and sound poetry (intonation, non-verbal utterances, and vocalizations), and visual arts (paintings, slide projections, and film). In the 1970s she established Earthforms Rituals, a nonprofit corporation that promoted concerts and educational programs. She also completed an MA in education at New York University in ...

Article

André Clergeat

(b Brussels, March 22, 1965). Belgian singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. His father is a musician who worked as a producer for Belgian radio. From 1972 he studied piano, flute, and various other instruments, including drums (with Kenny Clarke); later he served as an accompanist to many musicians, notably Harry Edison, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, and Horace Parlan, before comitting himself exclusively to singing. Having collaborated with James Baldwin, he set some of Baldwin’s poetry to music and recorded these songs on his album A Lover’s Question (1986–7). In 1988 he went to the USA to participate in a tribute to Baldwin. From 1992 Linx has worked in a duo and as a co-leader with Diederik Wissels, in which settings he has performed his own gentle poetic texts in his lightly veiled and phantom-like voice. A composer and arranger for film, theater, and dance, he also teaches at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles....

Article

Erik Wiedemann

(b Copenhagen, Oct 10, 1906; d Copenhagen, Dec 16, 1969). Danish pianist, singer, band-leader, composer, and arranger. He played in the group We Three with Otto Lington and Anker Skjoldborg (1927–8), toured Germany and Sweden (1928–31), and worked with the dance-band leader Kai Julian (1932) and Erik Tuxen (1932–6). From 1936 to 1951 he was active as a leader (his bands were especially prominent during World War II), and recorded prolifically as a soloist (for example, A Wee Bit of Swing, 1941, Odeon D515), as a singer and as leader of a small group modeled after those of Fats Waller (Take it Easy, 1941, Odeon D504), and with big bands (Jungle Party, 1942, Odeon D792); many of his recordings were of his own compositions. Mathisen worked as a lounge pianist from 1951 to 1953, but then became inactive owing to failing health....