(b Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 1935). American trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and record company executive. He studied trumpet as a child and left college to play in the army for a two-year period. After three years of producing records on his own, he launched A&M Records with Jerry Moss in 1962. A&M’s first issue was also Alpert’s first recording as a trumpeter and bandleader, The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962). The title track included sounds from the bullring in Tijuana, Mexico, so Alpert dubbed his band the Tijuana Brass. His music exploited a distinctive combination of Mexican mariachi-style brass with jazz rhythms, which was dubbed Ameriachi. A string of hits including “Mexican Shuffle” (A&M, 1964) and “Tijuana Taxi” (A&M, 1965) followed. In 1966 Alpert had five recordings simultaneously listed on the Billboard Top 20. His cover of “This guy’s in love with you” reached no.1 in ...
Terence J. O’Grady
revised by Bryan Proksch
[Randal Edward ]
(b Philadelphia, PA, Nov 27, 1945). American trumpeter, flugelhorn player, composer, arranger, and bandleader, brother of Michael Brecker. After graduating from Indiana University in 1966, he moved to New York, where he played with Clark Terry, Duke Pearson, and the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. A versatile musician, he worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears, performing on their debut album, played hard bop and soul jazz with the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and helped form the fusion group Dreams, which included his brother Michael, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie. During the 1970s he worked with Silver, Larry Coryell, Stevie Wonder, the Plastic Ono Super Band, and Cobham. He and Michael also performed and recorded (six albums) as the Brecker Brothers, garnering much critical acclaim. He continued to lead his own group into the 1980s and also recorded and toured with virtuoso performers Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke. A reunion of the Brecker Brothers in ...
Mark E. Perry
(b San Juan, PR, March 26, 1854; d San Juan, PR, April 4, 1934). Puerto Rican composer, flutist, scholar, and conductor. His earliest achievements came as a flutist; he studied flute with Italian-born Rosario Aruti. Chiefly self-taught as a composer, he was influenced musically by his father, a cellist and double bass player, and Felipe Gutiérrez Espinosa, an established Puerto Rican composer of sacred music. In 1877 Dueño Colón received the gold medal from the Ateneo Puertorriqueño for the symphonic work La amistad (1877). In 1880 he formed a municipal band in Bayamón and shortly afterwards served as the flutist for the chapel of San Juan Cathedral. Awards for his compositions continued, including a silver medal at the Pan American Exposition, held in Buffalo in 1901, for Canciones escolares, a collection of original songs as well as arrangements for Puerto Rican school children. In addition to showing substantial interest in European masterworks, he embarked on the scholarly study of the Puerto Rican ...
Eldonna L. May
(b New York, NY, Jan 5, 1956). American conductor, composer, and clarinetist. After growing up in Harlem and the South Bronx, he attended the Eastman School (BA 1978), Queens College (MA 1979), and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (PhD 1982). He served as assistant professor of music at Carleton College (1982–6), then became the principal guest conductor at the Dance Theatre of Harlem (1986–99) and the resident conductor at the Detroit SO (1987–99). From 1994 to 2001 he worked as assistant to veteran conductor Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic. He served as music director of the Detroit SO and the Dearborn SO (1987–94), Symphony Nova Scotia (1996–9), and the Annapolis SO (1998–2003). He was principal conductor of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago (2003–9), and in 2009 he became the principal conductor of the Louisville Ballet. He has conducted the major American orchestras and has been a prominent international guest conductor, leading ensembles such as the Royal Ballet of London, the Madrid SO, and the Warsaw Sinfonia. He has been a regular visitor to South Africa, where he has performed with that country’s major orchestras, including the KwaZulu-Natal PO. Dunner was the first American winner of the Arturo Toscanini International Conducting Competition in ...
revised by Kelly Hiser
(b Kankakee, IL, March 22, 1942; d San Rafael, CA, Sept 25, 1996). American composer, trombonist, conductor, and double bassist. He attended the University of Illinois, where he studied trombone with Robert Gray and composition with Kenneth Gaburo, herbert Brün , and salvatore Martirano (BM in performance 1965). He studied jazz improvisation with lee Konitz and electronic music with richard b. Hervig at the University of Iowa (1970–71). He was a member of the Harry Partch Ensemble (1961–2) and the Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players (1963–6) and was an associate artist at the University of Iowa Center for New Music and New Performing Arts (1969–74). From 1974 to 1984 English lived in Europe, where he performed widely as a soloist and with jazz and new music ensembles, at festivals, and on radio. He collaborated with his wife Candace Natvig, a singer and violinist; in ...
(b Los Angeles, CA, June 3, 1946). American composer, conductor, flutist, and lecturer. Kessner studied composition with henri Lazarof at UCLA where he earned a PhD with Distinction in 1971. He taught music composition and theory at California State University, Northridge, from 1970 to 2006. Kessner has composed more than 100 works: orchestral (14), choir and stage (9), symphonic band (8), and various chamber music settings (80). His music is performed worldwide and has been recorded commercially. His compositional style evolved into centric harmony with explorations in microtonality and free rhythmic associations. While at California State University, he founded and directed The Discovery Players, a contemporary music performance group. He has served as guest conductor for several regional orchestras in the United States and for the Black Sea Philharmonic of Constanta, Romania. With his wife and pianist Dolly Eugenio Kessner, he created the Duo Kessner, which primarily performs contemporary flute literature. Since ...
[Kuczynski, Julius Frank Anthony ]
(b Milwaukee, WI, Feb 18, 1914; d Louisville, KY, March 7, 2000). American country music accordionist, bandleader, songwriter, and vocalist. His musical career was inspired by his father, John, a Polish American who led a local polka band. At 15, he began learning accordion and, in 1930, met popular bandleader Wayne King who suggested the youth take the surname “King” in the interest of simplicity. His first band, the King’s Jesters, played both country music and polkas. In 1934, the group filled in for Gene Autry’s band when Autry, then a star of WLS’s National Barn Dance, toured Wisconsin. King joined Autry (who dubbed him “Pee Wee”) in Louisville until the singer left to launch his Hollywood film career. He briefly led a Louisville band known as the Log Cabin Boys, then in 1937 organized the Golden West Cowboys, who joined the Grand Ole Opry with a distinctive, progressive repertoire blending country, pop, polkas, waltzes, and western swing. From ...
Jeffery S. McMillan
(b Philadelphia, PA, July 10, 1938; d New York, NY, Feb 19, 1972). American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. One of the charismatic individualists to emerge in the late 1950s, he began playing vibraphone at 12, but soon thereafter turned to trumpet. He studied music at Jules E Mastbaum Vocational Technical High School and privately with the trumpeter Tony Marchione, but learned jazz by playing in Philadelphia rehearsal bands, sitting in with visiting professionals, and leading his own combo from age 15. After graduation in 1956, Morgan played a week with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, and made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note. He was a featured soloist on “A Night in Tunisia” with Gillespie until the band dissolved in January 1958. After a short period of freelancing, he joined a revamped edition of the Jazz Messengers and stayed until ...
(b Oakland, CA, Feb 19, 1955). American jazz saxophonist, bass clarinetist, composer, and leader. He grew up in Berkeley, where he received his first musical training, in stride and ragtime piano. At the age of nine he began playing alto saxophone and at the age of 11 tenor saxophone. From the age of 12 through his later teens he led several R&B bands. He continued his formal training at Pomona College in Los Angeles, where stanley Crouch and Margaret Kohn were among his teachers. After his graduation in 1975 Murray moved to New York where he began playing the loft circuit with such experimental musicians as Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, and Julius Hemphill. His first steady engagement came with the Ted Daniels’ Energy Band; its members were Hamiett Bluiett, Lester Bowie, and Frank Lowe. After his first European tour in 1976, Murray established the renowned World saxophone quartet ...
[Melvin James ]
(b Battle Creek, MI, Dec 17, 1910; d New York, NY, May 28, 1988). American arranger, composer, producer, bandleader, trumpeter, and singer. Growing up as an African American musician in Zanesville, Ohio, Oliver was self taught as a trumpeter and arranger. After playing in territory bands in and around Zanesville and Columbus, he became a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra in 1933. His charts for the Lunceford band were distinguished by contrasts, crescendos, and unexpected melodic variations, thereby setting new standards in big band swing and close-harmony singing. His use of two-beat rhythms also set his arrangements apart.
In 1939 Oliver was hired by the trombonist Tommy Dorsey and turned his band into one of the hardest swinging and most sophisticated ensembles of the early 1940s. In 1946 he started his own big band. During the late 1940s and 1950s he mainly did studio work, as a music director for the labels Decca, Bethlehem, and Jubilee. He continued to lead big bands and smaller ensembles, recycling his old Lunceford and Dorsey successes and performing new arrangements. Along with Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, Oliver must be rated one of the top arrangers of the swing era and infused almost every chart with vigor and surprise....
Edgardo Diaz Diaz
(b Humacao, PR, July 17, 1921; d San Juan, PR, June 18, 2002). American saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. A member of one of Puerto Rico’s most respected musical families, he was trained in the practices of old Spanish military-band traditions by his father, Juan Peña Reyes (1879–1948). After playing in a band led by his cousin Rafael González Peña and another by Armando Castro, he was hired in 1947 as saxophone soloist for the César Concepción Orchestra. Divisions within this orchestra in 1954 led him and fellow members to create the 15-piece Orquesta Panamericana, which performed various Latin American genres. The ensemble also offered an early showcase for Ismael Rivera, who was later known as el Sonero Mayor. Popularly known as La Panamericana, the group conspicuously presented fresh Afro-Puerto Rican sounds on radio and television, helping bomba and plena—genres associated with marginal barrios—to become the most visible musical products of Puerto Rico. Peña’s training in music theory with Amaury Veray and Julián Bautista led to a strong catalog of nationalist compositions, including his ...
[James Gilbert ]
(b Salem, OR, June 18, 1941; d Portland, OR, Feb 10, 1992). American tenor and soprano saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and composer. Of Native American (Creek and Kaw) heritage, he was raised in Oregon and Oklahoma. Early musical influences included tap dance, big band jazz, Southern Plains powwow music and dance, and peyote music. Pepper moved to New York in 1964 and joined the Free Spirits (1966), an early fusion jazz ensemble featuring Larry Coryell and Bob Moses. After forming the group Everything is Everything (1967) with former members of Free Spirits Chris Hills and Columbus Baker, Pepper recorded “Witchi Tai To,” a composition fusing a peyote song with jazz, rock, and country influences. Released on Everything is Everything featuring Chris Hills (Vanguard Apostolic, 1969), “Witchi Tai To” peaked at number 69 on the Billboard pop charts. By 2011 it had been covered by at least 90 artists ranging from Brewer & Shipley, Jan Garbarek, and Oregon to the Paul Winter Consort and Joy Harjo. Pepper released four albums as a leader: ...
(b Brunswick, MO, Feb 7, 1882; d New York, NY, March 9, 1961). American clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher. His first professional engagement (c1897–8) was with a “pickaninny” band led by Nathaniel Clark Smith. In 1902 he was assistant leader of P.G. Lowery’s band with Forepaugh and Sells Circus and later that year joined Mahara’s Minstrels band under the leadership of W.C. Handy. In 1903 he formed his own band in Minneapolis, where he made the first recordings by an African American band. Sweatman moved to Chicago in 1908, where he led trios at the Grand and Monogram theaters. In 1911 he made his first vaudeville appearance, and in late 1916 made the first records recognizable as jazz performances. In 1918 Sweatman’s band was signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia, their records rivalling those by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He continued to work through the 1920s and early 1930s in vaudeville, and in ...