(b Philadelphia, PA, June 8, 1956). American classical and jazz pianist and composer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Caine began playing piano at the age of seven. At age 12 he commenced studies with French jazz pianist Bernard Peiffer. He later studied composition with ...
revised by Brad Linde
[Jones, Frederick Russell ]
(b Pittsburgh, PA, July 2, 1930). American jazz pianist and composer. He studied with the singer mary cardwell Dawson and the pianist james Miller in Pittsburgh where he began playing professionally at the age of 11. After attending Westinghouse High School, he left in the late 1940s to join the George Hudson Orchestra. In 1951 he formed his first trio, the Three Strings, and after an extended engagement at the Blue Note club in Chicago, he appeared at the Embers in New York, where he attracted the critical support of John Hammond. He changed his name on his conversion to Islam in the early 1950s. In 1958, with the bass player Israel Crosby and the drummer Vernel Fournier, Jamal recorded his most popular and influential album, Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing, which included influential versions of “But not for me” and “Poinciana.” Miles Davis admired the album’s lean style, use of space, and simple embellishments, all of which characterized Davis’s own bands and recordings in the 1950s. Jamal’s trio disbanded in ...
[Stephen Lewis ]
(b New York, NY, March 24, 1938). American jazz pianist and composer. A pianist with a distinctive voice, he started classical piano lessons at five and at 17 began studies with Madame Chaloff in Boston, where he led a trio and accompanied such visiting greats as Coleman Hawkins, Chet Baker, and Vic Dickenson. After graduating from Harvard University in 1959, he returned to New York where he worked with Kenny Dorham, John Coltrane (in the saxophonist’s first quartet), Stan Getz (alongside the bass player Scott LaFaro, who influenced his playing significantly), and Charles Lloyd. He then worked in Art Farmer’s quartet with Steve Swallow and Pete La Roca, appearing on the trumpeter’s album Sing Me Softly of the Blues (1965, Atlantic). The rhythm section also recorded together on La Roca’s album Basra (1965, BN, with the saxophonist Joe Henderson) and on Kuhn’s first trio date as a leader, ...
W. Anthony Sheppard
(b Ft. Scott, KS, Nov 13, 1890; d Hollywood, CA, May 10, 1957). American composer, songwriter, jazz arranger, and pianist. Lapham attended Washington University and Juilliard. Initially, he was active as a silent film organist and conductor, a musical director for Broadway revues, and an arranger for such figures as Irving Berlin and Paul Whiteman. He also served as an arranger for several Hollywood studios and published a book on scoring for dance orchestras. He appears to have been the first pianist to perform George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the radio.
Lapham’s career trajectory changed dramatically in 1933 when he was commissioned by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California to compose the opera Sakura, a work that was produced at the Hollywood Bowl. Lapham called for traditional Japanese instruments in the score and incorporated Japanese folk songs. He then traveled to China and on to Japan where he was hired to record jazz albums for the Columbia Record Company. During his years in Japan, Lapham composed numerous works influenced by Japanese traditional music, including the ...
(b Plovdiv, 19 Dec 1937). Bulgarian composer, pianist, conductor, arranger, and bandleader. He was internationally acknowledged for his innovative ideas, cross-cultural experiments, and contribution to the concept of fusion and free improvisation. Classically trained at the Bulgarian State Conservatory (1955–60) under Pancho Vladigerov (composition) and Andrey Stoyanov (piano), he is the author of numerous compositions in styles and genres including jazz, pop, symphony, chamber, film, and theatrical music. He conducted the Radio and Television Big Band in Sofia (1962–6) and led his own avant-garde quartet, Jazz Focus’65 (1965–8), which won the Critic’s Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967. In 1970 he left Bulgaria for political reasons and moved to the USA where he joined the Don Ellis Orchestra (1971–8), and later collaborated with the classical/jazz quartet Free Flight. He also played with outstanding jazz musicians including Art Pepper, Billy Cobham, and Dave Holland, among many others....
(b Chicago, IL, May 27, 1935). American pianist and composer. His earliest exposure to jazz was as a child listening with his father to recordings of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and Meade “Lux” Lewis. At 15 he joined a jazz band that included fellow church musicians, the bass player Eldee Young and the drummer Redd Holt. He went on to study music at Chicago Musical College and De Paul University. In 1956 he reunited with Young and Redd to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio; their first album was entitled Ramsey Lewis and the Gentleman of Swing. The band reached its apex with The In Crowd (1965, Argo), an album which sold a million copies and earned the trio a Grammy Award for best jazz recording by a small group in 1965; Lewis has since been awarded two other Grammy Awards. Throughout his career, his work has showcased an eclectic fusion of gospel, jazz and Western European elements. He later began composing large-scale works, including the music for the ballet ...
William Kirk Bares
(b Jacksonville, FL, Aug 23, 1970). American jazz pianist and composer. An avid classical and jazz pianist from an early age, he starred in Hartford’s Hall High School jazz band, won the Berklee College of Music’s Best All-Around Musician award, and studied at the New School in New York and with Kenny Werner, fred Hersch , and jimmy Cobb . He gained widespread attention as a member of the Joshua Redman Quartet before striking out on his own with his debut album, Introducing Brad Mehldau (1995, WB). With the producer Matt Pierson, he began recording the Art of the Trio series in 1996. Comprising five albums (two studio and three live) and spanning nearly a decade, it documented the development of a trio with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy on drums. In 2007 Jeff Ballard replaced Rossy, and the trio has continued to evolve following Mehldau’s move to the Nonesuch label the same year....
(b Chicago, IL, Jan 5, 1957). American jazz pianist and composer. She studied music at the Cornish Institute in Seattle under Art Lande and gary Peacock . She moved to the East Coast in 1982 and eventually setted in New York, where she studied with such luminaries as ran Blake and jaki Byard . She worked with Leroy Jenkins and Butch Morris and developed her own sound influenced by the percussive approach of Don Pullen. She played small clubs at first, frequently with the flute player Marion Brandis, with whom she also recorded. Melford then put together a trio which included Lindsey Horner (bass) and Reggie Nicholson (drums); the group recorded two spirited, sharp-edged, infectious albums, Jump (1990, Enemy) and Now & Now (1991, Enemy). Melford went on to other projects later in the decade, including the band The Same River, Twice. She played in the trio Equal Interest in the late 1990s and continued to play with other ensembles, including Be Bread, into the next century. Although she originally played mostly piano, Melford eventually included harmonium in her performances, reflecting her interest in the music of India. A Fulbright grant in ...
Megan E. Hill
(b Osaka, Japan, 1957). Jazz and blues pianist, singer, and composer of Japanese birth. She took piano lessons briefly as a child and was exposed to the blues while growing up in Osaka in the 1960s and 1970s. As a high school student, she formed the Yoko Blues Band with classmates. The band earned some success, winning first prize and a recording contract in a television-sponsored contest. In 1984 she moved to the United States to pursue a jazz and blues career in Chicago. Initially a singer, she studied piano with boogie, blues, and jazz pianist Erwin Helfer. In the early 1990s Noge established the Jazz Me Blues Band, which has played regularly in Chicago since its formation. In addition to Noge on piano and vocals, the ensemble has included Noge’s husband, Clark Dean, on soprano saxophone, saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, trombonist Bill McFarland, and bassist Tatsu Aoki. In addition to playing more conventional jazz and blues, Noge has made a name for herself through the unique compositions she has written for the group, which meld Japanese folk music styles with Chicago blues. Active in the broader Asian American community, she cofounded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in ...
(b New York, NY, May 29, 1928). American jazz pianist and composer. He began playing piano and composing while in the army in 1946. Largely self-taught, he was inspired by the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and counted Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk as influences. Beginning in 1953 he performed with Cootie Williams, Joe Roland, Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce, and Gene Ammons. In 1956 he traveled to Sweden with Rolf Ericson and then went on a West Coast tour with Charles Mingus. In 1959 Redd composed the score for Jack Gelber’s The Connection, a Living Theatre production about drug addiction. He joined the cast with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and recorded the score for Blue Note, along with two additional albums that featured McLean and tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks (McLean’s understudy).
From the 1960s he lived in various locations including Guadalajara, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles. While in London, he appeared as the organist on singer-songwriter James Taylor’s first album. Redd recorded his last studio album in ...
William Kirk Bares
(b Jacksonville, FL, Aug 7, 1963). American pianist and composer. Blind since age five, Roberts was exposed from an early age to gospel music before taking up jazz in his teens. He studied classical piano at Florida State University and won the Great American Piano Competition in 1983 before earning wider acclaim as the pianist in the Wynton Marsalis Quartet. Nicknamed “J-Master” by the band for his profound swing and philosophical insight, Roberts developed an identity as a soulful jazz accompanist with a drummer’s flair for polyrhythm and a Monk-like knack for thematic improvisation. These assets are on full display on the double album, Wynton Marsalis: Live at Blues Alley (1988, CBS 461109 2). During his period of apprenticeship with Marsalis, Roberts won the first Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition (1987) and signed a record contract with BMG/Novus (1988), which allowed him to pursue a simultaneous career as a repertoire pianist, composer, and trio leader....
(b Oakland, CA, March 19, 1953). American pianist and composer. Before moving to New York in 1978, she studied with Ed Kelly, explored Cuban and Haitian folklore, and performed with Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, and her own ensembles in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received an NEA grant to form New Yor-Uba, a 14-piece big-band ensemble that debuted in late 1983; the group featured the Cuban drummer and vocalist Orlando “Puntilla” Rios and included Bob Stewart, Gary Thomas, David Sanchez, and Steve Berrios among its members. Her music offers a distinctive mix of Afro-Cuban, avant-garde, funk, and fusion elements, which are displayed in her recordings with her group Quintessence. This small ensemble, formed in 1986, has been her main creative vehicle, with which she has received three Chamber Music America grants. Rosewoman has also recorded on dates led by Lake, Greg Osby, Billy Bang, and Ralph Peterson. Her piano style is distinctive, muscular, and pointed and harbors a Monk-like spirit....
Matthew Alan Thomas
(b New Brunswick, NJ). American guitarist and composer. He began his musical career in the 1970s as a copyist for Leroy Jenkins and played in Archie Shepp’s large ensemble. In the 1980s he formed his own trio with the violinist Terry Jenoure and the drummer Kamal Sabir, played with the TenRenRen quartet, and performed as a sideman for many other groups. While working as Cassandra Wilson’s music director (1993–6) he produced arrangements for her first two Blue Note albums. In the 1990s he performed in the quartet Treasured Stranger and in Henry Threadgill’s band Make a Move. Ross then formed a collective trio called Harriet Tubman with the bass player Melvin Gibbs and the drummer J.T. Lewis. The group released a live album titled Ascension (2011, Sunnyside) as a tribute to John Coltrane. Ross also formed a band called Blazing Beauty (2004) to explore acoustic string- and percussion-based folk music. It released two albums: ...
Bruce Boyd Raeburn
(b Careening Cay, nr Bocas del Toro, Gran Colombia [now Panama], Aug 6, 1902; d New York, NY, Dec 11, 1963). American jazz bandleader, arranger, and pianist. His father taught music, and Russell was a teenaged multi-instrumentalist before replacing a theater pianist caused him to concentrate on piano. He learned about jazz by performing for American servicemen in the Panama Canal Zone. After his family won a lottery in 1919, he moved to New Orleans to pursue a career as a jazz musician, establishing himself with Albert Nicholas’s band at Anderson’s Annex in 1922. When King Oliver was organizing his Dixie Syncopators in 1924, he sent for Russell, Nicholas, and Barney Bigard, after which Russell became Oliver’s chief arranger. While in Chicago he also pursued various side projects, including the Chicago Hottentot recordings with Nicholas, Bigard, Johnny St. Cyr, and George Mitchell. After Oliver’s relocation to New York in ...
[Bertholoff, William Henry Joseph Bonaparte ]
(b Goshen, NY, Nov 23, 1893; d New York, NY, April 18, 1973). American jazz pianist and composer. Born Willie Bertholoff, he gained the surname Smith from his stepfather. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where his mother’s keyboard playing in the African American Baptist church sparked his early interest in music. He started playing piano at the age of six. He adopted Judaism in his youth and served as a cantor for a time during the 1940s. After a largely informal music education he began to play professionally while still in his teens, and soon became one of the most illustrious and influential proponents of stride piano. According to one of various stories, he earned his nickname “the Lion” during World War I through his heroism at the front. On his discharge from the army in 1919 he established himself in the forefront of New York’s stride pianists. The friendship and mutual admiration he enjoyed with Duke Ellington during these early years were musically documented in Ellington’s “Portrait of the Lion” (...
Norman P. Gentieu
[O’Sullivan, Joseph Michael ]
(b Chicago, IL, Nov 4, 1906; d San Francisco, CA, Oct 13, 1971). American jazz pianist and composer. He studied classical piano for two years at the Chicago Conservatory, and played for a while on the vaudeville circuit before obtaining regular work in Chicago, where he appeared with many bandleaders and on radio. During the early 1920s he became friends with members of the Austin High School Gang and began working professionally. He made a memorable recording debut in December 1927 with Red McKenzie and Eddie Condon’s Chicagoans, playing a powerful, driving solo on “China Boy.” He recorded frequently sessions with, among others, Ethel Waters, Benny Goodman, and Billy Banks. During an engagement with Bob Crosby’s orchestra in 1936 he became ill with tuberculosis, but he resumed playing in 1938 as a soloist and with jazz ensembles, instrumentalists, and singers. He appeared in several films during the 1930s, led a sextet in a jazz sequence in the documentary ...
Walter van de Leur
(b Terre Haute, IN, Aug 10, 1908; d Caldwell, NJ, July 1, 1965). American bandleader, pianist, composer, and arranger. After completing his piano and composition studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, Thornhill worked as an arranger for various orchestras, including those of Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, and Skinnay Ennis. His 1937 arrangement of “Loch Lomond” for Maxine Sullivan became a hit record. In 1940 he founded his own band, which he said would be “something new and arresting, an orchestra different from others on the scene.” The Claude Thornhill Orchestra featured atypical instruments for a jazz band: two French horns, flutes, and bass clarinets. Impressionistic arrangements of European classics formed an important part of Thornhill’s musical palette, whereas other swing bands played mostly danceable music. For instance, the band performed arrangements of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Granados’s Spanish Dance, no.5, and Brahms’s Hungarian Dance no.5. Thornhill incorporated impressionistic touches in his own pieces, such as “Portrait of a Guinea Farm” (...
(b Philadelphia, PA, Dec 19, 1935; d New York, March 1, 1974). American jazz pianist and composer. He was a quintessential hard bop pianist, strongly influenced by gospel and blues, and wrote three of the anthems of the genre, “Moanin’,” “Dat Dere,” and “Dis Here” (aka “This Here”). He began piano at the age of six, and was strongly influenced by religious music, including playing organ in church for his grandfather, a minister. He moved to New York in 1954, and made his recording debut with Kenny Dorham in 1956. He played in bands led by Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, and Maynard Ferguson before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He worked with Cannonball Adderley for several months in 1959–60, then rejoined Blakey for just over a year until mid-1961. He appeared on many studio recordings at this time, including sessions for Nat Adderley, Lee Morgan, Kenny Burrell, and Johnny Griffin. He had begun to record as a leader, and pursued a solo career in the 1960s and early 1970s, mainly leading his own trio and making a number of recordings. He is most associated with the funky, gospel influenced style of his three best known tunes, which have rather defined his reputation, but was a more diverse and resourceful pianist than they imply....
(b Boston, MA, April 30, 1931; d Paris, France, Oct 21, 1955). American jazz pianist and composer. Richard Twardzik was a jazz prodigy who grew up in the lively Boston jazz scene. From 19, he played regularly with the baritone saxophonist and local hero Serge Chaloff. As the house pianist at the Hi Hat and Storyville clubs, he accompanied touring headliners, including Charlie Parker; despite their age difference they became kindred spirits in their love of Béla Bartók and hard drugs. The pianist Russ Freeman, at Storyville with Chet Baker’s band, was dumbfounded by his talent and secured a recording date for him with Pacific Jazz. A year later, Twardzik replaced Freeman in Baker’s quartet for a European tour, where he died of a heroin overdose. He was 24.
Twardzik’s vestiges include more than three hours of live performances with Chaloff, Parker, Allen Eager, Baker, and others, but the great treasures are two studio performances amounting to one hour of exquisite, original music (...
(b Philadelphia, PA, Dec 11, 1938). American pianist and composer. He began studying piano at the age of 13 and studied harmony and theory at the Granoff School of Music. Growing up in Philadelphia, Tyner began participating in jam sessions from around the age of 15, and he absorbed much from bop pianists, in particular Bud Powell’s eighth-note bop phrasing and Thelonious Monk’s rhythmic and percussive pianism. His earliest recording was made with the Benny Golson–Art Farmer Jazztet, which he joined in ...