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Saxophonist Yusef Lateef Dies At Age 93

by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

December 24, 2013 4:27 AM

SHUTESBURY, Mass. (AP) — Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died. He was 93.

Lateef died Monday at his home in Shutesbury in western Massachusetts, according to the Douglass Funeral Home in Amherst.

Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. He introduced different types of flutes and other woodwind instruments from many countries into his music and is credited with playing world music before it was officially named.

"I believe that all humans have knowledge," he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts. "Each culture has some knowledge. That's why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That's why I studied Stockhausen's music. The pygmies' music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before."

As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. His longer pieces have been played by symphony orchestras throughout the United States and in Germany. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his new age recording "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony," on which he played all of the instruments.

In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.

Lateef had an international following and toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Africa. His last tour was during the summer.

He held a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education.

He created his own music theory called "Autophysiopsychic Music," which he described in the NEA interview as "music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart."

Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit's active music scene and by age 18 he was touring professionally with swing bands led by Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields.

In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing be-bop. He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

He became a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s leading his own quintet. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus' band. Lateef would go on to perform with some of jazz's best talent, including Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Miles Davis.

Lateef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Atlantic and his own YAL. His most enduring early recordings included such songs as "Love Theme from Spartacus" and "Morning."

In the 1980s, he taught at a university in Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.

Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, in 1992, which released an extended suite, "The World at Peace," co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph. He also wrote a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra, "The African American Epic Suite," which was commissioned and performed by the WDR Orchestra in Germany in 1993.

He is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; son, Yusef Lateef; granddaughter and great-grandchildren.

Jim Hall, Jazz Guitarist, Dies at 83

Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

Jim Hall in New York in 2009. He said he was inspired by the tenor saxophone’s lush sound.

By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: December 10, 2013

The cause was heart failure, his wife, Jane, said.Jim Hall, a jazz guitarist who for more than 50 years was admired by critics, aficionados and especially his fellow musicians for his impeccable technique and the warmth and subtlety of his playing, died on Tuesday at his home in Greenwich Village. He was 83.

The list of important musicians with whom Mr. Hall worked was enough to earn him a place in jazz history. It includes the pianist Bill Evans, with whom he recorded two acclaimed duet albums, and the singer Ella Fitzgerald, as well as the saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Paul Desmond, the drummer Chico Hamilton and the bassist Ron Carter, his frequent partner in a duo.

But with his distinctive touch, his inviting sound and his finely developed sense of melody, Mr. Hall made it clear early in his career that he was an important musician in his own right.

He was an influential one as well. Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and John Scofield are among the numerous younger guitarists who acknowledge him as an inspiration. Mr. Hall, who never stopped being open to new ideas and new challenges, worked at various times with all three.

In his later years Mr. Hall composed many pieces for large ensembles, drawing on both his jazz roots and his classical training. Works like “Quartet Plus Four” for jazz quartet and string quartet, and “Peace Movement,” a concerto for guitar and orchestra, were performed internationally and widely praised.

If the critics tended to use the same words over and over to describe Mr. Hall’s playing — graceful, understated, fluent — that was as much a tribute to his consistency as to his talent. As Nate Chinen wrote recently in The New York Times, Mr. Hall’s style, “with the austere grace of a Shaker chair,” has sounded “effortlessly modern at almost every juncture” of his long career.

James Stanley Hall was born on Dec. 4, 1930, in Buffalo to Stanley and the former Louella Cowles, and spent most of his early years in Cleveland. He started guitar at age 10 and began playing professionally in his teens.

Like most of his guitar-playing peers, he was influenced by the first two great jazz guitar soloists: Charlie Christian, best known for his work with Benny Goodman, and the Belgian Gypsy Django Reinhardt. But he derived as much inspiration from saxophone players as he did from other guitarists.

“Tenor saxophonists really influenced the way I play,” he told The Times in 1990. When he was developing his style, he explained, “I’d try and get that lush sound of a tenor saxophone.”

While studying music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he played guitar on weekends “but wasn’t all that involved in jazz,” he said in an interview found on his website. His plan was to become a composer and teach on the side. But shortly after he graduated in 1955 and began studying for a master’s degree at the institute, that plan changed. “I had to try being a guitarist or else it would trouble me for the rest of my life,” he said.

Moving to Los Angeles, where he studied classical guitar, he became a charter member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet, one of the first and most successful exemplars of the soft-spoken style known as cool jazz. (Mr. Hamilton died last month.) He then worked with the clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Jimmy Giuffre, whose adventurous approach to both composition and improvisation had a lasting impact on Mr. Hall’s own music.

Mr. Hall attracted further attention in the early 1960s when Sonny Rollins, a major star returning to music after a long hiatus, chose him to be in his new quartet. The contrast between Mr. Rollins’s aggressive saxophone playing and Mr. Hall’s quieter approach helped make the release of Mr. Rollins’s album “The Bridge” one of the most notable jazz events of 1962.

After a low-profile but lucrative television stint in the “Merv Griffin Show” band in the mid-1960s, Mr. Hall focused on leading his own groups, usually consisting simply of guitar, bass and drums, and recorded as a leader for CTI, A&M, Concord, Telarc and other labels. In the 1990s he taught at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.

In addition to his wife of 48 years, the former Jane Yuckman, a psychoanalyst, Mr. Hall is survived by his daughter, Devra Hall Levy, who in recent years had been his manager.

Mr. Hall had back surgery in 2008 and other health problems, but he performed almost until the end, often in the company of other guitarists. This summer he performed with the 26-year-old guitarist Julian Lage at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. His last appearance was on Nov. 23 at a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert that also featured the guitarists John Abercrombie and Peter Bernstein.

For all the accolades he received over the years — including a Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 — Mr. Hall never took his mastery of the guitar for granted. “The instrument keeps me humble,” he once told Guitar Player magazine. “Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say, ‘No, you can’t play today.’ I keep at it anyway, though.”

 

Chico Hamilton, Drummer, Bandleader and Exponent of Cool Jazz, Dies at 92

By PETER KEEPNEWS NYT
Published: November 26, 2013

Chico Hamilton, a drummer and bandleader who helped put California on the modern-jazz map in the 1950s and remained active into the 21st century, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 92.

Todd Boebel photo

Chico Hamilton, who had made a name for himself as a drummer, in the 1950s took the bold, unusual step of becoming a bandleader as well, and later a composer.

Mr. Hamilton's quiet intensity and the pastel orchestrations of his band helped form the smooth Los Angeles modern-jazz style.

His death was announced by April Thibeault, his publicist.

Never among the flashiest or most muscular of jazz drummers, Mr. Hamilton had a subtle and melodic approach that made him ideally suited for the understated style that came to be known as cool jazz, of which his hometown, Los Angeles, was the epicenter.

He was a charter member of the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s quartet, which helped lay the groundwork for the cool movement. His own quintet, which he formed shortly after leaving the Mulligan group, came to be regarded as the quintessence of cool. With its quiet intensity, its intricate arrangements and its uniquely pastel instrumentation of flute, guitar, cello, bass and drums — the flutist, Buddy Collette, also played alto saxophone — theChico Hamilton Quintet became one of the most popular groups in jazz. (The cellist in that group, Fred Katz, died in September.)

The group was a mainstay of the nightclub and jazz festival circuit and even appeared in movies. It was prominently featured in the 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success,” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. (One character in that movie, a guitarist played by Martin Milner, was a member of the Hamilton group on screen, miming to the playing of the quintet’s real guitarist, John Pisano.) And it was seen in“Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” Bert Stern’s acclaimed documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Cool jazz had fallen out of favor by the mid-1960s, but by then Mr. Hamilton had already altered the sound and style of his quintet, replacing the cellist with a trombonist and adopting a bluesier, more aggressive approach.

In 1966, after more personnel changes and more shifts in audience tastes, Mr. Hamilton, no longer on top of the jazz world but increasingly interested in composing — he wrote the music for Roman Polanski’s 1965 film, “Repulsion” — disbanded the quintet and formed a company that provided music for television shows and commercials.

But he continued to perform and record occasionally, and by the mid-1970s he was back on the road as a bandleader full time. He was never again as big a star as he had been in the 1950s, but he remained active, and his music became increasingly difficult to categorize, incorporating elements of free jazz, jazz-rock fusion and other styles.

He was born Foreststorn Hamilton in Los Angeles on Sept. 21, 1921. His father, Jesse, worked at the University Club of Southern California, and his mother, Pearl Lee Gonzales Cooley Hamilton, was a school dietitian.

Asked by Marc Myers of the website JazzWax how he got the name Chico, he said he wasn’t sure but thought he acquired it as a teenager because “I was always a small dude.”

While still in high school he immersed himself in the local jazz scene, and by 1940 he was touring with Lionel Hampton’s big band. After serving in the Army during World War II, he worked briefly with the bands of Jimmy Mundy, Charlie Barnet and Count Basie before becoming the house drummer at the Los Angeles nightclub Billy Berg’s in 1946.

From 1948 to 1955 he toured Europe in the summers as a member of Lena Horne’s backup band, while playing the rest of the year in Los Angeles. His softly propulsive playing was an essential element in the popularity of Mulligan’s 1952 quartet, which also included Chet Baker on trumpet but, unusually, did not have a pianist. The group helped set the template for what came to be known as West Coast jazz, smoother and more cerebral than its East Coast counterpart.

The high profile he achieved with Mulligan emboldened him to try his luck as a bandleader, something fairly unusual for a drummer in the 1950s. His success was almost instantaneous.

He went on to record prolifically for a variety of labels, including Pacific Jazz, Impulse, Columbia and Soul Note. Among the honors he received were a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2004 and a Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend Award in 2007.

Although slowed by age, Mr. Hamilton continued to perform and record beyond his 90th birthday. He released an album, “Revelation,” in 2011 on the Joyous Shout label, and had recently completed another one, “Inquiring Minds,” scheduled for release in 2014. Until late last year he was appearing at the Manhattan nightclub Drom with Euphoria, the group he had led since 1989.

Mr. Hamilton is survived by a brother, Don; a daughter, Denise Hamilton; a granddaughter; and two great-granddaughters. His brother the actor Bernie Hamilton, and his wife, Helen Hamilton, both died in 2008.

Mr. Hamilton was highly regarded not just for his drumming, but also as a talent scout. Musicians who passed through his group before achieving stardom on their own include the bassist Ron Carter, the saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd and the guitarists Jim Hall, Gabor Szabo and Larry Coryell. In a 1992 interview with National Public Radio, the saxophonist Eric Person, a longtime sideman, praised Mr. Hamilton for teaching “how to work on the bandstand, how you dress onstage, how you carry yourself in public.”

Mr. Hamilton taught those lessons as a bandleader and, for more than two decades, as a faculty member at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. Teaching young musicians, he told The Providence Journal in Rhode Island in 2006, was “not difficult if they realize how fortunate they are.”

“But,” he added, “if they’re on an ego trip, that’s their problem.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.


Jazz composer, pianist Dave Brubeck dies at 91

  • DAVE-BRUBECK-60s

Image Credit: David Redfern/Redferns

Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as “Take Five” caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.

Brubeck died Wednesday morning of heart failure after being stricken while on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, said his manager Russell Gloyd. Brubeck would have turned 92 on Thursday.

Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine – on Nov. 8, 1954 – and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and `60s club jazz.

The seminal album Time Out, released by the quartet in 1959, was the first ever million-selling jazz LP, and is still among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. It opens with “Blue Rondo a la Turk” in 9/8 time – nine beats to the measure instead of the customary two, three or four beats.

A piano-and-saxophone whirlwind based loosely on a Mozart piece, “Blue Rondo” eventually intercuts between Brubeck’s piano and a more traditional 4/4 jazz rhythm.

The album also features “Take Five” – in 5/4 time – which became the Quartet’s signature theme and even made the Billboard singles chart in 1961. It was composed by Brubeck’s longtime saxophonist, Paul Desmond.

“When you start out with goals – mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically – you never exhaust that,” Brubeck told The Associated Press in 1995. “I started doing that in the 1940s. It’s still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements.”

After service in World War II and study at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., Brubeck formed an octet including Desmond on alto sax and Dave van Kreidt on tenor, Cal Tjader on drums and Bill Smith on clarinet. The group played Brubeck originals and standards by other composers, including some early experimentation in unusual time signatures. Their groundbreaking album Dave Brubeck Octet was recorded in 1946.

The group evolved into the Quartet, which played colleges and universities. The Quartet’s first album, Jazz at Oberlin, was recorded live at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1953.

Ten years later, Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass joined with Brubeck and Desmond to produce Time Out.

In later years Brubeck composed music for operas, ballet, even a contemporary Mass.

In 1988, he played for Mikhail Gorbachev, at a dinner in Moscow that then-President Ronald Reagan hosted for the Soviet leader.

“I can’t understand Russian, but I can understand body language,” said Brubeck, after seeing the general secretary tapping his foot.

In the late 1980s, Brubeck contributed music for one episode of an eight-part series of television specials, This Is America, Charlie Brown.

His music was for an episode involving NASA and the space station. He worked with three of his sons – Chris on bass trombone and electric bass, Dan on drums and Matthew on cello – and included excerpts from his Mass “To Hope! A Celebration,” his oratorio “A Light in the Wilderness,” and a piece he had composed but never recorded, “Quiet As the Moon.”

“That’s the beauty of music,” he told the AP in 1992. “You can take a theme from a Bach sacred chorale and improvise. It doesn’t make any difference where the theme comes from; the treatment of it can be jazz.”

In 2006, the University of Notre Dame gave Brubeck its Laetare Medal, awarded each year to a Roman Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

At the age of 88, in 2009, Brubeck was still touring, in spite of a viral infection that threatened his heart and made him miss an April show at his alma mater, the University of the Pacific.

By June, though, he was playing in Chicago, where the Tribune critic wrote that “Brubeck was coaxing from the piano a high lyricism more typically encountered in the music of Chopin.”

More acclaim came his way when it was announced that he would be a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors at a ceremony in late 2009.

Brubeck told the AP the announcement would have delighted his late mother, Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck, a classical pianist who was initially disappointed by her youngest son’s interest in jazz. (He added that she had lived long enough to come to appreciate his music.)

Born in Concord, Calif., on Dec. 6, 1920, Brubeck actually had planned to become a rancher like his father. He attended the College of the Pacific (now the University of the Pacific) in 1938, intending to major in veterinary medicine and return to the family’s 45,000-acre spread.

But within a year Brubeck was drawn to music. He graduated in 1942 and was drafted by the Army, where he served – mostly as a musician – under Gen. George S. Patton in Europe. At the time, his Wolfpack Band was the only racially integrated unit in the military.

In an interview for Ken Burns’ PBS miniseries Jazz, Brubeck talked about playing for troops with his integrated band, only to return to the U.S. to see his black bandmates refused service in a restaurant in Texas.

Brubeck and his wife, Iola, had five sons and a daughter. Four of his sons – Chris on trombone and electric bass, Dan on drums, Darius on keyboards and Matthew on cello – played with the London Symphony Orchestra in a birthday tribute to Brubeck in December 2000.

“We never had a rift,” Chris Brubeck once said of living and playing with his father. “I think music has always been a good communication tool, so we didn’t have a rift. We’ve always had music in common.”

 

Sam Rivers, Jazz Artist of Loft Scene, Dies at 88

By NATE CHINEN NYT
Published: December 27, 2011

Sam Rivers, an inexhaustibly creative saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer who cut his own decisive path through the jazz world, spearheading the 1970s loft scene in New York and later establishing a rugged outpost in Florida, died on Monday in Orlando, Fla. He was 88. The cause was pneumonia, his daughter Monique Rivers Williams said.

With an approach to improvisation that was garrulous and uninhibited but firmly grounded in intellect and technique, Mr. Rivers was among the leading figures in the postwar jazz avant-garde. His sound on the tenor saxophone, his primary instrument, was distinctive: taut and throaty, slightly burred, dark-hued. He also had a recognizable voice on the soprano saxophone, flute and piano, and as a composer and arranger. Music ran deep in his family. His grandfather Marshall W. Taylor published one of the first hymnals for black congregations after emancipation, “A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies,” in 1882. His mother, the former Lillian Taylor, was a pianist and choir director, and his father, Samuel Rivers, was a gospel singer. They were on tour with the Silvertone Quintet in El Reno, Okla., when Samuel Carthorne Rivers was born, on Sept. 25, 1923.

Growing up in Chicago and on the road, Mr. Rivers studied violin, piano and trombone. After his father had a debilitating accident in 1937, he moved with his mother to Little Rock, Ark., where he zeroed in on the tenor saxophone. Joining the Navy in the mid-’40s, he served for three years. Mr. Rivers enrolled in the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1947 and later transferred to Boston University, where he majored in composition and briefly took up the viola and fell into the busy Boston jazz scene. He made an important acquaintance in 1959: Tony Williams, a 13-year-old drummer who already sounded like an innovator. Together they delved into free improvisation, occasionally performing in museums alongside modernist and abstract paintings. By 1964 Mr. Williams was working with the trumpeter Miles Davis and persuaded him to hire Mr. Rivers, who was with the bluesman T-Bone Walker at the time, for a summer tour. Mr. Rivers’s blustery playing with the Miles Davis Quintet, captured on the album “Miles in Tokyo,” suggested a provocative but imperfect fit. Wayne Shorter replaced him in the fall.

On a series of Blue Note recordings in the middle to late ’60s, beginning with Mr. Williams’s first album as a leader, “Life Time,” Mr. Rivers expressed his ideas more freely. He made four albums of his own for the label, the first of which — “Fuchsia Swing Song,” with Mr. Williams, the pianist Jaki Byard and the bassist Ron Carter, another Miles Davis sideman — is a landmark of experimental post-bop, with a free-flowing yet structurally sound style. “Beatrice,” a ballad from that album Mr. Rivers named after his wife, would become a jazz standard. Beatrice Rivers died in 2005. In addition to his daughter Monique, Mr. Rivers is survived by two other daughters, Cindy Johnson and Traci Tozzi; a son, Dr. Samuel Rivers III; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Rivers pushed further toward abstraction in the late ’60s, moving to New York and working as a sideman with the uncompromising pianists Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor. In 1970 he and his wife opened Studio Rivbea, a noncommercial performance space, in their loft on Bond Street in the East Village. It served as an avant-garde hub through the end of the decade, anchoring what would be known as the loft scene. The albums Mr. Rivers made for Impulse Records in the ’70s would further burnish his reputation in the avant-garde. After Studio Rivbea closed in 1979, Mr. Rivers continued to lead several groups, including a big band called the Rivbea Orchestra, a woodwind ensemble called Winds of Change and a virtuosic trio with the bassist Dave Holland and the drummer Barry Altschul. With the trio, Mr. Rivers often demonstrated his gift as a multi-instrumentalist, extemporizing fluidly on saxophone, piano and flute.

Mr. Rivers tacked toward more mainstream sensibilities from 1987 to 1991, when he worked extensively with an early influence, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. While touring through Orlando with Gillespie in 1991, Mr. Rivers met some of the skilled musicians employed by the area’s theme parks, who persuaded him to move there and revive the Rivbea Orchestra. He lived most recently in nearby Apopka, Fla.
The music made by his band in the 1990s and beyond was as spirited and harmonically dense as anything in Mr. Rivers’s musical history. And the trio at its core — Mr. Rivers, the bassist Doug Mathews and the drummer Anthony Cole — also performed on its own, honing a dynamic versatility distinct from that of any other group in jazz.
Mr. Rivers’s late-career renaissance was confirmed by the critical response to “Inspiration” and “Culmination,” two albums he recorded for RCA in 1998 with a New York big band assembled by the alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. In 2000, Mr. Rivers led the Orlando iteration of the Rivbea Orchestra in a concert presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The next year he served as the fiery eminence on “Black Stars,” an acclaimed album by the 26-year-old pianist Jason Moran.
This year saw the release of “Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra — Trilogy” (Mosaic), a three-CD set featuring recordings from 2008 and 2009. His last performance was in October in DeLand, Fla.
In 2006. the Vision Festival, a nonprofit New York event aesthetically indebted to the loft scene, honored Mr. Rivers with a Sam Rivers Day program featuring both his bands. The names of two of the bustling pieces performed were, appropriately, “Flair” and “Spunk.”

 

Frank Foster, Jazz Saxophonist, Composer and Arranger, Dies at 82

 

Shiny Stockings by the Pioneer Orchestra in Detroit featuring Frank Foster and Marcus Belgrave

By NATE CHINEN

Published: July 26, 2011

Frank Foster, a saxophonist, composer and arranger who helped shape the sound of the Count Basie Orchestra during its popular heyday in the 1950s and '60s and later led expressive large and small groups of his own, died on Tuesday at his home in Chesapeake, Va. He was 82.

The cause was complications of kidney failure, said his wife of 45 years, Cecilia. Mr. Foster had a varied and highly regarded career as a bandleader, notably with his Loud Minority Big Band, and he was sought after as an arranger for large ensembles. But it was the strength of his contribution to the so-called New Testament edition of the Basie band, from 1953 to 1964, that anchors his place in jazz history.

Mr. Foster wrote and arranged a number of songs for the band, none more celebrated than "Shiny Stockings," a puckishly genteel theme set at a cruising medium tempo with a slow but powerful crescendo. Recorded by Basie on his classic 1955 album "April in Paris," it subsequently became both a band signature and a jazz standard, often performed with lyrics (there were two sets, one by Ella Fitzgerald and one by Jon Hendricks).

Among Mr. Foster's less famous entries in the Basie canon, some, like "Blues in Hoss' Flat," have enjoyed steady circulation in the repertories of high school and college jazz bands.

He was one of two musicians named Frank in the band's saxophone section, the other being the tenor saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess. Their contrasting styles as soloists — Mr. Foster was the more robust, with a harder husk to his tone — became the basis of a popular set piece called "Two Franks," written for the band by Neal Hefti.

After leaving Basie, Mr. Foster worked for a while as a freelance arranger, supporting the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan.

He returned to the Basie band in the mid-1980s, this time as its leader. (Count Basie died in 1984.) He held the post for nearly a decade and earned something like emeritus status: when the Count Basie Orchestra was enlisted for Tony Bennett's 2008 album "A Swingin' Christmas," Mr. Foster was the arranger.

Frank Benjamin Foster III was born on Sept. 21, 1928, into Cincinnati's African-American middle class — his father was a postal clerk, his mother a social worker — and began his musical studies first on piano, then clarinet. The alto saxophone came next, and within a year of picking it up he was playing in a neighborhood dance band.

Most of his early professional experience involved playing stock arrangements in big bands; during his senior year of high school he formed one himself, writing charts from scratch. He considered himself self-taught as an arranger, having studied only harmony in school.

Mr. Foster attended the historically black Wilberforce University in Ohio, after being rejected by Oberlin College and the Cincinnati Conservatory. He played in and arranged for Wilberforce's dance band, the Collegians.

As a budding tenor saxophonist he drew inspiration from Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon, strong stylists who made the transition from swing to bebop. "I'm a hard bopper," he told an interviewer with the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program in 1998. "Once a hard bopper, always a hard bopper."

But Mr. Foster was hardly confined to bebop as a musical language. His tenure with the Count Basie Orchestra, which began after his tour of duty with the Army during the Korean War, proved as much.

So did his efforts after leaving Basie, when he played in smaller groups, including those led by his wife's first cousin, the drummer Elvin Jones. At the time he was drawn to the adventurous music of John Coltrane, in whose quartet Mr. Jones had created an influential polyrhythmic pulse. An album called "Well Water," recently released on the Piadrum label, captures Mr. Foster and Mr. Jones jointly leading the Loud Minority Big Band in 1977, with a determinedly modern mind-set. The album includes their take on "Simone," Mr. Foster's best-known post-Basie composition.

Even as he spent a good portion of the late 1960s and '70s exploring harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, Mr. Foster never quite surrendered to it. And he was no purist about jazz-funk — "Manhattan Fever," one of his best albums, released in 1968 on Blue Note, has several effervescent backbeat-driven tunes.

In 2001 Mr. Foster had a stroke that hindered his ability to play the saxophone. He was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master the following year, and continued to write and arrange music, often as a commission for organizations like the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He also became active in the Jazz Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization that delivers aid to musicians in need.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Foster is survived by two children from their marriage, Frank Foster IV and Andrea Jardis Innis; two sons from his first marriage, Anthony and Donald; and six grandchildren.

 

December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard, Jazz Trumpeter, Dies at 70

Freddie Hubbard

By PETER KEEPNEWS

Freddie Hubbard, a jazz trumpeter who dazzled audiences and critics alike with his virtuosity, his melodicism and his infectious energy, died on Monday in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He was 70 and lived in Sherman Oaks. The cause was complications of a heart attack he had on Nov. 26, said his spokesman, Don Lucoff of DL Media. Over a career that began in the late 1950s, Mr. Hubbard earned both critical praise and commercial success — although rarely for the same projects. He attracted attention in the 1960s for his bravura work as a member of the Jazz Messengers, the valuable training ground for young musicians led by the veteran drummer Art Blakey, and on albums by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and many others. He also recorded several well-regarded albums as a leader. And although he was not an avant-gardist by temperament, he participated in three of the seminal recordings of the 1960s jazz avant-garde: Ornette Coleman’s “Free Jazz” (1960), Eric Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” (1964) and John Coltrane’s “Ascension” (1965). In the 1970s Mr. Hubbard, like many other jazz musicians of his generation, began courting a larger audience, with albums that featured electric instruments, rock and funk rhythms, string arrangements and repertory sprinkled with pop and R&B songs like Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and the Stylistics’ “Betcha by Golly, Wow.” His audience did indeed grow, but his standing in the jazz world diminished. By the start of the next decade he had largely abandoned his more commercial approach and returned to his jazz roots. But his career came to a virtual halt in 1992 when he damaged his lip, and although he resumed performing and recording after an extended hiatus, he was never again as powerful a player as he had been in his prime. Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born on April 7, 1938, in Indianapolis. His first instrument was the alto-brass mellophone, and in high school he studied French horn and tuba as well as trumpet. After taking lessons with Max Woodbury, the first trumpeter of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music, he performed locally with, among others, the guitarist Wes Montgomery and his brothers. Mr. Hubbard moved to New York in 1958 and almost immediately began working with groups led by the saxophonist Sonny Rollins, the drummer Philly Joe Jones and others. His profile rose in 1960 when he joined the roster of Blue Note, a leading jazz label; it rose further the next year when he was hired by Blakey, widely regarded as the music’s premier talent scout. Adding his own spin to a style informed by Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, Mr. Hubbard played trumpet with an unusual mix of melodic inventiveness and technical razzle-dazzle. The critics took notice. Leonard Feather called him “one of the most skilled, original and forceful trumpeters of the ’60s.” After leaving Blakey’s band in 1964, Mr. Hubbard worked for a while with another drummer-bandleader, Max Roach, before forming his own group in 1966. Four years later he began recording for CTI, a record company that would soon become known for its aggressive efforts to market jazz musicians beyond the confines of the jazz audience. His first albums for the label, notably “Red Clay,” contained some of the best playing of his career and, except for slicker production and the presence of some electric instruments, were not significantly different from his work for Blue Note. But his later albums on CTI, and the ones he made after leaving the label for Columbia in 1974, put less and less emphasis on improvisation and relied more and more on glossy arrangements and pop appeal. They sold well, for the most part, but were attacked, or in some cases simply ignored, by jazz critics. Within a few years Mr. Hubbard was expressing regrets about his career path. Most of his recordings as a leader from the early 1980s on, for Pablo, Musicmasters and other labels, were small-group sessions emphasizing his gifts as an improviser that helped restore his critical reputation. But in 1992 he suffered a setback from which he never fully recovered. By Mr. Hubbard’s own account, he seriously injured his upper lip that year by playing too hard, without warming up, once too often. The lip became infected, and for the rest of his life it was a struggle for him to play with his trademark strength and fire. As Howard Mandel explained in a 2008 Down Beat article, “His ability to project and hold a clear tone was damaged, so his fast finger flurries often result in blurts and blurs rather than explosive phrases.” Mr. Hubbard nonetheless continued to perform and record sporadically, primarily on fluegelhorn rather than on the more demanding trumpet. In his last years he worked mostly with the trumpeter David Weiss, who featured Mr. Hubbard as a guest artist with his group, the New Jazz Composers Octet, on albums released under Mr. Hubbard’s name in 2001 and 2008, and at occasional nightclub engagements. Mr. Hubbard won a Grammy Award for the album “First Light” in 1972 and was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Briggie Hubbard, and his son, Duane. Mr. Hubbard was once known as the brashest of jazzmen, but his personality as well as his music mellowed in the wake of his lip problems. In a 1995 interview with Fred Shuster of Down Beat, he offered some sober advice to younger musicians: “Don’t make the mistake I made of not taking care of myself. Please, keep your chops cool and don’t overblow.”

NYT

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Detroit Jazz Keyboard
Legend Kenn Cox Dies At 68

Kenn Cox

Jazz pianist Kenneth Louis Cox II died of lung cancer on Friday December 19th 2008. He was 68. Cox died at his Detroit home, said his wife of 42 years, Barbara Cox.
Cox is survived by his wife Barbara, son Philip Cox and a stepdaughter, Angela Washington. Services will be held on Dec. 27 at St. Matthew's & St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, 8850 Woodward Ave., Detroit. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Societ of the Culturally Concerned, 8285 Morrow Circle, Detroit MI 48204; (313) 834-6511.

Detroit native Kenny Cox was born on November 8, 1940. He began playing music on trumpet, and studied at the Detroit Conservatory of Music from 1949-1958, but had given up the horn for the piano as a freshman at Cass Tech High School in 1956, where he started with the piano. Upon graduation from Cass Tech in 1958, he attended the Detroit Conservatory of Music from 1949-1958 and the Detroit Institute of Music Arts from 1959-1961. Cox then left for New York City, where he connected with Etta Jones and was her accompanist and music director until 1966, also working on occasion with Helen Humes and Ernestine Anderson. He returned to Detroit and joined a legendary hard bop quintet led by trombonist George Bohannon. Emerging as a modern jazz composer inspired by the music of the '60s and the political and cultural landscape of Detroit, Cox also produced a weekly radio program, Kaleidophone, on WDET, and was the station's director of community access programming. In 1967 he had written enough material to record two albums for the Blue Note label, and formed the Contemporary Jazz Quintet with Ron Brooks, Charles Moore, Leon Henderson, and Danny Spencer. It was a breakthrough ensemble in modern jazz, in many ways paralleling the work of Miles Davis. In addition, the trip to New York allowed him opportunities to perform with the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Eddie Harris, Jackie McLean, Roy Haynes, Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Dorham, Joe Williams, Philly Joe Jones, and fellow Detroiters Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Roy Brooks, Charles McPherson, and Curtis Fuller. CJQ changed with the times in the electronic-infused '70s, adding second drummer Bud Spangler, guitarist Ron English, keyboardist Phil Mendelson, and others in what was dubbed an "infinite Q." Cox and a group of self-determining musicians formed the Strata co-operative, produced a line of albums, publications, and performance opportunities from 1970-1977. Cox remained active, but remained nationally obscure in the '80s; he played in the Metro-Detroit area, and appeared with his Guerilla Jam Band, at times featuring Regina Carter, James Carter, Marion Hayden, Rodney Whitaker, Ange Smith, Shahida Nurullah, Fred Johnson, Tani Tabbal, Jaribu Shahid, Craig Taborn, Alex Harding, Cassius Richmond, Francisco Mora, Ralph Jones, Phil Lasley, Vincent Bowens, and Donald Walden, performing at several Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festivals. He has had select compositions covered by the Jazz Crusaders, Rodney Whitaker, Eldee Young, Marshall Vente, and Norman Connors, among others. He formed the Societie of the Culturally Concerned, became an adjunct professor at Wayne State and Michigan State Universities, lived in Las Vegas teaching for a brief stint, and has been an instructor for the Cal State Summer Arts program. In Detroit he leads a trio featuring Bert Myrick and Marion Hayden and the percussion-oriented larger ensemble Drum with Djallo Djakate Keita, Mahindi Masai, Igbo, and Greg Cook. He has published a book of compositions, And Then I Wrote...The Music World of Kenn Cox, composed a jazz mass, and collaborated with the band Eternal Wind, featuring former CJQ member Charles Moore and percussionist Adam Rudolph, who collectively have worked with Yusef Lateef. Blue Note reissued the recordings Introducing Kenny Cox and Multidirection on CD in 2007. In the spring of 2008, Cox was given a lifetime achievement award by the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association. ~ Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

 



Jazz Keyboard
Legend Joe Zawinul Dies At 75


Published: September 11, 2007

                               Miles Davis with Joe Zawinul in Paris 1991

VIENNA (Reuters) - Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who played with Miles Davis and helped shape jazz fusion with his band Weather Report, died in his native city of Vienna on Tuesday, aged 75.

Zawinul, voted best keyboarder 30 times by music magazine Down Beat's critics' poll, including this year, had sought medical attention last month after a tour. He died of a rare form of skin cancer, local news agency APA reported.

"Joe Zawinul was born on July 7, 1932 in earth time, and on September 11, 2007 in eternal time. He lives on," APA quoted his son Erich as saying.

Growing up in Vienna's poor Erdberg district during Nazi rule, Zawinul first showed his talent by playing the accordion with his family. He later won a free place in the Vienna Conservatory. As a young man his friends were the late former Austrian President Thomas Klestil and pianist Friedrich Gulda.

In 1959, Zawinul won a piano scholarship at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where many careers in contemporary music began, before joining the bands of U.S. jazz stars Dinah Washington and later Cannonball Adderly.

Miles Davis first approached the budding pianist in New York's Birdland jazz club, wanting to hire him, Zawinul once told an interviewer. Zawinul turned him down but said that when the time was right, they would make history together.

And when the time was right, they did. Ten years later, Zawinul wrote "In a Silent Way," the title cut for Davis' 1969 album regarded as one of the trumpeter's first forays into jazz fusion, a genre drawing on rock, R&B and other styles.

He played on and composed for Davis' "Bitches Brew" album in 1970, a chart-topping record considered revolutionary for the day and marking his crossover to a rock and pop audience.

Zawinul started Weather Report in 1970 with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The band did much to bring electric piano, synthesizers, and African and Middle Eastern rhythms to mainstream audiences in a jazz setting.

Before its breakup in 1985, Weather Report released 17 albums. Its most famous song, "Birdland," published on the "Heavy Weather" album in 1977, won separate Grammy awards in three decades -- for the original version as well as for covers by Quincy Jones and Manhattan Transfer.

Following the break-up of Weather Report, Zawinul had fronted the Zawinul Syndicate for the past 20 years. After the group's tour this summer, he sought medical attention and was admitted to the Wilhelmina Clinic in his native city last month.

In 1963, Zawinul married Maxine, the first African-American Playboy bunny, whom he met in the Birdland club too. They mainly lived in Malibu, California. The couple had three children.

He also spent a lot of time in Vienna and started his own club there, also called Birdland. He had planned to give a concert in Vienna's concert hall on September 29.

Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl said the musician would be buried in a grave of honor in Vienna.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich)

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Max Roach, Master of Modern Jazz, Dies

Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940s and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners’ expectations, died early yesterday in Manhattan. He was 83.

Ozier Muhammed/The New York Times

Max Roach at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival at Columbia University in 2000.

His death, at an undisclosed hospital, was announced by a spokesman for Blue Note Records, Mr. Roach’s last label. No cause was given. Mr. Roach, who had lived on the Upper West Side for many years, had been known to be in poor health for some time.

Mr. Roach’s death closes a chapter in American musical history. He was the last surviving member of a small circle of adventurous musicians — among them Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and a handful of others — whose innovations brought about wholesale changes in jazz during World War II and immediately afterward.

Their music, which came to be known as bebop, had its roots in the jazz tradition, but it was different enough to scandalize many listeners and even many of their fellow musicians. Its rhythms were more jagged and unpredictable; its harmonies were more advanced, at times dissonant; its technical demands could be daunting. Despite the skepticism and hostility they initially inspired, the beboppers established the template for how jazz was played for decades to come.

Mr. Roach, a percussion virtuoso capable of playing at the most brutal tempos with subtlety as well as power, was an important architect of this musical revolution. He remained adventurous, and modern, to the end.

Mr. Roach challenged both his audiences and himself by working not just with standard jazz instrumentation but in contexts well beyond the confines of jazz as it is generally understood.

He led a “double quartet,” consisting of his working group of trumpet, saxophone, bass and drums plus a string quartet. He led an ensemble consisting entirely of percussionists. He played duets with avant-gardists like the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Anthony Braxton. He performed unaccompanied. He wrote music for plays by Sam Shepard and dance pieces by Alvin Ailey. He collaborated with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop performers.

Mr. Roach explained his philosophy to The New York Times in 1990: “You can’t write the same book twice. Though I’ve been in historic musical situations, I can’t go back and do that again. And though I run into artistic crises, they keep my life interesting.”

He was in historic situations from the beginning of his career. He was still in his teens when he played drums with the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, a pioneer of modern jazz, at a Harlem after-hours club in 1942. Within a few years, Mr. Roach was himself recognized as a pioneer.

He was not the first drummer to play bebop — Kenny Clarke, 10 years his senior, is generally credited with that distinction — but he quickly established himself as both the most imaginative percussionist in modern jazz and the most influential.

In Mr. Roach’s hands, the drum kit became much more than a means of keeping time. He saw himself not just as a supporting player but as a full-fledged member of the front line.

Layering rhythms on top of rhythms, he paid as much attention to a song’s melody as to its beat. He developed, as the jazz critic Burt Korall put it, “a highly responsive, contrapuntal style,” engaging his fellow musicians in an open-ended conversation while maintaining a rock-solid pulse. His approach “initially mystified and thoroughly challenged other drummers,” Mr. Korall wrote, but it quickly earned the respect of his peers and established a new standard for the instrument.

Mr. Roach was an innovator in other ways. In the late 1950s, he led a group that was among the first in jazz to perform pieces in waltz time and other unusual meters in addition to the conventional 4/4. In the early 1960s, he was among the first to use jazz to address racial and political issues, with works like the album-length “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.”

In 1972, he became one of the first jazz musicians to teach full time at the college level when he was hired as a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And in 1988, he became the first jazz musician to receive a so-called genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Maxwell Roach was born on Jan. 10, 1924, in the small town of New Land, N.C., and grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He began studying piano at a neighborhood Baptist church when he was 8 and took up the drums a few years later.

Even before he graduated from Boys High School in 1942, savvy New York jazz musicians knew his name. As a teenager he worked briefly with Duke Ellington’s orchestra at the Paramount Theater and with Charlie Parker at Monroe’s Uptown House in Harlem, where he took part in jam sessions that helped lay the groundwork for bebop.

By the middle 1940s, he had become a ubiquitous presence on the New York jazz scene, working in the 52nd Street nightclubs with Parker, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and other leading modernists. Within a few years he had also become ubiquitous on record, participating in such seminal recordings as Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” sessions in 1949 and 1950.

He also found time to study composition at the Manhattan School of Music. He had planned to major in percussion, he later recalled in an interview, but changed his mind after a teacher told him his technique was incorrect. “The way he wanted me to play would have been fine if I’d been after a career in a symphony orchestra,” he said, “but it wouldn’t have worked on 52nd Street.”

Mr. Roach made the transition from sideman to leader in 1954, when he and the young trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown formed a quintet. That group, which specialized in a muscular and stripped-down version of bebop that came to be called hard bop, took the jazz world by storm. But it was short-lived.

In June 1956, at the height of the Brown-Roach quintet’s success, Brown was killed in an automobile accident, along with Richie Powell, the group’s pianist, and Powell’s wife. The sudden loss of his friend and co-leader, Mr. Roach later recalled, plunged him into depression and heavy drinking from which it took him years to emerge.

Nonetheless, he kept working. He honored his existing nightclub bookings with the two surviving members of his group, the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the bassist George Morrow, before briefly taking time off and putting together a new quartet. By the end of the ’50s, seemingly recovered from his depression, he was recording prolifically, mostly as a leader but occasionally as a sideman with Mr. Rollins and others.

The personnel of Mr. Roach’s working group changed frequently over the next decade, but the level of artistry and innovation remained high. His sidemen included such important musicians as the saxophonists Eric Dolphy, Stanley Turrentine and George Coleman and the trumpet players Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and Booker Little. Few of his groups had a pianist, making for a distinctively open ensemble sound in which Mr. Roach’s drums were prominent.

Always among the most politically active of jazz musicians, Mr. Roach helped the bassist Charles Mingus establish one of the first musician-run record companies, Debut, in 1952. Eight years later, the two organized a so-called rebel festival in Newport, R.I., to protest the Newport Jazz Festival’s treatment of performers. That same year, Mr. Roach collaborated with the lyricist Oscar Brown Jr. on “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite,” which played variations on the theme of black people’s struggle for equality in the United States and Africa.

The album, which featured vocals by Abbey Lincoln (Mr. Roach’s frequent collaborator and, from 1962 to 1970, his wife), received mixed reviews: many critics praised its ambition, but some attacked it as overly polemical. Mr. Roach was undeterred.

“I will never again play anything that does not have social significance,” he told Down Beat magazine after the album’s release. “We American jazz musicians of African descent have proved beyond all doubt that we’re master musicians of our instruments. Now what we have to do is employ our skill to tell the dramatic story of our people and what we’ve been through.”

“We Insist!” was not a commercial success, but it emboldened Mr. Roach to broaden his scope as a composer. Soon he was collaborating with choreographers, filmmakers and Off Broadway playwrights on a variety of projects, including a stage version of “We Insist!”

As his range of activities expanded, his career as a bandleader became less of a priority. At the same time, the market for his uncompromising brand of small-group jazz began to dry up. By the time he joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in 1972, teaching had come to seem an attractive alternative to the demands of the musician’s life.

Joining the academy did not mean turning his back entirely on performing. In the early ’70s, Mr. Roach and seven other drummers formed M’Boom, an ensemble that achieved tonal and coloristic variety through the use of xylophones, chimes, steel drums and other percussion instruments. Later in the decade he formed a new quartet, two of whose members — the saxophonist Odean Pope and the trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater — would perform and record with him off and on for more than two decades.

He also participated in a number of unusual experiments. He appeared in concert in 1983 with a rapper, two disc jockeys and a team of breakdancers. A year later, he composed music for an Off Broadway production of three Sam Shepard plays, for which he won an Obie award. In 1985, he took part in a multimedia collaboration with the video artist Kit Fitzgerald and the stage director George Ferencz.

Perhaps his most ambitious experiment in those years was the Max Roach Double Quartet, a combination of his quartet and the Uptown String Quartet. Jazz musicians had performed with string accompaniment before, but rarely if ever in a setting like this, in which the string players were an equal part of the ensemble and were given the opportunity to improvise. Reviewing a Double Quartet album in The Times in 1985, Robert Palmer wrote, “For the first time in the history of jazz recording, strings swing as persuasively as any saxophonist or drummer.”

This endeavor had personal as well as musical significance for Mr. Roach: the Uptown String Quartet’s founder and viola player was his daughter Maxine, who survives him. Mr. Roach, who was married three times, is also survived by two other daughters, Ayo and Dara, and two sons, Raoul and Daryl.

By the early ’90s, Mr. Roach had reduced his teaching load and was again based in New York year-round. He was still touring with his quartet as recently as 2000, and he remained active as a composer.

For all his accomplishments, Mr. Roach often said that he was proudest of the role he played in raising the profile of his instrument. “I always resented the role of a drummer as nothing more than a subservient figure,” he said in a 1988 interview with the writer Mike Zwerin. “The people who really got me off were dealing with the musical potential of the instrument.”

 

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Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker dies at age 57 in NYC

By NAHAL TOOSI
Associated Press Writer

January 13, 2007, 6:26 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Michael Brecker, a versatile and highly influential tenor saxophonist who won 11 Grammys over a career that spanned more than three decades, died Saturday at age 57.

Brecker died in a hospital in New York City of leukemia, according to his longtime friend and manager, Darryl Pitt.

In recent years, the saxophonist had struggled with myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer in which the bone marrow stops producing enough healthy blood cells. The disease, known as MDS, often progresses to leukemia.

Throughout his career, Brecker recorded and performed with numerous jazz and pop music leaders, including Herbie Hancock, James Taylor, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell, according to his Web site. His most recently released recording, Wide Angles, appeared on many top jazz lists and won two Grammys in 2004.

His technique on the saxophone was widely emulated, and his style was much-studied in music schools throughout the world. Jazziz magazine recently called him "inarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years," according to a press release from his family.

Though very sick, Brecker managed to record a final album, as yet untitled, that was completed just two weeks ago. Pitt said the musician was very enthusiastic about the final work.

"In addition to the love of his family and friends, his work on this project helped keep him alive and will be another jewel in his legacy," Pitt said.

Brecker, who had a home in Westchester County's Hastings-on-Hudson, was born in 1949 in Philadelphia to a musically inclined family. His father would take his sons to performances of jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington.

Brecker, who first studied clarinet and alto saxophone, decided to pursue the tenor saxophone in high school after being inspired by the work of John Coltrane, according to his Web site. He followed his brother, Randy, a trumpet player, to Indiana University, but he left after a year for New York.

In 1970, he helped found the jazz-rock group Dreams. He later joined his brother in pianist and composer Horace Silver's quintet. Michael and Randy also started the successful jazz-rock fusion group the Brecker Brothers. The two also owned the now-defunct downtown jazz club Seventh Avenue South.

His solo career began in 1987, when his self-titled debut was voted "Jazz Album of the Year" in both Down Beat and Jazziz magazines.

His struggle with the blood disease led him and his family to publicly encourage people to enroll in bone marrow donor programs. His own search for a donor led to an experimental blood stem cell transplant that "did not work as hoped," according to a May 2006 entry on his Web site.

His illness silenced his music at times, but raising awareness of bone marrow drives gave him a new focus.

"It's something that doesn't come naturally. ... I obviously miss playing and writing music," Brecker told The Associated Press in 2005. "On the other hand, this whole experience has allowed me to be a conduit to attract attention for a cause that's much larger than me ... for people to go get tested (for the marrow donor program) because I know a lot of lives will be saved."

Brecker's survivors include his wife, Susan; his children, Jessica and Sam; his brother, Randy; and his sister, Emily Brecker Greenberg. Memorial services are being planned.
___


On the Web:

Michael Brecker: http://www.michaelbrecker.com

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Alice Coltrane, Jazz Artist and Spiritual Leader, Dies at 69




By BEN RATLIFF for New York Times
Published: January 15, 2007
Alice Coltrane, widow of the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and the pianist in his later bands, who extended her musical searches into a vocation as a spiritual leader, died on Friday in Los Angeles. She was 69.

The cause was respiratory failure, said Marilyn McLeod, her sister and assistant.

Ms. Coltrane lived in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles near the Sai Anantam ashram in Agoura Hills, which she had founded in 1983. Known as Swami Turiyasangitananda, Sanskrit for “the highest song of God,” she was the guiding presence of the 48-acre ashram, set among the Santa Monica mountains, where 25 to 30 full-time residents study the Vedic scriptures of ancient India, as well as Buddhist and Islamic texts.

She was also the manager of Coltrane’s estate, as well as of his music-publishing company, Jowcol Music, and the John Coltrane Foundation, which has given out scholarships to music students since 2001.

As a pianist, her playing was dense with arpeggios that suggested the harp; the instrument had an important place in her life. One of her childhood heroes was the Detroit-based jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby, and she was later motivated to study that instrument by Coltrane, who loved its sound.

Raised in a musical family in Detroit, Ms. Coltrane played piano and organ for church choirs and Sunday school from age 7. As a young musician in Detroit, she was studying classical music and playing piano in jazz clubs, in a group including her half-brother, the bassist Ernie Farrow, and the trombonist George Bohannon.

In her early 20s she lived briefly in Paris, where she studied informally with the pianist Bud Powell, and was briefly married to the singer Kenny (Pancho) Hagood, with whom she had a daughter, Michelle. She returned to Detroit, playing in a band with her brother, and then moved to New York in 1962. A year later she met John Coltrane.

She was playing vibraphone and Powell-inspired bebop piano in a group led by the drummer Terry Gibbs at Birdland, on a double-bill with Coltrane’s quartet. Coltrane was well established by the beginning of the 1960s, though she hadn’t known about him for long before moving to New York; the first time she ever heard him, she said, was on the 1961 album “Africa/Brass.”

They connected instantly; she moved in with him and traveled with the Coltrane band. By the summer of 1964 they had relocated from New York City to a house in Dix Hills, on Long Island. They married in 1965 in Juárez, Mexico, coinciding with Coltrane’s divorce from his first wife, Naima Grubbs. By that time she and Coltrane had already had two of their three children together — John Jr., who died in 1982, and Ravi, who by his 30s had become an acclaimed jazz saxophonist.

Ms. Coltrane is survived by her sisters, Marilyn McLeod of Winnetka, Calif., and Margaret Roberts of Detroit; her daughter, Michelle Carbonell-Coltrane of Los Angeles; her sons Oran Coltrane of Los Angeles and Ravi, of Brooklyn; and five grandchildren.

In 1966, as the Coltrane band’s music became wilder and more prolix, she became its pianist. She replaced McCoy Tyner, who quit without rancor, largely because he could no longer hear himself on the bandstand. Though she wasn’t Mr. Tyner’s technical equal and lacked his percussive power, she fit with the group’s new purpose; by the time of the recordings that would become the album “Stellar Regions,” in February 1967, she was fluid and energetic within the group’s freer new language.

She told an interviewer that Coltrane helped her to play “thoroughly and completely.” This meant stretching the definitions of rhythm and harmony, but she also meant something broader; Coltrane was talking about “universalizing” his music, creating a nondenominational religious art that took cues from ancient history and foreign scales. He helped her to sign a contract as a solo artist with his label, Impulse. And he introduced her to Eastern philosophy and religion, which became the main focus of her life.

After Coltrane’s death from liver cancer in 1967, Ms. Coltrane took a vow of celibacy. And at first she made music closely related to his, often reflective, minor and modal; on piano or harp she played flowing, harplike phrases over a deep midtempo swing, and she worked with the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the drummer Rashied Ali from John Coltrane’s band. On records like “A Monastic Trio,” “Ptah, the El Daoud” and “Journey in Satchidananda,” she was able to reconcile blues phrases and jazz rhythm with a kind of ancient, flowing sound.

Ms. Coltrane met her guru, Swami Satchidananda, in 1970, and in more recent years became a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. By the early 1970s she developed a renewed interest in the organ, because it produced a continuous sound; she wanted to make a meditative music that wouldn’t be interrupted by pauses for breath. Her 1972 record, “Universal Consciousness,” with Ms. Coltrane on Wurlitzer organ and string arrangements by Ornette Coleman, became a far-out classic. In the mid-70s she switched to the Warner Brothers label and made four more records, including orchestras and Hindu chants. Thereafter, until 2004, she made records purely for religious purposes, distributing them privately.

After first establishing the Vedanta Center in San Francisco, she moved her ashram to Agoura Hills, just northwest of Los Angeles, and expanded it. In the past 10 years, she performed the occasional concert with Ravi, and in 2004 she finally returned to recording jazz, making “Translinear Light,” produced by Ravi, who reunited her with some old colleagues like Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette, as well as a chorus of singers from her ashram.

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12_Jay_McShann_photo_James_Fraher

James Columbus McShann: January 12, 1916 - December 7, 2006
from jay McShann website

Kansas City pianist, bandleader and songwriter Jay 'Hootie' McShann has died in hospital today (Dec. 7) after a brief illness. He was 90 years old. He was the last of the great Kansas City players, and the creator of a style that combined swing and blues and changed the course of popular music. A piano player with a unique and subtle touch, he was a bluesman at heart. His best known composition 'Confessin' The Blues' has been recorded by artists like The Rolling Stones, BB King, Little Walter, Esther Phillips, and Jimmy 'Spoon' Witherspoon among many many others. McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahama in 1916

Settling in Kansas City in the mid-'30s, he soon formed a small group, but by 1940 had a large band which included a young alto sax player called Charlie Parker. His links to Parker are widely known, but McShann's later role in building the career of singers Walter Brown (who co-wrote Confessin' the Blues) and Jimmy Witherspoon has been largely overlooked. Typecast as a blues band, McShann's group recorded few of his more complex jazz arrangements, but they helped build his reputation and he was able to move to New York in 1942 - however, the second World War intervened, McShann was drafted, and moved to Los Angeles after his discharge two years later. For many years, he languished in relative obscurity, but emerged again in 1969, taking up a heavy touring schedule that brought him international fame. Along the way he recorded for numerous labels, including Decca, Mercury, Vee Jay, EmArcy and Atlantic.

Toronto was frequently on his tour schedules; jazz musician and Downtown Jazz Festival artistic director Jim Galloway brought him to the now-vanished Bourbon Street club in 1972 and he recorded close to a dozen albums in the city for the Sackville label. His last four albums, including the Grammy-nominated 2003 release "Going to Kansas City", were recorded for the Edmonton-based Stony Plain label; three of them were co-produced by guitarist Duke Robillard. Stony Plain's owner, Holger Petersen, acting as tour manager, frequently accompanied McShann to international jazz festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Monterey, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland. Said Petersen: "Jay had a great uplifting smile and kind words for everyone. He was always a delight to travel with, and had a very laidback, inquisitive and cheerful attitude. I'll miss his smile, and hearing him and saying 'Everything's cool'."And Jim Galloway summed it up: "His passing marks the end of a line. He will be missed." Jay McShann leaves his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters - Linda McShann Gerber, Jayme McShann Lewis, and Pam McShann.

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-------------------------Dewey Redman, 75, Jazz Saxophonist, Diess


Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos
Dewey Redman in his last concert, Aug. 27 at Tompkins Square Park.
v

By BEN RATLIFF
Published: September 4, 2006

Dewey Redman, an expansive and poetic tenor saxophonist and bandleader who had been at the aesthetic frontiers of jazz since the 1960’s, died on Saturday in Brooklyn. He was 75 and lived in Brooklyn.

The cause was liver failure, said Velibor Pedevski, his brother-in-law.

Walter Redman was born and grew up in Fort Worth. He started off on clarinet at 13, playing in a church band. Not long after, he met Ornette Coleman when they both played in the high school marching band. Their friendship would become one of the crucial links in his life.

Typical of late-1950’s jazz tenor saxophone players, Mr. Redman was informed by the sound and style of Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. But he didn’t immerse himself in technique and harmonic theory, as those musicians did, or lead a band until his mid-30’s. Until then, he said, he was largely playing by ear.

Consequently his playing always kept a rawness, a willingness to play outside tonality, a closeness to the blues and above all a powerful sound: an expressive, dark-toned, vocalized expression that he could apply in any situation. (This power could also come through his second instrument — he played a double-reed instrument he called a musette.) He has often been called a free-jazz musician, and he could indeed put a logic and personality into music that had no chord changes. But that designation doesn’t acknowledge how authoritatively Mr. Redman could play a traditional ballad like “The Very Thought of You,” or how his solos could become dramatic diversions in someone else’s written music, as in parts of Tom Harrell’s 1998 album “The Art of Rhythm.”

After attending Prairie View A&M University in Texas, where he played alto and tenor saxophone in the college band, and then a stint in the Army, Mr. Redman taught fifth grade in Bastrop, Tex., near Austin. In 1959 he moved to Los Angeles and then San Francisco, playing with Pharoah Sanders, Donald Rafael Garrett and others.

Mr. Redman missed the ascension of his old friend Ornette Coleman, moving to New York to join the band only in 1967. His performances with Mr. Coleman over the next seven years, on albums like “New York Is Now!,” “Love Call” and “Science Fiction,” on which his tenor saxophone meshes with Mr. Coleman’s alto, are good ways to understand some of the great jazz of the period, intuitively finding a third way between general conceptions of the jazz tradition and the avant-garde.

Mr. Redman also recorded with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969 and then, beginning in 1971, spent five years off and on with a band known to historians as Keith Jarrett’s American quartet, which included Mr. Jarrett, Mr. Haden and the drummer Paul Motian. Underrated by the public and ever important to musicians, it played a music that was more determined by harmonic structure than Mr. Coleman’s, but equally challenging and prescient in its drive to make organic sense of various schisms in jazz since post-bop.

Mr. Coleman then provided the impetus for the next phase of Mr. Redman’s work, but in absentia. Old and New Dreams was a quartet of mainstays from different Coleman bands: Mr. Redman, Mr. Haden, Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell. They recorded and toured from 1976 to 1984, relying mostly on Mr. Coleman’s repertory. Though he had stopped playing with Mr. Coleman’s bands, he never stopped proclaiming his admiration for his old friend’s work and performed brilliantly during Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2004 concert of Coleman music, with Mr. Coleman in the audience.

From the mid-60’s on, Mr. Redman often led his own bands, usually quartets with piano, bass and drums; he recorded twice with his son Joshua Redman, the popular jazz saxophonist. Most recently his band included the pianist Frank Kimbrough, the bassist John Menegon and the drummer Matt Wilson. He played his final concert on Aug. 27 at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

He is survived by his wife, Lidija Pedevska-Redman, and two sons Joshua, of Berkeley, Calif., and Tarik.

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Maynard Ferguson, 78, Trumpeter and Bandleader, Dies

Published: August 25, 2006

Maynard Ferguson, whose soaring trumpeting reached the instrument’s highest ranges and propelled a musical career of more than 60 years, died Wednesday in Ventura, Calif. He was 78.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Maynard Ferguson at the Blue Note in New York last month. 

The cause was kidney and liver failure, said his personal manager, Steve Schankman.

Mr. Ferguson had a stratospheric style all his own. He possessed “a tremendous breadth of sound and an incomparable tone,” said Lew Soloff, a prominent trumpeter who started out with Mr. Ferguson in the mid-1960’s. The writer Frank Conroy once noted, “He soared above everything, past high C, into the next octave and a half, where his tone and timbre became unique” — sometimes reaching, as Mr. Schankman said, “notes so high that only dogs could hear them.”

He pleased far more crowds than critics. John S. Wilson, reviewing Mr. Ferguson’s big band at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival for The New York Times, called it “screaming” and “strident.” Yet that same year the readers of Down Beat magazine voted the band the world’s second-best, outranked only by Count Basie’s.

Today, record collectors pay hundreds of dollars for rare Fergusons. “Very few rock superstars can command that kind of prices for used CD’s or records,” said John Himes, who runs the Maynard Ferguson Album Emporium in Cypress, Calif.

Mr. Ferguson’s bands toured ceaselessly, across Asia, Europe and the United States, stopping often at high schools and colleges, where he served as both entertainer and educator. At his last stand — a six-night booking at the Blue Note in New York, which ended July 23 — every show sold out. The next week, he completed the last of his roughly 100 recordings; it is to be released this fall.

Walter Maynard Ferguson was born on May 4, 1928, in Verdun, Canada, now part of the city of Montreal. Both his parents were teachers and school administrators. His mother, a former concert violinist, taught him to play at an early age. His father stored school orchestra instruments in the basement, and Mr. Ferguson schooled himself on woodwinds and brass. By 15, he was out of school and into nightclubs, seven days a week.

He came to national attention in 1950 with a four-minute televised cavalcade on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” backed by Stan Kenton’s big band. After three years with the brass-heavy Kenton band, he did studio work and then, in 1956, formed his own band, which he led for a decade.

After a trip or two to Timothy Leary’s consciousness-altering community in Millbrook, N.Y., Mr. Ferguson dissolved his band in 1967 and moved to India for a year. He began a new band in London in 1969, fusing rock and pop into its repertory. His stock with jazz purists fell as he played his versions of hits by the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. But his popularity skyrocketed.

Mr. Ferguson’s performance of Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci,” an operatic warhorse turned into a disco anthem, was heard at the closing ceremony of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and seen by millions of television viewers. His version of “Gonna Fly Now,” the indelible theme from the movie “Rocky,” was nominated for a Grammy in 1977.

Mr. Ferguson won his homeland’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, in 2005. His wife of 53 years, Flo Ferguson, died that year. He is survived by four daughters, Kim, Lisa, Corby and Wilder, and two grandchildren.

Unlike many bandleaders, Mr. Ferguson rode a bus from stage to stage with his musicians. His tour manager, Ed Sargent, said that he preferred to travel in “a million-dollar rock ’n’ roll coach” with his sidemen.

Mr. Schankman, his manager, said that Mr. Ferguson had a cross-country tour set to begin in a few weeks, and pleaded from his deathbed for the shows to go on.

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John Hicks, 64; Pianist Played Jazz With Blakey

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 2006; Page B06

John Hicks, 64, a versatile jazz pianist who combined strength and refinement while performing with many of the leading musicians of his era, died May 10 of internal bleeding at a New York hospital. He was scheduled to perform last weekend at Twins Lounge, a Washington jazz club.

Mr. Hicks was adept at several forms of jazz, from standards and bebop to the avant-garde. He appeared on hundreds of recordings as a leader or sideman and was comfortable in small groups, in big bands or accompanying singers.


Early in his career, he was a pianist for three demanding musical leaders who helped sculpt his style and broaden his musical experience. In 1964, soon after arriving in New York, Mr. Hicks joined the Jazz Messengers, a hard-driving quintet led by drummer Art Blakey, a renowned judge of talent. Two years later, Mr. Hicks became the pianist for singer Betty Carter, another leader with uncompromising tastes. Finally, from 1968 to 1970, he held the piano chair in the big band of Woody Herman.

Since the 1970s, Mr. Hicks had led a series of small groups and appeared with the Mingus Big Band, which performed the music of Charles Mingus. Through the years, he worked with an all-star lineup of jazz greats, including trumpeters Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and Clark Terry; saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders; and singers Jon Hendricks and Carmen McRae.

Mr. Hicks appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center and was a fixture at international music festivals. In recent years, he often performed with trumpeter Eddie Henderson or with his wife, flutist Elise Wood, and taught at New York University and the New School in New York.

"He was a major, important player who was probably not as well recognized as he should have been," said Rusty Hassan, a disc jockey with WPFW (89.3 FM) who knew Mr. Hicks for more than 30 years.

Some of his finest performances came in the final years of his career, when he recorded elegant tribute albums to singer Billie Holiday and musicians Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Clark and Erroll Garner.

"He brought musical excellence, a generous heart and great joy to everything he did," said guitarist Larry Coryell, who tapped Mr. Hicks for several record dates. "He was able to be a star in a supporting role."

Like many other jazz musicians, John Josephus Hicks Jr. received his early musical training in the church. He was born in Atlanta and moved with his family to Los Angeles and later St. Louis.

"My father was a Methodist minister and my mom was my first piano teacher," he told the Jerusalem Post in January. "I got great experience playing piano in church. I started playing there as soon as I learned how to read music."

While still in his teens, Mr. Hicks worked with blues artists Albert King and Little Milton. He attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and the Berklee School of Music in Boston before becoming the pianist for singer Della Reese. Soon after settling in New York, Mr. Hicks, along with many other musicians of the era, fell under the captivating spell of saxophonist John Coltrane.

"There's a whole generation -- maybe two -- of players who are influenced by Trane," he said in 1997. "And it's on a spiritual level as well as musical. Trane was our Charlie Parker, and his sense of commitment to the music was awe-inspiring."

In 1999, Mr. Hicks performed on a recording led by Coryell, "Monk, Trane, Miles and Me."

"The most touching moment for me was his solo on John Coltrane's 'Naima,' " Coryell recalled this week. "It is absolutely, unbelievably beautiful. When we finished that performance in the studio, I broke down in tears."

Three days before he died, Mr. Hicks gave his final concert at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Harlem, where his father was once the pastor. The church was also the site of his first concert in New York in 1963.

His marriage to Olympia Hicks ended in divorce.

Survivors include Wood, his wife of five years, of New York; two children from his first marriage; two stepchildren; one brother; two sisters; and a granddaughter.

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Jackie McLean, Jazz Saxophonist and Mentor, Dies at 74

By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: April 3, 2006 NYT

Jackie McLean, an acclaimed saxophonist who took a midcareer detour to become a prominent jazz educator, died on Friday at his home in Hartford. He was 74.

Jackie McLean in July 2004.

His death was confirmed by a spokesman for the University of Hartford, where Mr. McLean had taught since 1970. No cause was given.

Mr. McLean was one of many gifted young musicians who burst onto the New York scene after World War II in the wake of the musical revolution known as bebop. He worked with Bud Powell and Miles Davis before he was out of his teens, and later he gained valuable seasoning in the bands of Art Blakey and Charles Mingus before he began leading his own groups.

Also a prolific composer, Mr. McLean was one of the first alto saxophonists to absorb the pervasive influence of Charlie Parker and shape it into a distinctive personal style. While the influence was clear, especially in his approach to harmony, Mr. McLean's astringent tone and impassioned phrasing marked him as more than just another Parker disciple.

His career had a second act as well. In the late 1960's he put performing aside to concentrate on teaching.

On his arrival at the University of Hartford in 1970, he was a music instructor at the Hartt School. Ten years later he was named director of the university's newly formed African-American music program, one of the first degree programs in the field. In 2000, a year before he received a Jazz Masters grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the university renamed the program the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz.

For more than two decades he performed and recorded only occasionally. He devoted most of his energy to teaching, both at the university and at the Artists Collective, a community cultural center in Hartford that offered classes in music, theater, dance and the visual arts to local young people, which he founded and ran with his wife, Dollie. She survives him, along with his son Rene, of New York, a saxophonist who frequently performed with him; another son, Vernone, and a daughter, Melonae, both of Hartford; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In the early 1990's Mr. McLean shifted some of his focus back to performing. "I've always wanted to be remembered for being more than a saxophone player," he told Peter Watrous of The New York Times in 1990, when he returned to New York to perform at the Village Vanguard. "It's been important to put aside my horn and help people, act on what I believe. But the building for Artists Collective will be going up in the next two years, and the music department is now a full-degree program, so it's time to get back to playing."

John Lenwood McLean was born in Harlem on May 17, 1931. (Many sources give his year of birth as 1932, but The Grove Dictionary of Jazz and other authoritative reference works say he was born a year earlier.) The son of a jazz guitarist, he began studying saxophone at 14, starting on soprano but switching to alto after a few months.

Bud Powell, a neighbor who was the leading pianist of the bebop movement and a neighbor, took Mr. McLean under his wing. He also worked with the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, another neighbor, and soon caught the attention of Miles Davis, who was just beginning his career as a bandleader. Davis used both Mr. McLean and Mr. Rollins as sidemen on one of his first recordings, in 1951.

Mr. McLean began recording his own albums in 1955. He also had a brief but memorable stage and screen career, appearing in the 1959 Off Broadway production of "The Connection," Jack Gelber's play about drug addiction, and in the 1961 film version, directed by Shirley Clarke.

Mr. McLean was in a sense playing himself. His character was a member of a jazz combo, which provided the music as well as taking part in the action. His character was also a heroin addict — as, he later acknowledged, was Mr. McLean himself. He eventually kicked the habit, and when he became a teacher he often spoke to his students about the dangers of drugs.

In his younger days Mr. McLean was identified with the aggressive, rhythmically charged offshoot of bebop known as hard bop. But in the early and middle 1960's he surprised his listeners (and alienated some critics) by embracing the avant-garde movement then known simply as "the new thing" and later called free jazz, on a series of daring albums for Blue Note with names like "Destination Out" and "One Step Beyond." He even enlisted Ornette Coleman, one of the fathers of the new music, as a sideman on "New and Old Gospel." Although Mr. Coleman's main instrument, like Mr. McLean's, was alto sax, he played trumpet on that album.

But Mr. McLean preferred not to talk about his music in terms of categories. "I've grown out of being just a bebop saxophone player, or being a free saxophone player," he told Jon Pareles of The Times in 1983. "I don't know where I am now. I guess I'm somewhere mixed up between all the saxophonists who ever played."
 

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Legendary Detroit jazz drummer Roy Brooks dies

BY MARK STRYKER

FREE PRESS MUSIC WRITER
Roy Brooks, one of the greatest jazz musicians to emerge from Detroit and in his heyday in the 1960s a ubiquitous presence in clubs and on record with many of the biggest names in jazz, died Tuesday at Detroit Receiving Hospital. He was 67 and suffered from heart, lung, arthritis and circulation troubles, said his wife Hermine Brooks.

Brooks' clarified swing, gutsy attack, fiery momentum and distinctive rhythmic snap made him one of the keynote hard bop drummers of his generation. He made his name with pianist Horace Silver's Quintet from 1959-64 and later worked or recorded with Sonny Stitt, Yusef Lateef, Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, James Moody and countless others.


Returning to Detroit in the 70s, Brooks became a godfather on the local scene, working with groups such as his Aboriginal Percussion Choir, playing the blues on the musical saw and mentoring future stars like pianist Geri Allen.

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 Percy Heath, Bassist of Modern Jazz Quartet, Dies at 81The Heath Brothers, from left, Percy, Jimmy and Albert, in 1997.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos
The Heath Brothers, from left, Percy, Jimmy and Albert, in 1997.

By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: April 29, 2005

Percy Heath, whose forceful and buoyant bass playing anchored the Modern Jazz Quartet for its entire four-decade existence, died yesterday in Southampton, N.Y. He was 81 and lived in Montauk, on Long Island.

The cause of death was bone cancer, his family said.

Mr. Heath recorded with most of the leading musicians in modern jazz, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. But from the early 1950's through the middle 1970's, most of his recording activity and all of his live performances were devoted to the group known to its fans around the world as the M. J .Q.

He had been playing bass for only about four years when he became a charter member of the quartet, whose musical director was the pianist and composer John Lewis. "John told me, 'Percy, you don't know enough about what we're going to do, so you better get yourself lessons,' " Mr. Heath told the jazz critic Gary Giddins. "John's music was a challenge and I appreciated it."

Mr. Heath proved to be a quick study, mastering Mr. Lewis's sophisticated compositions and arrangements and adding an unpretentious, bluesy sensibility of his own. He rarely took a solo, and his role in the quartet by its very nature drew less attention than the work of Mr. Lewis and the vibraphonist Milt Jackson. But his contributions were no less essential to the group's distinctive sound, or to its remarkable longevity and success.

Percy Heath was born on April 30, 1923, in Wilmington, N.C., and grew up in Philadelphia. His father was an amateur clarinetist and his mother sang in a church choir. He and his two younger brothers all became interested in music early in life.

All three Heath brothers went on to become professional musicians, and eventually they worked together. Mr. Heath took up the bass relatively late in life. His first instrument was the violin, which he studied as a child.

During World War II he served with the Army Air Corps in Alabama, where he trained as a pilot; he was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Mr. Heath began playing bass as a student at the Granoff School of Music in Philadelphia in 1946.

Within a few months he was performing with local jazz bands and working as the house bassist at the Down Beat, a Philadelphia nightclub. He moved to New York City in 1947 with his brother Jimmy, a saxophonist and composer, and in 1950 they both joined Dizzy Gillespie's group.

Not long after that, Mr. Heath and three other former Gillespie sidemen - Mr. Lewis, Mr. Jackson and the drummer Kenny Clarke - formed the Modern Jazz Quartet.

The quartet stayed together from 1952 to 1974, with only one personnel change: Kenny Clarke left in 1955 and was replaced by Connie Kay. After the group disbanded temporarily, Mr. Heath began working with his brother Jimmy and his youngest brother, Albert, a drummer.

The Heath Brothers specialized in a loose, freewheeling brand of jazz that was very different from the more dignified and restrained work of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Percy was also much more prominently in the spotlight; he even played the melody line on several numbers, often on a cello tuned like a bass, which he jokingly called a "baby bass."

The Heath Brothers remained together until the Modern Jazz Quartet reunited in the early 1980's, and they continued to work together occasionally over the next two decades during the quartet's hiatuses. The group recorded albums for the Columbia, Concord, Antilles and Strata East labels.

Percy Heath remained the backbone of the reunited Modern Jazz Quartet for the rest of its existence. He was briefly joined there by his brother Albert, who became the group's drummer after Kay died in 1994.

But Percy finally decided he had had enough of the grueling life of a traveling musician. When he announced that he was through with touring, rather than replace him, the other members of the group decided to shut it down, quietly and without fanfare.

The Modern Jazz Quartet never performed again. Jackson died in 1999, Lewis in 2001.

In recent years Mr. Heath continued to perform occasionally with his brothers, but he spent most of his time at his house in Montauk, where he devoted himself to fishing. He carried a rod when touring with the Modern Jazz Quartet. "I made a living," he once said, "to go fishing."

Mr. Heath's survivors include his wife, June; his sons Percy III, Jason and Stuart; and his two brothers.

More than half a century after he first entered a recording studio, Mr. Heath - who by his own count had played on more than 300 records - did something he had never done before. In 2004, shortly before his 81st birthday, the small Daddy Jazz label released an album by Mr. Heath, "A Love Song." It was his first recording as a leader.
 


Jazz Organist Jimmy Smith Dies at 79

By Arthur Spiegelman, Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 9) - Organist Jimmy Smith, who helped change the sound of jazz by almost single-handedly introducing the soulful electric riffs of the Hammond B-3 organ, has died at age 79 at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his record label said on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the Concord record label said Smith died of natural causes on Tuesday.

AP

Jazz great Jimmy Smith plays organ at his studio in May 1993.

 

Born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 8, 1925, Smith ruled the Hammond B-3 in the 1950s and 1960s and blended jazz, blues, R&B, bebop and even gospel into an exciting stew that became known as "soul jazz" -- an idiom that produced many imitators, followers and fans.

"Anyone who plays the organ is a direct descendant of Jimmy Smith. It's like Adam and Eve -- you always remind someone of Jimmy Smith," jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco said in an interview with Reuters last year.

"He was the big pioneer, not only of the organ but musically. He was doing things that (John) Coltrane did in the '60s, but he did them back in '56 and '57," he added.

Paired with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery in the 1960s, Smith first made his mark as a soloist on Blue Note Records where, as one critic noted, he turned the Hammond B-3 organ "into a down and dirty orchestra."

Among his best known albums on Blue Note were "The Sermon!" "Back at the Chicken Shack," "Midnight Special," "Home Cookin'," and "Prayer Meetin'."

Critic Gene Seymour, writing in the "Oxford Companion to Jazz," said, "Though he was not the first player to bring the electric organ to jazz, Smith gave the instrument the expressive power that Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker gave their respective saxophones."

The pipe organ had been used in jazz in the 1930s by such famous players as Fats Waller but it was obviously too big and too heavy to be lugged into jazz clubs. Smith was able to take his electric B-3 on the road and created a jazz trio of organ, drums and either guitar or saxophone.

Smith himself provided the bass lines by using the organ's foot pedals.

LEARNED PIANO AT HOME

Smith initially learned piano at home and then went on to study bass at music schools in Philadelphia.

He began playing the Hammond organ in 1951, and soon wound up playing in some of New York's most famous clubs, including Cafe Bohemia and Birdland.

Smith's Blue Note sessions -- from his 1956 "New Sounds on the Organ" to 1963 when he left the label -- included work with some of the major players of the day, including Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, Ike Quebec and Stanley Turrentine.

On Verve from 1963 to 1972, he played with Montgomery and in big bands conducted or arranged by Oliver Nelson.

Blue Note co-founder Francis Wolff once recalled the night he and his partner, Alfred Lion, first encountered Smith:

"I first heard Jimmy at Small's Paradise in January of 1956. It was his first gig in New York. He was a stunning sight. A man in convulsions, face contorted, crouched over in apparent agony, his fingers flying, his foot dancing over the pedals. The air was filled with waves of sound I had never heard before. The noise was shattering. A few people sat around, puzzled, but impressed.

"He came off the stand, smiling, the sweat dripping all over him. 'So what do you think?' 'Yeah!' I said. That's all I could say. Alfred Lion had already made up his mind. When he heard a good thing -- that was enough."

02/09/05 20:15 EST

 

Illinois Jacquet, 81, Sax-Playing Bandleader, Dies

By BEN RATLIFF

Published: July 23, 2004 NYT


Illinois Jacquet, the influential tenor-saxophone star who bridged swing and rhythm and blues and persevered as a big band leader into his early 80's, died yesterday at his home in Queens. He was 81.

The cause was a heart attack, said his companion of 23 years, Carol Scherick.

Only a handful of instrumental solos in jazz have inspired anyone beyond a small coterie of musicians and rabid fans to memorize them; one of them is "Flying Home," a lusty, brick-throwing solo by the 19-year-old Mr. Jacquet (pronounced Ja-KETT, but often rendered as JACK-et by his friends). Recorded on the first take in 1942, with Lionel Hampton's orchestra, his 80-second solo on "Flying Home" was carefully structured, building its energy precipitously and cresting on a single note, repeated 12 times in a row. The tune became a national hit, and was demanded of Mr. Jacquet night after night. He left the band less than two years later, pleading physical exhaustion.

"Sometimes you have to quit to save your life," he said in an interview much later with Texas Monthly magazine. "I looked in the mirror and said, 'You're dying, and Hampton is getting rich.' "

His replacement in the Hampton band, Arnett Cobb, assumed his role, playing the solo note for note. The Texas-tenor style, big-toned and earthy, came out of that solo, with Cobb and Buddy Tate the primary descendants of Mr. Jacquet.

"Flying Home" established Mr. Jacquet as a house-rocker, honking low notes and wailing in the highest, or altissimo, register; he climbed two and a half octaves above the tenor saxophone's normal range by using overtones. But this kind of playing represented only one part of his art.

"He was so much more than that," the saxophonist Benny Golson remembered in an interview yesterday. "He started touring with Norman Granz and Jazz at the Philharmonic, and could assume the role of entertainer, rather than artist, screeching for two or three choruses. But he was a cutting-edge saxophone player. He knew that horn."

Mr. Jacquet's slow ballads, especially, argued his breadth; he revealed a mastery of harmony through a velvety tone.

Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet was born in Broussard, La., to an American Indian mother and a French-Creole father. He entered show business at 3, singing and dancing with his three brothers. His father, Gilbert, a railroad mechanic, also led a big band after the family moved to Houston, and young Illinois danced in front of the band and also learned soprano and alto saxophone.

When he was 15, he took his first regular job with the Milton Larkin Orchestra, playing around Houston, and word of his talent began to spread.

Frustrated with segregation, he moved to Los Angeles with his brother Russell in 1940. He met Nat King Cole, who recommended him to Hampton, who in turn offered him a job filling the tenor-saxophone chair.

Mr. Jacquet earned the nickname the Beast because of intemperate playing, but also because he tended not to suffer fools gladly. Though he remained a critic of his critics and a stern bandleader into old age, those who met him socially in later years found a much softer-tempered man. From 1947 to his death he lived in Queens, in the Addisleigh Park neighborhood, near the homes of Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald.

Besides Ms. Scherick, he is survived by a daughter, Pamela Jacquet Davis, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and a granddaughter.

After the job with Hampton, Mr. Jacquet toured for a year with Cab Calloway's band and then with Count Basie; then he worked with Jazz at the Philharmonic, the touring jazz extravaganza produced by Granz. In 1944, at a famous Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, he recorded his second-most-famous solo, on the tune "Blues (Part 2)," an elaboration of the altissimo-register style. He led some small groups in the late 1940's, recording the hits "Robbins' Nest" and "Port of Rico."

With the decline of big bands, Mr. Jacquet worked constantly in all kinds of formats, including a popular trio in the 1970's with the pianist Milt Buckner and the drummer Jo Jones. It was not until 1983, when he was artist in residence at Harvard, that he formed a big band, his first in 30 years, which included the veteran saxophonists Eddie Barefield and Marshal Royal.

Mr. Jacquet's charisma and the slugging intensity of the music made converts: his band had sold-out engagements at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan, started touring Europe regularly, and made a series of new albums, including the Grammy-nominated "Jacquet's Got It!" originally released on Atlantic and recently rereleased on CD by Label M.

Mr. Jacquet received an honorary doctorate of musical arts from the Juilliard School of Music on May 21. He played his final performance with his big band last Friday at Lincoln Center, in the last concert of the "Midsummer Night Swing" series, which he had closed for the last 16 years.

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Pianist James Williams, died Tuesday July 20 of complications from liver cancer at the age of 53. His website has more information.

Written By: Russell Carlson

James Williams, a pianist and onetime member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, died Tuesday, July 20 of complications from liver cancer. He was 53.

Born in Memphis in 1951, Williams began playing piano at 13 and concentrated on gospel music and R&B, early influences that would remain a part of style throughout his career. While studying music education at Memphis State University he became interested in jazz. After graduating he landed a job teaching at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he took area gigs with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Milt Jackson, Clark Terry and others. He eventually left Berklee to join drummer Art Blakey’s jazz Messengers, a group he stayed with for four years, honing his chops both as a player and a composer.

Williams began recording as a leader while still with the Messengers; Flying Colors, his leader debut, was released on Zim in 1977. After leaving the Messengers in 1981, Williams continued to make albums under his own name, recording for labels like Concord, EmArcy and DIW. In 1987 he formed the Magical Trio, a recording group originally comprised of the pianist, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Blakey. That band put out one album titled Magical Trio 1. Two later incarnations of the group—one featuring Brown and Elvin Jones, the other with Charnett Moffett and Jeff “Tain” Watts—followed up on the first album’s success.

In the ’90s Williams co-founded the Contemporary Piano Ensemble, which included fellow pianists Harold Mabern, Mulgrew Miller, Donald Brown and Geoff Keezer, as well as ICU (Intensive Care Unit) a group that saw him revisit his gospel and R&B roots.

Williams was hospitalized in April.

James Williams, Pianist and Leading Jazz Educator, Dies at 53

By BEN RATLIFF

Published: July 21, 2004

James Williams, a pianist formerly in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and a leading jazz educator, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 53 and lived in Brooklyn. The cause was liver cancer, said Jenise Grice, fiancée of the drummer Tony Reedus, Mr. Williams's nephew.

Mr. Williams was born in Memphis, and he grew up surrounded by musicians like Harold Mabern, George Coleman and Jamil Nasser. Like them, he used elements of gospel and blues in his sunny, swinging improvisations. But as a teacher and producer of jazz, he was also a repository of standards in jazz, including the more modern ones; he was especially interested in the pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., who also came from Memphis.

After attending Memphis State University, Mr. Williams moved to Boston, where he taught at Berklee College of Music from 1972 to 1977; at that time he worked with groups led by Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw and others. In 1977 he joined the Jazz Messengers, playing over four years and 10 albums and alongside Wynton Marsalis and Bobby Watson.

In 1984, Mr. Williams moved to New York, where he became a bandleader and educator as well as a producer of albums and concerts. He formed the Contemporary Piano Ensemble, a four-pianist group; he also started a band called Intensive Care Unit, which used a revolving cast of singers and worked at reconciling gospel with jazz. He formed Finas Sound Productions, through which he produced many albums and concerts.

He was named director of jazz studies at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., in 1999 and taught until he was hospitalized in April of this year.

Mr. Williams is survived by two brothers, Hannibal Parkes and Ralph Parkes, both of Memphis; and a sister, Barbara Williams, also of Memphis.f Memphis.

Elvin Jones, one of the greatest drummers in jazz history:

May 19, 2004

By PETER KEEPNEWS NYT

Elvin Jones, whose explosive drumming powered the John Coltrane Quartet, the most influential and controversial jazz ensemble of the 1960's, died yesterday in Englewood, New Jersey.

He was 76 and lived in Manhattan and Nagasaki, Japan.

Mr. Jones's death, which came after several months of failing health, was announced by John DeChristopher, director of artist relations for the Avedis Zildjian Company, maker of Mr. Jones's cymbals. Mr. Jones continued to perform until a few weeks ago, often taking an oxygen tank onto the bandstand.

Mr. Jones, a fixture of the Coltrane group from late 1960 to early 1966 and for more than three decades the leader of several noteworthy groups of his own, was the first great post-bebop percussionist. Building on the innovations of the jazz modernists Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, who liberated the drum kit from a purely time-keeping function in the 1940's, he paved the way for a later generation of drummers who dispensed with a steady rhythmic pulse altogether in the interest of greater improvisational freedom. But he never lost that pulse: the beat was always palpable when he played, even as he embellished it with layer upon layer of interlocking polyrhythms.

The critic and historian Leonard Feather explained Mr.

Jones's significance this way: "His main achievement was the creation of what might be called a circle of sound, a continuum in which no beat of the bar was necessarily indicated by any specific accent, yet the overall feeling became a tremendously dynamic and rhythmically important part of the whole group."

But if the self-taught Mr. Jones had a profound influence on other drummers, not many of them directly emulated his style, at least in part because few had the stamina for it.

None of the images that the critics invoked to describe his playing - volcano, thunderstorm, perpetual-motion machine - quite did justice to the strength of his attack, the complexity of his ideas or the originality of his approach.

Elvin Ray Jones was born in Pontiac, Mich., on Sept. 9, 1927. The youngest of 10 children, he was the third Jones brother to become a professional musician, following Hank, a respected jazz pianist who is still active, and Thad, a cornetist, composer, arranger and bandleader, who died in 1986.

He began teaching himself to play drums at 13, but he had lost his heart to the instrument long before then. "I never wanted to play anything else since I was 2," he told one interviewer. "I would get these wooden spoons from my mother and beat on the pots and pans in the kitchen."

After spending three years in the Army he joined his brothers as a fixture on the busy Detroit jazz scene of the early 1950's. As the house drummer at a local nightclub, the Bluebird Inn, he worked with local musicians like Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell as well as visiting jazz stars like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

In 1956 after briefly touring with the bassist Charles Mingus and the pianist Bud Powell, Mr. Jones moved to New York, where he was soon in great demand as an accompanist.

He occasionally sat in with Miles Davis, and he later recalled that Coltrane, who was then Davis's saxophonist, promised to hire Mr. Jones whenever he formed his own group. In the fall of 1960 Coltrane made good on that promise.

Working with Coltrane, a relentless musical explorer, emboldened Mr. Jones to expand the expressive range of his instrument. "My experience with Coltrane," he told the writer James Isaacs in 1973, "was that John was a catalyst in my finding the way that drums could be played most musically." He in turn influenced Coltrane, Mr. Jones's ferocious rhythms goading Coltrane to ecstatic heights in performance and on recordings like "A Love Supreme" and "Ascension."

Coltrane's quartet helped redefine the concept of the jazz combo. Mr. Jones and the other members of the rhythm section, the pianist McCoy Tyner and the bassist Jimmy Garrison, did not accompany Coltrane so much as engage him in an open-ended four-way conversation. Audiences found the group's intensity galvanizing, and many critics shared their enthusiasm.

But despite its popularity, the group divided the jazz world. John Tynan of Down Beat magazine dismissed its music as "anti-jazz," and others agreed. Mr. Jones's drumming, a revelation to some listeners, was dismissed by others as overly busy and distractingly loud.

Mr. Jones left the group in March 1966, shortly after Coltrane, as part of his constant quest for new sounds, began adding musicians. Although he never publicly explained why he left, he was widely believed to have been insulted by Coltrane's decision to hire a second drummer.

Mr. Jones spent two weeks with Duke Ellington's big band and briefly worked in Paris before returning to the United States, where he formed a trio with Garrison, who had also recently left Coltrane, and the saxophonist Joe Farrell.

That group was short-lived, but Mr. Jones continued to lead small groups for the rest of his life. Over the years many exceptional musicians passed in and out of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, as the ensemble came to be known in all its various incarnations, and the group performed regularly all over the world and recorded prolifically.

Mr. Jones's survivors include his wife, Keiko, who also managed his career and composed several of the pieces in his band's repertory, and his brother Hank.

Mr. Jones came to see it as his mission to offer training and experience to promising young musicians, and in recent years he gave early exposure to budding jazz stars like the saxophonist Joshua Redman, the trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis. A particularly noteworthy addition to the Jazz Machine lineup in the 1990's was the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, John's son.

Mr. Jones was also a tireless proselytizer for an instrument that he believed was too often maligned and misunderstood. "I played a job in a bar once as a young man," he told his fellow drummer Lewis Nash in a 1997 interview for Down Beat. "One of the customers came up to me and said, `Hey, make some noise.' What he really meant was that he wanted me to play a drum solo. So that is a general perception, and that way of thinking still exists."

"People never understood," he continued, "that the drum is a musical instrument."

-----------------------------

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jazz great Benny Carter, a master of melodic invention on the alto saxophone who also was a renowned composer, instrumentalist, orchestra leader and arranger, has died, friends said Sunday. He was 95.

Carter died Saturday, after being hospitalized for about two weeks with bronchitis and other problems, said family friend and publicist Virginia Wicks. ``A big, big person walked out of the room yesterday,'' said friend and producer Quincy Jones. ``A great human being.''

Known as a virtuoso alto saxophone and trumpet player, critics praised Carter for his originality and improvisation that helped launch the golden age of big band jazz in the 1930s.

His compositions, which include ``When Lights Are Low'' (1936) and ``Blues in My Heart'' (1931), became jazz and big band standards, and many saxophone and trumpet players continue to measure their work against his solos. But it was his work arranging and composing - and receiving credit - for movies and later for television that opened doors for many black musicians and composers. Carter was largely self-taught as a musician, playing both saxophone and trumpet before becoming a bandleader in the late 1920s. In a career that spanned more than six decades, he performed with or wrote music for nearly all of jazz's early greats, including Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.

St. Louis-based trumpeter Clark Terry, another early jazz pioneer, said Carter was truly revered by other musicians. ``We always called him the king because he was probably the most highly respected musician of the whole lot of us,'' Terry said. Though he is perhaps best remembered as a saxophonist, Jones said Carter's greatest contributions to the form were his compositions and arrangements. Carter was a member of a generation of early jazz musicians responsible for changing public attitudes about the style, which grew out of blues and spiritual music and was largely performed by black musicians, Jones said.

``They came out of this thing that was supposed to be the wicked music, and they brought it to life, and it turned into one of our greatest art forms,'' Jones said.

Born Bennett Lester Carter on Aug. 8, 1907, in New York City, he attended an integrated elementary school. He took piano lessons from his mother when he was 10 years old, and later studied with a private teacher for a year.

Carter picked up the trumpet at age 14. But after failing to master it in a week, he traded it for a saxophone, he once told reporters. Carter mastered the trumpet a year later. By age 15, he was a regular at Harlem night clubs.

In 1928, Carter made his recording and arranging debut as a member of Charlie Johnson's Orchestra. With no formal music education, Carter taught himself to arrange music on two of the orchestra's recordings, ``Charleston Is the Best Dance After All'' and ``Easy Money.'' Later that year, he joined Fletcher Henderson's orchestra and assumed arrangement duties.

Carter expanded his duties to include composing and in 1932 put together his own orchestra, but the band struggled financially and disbanded in 1934.

But his reputation as an arranger had grown. ``You got Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and my man, the Earl of Hines, right? Well, Benny's right up there with all them cats. Everybody that knows who he is calls him `King.' He is a king,'' Louis Armstrong once said.

In 1942, Carter reorganized his band, which included bebop pioneers Gillespie and Kenny Clarke and later modernist Miles Davis. He disbanded it in 1946 in part because of his growing Hollywood career.

In the 1943, Carter arranged music for ``Stormy Weather,'' an all black musical. In 1944, Carter appeared in MGM's ``Thousands Cheer'' with Lena Horne. He went on to arrange music for ``An American in Paris,'' (1951) ``The Guns of Navarone'' (1961) and Busby Berkeley's ``The Gang's All Here'' (1943).

He later composed and arranged music for 20 television series, including ``M Squad,'' (1957-60) ``Ironside,'' (1967-75) ``The Name of the Game'' (1968-71) and ``It Takes a Thief'' (1968-70).

His success as one of the first black musicians to break into the lucrative film scoring market and, eventually to be credited for his work, opened the door for others. He also succeeded in using his influence to push successfully to desegregate the Musicians' Union's white and black locals.

While Carter continued to arrange and compose music, he stopped touring in the 1950s and 1960s and began to fade in the jazz scene. In 1969, approached by a sociologist who felt Carter was not receiving recognition as one of the great contributors to jazz, Carter began lecturing at colleges.

In 1976, he returned to performing live at Michael's Pub in New York and later that year recorded ``The King,'' which featured duets with Gillespie.

``I don't look back at the good old days. The good old days are here and now,'' he once said.

Carter was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and the congressional designation as a National Treasure of Jazz in 1988. In 2000, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

Jones said he felt after visiting Carter in the hospital that ``the king'' had simply decided it was time to go. ``He said he had lived, for 95 years, the greatest life he could ask for, and he wanted to leave us like he lived with us, which was in such dignity,'' Jones said.

 

JIMMY KNEPPER

James "Jimmy" Minter Knepper, trombonist: born Los Angeles, 22 November 1927; married (one son deceased, one daughter); died Triadelphia, West Virginia 15 June 2003.

A gentle and likeable man who seemed to slip in and out of bands practically unnoticed, Jimmy Knepper was yet one of the most eloquent and original of jazz trombonists. His career was irrevocably modified on 12 October 1962 by a punch in the mouth from the unpredictable and often violent genius of jazz, bass player and composer Charlie Mingus.

Mingus had been preparing for weeks for a concert of his music at New

York Town Hall. Knepper had been copying scores and doing additional work on Mingus's writing. The two men were in Mingus's apartment when Knepper refused to take on more work.

The punch that followed broke one of Knepper's teeth, ruined his embouchure and resulted in the permanent loss of the top octave of his range on the trombone. Mingus alleged that his mild and affable trombone player had called him a nigger.

The concert was a disaster, but Knepper wasn't there. He was at the dentist having the stump of his tooth removed. He took out a civil action against Mingus.

By January 1963 Knepper was able to play again after a fashion and was hired by Peggy Lee to back her at the Basin Street East in New York. Knepper returned home from the job one morning at six. The postman rang with a delivery that required his signature, and he answered the door in his pajamas. As he signed two men appeared from his garden. They were treasury agents who had had been tipped off by phone about the delivery. It was a small packet that contained about five dollars' worth of heroin and Knepper was taken to the agents' headquarters. Knepper was sure that Mingus had set him up. Eventually the agents agreed with him and released him.

Mingus came to court on 6 February charged with assaulting Knepper. Some of the bassist's friends testified that he would never hurt anyone. Mingus said that Knepper had come to his apartment drunk and fallen over, injuring himself. He said again that Knepper had called him a nigger. The black judge glared at him and said 'That's got nothing to do with it.' Mingus was given a suspended sentence.

Knepper's trombone solos and ensemble playing had been a vital part of Mingus's bands for five or six years until then. He was a vital figure in much of the composer's best work, including the albums "The Clown", "Tonight At Noon", "Mingus Oh Yeah", "Blues and Roots" "Mingus Ah Um" and the unique "Tijuana Moods" suite of 1957. During this time he had also graced bands of similar moment led by Gil Evans, with whom he recorded in 1960 his unforgettable classic feature on "Where Flamingos Fly", surely one of the most beautiful and moving performances ever recorded on the instrument.

Although his trombone playing was most intricate, full of flying triplets and unusual intervals, Knepper always made it sound easy and he became the idol of other trombonists during the Sixties and Seventies. Unlike some of the brilliant technicians of today, Knepper kept a high emotional content in his work and involved his international audiences, who responded enthusiastically.

This was the apex of Knepper's career. He first took up the alto horn when he was six years old and in military school. He played in the school's marching bands and when he left, because his mother wanted him to play in marching bands and orchestrally, changed to the trombone. He finished his music studies in Los Angeles, and joined the Freddie Slack band, recording with Slack in 1947.  Bebop had arrived and the big band era was coming to a close. The result was that Knepper's playing reflected the swing style of trombonists Dickie Wells and Lawrence Brown and absorbed the revolutionary alto sax style of Charlie Parker. His tone on the instrument avoided the brassy and concentrated on a fleet dexterity to express his original ideas.

But his years as a soloist still lay ahead. In the late Forties and early Fifties he followed the hectic sideman's path through the tail end of the big bands, working for Gene Roland, Charlie Spivak, Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman. He briefly formed a quintet with Dean Benedetti, a saxophonist obsessed with the work of Charlie Parker. Knepper helped Benedetti in his mission to record unofficially as many of Parker's solos as he could – their efforts survive in a much-coveted seven CD set.

Knepper joined the Claude Thornhill band in 1956 for its tour of American bases in Germany, France and North Africa.  In February 1957 he made the fateful move to the Charlie Mingus group, where he replaced one of his friends, another white trombone player of similar talents, Willie Dennis.

"It's hard for a jazz musician to live a rational life," said Knepper, "unless he has an independent income or a busy maximum of work. When I was with Mingus, we didn't work very much. Most of the jobs were either recordings or concerts, and in all it only came to ten or 15 weeks a year."

Although he had by then left Mingus for Tony Scott's group, Knepper was delighted to be named "New Star" on the trombone by Down Beat magazine in 1959 for his work with Mingus. He was sure more work would follow as a result.

"I didn't work for three months, and I panicked. Then Gene Roland got me into the Stan Kenton band. We made a cross-country tour. Kenton was one of the nicest leaders I ever worked with. A real gentleman." Knepper had to leave the band because of his wife's illness. "After I left the band immediately went into a New York studio and recorded all the things that I had soloed on."

Frequent returns to work with Mingus in New York were peppered with trips abroad. He toured in Africa with Herbie Mann in 1960 and was in the Benny Goodman band for the disastrous tour of the Soviet Union in 1962. The members of the band got on well with the Russians, but Goodman's behavior towards his musicians made them vow never to work for him again.

Knepper worked as a member of the Gil Evans Orchestra whenever he could between 1960 and 1967, interspersing his jazz work with jobs in Broadway pit bands - he was in the band for "Funny Girl" on Broadway between 1964 and 1966.

 This left him time to play on Monday nights for the trombonist Tom Mackintosh in the rehearsal band that played on Monday nights at the Village Vanguard. This eventually emerged as the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and Knepper became a cornerstone of it from 1968 to 1974. By now much in demand, he worked and recorded with the National Jazz Ensemble, and, in Japan, with the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Band, He wrote scores for and played in the Lee Konitz Nonet from 1975 to 1981 and even braced himself to return to work for Mingus in 1977.

When Mingus died in 1979 Knepper became a key player in Mingus Dynasty, a band dedicated to playing the composer's music. He travelled to Europe to work and record with George Gruntz's Concert Band between 1976 and 1982 and made a successful trip to Britain to play with a group including saxophonist Bobby Wellins and bassist Dave Green for three weeks in 1980.

From the late 1980s until the early 1990s he played with the American Jazz Orchestra, recording with it with Benny Carter in 1987. He split his time in New York between that group and two big bands led by Buck Clayton and Loren Schonberg, but by now frequently returned to Europe to work.

 Health problems made him cut down his playing during the Nineties and  Parkinson's Disease ended his career. 

 Steve Voce The Independent

 

Nina Simone, 70, Soulful Diva and Voice of Civil Rights, Dies

April 22, 2003

By PETER KEEPNEWS for NYT

Nina Simone, a singer whose distinctively emotional style blended elements of jazz, gospel, blues, European art song and other influences, died yesterday at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France, near Marseille. She was 70. Her manager, Clifton Henderson, said she had been ill for some time, but he released no cause of death. Ms. Simone had only one Top 20 hit in her long career - her very first single, "I Loves You, Porgy," released in 1959 - but her following was large and loyal and her impact deep and lasting. Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Laura Nyro were among the singers who were influenced by her. In recent years her songs resurfaced and won new fans on television commercials and in dance-club remixes.

Although she was most often characterized as a jazz singer, Ms. Simone, who usually performed with a rhythm section and always accompanied herself on piano, was almost impossible to classify.  "If I had to be called something," she wrote in 1991 in her autobiography, "I Put a Spell on You," "it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing."

But her piano playing also revealed her classical training more clearly than most jazz pianists', and her singing - at times rough and raw, at other times sweet and pure - owed an unmistakable debt to black gospel music. Her repertory was similarly eclectic: it ranged from blues to Broadway, from Jacques Brel to Screamin' Jay Hawkins to the Bee Gees.

Ms. Simone was as famous for her social consciousness as she was for her music. In the 1960's no musical performer was more closely identified with the civil rights movement. Though she was best known as an interpreter of other people's music, she eloquently expressed her feelings about racism and black pride in those years in a number of memorable songs she wrote herself.

"Mississippi Goddam" was an angry response to the killing of the civil rights advocate Medgar Evers. "Young, Gifted and Black," written with the keyboardist Weldon Irvine Jr., became something of an anthem, recorded by Aretha Franklin and many others. "Four Women" painted a subtle but stinging picture of the suffering and the strength of African-American women.

She was born Eunice Waymon on Feb. 21, 1933, in Tryon, N.C., and grew up singing in a church choir and studying piano. She received a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in 1950, although she had to work as an accompanist for singers and as a piano teacher to help support herself. She eventually ran out of money, left Juilliard and moved back in with her family, at that time living in Philadelphia.

In 1954 she got a job playing piano at a bar and grill in Atlantic City, where she assumed her stage name - because, she later explained, she did not want her mother to find out what she was doing. After her first night on the job, she was told that she had to sing as well as play, so she began emulating Billie Holiday and other singers she admired. She later said that she kept herself from getting frustrated with the often indifferent crowds by playing the piano in a manner "as close to classical music as possible." This unusual mixture of approaches produced what the music writer Ashley Kahn has called "an impassioned, impromptu approach that became her signature."

Ms. Simone soon began to work in better venues and develop a devoted following. In 1958 she signed with Bethlehem Records; a few months later, she was on the pop charts. One of her best-remembered hits was "My Baby Just Cares for Me."  Her subsequent recordings for the Colpix, Philips and RCA Victor labels established her as a potent attraction on the cabaret, concert and festival circuits. Unafraid to speak her mind, she frequently clashed with promoters and occasionally berated her audiences for not paying attention, but her temperament did nothing to diminish her appeal.

Her survivors include three brothers, a sister and a daughter, Lisa, a singer and actress known professionally as Simone who is currently appearing on Broadway in "Aida."

In the 1970's her music fell out of fashion in the United States; she divorced her husband and manager, Andy Stroud, and beset by financial problems she left the country in 1973, living in Liberia and Barbados before settling in France. In a 1998 interview, she said she had left the United States because of a racial situation she called "worse than ever."

In recent years, as her health began to fail, Ms. Simone performed less and less, although she continued to draw enthusiastic crowds wherever she appeared. Al Schackman, who played guitar in her backup group for four decades, said she had recently canceled a tour of Britain but had been planning a United States tour for this spring.

 

Mongo Santamaria; fused Latin, jazz music

By Los Angeles Times, 2/5/2003

LOS ANGELES -- Mongo Santamaria, the pioneering Cuban percussionist who was among the most acclaimed exponents of Latin jazz and whose 1963 hit ''Watermelon Man'' stands as a precursor of pop crossover in Latin music, died of a stroke Saturday at a Miami-area hospital. He was 80. The Havana-born grandson of a former slave, Mr. Santamaria spent more than a half-century exploring the nexus between the polyrhythmic music of his native country and various forms of American popular music, especially jazz and rhythm and blues. In a remarkably enduring career, he worked with leading figures from both worlds, including trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, and fellow drummers/band leaders Tito Puente and Perez Prado.

Mr. Santamaria's bands, which also featured such jazz musicians as Chick Corea and Hubert Laws, ''were in large part responsible for the gradual absorption of Latin rhythms into black music,'' states the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Although he once admitted to allowing record label pressures to define his repertoire on some of his albums**, Mr. Santamaria remained true to the genuine spirit of Afro-Cuban drumming, including its religious roots. His style, studied for its simultaneous power and lyricism, influenced a generation of percussionists.

Born Ramon Santamaria in 1922, he was raised in a poor Havana neighborhood rich in Afro-Cuban traditions. His mother wanted him to play violin, but the drum held an early allure. He dropped out of school in his teens to become a professional musician, working as a mailman by day and playing at the famed Tropicana club at night. As a member of Havana's Casino de la Playa, he rubbed shoulders with Prado, a flamboyant percussionist who would soon spark the mambo craze of the 1950s.

In 1950, Mr. Santamaria settled in the United States at a time when jazz and Latin musicians were increasingly joining forces. He played with the Tito Puente Orchestra during its heyday, and was featured on ''Puente in Percussion'' -- an album that is still considered a classic of the genre.

In 1958, Mr. Santamaria started making his own recordings as a band leader. He made a mark from the start with his composition ''Afro Blue,'' which became a jazz standard, covered most famously by John Coltrane. Although Mr. Santamaria never had another hit like ''Watermelon Man'' (which was written by Herbie Hancock), he enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among Latin fans during the salsa boom of the 1970s.

This story ran on page F11 of the Boston Globe on 2/5/2003.

 

Bob Berg, Tenor Saxophonist, Dies at 51

By BEN RATLIFF

Bob Berg, a tenor saxophonist who brought the speed and intensity of middle-period John Coltrane into a jazz-fusion context, died on Thursday in an automobile accident in Amagansett, N.Y., said Christine Martin, his friend and former manager. He was 51.

Mr. Berg and his wife, Arja, had left their home in East Hampton, N.Y., on an errand and were on Route 27 in Amagansett when the driver of a cement truck lost control and collided with the Bergs' car. Ms. Berg was injured in the crash.

Mr. Berg grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and took up the saxophone at 13. He studied at the High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard; before graduating, he toured with the organist Brother Jack McDuff. Through the 1970's, he played in Horace Silver's band and in Cedar Walton's quartet, Eastern Rebellion, but found his biggest audience in the 1980's, after he became a sideman in Miles Davis's group in 1984. His tenure there lasted three years. Later Mr. Berg led a band with the guitarist Mike Stern that became popular on the jazz-club circuit. In 1992 he joined Chick Corea's acoustic quartet. He also made albums under his own name for the Denon, Stretch and GRP labels, including "Back Roads," nominated for a Grammy in 1993. Most recently Mr. Berg was involved in a re-creation of the fusion band Steps Ahead.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their children, Mia and David, both of East Hampton; his mother, Annette, of Brooklyn; and his brother, Jeff Berg of Staten Island.

16 November 2002

Roland Pembroke Hanna, pianist and teacher: born Detroit 10 February 1932; married 1954 Ramona Woodard (two sons, two daughters); died Hackensack, New Jersey 13 November 2002.

On the one hand Roland Hanna, a deeply religious man, was a spiritual pianist of authority who could move easily through the Preludes of Chopin or Debussy. On the other he was a rumbustious, forceful player who often modelled his blues playing on that of Erroll Garner, a remarkable primitive who couldn't read music.

Always elegant, perceptive and intelligent, Hanna was accomplished in every kind of jazz and classical playing. When he improvised he created strong melodies of his own on top of the tune he was playing. He would often state a simple theme and rework it through every possible emotion. He cited Art Tatum and Rubenstein as the main influences on his playing. It was the Preludes of Debussy that caused Hanna a big headache. He was popular in Japan and in 1977 Salutation, a record company there, called Hanna's American record company and said they would like Hanna to go to Japan and record an album of "not necessarily jazz and not necessarily classical music, either but something similar to the Debussy or Chopin Preludes".

The American record company heard only Debussy and advised Hanna that he was to go to Japan to do an album of Debussy preludes. "I said, 'Are you serious? I haven't practised that stuff in years,' " he told Kitty Grime: I spent eight hours a day, every day, for about four months, and I got them worked up so that I could play them well. When I got to Japan I sat down with the recording people and said, "I've got what you wanted, I'm ready any time." And they said, "Marvellous. Now these are your own original preludes?" I said, "You're kidding?" They gave me a room and the best piano they could find, all the quiet I wanted and left me for eight or ten hours a day to compose. It was a beautiful experience because, the moment I sat down and touched that piano, music just ran off my fingers like it was already there. And that album to me is the best musical venture I've ever taken.

Detroit is regarded as part of America's Rust belt. But there was nothing rusty about Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris or Hanna, three of the most eloquent jazz pianists who were born there and thrived in the city's unique post-Bebop era from the late Forties on. Another remarkable jazz player was Hank's brother Thad, a trumpeter whose career often converged with Hanna's over the years.

Hanna was given a strict classical upbringing by his father, a Baptist minister who taught him piano from the age of five. But as a teenager he was drawn remorselessly on to the city's jazz scene and drew on the playing of Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Flanagan and Jones as well as keeping a foot on the classical pedal.

After two years in the US Army he returned to Detroit in 1952 to work with Thad Jones at the Bluebird Inn in Detroit. He studied music at the Eastman College, where he was forbidden to play jazz. He left and returned to Detroit for a year before enrolling at the Juilliard School in 1955. There he found a more amenable regime, and in 1958 was granted leave of absence to join the Benny Goodman band for a visit to Europe, where the band played at the Brussels World Fair and, on its return, at the Newport Jazz Festival.

He completed his degree in 1960 and stayed in New York, but by then he had already appeared regularly with Coleman Hawkins in the Art Ford Jazz Party series, an early and expansive exposure for jazz on television. In the next few years he took on a variety of jobs while remaining a member of the turbulent entourage of the bass player/composer Charlie Mingus. He proved himself a brilliant accompanist of vocalists and worked in that role for long periods during the first half of the Sixties with Sarah Vaughan, Al Hibbler and Carmen McRae.

When he was not working with the singers or with Mingus, he led his own trio at various New York jazz clubs often using the bassists George Mraz or George Duvivier. He toured the country with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet in 1963 and made his first visit to Japan in the Thad Jones Quartet, in 1964. He joined the ground-breaking Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra when it was formed in 1965, and it formed the backbone of his work for the next nine years. "I was the unseen third leader," said Hanna. The 18-piece band visited Russia to tour in 1972 and Hanna returned disillusioned: I couldn't see myself traveling 6,000 miles to play on a little spinet piano in front of 7,000 people. That's what happened. The next day they got a concert grand for me, but something just dropped out of me, you know, the fact that they could think so little of me not to request a grand piano for me. It hurt. Quite deeply. Hanna continued with other work while in the band, and played solo concerts at the Olympia Theatre in Paris during 1968. His playing was so comprehensive and rhythmically powerful that he needed no supporting instruments. During European and African tours in 1968 and 1969 he raised over $100,000 to help with the education of Liberian children and for this he was knighted by the Liberian government in 1970 (thereafter billing himself as "Sir Roland Hanna"). He played solo piano again at the Montreux Jazz festival of 1974 and, during the Seventies, worked often as accompanist to the tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims.

Hanna left the Jones-Lewis band in 1974, but by then he had been working for a couple of years with his New York Jazz Quartet, which included Mraz and drummer Billy Hart. This survived into the Eighties, by which time Hanna was working with Mingus Dynasty, the Charlie Mingus memorial band. He recorded new accompaniments to Charlie Parker's solos of the Forties for Clint Eastwood's film Bird (1988) and during the Nineties toured with the Lincoln Centre Orchestra, with his own trio and as a soloist. In 1993 he was a central figure in a tribute to Erroll Garner at Carnegie Hall and in 1994 he joined the faculty at Queens College in New York, a post that he held until his death. He continued to work, tour and compose until recently. In September he spoke in detail of his plans for the future to the BBC's Alyn Shipton at Tanglewood on the occasion of a live broadcast of piano duets with Marian McPartland.

Steve Voce

 

 

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