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THE BIG SWING BANDS

 

   Big swing bands were all the rage in the 1930's and 1940's and although there were many in the UK and Europe, it really all started in the United States of America.

   All the American bands were vying for the public to become fans of their music, and the Bandleader had to find a style the public would like; and since the majority of the work coming in for the band was for playing dance music, the bandleaders constantly had to find original dance tunes and songs the public would accept. The usual way a big band became famous was by introducing a new song or dance number on a local radio broadcast, and if it took off with the public, the Bandleader and his orchestra shot to national fame in a short time.

   Famous Bandleaders were the Gods of the dance halls, radio, clubs, and movies.They often got mobbed by fans wanting their autographs, or proposals of marriage from young ladies! The Bandleaders of these bands were usually famous instrumentalists; such as trumpet player Harry James, or trombonists Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, or saxophone virtuoso, Jummy Dorsey, plus many more too numerous to mention here.

   But there was one instrument not normally associated with such fame in bands up to that time that really made it big with the record buying public, and that was the Clarinet. In the hands of a virtuoso it was a wonder to listen to, and the two most famous clarinet playing Band leaders of the time were Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman.

 

 Artie Shaw (1910 ? 2004)

 

   Born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky in New York City, Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where his natural introversion was deepened by local antisemitism according to Shaw's autobiography. Shaw began learning the saxophone when he was 13 years old, and by the age of 16, he switched to the clarinet and left home to tour with a band. Returning to New York, he became a session musician through the early 1930s. From 1925 until 1936, Shaw performed with a variety of bands and orchestras, including those of Johnny Caverello and Austin Wylie. In 1929 and 1930 he played with Irving Aaronson's Commanders, where he was exposed to symphonic music which he would later incorporate into his arrangements.

   Shaw first gained critical acclaim with his "Interlude in B-flat" at a swing concert at the Imperial Theater in New York in 1935. During the Swing Era, Shaw's big band was popular with hits like "Begin the Beguine" (1938), "Stardust" (with a legendary trumpet solo by Billy Butterfield), "Back Bay Shuffle", "Moonglow", "Rosalie" and "Frenesi." He was an innovator in the big band idiom, using unusual instrumentation; "Interlude in B-flat", where he was backed with only a rhythm section and a string quartet, was one of the earliest examples of what would be later dubbed third stream.

   In addition to hiring Buddy Rich, he signed Billie Holiday as his band's vocalist in 1938, becoming the first white bandleader to hire a full-time black female singer. However, after recording "Any Old Time" she left the band due to hostility from audiences in the South, as well as from music company executives who wanted a more mainstream singer. His band became enormously successful, and his playing was eventually recognized as equal to that of Benny Goodman: Longtime Duke Ellington clarinetist Barney Bigard cited Shaw as his favorite clarinet player. In response to Goodman's nickname, the "King of Swing", Shaw's fans dubbed him the "King of the Clarinet." Shaw, however, felt the titles were reversed. "Benny Goodman played clarinet. I played music," he said.

   Shaw did in fact prize innovation and exploration in music more highly than popular success and formulaic dance music, despite a string of hits which sold more than 100 million records. He fused jazz with classical music by adding strings to his arrangements, experimented with bebop, and formed "chamber jazz" groups that utilized such novel sounds as harpsichords or Afro-Cuban music.

  The long series of musical groups Shaw formed included such talents as vocalists Billie Holiday, Helen Forrest and, Mel Tormé; drummers Buddy Rich and Dave Tough, guitarists Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, and Tal Farlow and trombonist-arranger Ray Conniff, among countless others. He composed the morose "Nightmare", with its Hassidic nuances, for his personal theme, rather than more approachable songs. In a televised interview of the 1970s, Shaw derided the often "assinine" songs that bands were compelled to play night after night. In 1994, he told Frank Prial (The New York Times), "I thought that because I was Artie Shaw I could do what I wanted, but all they wanted was 'Begin the Beguine.'

  During World War II, Shaw enlisted in the United States Navy and later formed a band, which served in the Pacific theater (similar to Glenn Miller's wartime band in Europe). After 18 months playing for Navy personnel (sometimes as many as four concerts a day in battle zones, including Guadalcanal), Shaw returned to the U.S. in a state of physical exhaustion, receiving a medical discharge. In the late 1940s, Shaw performed classical music at Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.

  Like Benny Goodman and other leaders of big bands, Shaw fashioned a small group from within the band. He named it the Gramercy Five after his home telephone exchange. The quintet's sound was set apart by band pianist Johnny Guarneri playing a harpsichord on the quintet recordings and Al Hendrickson playing an electric guitar. In time, the quintet would prove another of Shaw's breaking of racial boundaries, when trumpeter Roy Eldridge became part of the group, succeeding Billy Butterfield. The Gramercy Five's biggest hit was "Summit Ridge Drive" (Shaw's California address at the time). A CD of The Complete Gramercy Five sessions was released in 1990.

  Throughout his career, Shaw would take sabbaticals, quitting the music business. This included studying advanced mathematics, as cited in Karl Sabbagh's The Riemann Hypothesis. His first interregnum, at the height of his success, was met with disbelief by booking agents. They predicted that Shaw would not only be abandoning a million-dollar enterprise but that nightclub and theater owners would sue him for breach of contract. Shaw's offhand response was, "Tell 'em I'm insane. A nice, young American boy walking away from a million dollars, wouldn't you call that insane?"

   In 1954, Shaw stopped playing the clarinet, citing his own perfectionism, which, he later said, would have killed him. He explained to a reporter, "In the world we live in, compulsive perfectionists finish last. You have to be Lawrence Welk, or, on another level, Irving Berlin, and write the same kind of music over and over again. I'm not able to do that." He spent the rest of the 1950s living in Europe. In 1981, he organized a new Artie Shaw Band with clarinetist Dick Johnson as bandleader and soloist. Shaw himself would guest conduct from time to time, ending his self-imposed retirement.

  After Canadian filmmaker Brigitte Berman interviewed Shaw, Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Cheatham and others for her documentary film Bix: Ain't None of Them Play LIke Him Yet (1981) about Bix Beiderbecke, she went on to create an Academy Award-winning documentary, Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (1985), featuring her interviews with Shaw, Buddy Rich, Mel Tormé, Helen Forrest and others. Later in 2003, along with members of his original bands and other music professionals, Shaw was extensively interviewed by Russell Davies for the BBC Television documentary, Artie Shaw ? Quest for Perfection - which became his last major interview. In 1991, Artie Shaw's band library and manuscript collection was donated to the University of Arizona. In 2004, he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

   A self-proclaimed "very difficult man," Shaw was married eight times: Jane Cairns (1932-33); Margaret Allen (1934-37); actress Lana Turner (1940-41); Betty Kern (1942-43), the daughter of songwriter Jerome Kern; actress Ava Gardner (1945-46); Forever Amber author Kathleen Winsor (1946-48); actress Doris Dowling (1952-56); and actress Evelyn Keyes (1957-85). He had one son with Betty Kern, and another son, Jonathan Shaw (a well-known tattoo artist who founded Fun City Tattoo).In 1946, Shaw was present at a meeting of the Independent Citizens' Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions. Olivia de Havilland and Ronald Reagan, part of a core group of actors and artists who were trying to sway the organization away from communism, presented an anti-communist declaration which, if signed, was to run in newspapers. There was bedlam as many rose to champion the communist cause, and Artie Shaw began praising the democratic standards of the Soviet constitution. In 1953, Shaw was brought up before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his leftist activities. The committee was investigating a peace activist organization, the World Peace Congress, which it considered a communist front.

   He was a precision marksman, ranking fourth in the United States in 1962, as well as an expert fly fisherman. In his later years, Shaw lived and wrote in the Newbury Park section of Thousand Oaks, California. Shaw had long suffered from adult onset diabetes and eventually died of complications of the disease at age 94. In 2005, Shaw's eighth wife, Evelyn Keyes, sued Shaw's estate, claiming that she was entitled to one-half of Shaw's estate pursuant to a contract to make a will between them. In July 2006, a Ventura, California jury unanimously held that Keyes was entitled to almost one-half of Shaw's estate, or $1,420,000. Shaw did many big band remotes, and he was often heard from the Blue Room of New York's Hotel Lincoln. It was the location of his only regular radio series as headliner. Sponsored by Old Gold cigarettes, Shaw broadcast on CBS from November 20, 1938 until November 14, 1939.

At the height of his popularity, Shaw reportedly earned $60,000 per week. For a comparison, George Burns and Gracie Allen were each making US $5,000 per week during the year (1940-41) the Artie Shaw Orchestra provided the music for their radio show. He also acted on the show as a love interest for Gracie Allen and the sarcastic bandleader who had trouble with South American guitarist Señor Lee, who could not fully grasp English. Shaw made several musical shorts in 1939 for Vitaphone and Paramount Pictures, and he portrayed himself in the Fred Astaire film Second Chorus (1940), which featured Shaw and his orchestra playing "Concerto for Clarinet." The film brought him two Oscar nominations, for Best Score and Best Song ("Love of My Life"). He collaborated on the song "If It's You" for the Marx Brothers' film, The Big Store (1941). In 1950, he was a mystery guest on What's My Line?, and during the 1970s he made appearances on The Mike Douglas Show and The Tonight Show. Many of his recordings have been used in motion pictures. His recording of "Stardust" was used in its entirety in the closing credits of the film "The Man Who Fell to Earth". Also, Martin Scorsese used the Shaw theme song, "Nightmare," in his Academy Award-winning Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator.

  He credited his time in the Navy as a period of renewed introspection. He entered psychoanalysis and began to pursue a writing career. His autobiography, The Trouble With Cinderella: An Outline of Identity was published in 1952 (with later reprint editions in 1992 and 2001). Revealing downbeat elements of the music business, Shaw explained that "the trouble with Cinderella" is "nobody ever lives happily ever after." He turned to semi-autobiographical fiction with the three short novels in I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead! (1965, reprinted in 1997), which prompted Terry Southern's comment: "Here is a deeply probing examination of the American marital scene. I flipped over it!" Shaw's short stories, including "Snow White in Harlem," were collected in The Best of Intentions and Other Stories (1989). He worked for years on his 1000-page autobiographical novel The Education of Albie Snow, but the three-volume work remains unpublished. Currently, through Curtis International Associates, the Artie Shaw Orchestra is still active.

 

Benny Goodman (1909 -1986)

 

   Benny David Goodman was born in Chicago, the ninth of twelve children of poor Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, who lived in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. His father was David Gutman, a tailor from Warsaw, his mother was Dora Rezinski (from Kaunas) and his actual birth name was Beno. His parents met in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Chicago before Benny was born. When Benny was 10, his father enrolled Benny and two older brothers in music lessons at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue. The next year he joined the boys club band at Jane Addams' Hull House, where he received lessons from the director James Sylvester. Also important during this period were his two years of instruction from the classically trained clarinetist Franz Schoepp. His early influences were New Orleans jazz clarinetists working in Chicago, notably Johnny Dodds, Leon Roppolo, and Jimmy Noone. Goodman learned quickly, becoming a strong player at an early age. He was soon playing professionally while still 'in short pants', playing clarinet in various bands.

   When Goodman was 16, he joined one of Chicago's top bands, the Ben Pollack Orchestra, with which he made his first recordings in 1926. He made his first record on Vocalion under his own name two years later. Remaining with Pollack through 1929, Goodman recorded with the regular Pollack band and smaller groups drawn from the orchestra. The side sessions produced scores of often hot sides recorded for the various dime-store record labels under a bewildering array of group names, such as Mills' Musical Clowns, Goody's Good Timers, The Hotsy Totsy Gang, Jimmy Backen's Toe Ticklers, Dixie Daisies, and Kentucky Grasshoppers.

   Goodman's father, David, was a working-class immigrant about whom Benny said (interview, 'Downbeat', Feb 8, 1956); "Dad worked in the stockyards, shoveling lard in its unrefined state. He had those boots, and he'd come home at the end of the day exhausted, stinking to high heaven, and when he walked in it made me sick. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand the idea of Pop every day standing in that stuff, shoveling it around".

   On December 9, 1929 David Goodman was killed in a traffic accident shortly after Benny joined the Pollack band and had urged his father to retire, now that he (Benny) and his brother (Harry) were doing well as professional musicians. According to James Lincoln Collier, "Pop looked Benny in the eye and said, 'Benny, you take care of yourself, I'll take care of myself.'" Collier continues: "It was an unhappy choice. Not long afterwards, as he was stepping down from a street car ? according to one story ? he was struck by a car. He never regained consciousness and died in the hospital the next day. It was a bitter blow to the family, and it haunted Benny to the end that his father had not lived to see the success he, and some of the others, made of themselves Benny described his father's death as 'the saddest thing that ever happened in our family?.

   Goodman left for New York City and became a successful session musician during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He made a reputation as a solid player who was prepared and reliable. He played with the nationally known bands of Ben Selvin, Red Nichols, Isham Jones, and Ted Lewis. He also recorded musical soundtracks for movie shorts; some fans are convinced that Benny Goodman's clarinet can be heard on the soundtrack of One A. M., a Charlie Chaplin comedy re-released to theaters in 1934.The same year Goodman auditioned for NBC's Let's Dance, a well regarded radio program that featured various styles of dance music. Since he needed new arrangements every week for the show, his agent, John Hammond, suggested that he purchase jazz charts from Fletcher Henderson, an African-American musician from Atlanta who had New York's most popular African-American band in the 1920s and early 1930s. Goodman, a wise businessman, caught Henderson in 1929 when the stock market crashed. He purchased all of Henderson's song books, and hired Henderson's band members to teach his musicians how to play the music.

   The combination of Goodman's solid clarinet playing, the Henderson charts, and the well-rehearsed band made Goodman a rising star in the mid-1930s, earning him the title "King of Swing." In early 1935, Goodman and his band were one of three bands featured on Let's Dance. His radio broadcasts from New York aired too late to attract a large East Coast audience. However, unknown to him, the timeslot gave him an avid following on the West Coast. He and his band remained on Let's Dance until May of that year when a strike forced the cancellation of the radio show. With nothing else to do, the band set out on a tour of America. However, at a number of engagements the band received a hostile reception, as many in the audiences expected smoother, sweeter jazz as opposed to the "hot" style that Goodman's band was accustomed to playing. By August of 1935, Goodman found himself with a band that was nearly broke, disillusioned and ready to quit. It was at this moment that everything for the band changed.

   In July 1935, a record of the Goodman band playing the Henderson charts on "King Porter Stomp" backed with "Sometimes I'm Happy," Victor 78 25090, had been released to ecstatic reviews in both Down Beat and Melody Maker. This had made little impact on the tour, and the last scheduled stop came on August 21, 1935 at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, Goodman and his band scheduled for a three-week engagement. The Palomar provided the ideal environment, as there was a huge dance floor with a capacity of 4,000 couples. On hand for the engagement were famed musicians Gene Krupa, Bunny Berigan, and Helen Ward. The first night, Goodman and his band cautiously began playing recently purchased stock arrangements; the reaction was, at best, tepid. Realizing this, Krupa said "If we're gonna die, Benny, let's die playing our own thing."

   At the beginning of the next set, Goodman told the band to put aside the stock arrangements and called for charts by Fletcher Henderson and other swing arrangers who were writing for the band. When trumpeter Bunny Berigan played his solos on Henderson?s versions of "Sometimes I'm Happy" and "King Porter Stomp," the Palomar dancers cheered like crazy and exploded with applause! They gathered around the bandstand to listen to this new music. This was the music the enthusiastic audience had heard on the "Let's Dance" radio show and that they had come to hear.

   Over the nights of the engagement, a new dance labeled the "Jitterbug" captured the dancers on the floor, and a new craze had begun. Onlookers gathered around the edges of the ballroom floor. Within days of the opening, newspapers around the country were headlining stories about the new phenomenon that had started at the Palomar. Goodman was finally a nationally known star, and the Swing Era began, led by Goodman. Following this the big band era exploded.

   In bringing jazz to Carnegie, [Benny Goodman was], in effect, smuggling American contraband into the halls of European high culture, and Goodman and his 15 men pulled it off with the audacity and precision of Ocean's Eleven. In late 1937, Goodman's publicist Wynn Nathanson attempted a publicity stunt in the form of suggesting Goodman and his band should play Carnegie Hall in New York City. Benny Goodman was initially hesitant about the concert, fearing for the worst; however, when his film Hollywood Hotel opened to rave reviews and giant lines, he threw himself into the work. He gave up several dates and insisted on holding rehearsals inside Carnegie Hall to familiarize the band with the lively acoustics.

   The concert was the evening of January 16, 1938. It sold out weeks before, with the capacity 2,760 seats going for the top price of US$2.75 a seat, for the time a very high price. The concert began with three contemporary numbers from the Goodman band?"Don't Be That Way," "Sometimes I'm Happy," and "One O'Clock Jump." Then came a history of jazz, starting with a Dixieland quartet performing "Sensation Rag." Once again, initial crowd reaction, though polite, was tepid. Then came a jam session on "Honeysuckle Rose" featuring members of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands as guests. It did not go as well as hoped. As the concert went on, things livened up. The Goodman band and quartet took over the stage and performed the numbers that had already made them famous. Some of the later trio and quartet numbers were well-received, and a vocal on "Loch Lomond" by Martha Tilton, though nothing special, provoked five curtain calls and cries for an encore. The encore forced Goodman to make his only audience announcement for the night, stating that they had no encore prepared but that Martha would return shortly with another number.

   By the time the band got to the climactic piece "Sing, Sing, Sing," success of the night was assured. Bettering the commercial 12-inch record, this live performance featured playing by tenor saxophonist Babe Russin, trumpeter Harry James, and then Benny Goodman, backed by drummer Gene Krupa in accompaniment. But the really unforgettable moment came when Goodman finished his solo and unexpectedly tossed the ball to pianist Jess Stacy. "At the Carnegie Hall concert, after the usual theatrics, Jess Stacy was allowed to solo and, given the venue, what followed was appropriate. Used to just playing rhythm on the tune, he was unprepared for a turn in the spotlight, but what came out of his fingers was a graceful, impressionistic marvel with classical flourishes, yet still managed to swing. It was the best thing he ever did, and it's ironic that such a layered, nuanced performance came at the end of such a chaotic, bombastic tune.?

   This concert has been regarded by some as the most significant in jazz history. After years of work by musicians from all over the country, jazz had finally been accepted by mainstream audiences. While the big band era would not last for much longer, it was from this point forward that the ground work for multiple other genres of popular music was laid. Recordings were made of this concert, but even by the technology of the day the equipment used was not of the finest quality. Acetate recordings of the concert were made, and aluminum studio masters were also cut. The recording was produced by Albert Marx as a special gift for his wife, Helen Ward and a second set for Benny. He contracted Artists Recording Studio to make 2 sets. Artists Recording only had 2 turntables, so they farmed out the second set to Raymond Scott's recording studio. It was Benny's Sister-in-law who found the recordings in Benny's apartment in 1950 and brought them to Benny's attention, and he took the newly discovered recording to his record company, Columbia, and a selection from them was issued on LP. These recording have not been out of print since they were first issued.

   Pianist/arranger Mary Lou Williams was a good friend of both Columbia records producer John Hammond and Benny Goodman. She first suggested to John Hammond that he see Charlie Christian.

   Charlie Christian was playing at the Ritz in Oklahoma City where John Hammond heard him in 1939. Hammond recommended him to Benny Goodman, but the band leader wasn't interested. The idea of an electrified guitar didn't appeal, and Goodman didn't care for Christian's flashy style of dressing. Reportedly, Hammond personally installed Christian onstage during a break in a Goodman concert in Beverly Hills. Irritated to see Christian among the band, Goodman struck up "Rose Room," not expecting the guitarist to know the tune. What followed amazed everyone who heard the 45-minute performance.

   Charlie was a hit on the electric guitar and remained in the Benny Goodman Sextet for two years (1939-1941). He wrote many of the group's head arrangements (some of which Goodman took credit for) and was an inspiration to all. The sextet made him famous and provided him with a steady income while Charlie worked on legitimizing, popularizing, revolutionizing, and standardizing the electric guitar as a jazz instrument. Christian eventually stayed in New York City, jamming with bop musicians at Minton's in Harlem. "Charlie impressed them all by improvising long lines that emphasized off beats, and by using altered chords. Charlie Christian died in Staten Island, March 2, 1942 of tuberculosis. Helping to broaden the form of jazz, Benny Goodman gave the nascent talent a huge start. Charlie Christian's recordings and rehearsal dubs he made at Columbia records with Benny Goodman in the early forties are widely known and widely respected.

   Goodman continued his meteoric rise throughout the late 1930s with his big band, his trio and quartet, and a sextet. He influenced almost every jazz musician who played clarinet after him. However, in time the movement in jazz that he ignited in 1935 began to fade. By the mid-1940s, big bands lost a lot of their popularity. There were several reasons for this decline. In 1941, ASCAP had a licensing war with music publishers. In 1942 to 1944 and 1948, the major musicians union went on strike against the major record labels in the United States, and singers took the spot in popularity that the big bands once enjoyed. Also, by the late 1940s, swing was no longer the dominant mode of jazz musicians. Benny had heard this Swedish clarinet player named Stan Hasselgard playing bebop, and he loved it, so he started a bebop band. But after a year and a half, he became frustrated. He eventually reformed his band and went back to playing Fletcher Henderson arrangements. Benny was a swing player and decided to concentrate on what he does best. By 1953, Goodman completely changed his mind about bebop. "Maybe bop has done more to set music back for years than anything else. Basically it's all wrong, for it's not even knowing the scales. Bop was mostly publicity and people figuring angles."

   Goodman's first classical recording dates from April 25, 1938 when he recorded Mozart's Clarinet Quintet. After his bop period, Goodman furthered his interest in classical music written for the clarinet, and frequently met with top classical clarinetists of the day as well. In 1949, when he was 40, Goodman decided to study with Reginald Kell, one of the world's leading classical clarinetists. To do so, he had to change his entire technique: instead of holding the mouthpiece between his front teeth and lower lip, as he had done since he first took a clarinet in hand 30 years earlier, Goodman learned to adjust his embouchure to the use of both lips and even to use new fingering techniques. He had his old finger calluses removed and started to learn how to play his clarinet again--almost from scratch.

   Goodman commissioned and premiered works by leading composers for clarinet and symphony orchestra that are now part of the standard repertoire, namely Contrasts by Béla Bartók, Clarinet Concerto No. 2 Op. 115 by Malcolm Arnold, Derivations for Clarinet and Band by Morton Gould and Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto. While Leonard Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs was commissioned for Woody Herman's big band, it was premiered by Goodman. While the Ebony Concerto by Igor Stravinsky is generally also thought to be written for Goodman, it was also written for Woody Herman in 1945, and premiered by him in 1946. "Many years later Stravinsky made another recording, this time with Benny Goodman as the soloist. He twice recorded Mozart's clarinet quintet, once on April 25 1938 with the Budapest String Quartet and once in the middle 1950s with the Boston Symphony Orchestra String Quartet; he also recorded the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart clarinet concerto in A major K 622 of on July 9, 1956, also with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the clarinet concertos from Carl Maria von Weber and Carl Nielsen.

   In 1953 Goodman re-formed his classic band for an expensive tour with Louis Armstrong?s All Stars that turned into a famous disaster. He managed to insult Armstrong at the beginning; then he was appalled at the vaudeville aspects of Louis?s act a contradiction of everything Goodman stood for. His big band appeared as a specialty act in major musical features, including The Big Broadcast of 1937, Hollywood Hotel (1938), Syncopation (1942), The Powers Girl (1942), Stage Door Canteen (1943), The Gang's All Here (1943), Sweet and Lowdown (1944) and A Song Is Born (1948). Goodman's only starring feature was Sweet and Low Down (1944). Benny?s success story was told in the 1955 motion picture ?The Benny Goodman Story? with Steve Allen and Donna Reed. A Universal-International production, it was a follow up to 1954's successful The Glenn Miller Story. The screenplay was heavily fictionalized (Benny confessed that he and his wife would look at the finished film and laugh through it), but the music was the real drawing card. Many of Goodman's professional colleagues appear in the film, including Ben Pollack. Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton. and Harry James.

   Goodman was regarded by some as a demanding taskmaster, by others an arrogant and eccentric martinet. Many musicians spoke of "The Ray" - Goodman's trademark glare that he bestowed on a musician who failed to perform to his demanding standards. Guitarist Allan Reuss incurred the maestro's displeasure on one occasion, and Goodman relegated him to the rear of the bandstand, where his contribution would be totally drowned out by the other musicians. Vocalists Anita O'Day and Helen Forrest spoke bitterly of their experiences singing with Goodman. "The twenty or so months I spent with Benny felt like twenty years," said Forrest. "When I look back, they seem like a life sentence." At the same time, there are reports that he privately funded several college educations and was sometimes very generous, though always secretly. When a friend asked him why one time, he reportedly said, "Well, if they knew about it, everyone would come to me with their hand out."

   Some suggest that Elvis Presley had the same success with rock and roll that Goodman achieved with jazz and swing. Both helped bring black music to a young, white audience. Some suggest that without Goodman there would not have been a swing era. It is true that many of Goodman's arrangements had been played for years before by Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. While Goodman publicly acknowledged his debt to Henderson, many young white swing fans had never heard Henderson's band. While most consider Goodman a jazz innovator, others maintain his main strength was his perfectionism and drive. Goodman was a virtuoso clarinetist and amongst the most technically proficient jazz clarinetists of all time.

   Goodman is also responsible for a significant step in racial integration in America. In the early 1930s, black and white jazz musicians could not play together in most clubs or concerts. In the Southern states, racial segregation was enforced by the Jim Crow laws. Benny Goodman broke with tradition by hiring Teddy Wilson to play with him and drummer Gene Krupa in the Benny Goodman Trio. In 1936, he added Lionel Hampton on vibes to form the Benny Goodman Quartet; in 1939 he added pioneering jazz guitarist Charlie Christian to his band and small ensembles, who played with him until his untimely death from tuberculosis less than three years later. To give an understanding of American history at this time, Goodman's integration of popular music happened ten years before Jackie Robinson became the first black American to enter Major League Baseball. "[Goodman's] popularity was such that he could remain financially viable without touring the South, where he would have been subject to arrest for violating Jim Crow laws."[36] According to Jazz by Ken Burns, when someone asked him why he "played with that nigger" (referring to Teddy Wilson), Goodman replied, "I'll knock you out if you use that word around me again". One of Benny Goodman's closest friends off and on, from the 1930s onward was celebrated Columbia records producer John H. Hammond.

   John Henry Hammond II was born December 15, 1910 in an eight-story mansion in New York City. He was the son of James Henry Hammond, a very successful businessman and lawyer, and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane, an heir to the Sloan Furniture and - as a granddaughter of William Henry Vanderbilt - to the Vanderbilt fortunes. John H. Hammond II attended the esteemed Hotchkiss Prep School and Yale University.[

   Hammond and Goodman were so close that Hammond influenced Goodman's move from RCA records to the newly created Columbia records in 1939. Benny Goodman dated John H. Hammond's sister, Alice Frances Hammond (1913 - 1978) for three months. They married on March 14, 1942. They had two daughters, Benjie and Rachel. Both daughters studied music to some degree, though neither became the musical prodigy Goodman was. Hammond had encouraged Goodman to integrate his band, having persuaded him to employ pianist Teddy Wilson. He all but forced Goodman to audition Charlie Christian, Goodman believing no one would listen to an electric guitarist. But Hammond's tendency to interfere in the musical affairs of Goodman's and other bands led to Goodman pulling away from him. In 1953 they had another falling-out during Goodman's ill-fated tour with Louis Armstrong, which was produced by John Hammond. Goodman appeared on a 1975 PBS salute to Hammond but remained at a distance. In the 1980s, following the death of Alice Goodman, John Hammond and Benny Goodman, both by then elderly, reconciled. On June 25, 1985, Goodman appeared at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City for "A Tribute to John Hammond" After winning numerous polls over the years as best jazz clarinetist, Goodman was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1957.

   Goodman continued to play on records and in small groups. One exception to this pattern was collaboration with George Benson in the 1970s. The two had met when they taped a PBS salute to John Hammond and re-created some of the famous Goodman-Charlie Christian duets.[42] Benson later appeared on several tracks of a Goodman album released as "Seven Come Eleven." In general Goodman continued to play in the swing style he was most known for. He did, however, practice and perform classical music clarinet pieces and commissioned some pieces for the clarinet. Periodically he would organize a new band and play a jazz festival or go on an international tour.

Despite increasing health problems, he continued to play the clarinet until his death from a heart attack in New York City in 1986 at the age of 77, in his home at Manhattan House, 200 East 66th Street. A longtime resident of Pound Ridge, New York, Benny Goodman is interred in the Long Ridge Cemetery, Stamford, Connecticut. The same year, Goodman was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His musical papers were donated to Yale University after his death.


 

Glenn Miller (1904 ? 1944)

 

  Glenn Miller's reign as the most popular bandleader in the U.S. came relatively late in his career and was relatively brief, lasting only about three and a half years, from the spring of 1939 to the fall of 1942. But during that period he utterly dominated popular music, and over time he has proven the most enduring figure of the swing era, with reissues of his recordings achieving gold record status 40 years after his death. Miller developed a distinctive sound in which a high-pitched clarinet carried the melody, doubled by a saxophone section playing an octave lower, and he used that sound to produce a series of hits that remain definitive examples of swing music. Miller's approach is not much appreciated by jazz fans, who prefer bands that allow for greater improvisation than was found in his highly disciplined, rigorously rehearsed unit. But he brought the swing style of popular music to a level of sophistication and commercial acceptance it had not previously achieved and would not see again after his untimely passing. 

 Glenn was the son of Lewis Elmer and Mattie Lou Cavender Miller. He lived in various locations in the Midwest while he was growing up. He first took up the mandolin, and then switched to a horn. In Grant City, MO, where his family moved in 1915, he joined the town band and began playing trombone. By 1918, the family had moved to Fort Morgan, CO, where he played in the high school band and graduated in May 1921. He immediately joined the Boyd Senter band, but quit to start college at the University of Colorado in January 1923. After a year, however, he left college and moved to Los Angeles, where he joined Ben Pollack's band. In the summer of 1928, he left Pollack and settled in New York, where he worked as a session musician and arranger. When in the spring of 1934 Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, he signed on as trombonist and arranger, remaining with the band almost a year. He left to organize an American band for British bandleader Ray Noble that made its debut at the Rainbow Room in New York's Rockefeller Center. Meanwhile, he was studying theory and composition with Joseph Schillinger.  Miller began recording under his own name for Columbia Records on April 25, 1935, using a pickup band containing members of the Noble orchestra.

   His instrumental "Solo Hop" reached the Top Ten in the summer of 1935. But he did not organize a permanent touring band of his own until 1937, when he signed to Brunswick Records. The group was not a success, and he disbanded it in early 1938, then reorganized a couple of months later and signed to the discount-priced Bluebird subsidiary of RCA Victor Records. Still without any great success, he managed to maintain this orchestra for the next year until he got his big break with an engagement at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, NY, in the summer of 1939. Glen Island was a major swing venue with a radio wire, giving the band extensive exposure. Already, Miller had hit the charts with the Top Ten hit "Sunrise Serenade"; soon, its flipside, "Moonlight Serenade," would become an even bigger hit. "Wishing (Will Make It So)" (vocal by Ray Eberle) hit number one in June. Ultimately, Miller scored 17 Top Ten hits in 1939, including the subsequent chart-toppers "Stairway to the Stars," "Moon Love," "Over the Rainbow," and "Blue Orchids" (all vocals by Ray Eberle), as well as "The Man with the Mandolin" (vocal by Marion Hutton) Miller's recording success led to other opportunities. He became the star of the three-times-a-week radio series Chesterfield Supper Club in December 1939 and began the first of several extended engagements at the Café Rouge in the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York in January 1940, also appearing occasionally at the Paramount Theatre. He scored 31 Top Ten hits in 1940, more than three times as many as the second most successful recording artist of the year, Tommy Dorsey, hitting number one with "Careless," "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Imagination," "Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)," and "Blueberry Hill" (all vocals by Ray Eberle); "The Woodpecker Song" (vocal by Marion Hutton); and the instrumentals "In the Mood" and "Tuxedo Junction" (both of which were later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame). Miller scored another 11 Top Ten hits in 1941, which was enough to make him the top recording artist for the second year in a row. His number one hits included "Song of the Volga Boatmen," "You and I" (vocal by Ray Eberle), "Chattanooga Choo Choo," from his first film, Sun Valley Serenade (vocals by Tex Beneke and the Modernaires with Paula Kelly), and "Elmer's Tune" (vocals by Ray Eberle and the Modernaires).

   The story was much the same on the recording front in 1942, 11 Top Ten hits and a third straight ranking as the year's top recording artist, the chart-toppers including "A String of Pearls," "Moonlight Cocktail" (vocals by Ray Eberle and the Modernaires), "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)," and "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo" (vocals on the last two by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, and the Modernaires). "Kalamazoo" came from Miller's second film, Orchestra Wives. Yet 1942, the first full year of American participation in World War II, marked the end of Miller's dominance of popular music, since, after months of negotiations, he arranged to receive an officer's commission in the army air force on September 10 and, 17 days later, played his final date with his band, which he then broke up.

   He organized a service band and began performing at military camps and war-bond rallies while hosting a weekly radio series, Sustain the Wings. Nevertheless, he scored two more Top Ten hits in 1943, including the number one "That Old Black Magic" (vocals by Skip Nelson and the Modernaires). He took his band to Great Britain in June 1944 and continued to perform for the troops and do radio broadcasts. He was preparing to go on to Paris when the plane on which he was traveling disappeared over the English Channel and he died at age 40. (You can read more about Glenn Miller on many websites featuring different aspects of his life story, and about re-issues of his recordings. Just go to Google and enter his name.)


 

 Billy May (1916 ? 2004)

 

   Billy May was born November 10, 1916. He began playing the tuba after a doctor suggested it might help his asthma but eventually switched to trumpet. His professional debut was with Gene Olsen?s Polish-American Orchestra in 1933. He worked in the bands of Al Howard, Lee River, and Barron Elliot before landing a job as a trumpeter with the Charlie Barnet band in 1938. May was soon contributing swinging arrangements described by the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz as ?wailing, scooping saxophones voiced in thirds.? The best known of his arrangements for Barnet was for the hit recording of Cherokee, the Ray Noble song that 6 months earlier had been recorded in two parts by the Count Basie band. The tune became a standard of the swing era and inspired the Barnet band?s signature tune Redskin Rhumba. Other notable May arrangements for the Barnet band included Lumby and the flag-waver Leapin At The Lincoln. May also helped write a tune for the Charlie Barnet big band that could well be one of the most humorous sides ever recorded by a big band. On The Wrong Idea (in which May actually sang) the wild Barnet band apes the schmaltz, corn and syrup of the sweet bands of the day, lecturing buyers of the record that ?this is the wrong idea.? May helped rewrite the Barnet band book from scratch after the original music burned in the Palomar Ballroom fire in October 1939.

   In 1940, May joined the Glenn Miller band, where his arrangements included Take the 'A' Train and Serenade in Blue. With Miller, he was perhaps best known for his trumpet playing, notably on I Dreamt I Dwelt In Harlem in 1941 and American Patrol in 1942.

   May was also responsible for helping the new Hal McIntyre big band achieve success in the early 1940s. McIntyre, a former reedman in the Glenn Miller band received financial backing from Miller and some fine arrangements from Billy May. Daisy Mae was similar in structure to his arrangement of the same song for the Miller aggregation and a song called Friday remains another May triumph.

   Glenn Miller disbanded in 1942, entered the service, and soon formed the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. In addition to doing shortwave radio broadcasts to the troops in Europe during WWII the large orchestra cut many fine sides and May arrangements in the Abbey Road studios in London including Billy's fine score of Jeep Jockey Jump. Throughout the 1940s May worked in studios doing staff work for NBC and later Capitol Records. There were frequent commercial sessions including the Bozo Children?s Album series. He also wrote arrangements for Les Brown, Alvino Rey, and Woody Herman?s orchestra. His affiliation was initially short with Herman appearing on trumpet for one Fitch Bandwagon program in 1943. In the early 50s however May contributed a few Latin numbers to the Herman band book.

   Billy May began arranging and conducting for a number of pop and jazz vocalists beginning with Nat King Cole in 1951. Both Walkin? and Walkin? My Baby Back Home were recorded on a September of 1951 date, the earliest of the King Cole-Billy May sessions. Also in the early 1950s May began leading his own studio band, scoring several popular successes with his own arrangements and compositions such as Lean Baby recorded in August of 51.

   Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, May proceeded to work as an arranger-conductor for some of the greatest pop and jazz vocalists of all time. Nancy Wilson?s What A Little Moonlight Can Do (1960), Johnny Mercer and Bobby Darin?s Two Of A Kind (1960), Sammy Davis Jr.?s Sam?s Song (1960), Anita O? Day?s Just One Of Those Things (1959), Ella?s It?s Only A Paper Moon (1960), Keely Smith?s On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1958) and Peggy Lee?s Boy From Ipanema (1964) are just a few of the fine swinging Billy May arrangements of music from the songs of Tin Pan Alley writers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others that became known as The Great American Songbook. He also recorded Latin dance music under the name Rico Mambo.

   In 1957 May gathered together several musicians from the original Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra. Coupled with a number of great players like Joe Mondragon, Jimmy Rowles, Ted Nash, and Pete Candoli former Lunceford alumni such as Willie Smith, Trummy Young, and Joe Thomas did a masterful job of playing some of the original tunes of the Lunceford Orchestra with arrangement refinements by May. The record called Jimmie Lunceford In Hi-Fi was a success and soon led to other ?Big Band Era in Hi-Fi? type recreations by a number of musicians and record labels. The busy Billy May also continued to record his big band Jazz compositions and arrangements instrumentally, with his own band. The Grammy Award winning release Billy May?s Big Fat Brass, recorded in May of 1958, contains several interesting sides like Ping Pong and Solving The Riddle.

   Jazz Pianist George Shearing made further use of Billy May?s musical ideas beginning with his 1958 release Burnished Brass. So successful was the record that the formula of coupling the Shearing Quintet with Billy May?s orchestras and arrangements was used on subsequent Shearing records for Capitol, some complete with lush string arrangements, like White Satin, Satin Affair, and The Shearing Touch.

   Certainly the most commercially popular of all May affiliations was his work with Frank Sinatra. May had first met Sinatra in a bar in 1939 while the former was working with Charlie Barnet, the latter with his first important boss Harry James. The 1957 release Come Fly With Me, nominated for several Grammy Awards in the 1958 ceremony, was just a steppingstone to the Grammy award winning Come Dance With Me recorded in 58.  Some of the other many fine Sinatra?Billy May albums are Come Swing With Me (1961), Swing Along With Me (1961), and Softly, As I Leave You (1963). When Sinatra and Ellington were to record together for the first time in 1967 Billy May was called upon to contribute. The album was recorded at a low point for Ellington and his men as they had just lost their much loved band mate and the Duke?s friend and collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Still May did his best to work up some arrangements for the session, which still stands as the only collaboration of the two behemoths. In comparing the arranging styles of Billy May and Nelson Riddle Sinatra said, ?Recording with Billy May is like having a bucket of cold water thrown in your face. Riddle will come to a session with all the arrangements carefully and neatly worked out beforehand. With Billy you sometimes don?t get copies of the next number until you?ve finished the one before. Billy and Nelson both work better under pressure. I myself work better under pressure. If there?s too much available I don?t like it ? not enough stimulus?Billy May is always driving .....?

   May began a series of albums for Time-Life beginning in 1969. The Swing Era was released in fourteen volumes, which incorporated some of the great players of the Big Band era doing Billy May charts. In later times he wrote arrangements for Diane Schuur on her Timeless release of 1986 and the In Tribute album of 1992 on which May used the wah-wah of Redskin Rhumba as an underlying theme for a magnificent score of the Cole Porter tune Love For Sale. In 1994 he contributed two arrangements for the Brian Setzer orchestra and in 1996 surfaced again by offering some bright big band arrangements for comic Stan Freeberg?s United States Of America Vol. 2 album, 25 years after his contributions to Vol. 1. 

   Billy May also did extensive scoring for commercials, films, and television. His television work included composing, with Milton Raskin, the theme song for Naked City, the popular ABC police drama that aired from 1958 to 1963 as well as music for the Red Skelton and Ozzie and Harriet Nelson TV shows. He wrote the theme songs for the TV series The Mod Squad and Emergency. His film scores include Johnny Cool, Tony Rome, and Sergeants Three.

   May was survived by his wife, Doris; daughters Cynthia May, Laureen Mitchell, Joannie Ransom and Sandra Gregory; and a brother, John.


 

 Woody Herman  (1913 - 1987)

Without a doubt Woody Herman was one of the most talented bandleaders of the twentieth century. With numerous hits and an ear for staying contemporary he remained active and vital long after most of his contemporaries had hung up their batons. Today he is best remembered for such songs as ''Woodchopper's Ball,'' ''Blue Flame,'' and ''Blues in the Night.'' Other hits included ''Caldonia'' and ''Northwest Passage.'' Herman began in show business at an early age, singing and dancing in vaudeville at age six. He later studied the saxophone and clarinet and worked with Myron Stewart and Joe Lichter before joining Tom Gerun's band in 1929 as both an instrumentalist and a singer. He remained with Gerun until 1934 then briefly worked with Harry Sosnik and Gus Arnheim before being hired by Isham Jones. When Jones retired in 1936 due to illness many of his musicians opted to stay together. They formed a cooperative unit and elected Herman as president and leader. The early Woody Herman Orchestra focused mainly on blues arrangements, giving itself the moniker ''The Band That Plays the Blues.'' The group struggled at first to gain acceptance. Recognition finally came in 1939 with their first big hit, ''Woodchopper's Ball,'' on Decca Records. In 1943 the orchestra was renamed Woody Herman and his Herd. Its style by that time had shifted away from the blues. Heavily influenced by Duke Ellington, the orchestra's music combined bop themes and swing arrangements, much to the critics' delight. The band even attracted the attention of classical composer Igor Stravinsky, who became a big fan. Stravinsky wrote a special number, ''Ebony Concerto,'' for the group to perform at Carnegie Hall. Vocalists over the years included Sharri Kaye, Dillagene, Carolyn Grey, Mary Ann McCall, Carol Kaye, Muriel Lane, Kathleen Lane, Jean Bowes, Sue Mitchell, Lynne Stevens, Anita O'Day, and Francis Wayne, as well as Herman himself. Musicians included trumpet players Neal Hefti, Pete Candoli, and Sonny Berman, drummer Davey Tough, bassist Chubby Jackson, pianist Ralph Burns, tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, and vibraphonist Red Norvo. Herman also broke conventions and hired two female musicians, trumpet player/vocalist Billie Rogers and vibraphonist Marjorie Hyams. By the end of the war years Herman's orchestra was the most popular in the nation, winning both the Metronome and Down Beat polls in 1945. With the band's success, though, came increasing pressure on Herman, and in December of 1946 he made the suprise announcement that he was disbanding the group in order to devote more time to his family. Herman, however, found it difficult to stay away from the music business. After a stint as a disc jockey and a few sessions with pick-up bands he finally formed a new group, the Second Herd, in 1947. The new band featured a ''cooler'' sound, with such musicians as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, and Oscar Pettiford. The orchestra remained together only two years and had its biggest hit with the tune ''Four Brothers.'' During the 1950s Herman formed a Third Herd, which scored a hit with ''Early Autumn,'' and later he organized the New Thundering Herd. Sadly, Herman's life ended on a sour note. After financial problems in the 1960s, caused by an inept band manager, Herman ended up owing back taxes. He was forced to continue performing during the 1980s in an effort to pay off his debt. Illness finally prevented him from touring and the IRS seized his assets, including his house. He died soon afterwards in 1987, from complications of pneumonia. Woody Herman was truely of the greats.                                                                   

 


 Buddy Rich (1917-1987)

 

    Arguably the greatest jazz drummer of all time, the legendary Buddy Rich exhibited his love for music through the dedication of his life to the art. His was a career that spanned seven decades, beginning when Rich was 18 months old and continuing until his death in 1987. Immensely gifted, Rich could play with remarkable speed and dexterity despite the fact that he never received a formal lesson and refused to practice outside of his performances. Born Bernard Rich to vaudevillians Robert and Bess Rich on September 30, 1917, the famed drummer was introduced to audiences at a very young age. By 1921, he was a seasoned solo performer with his vaudeville act, "Traps the Drum Wonder." With his natural sense of rhythm, Rich performed regularly on Broadway at the age of four. At the peak of Rich's early career, he was the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world.

 

    Rich's jazz career began in 1937 when he began playing with Joe Marsala at New York's Hickory House. By 1939, he had joined Tommy Dorsey's band, and he later went on to play with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Ventura, Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa. Rich was regularly featured in Jazz at the Philharmonic during the late 1940s. He also appeared in such Hollywood films as Symphony of Swing (1939), Ship Ahoy (1942) and How's About It (1943).

 

    Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rich toured with his own bands and opened two nightclubs, Buddy's Place and Buddy's Place II. Both clubs were regularly filled to capacity by fans of the great master drummer. After opening Buddy's Place II, Rich introduced new tunes with elements of rock into his repertoire, demonstrating his ability to adapt to his audience's changing tastes and establishing himself as a great rock drummer.

 Known for his caustic humour, Rich was a favourite on several television talk shows including the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Mike Douglas Show, the Dick Cavett Show and the Merv Griffin Show. During these appearances, audiences were entertained by Rich's constant sparring with the hosts and his slights of various pop singers.

 This famed musician received outstanding recognition throughout his career. The Downbeat Magazine Hall of Fame Award, the Modern Drummer Magazine Hall of Fame Award and the Jazz Unlimited Immortals of Jazz Award are just a few of his numerous honours.

 Buddy Rich gained international attention for such master compositions as his 10-minute West Side Story medley. During his lengthy career, Rich toured around the globe, performing for millions of fans and several world leaders including the King of Thailand, King Hussein of Jordan the Queen of England, and U.S. presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

 

  On April 2, 1987, Rich died of heart failure following surgery for a malignant brain tumour. Long time friend, Frank Sinatra, spoke a touching eulogy at Rich's funeral. Today, Buddy Rich is remembered as one of history's greatest Jazz drummers. According to jazz legend Gene Krupa, Rich was "The greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath."

 

visit the dedicated website to Buddy's music at;  http://www.buddyrich.com


 

 

  TOMMY DORSEY (1905 (?) 1956)

 

 Known as the Sentimental Gentleman of Swing, he and his older brother Jimmy where joint leaders of  'Dorsey's Novelty Six' in the 1920's, and were members of the Scranton Sirens before moving to New York, where they played with several orchestras, including those of Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman. In the early 1930s they kept busy as studio musicians and occasionally co-led an orchestra, backing such singers as the Boswell Sisters, Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey. In 1934 they officially formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Glenn Miller was an early member of the outfit. Kay Weber was the group's only female vocalist. Bob Crosby was the first male vocalist. Bob Eberly replaced Crosby as male vocalist when Crosby left to lead Gil Rodin's new outfit.                             

   Though the two brothers shared leadership Tommy fronted the band and did most of the work. Jimmy was content to sit with the orchestra and was perfectly happy letting Tommy take charge. Tommy, though, was well-known for his temper. He had tremendous drive and often expected too much from those who worked for him. He often resented Jimmy, who was easy-going and well-liked by the band members. Jimmy was everybody's pal, while Tommy often kept distant.

   Tensions boiled, and in June of 1935 they came to a head. One night, on the bandstand, Tommy counted off the tempo for their next number, and Jimmy interrupted him. "Isn't that little too fast, Mac?'' asked the elder brother. Tommy didn't say a word but grabbed his trombone and walked off stage, never to return. Everyone asked him to come back but he refused. Intent on starting his own band and showing up his brother, he soon took over the Joe Haymes Orchestra.

   Tommy's orchestra soon became the top band in the country, a title it held throughout most of the swing era. It featuring at one time or another such musicians as Bunny Berigan and Charlie Shavers, arrangers Paul Weston, Axel Stordahl, and Sy Oliver, singers Frank Sinatra, Jack Leonard, Jo Stafford, Edythe Wright, Connie Haines, Anita Boyer and the vocal group the Pied Pipers. The orchestra is considered the greatest dance band of all time and was second to none when it came to ballads. In 1942 he hired the string section of the Artie Shaw Orchestra and expanded his sound even further.

  Tommy also indulged in many outside business endeavors, including his own music publishing firm, his own magazine, his own booking agency and a ballroom. In 1945 and 1946 he served as Director of Popular Music at the Mutual Radio Network.

  As the popularity of big band music began to wane in 1946 Tommy decided to quit the music business. He couldn't stay away for long, however, and he reformed his orchestra the following year as he and brother Jimmy began to reconcile during the filming of their quasi-biographical movie, The Fabulous Dorseys. Tommy struggled to keep the new group going. Finally, in 1953, Jimmy rejoined him to form a new Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, though the band was technically under Tommy's name and leadership. With the help of Jackie Gleason, they landed their own popular television program on CBS in 1954, one episode of which featured a then unknown Elvis Presley.

 The end came unexpectedly. Tommy died in 1956, shortly after his fifty-first birthday, choking to death in his sleep. Jimmy never recovered from his brother's death and did not outlive him very long. He passed away seven months later, after losing a bout with cancer. 

http://www.buddymorrowproductions.com                                                                                                                                                                          

  STAN KENTON (1911 - 1979)

 

   Stanley Newcomb Kenton was born in Wichita, Kansas, on December 15, 1911, and grew up in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from high school, he played in several small groups in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas.

   He studied piano and composition, first with his mother, Stella, who sparked his profound interest in the impressionists; then with Frank Hurst, a theater organist; and with Earl "Fatha" Hines, whose piano lessons were often conducted in Hines's hotel room, using a cane-backed chair with a Masonite seat for a keyboard (both had good enough sense of pitch that they didn't need the actual piano).

   In 1933 Everett Hoagland offered Stan the piano chair in his band, which played at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, California, and whose book included charts by another youngster, Gil Evans.

   Hoagland, realizing audiences would respond more lucratively to a society band sound than to his current progressive sound, changed course and went on the road. Stan stayed behind with Hoagland's successor, Russ Plummer.

   After piano jobs with Gus Arnheim, Vido Musso, the NBC house band, and the orchestra for Earl Carroll's "Vanities", he decided the only way to realize his creative ambitions was to start his own band. In 1941 he holed up in a cabin in Idyllwild in the San Jacinto mountains with his wife Violet, and wrote the arrangements and compositions (including the song that would become his band's theme, "Artistry in Rhythm") that became the core of the book for his own band.

   Kenton's bands, or orchestras, as he perferred to present them to the public (privately, they were always "The Band"), produced a string of alumni whose influence on jazz is incalculable, from folks everyone knows as alumni (June Christy, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Maynard Ferguson, Kai Winding) to folks who you'd never associate with Stan Kenton's music (Stan Getz and Laurindo Almeida).

   Indeed, Kenton is so well known for his alumni and for the arrangers who wrote for the band that it's often forgotten that his own compositions and arrangements were the cornerstone on which all his arrangers built. As Noel Wedder remarked, "At no time could any of the material written for the Band in the 60s & 70s be attributed to any other group than Kenton's."

   And, though the very best musicians in the world sat in his band, Kenton's playing was good enough that he could have easily won the audition for his chair. His modesty and desire to show off the other musicians in the band seldom permitted him to play up to his abilities, but every now and then he let it slip out, and we pianists treasure those moments.

   It's significant that Stan's music is found in the jazz section, and not the "big band" section of most record shops even today. By constantly pushing audiences to accept more challenging music, and by hiring the very best musicians and pushing them even harder, Kenton made it clear that his heart was always in the future of jazz, not in its nostalgic past. And in the process, he reaffirmed something too few musical directors, from rock through classical music, understand: audiences like good music.

With only the occasional years off to regain his health or his bankroll, or when he became fed up with the state of music (declaring at one point "Jazz is dead") and the 12 months when his final illness forced him to disband his orchestra for good, Stan kept a band on the road, pursuing and largely attaining his artistic visions, until his passing on August 25, 1979.

 



  COUNT BASIE (1904 ? 1984)

 

 

Born William James Basie, the "Count" started out playing piano and organ for theatre and vaudeville in the 1920s. Influenced by Fats Waller, Basie formed his own big band, playing swing jazz and emphasizing hot soloists like saxophonist Lester Young.

   During the 1940s and '50s, Basie and his orchestra were one of the most popular big bands in the U.S., with hits like "One O' Clock Jump" and "Jumpin' at the Woodside." Even after the bop era of jazz had overwhelmed swing, Basie had success with smaller bands, continuing to perform and record up to his death in 1984.

The story goes that a radio announcer dubbed him "Count," figuring there was already a King (of swing, Benny Goodman), a Duke (Ellington) and an Earl (Hines)... The popular 1966 live album Sinatra at the Sands featured Basie and his orchestra (conducted by Quincy Jones) with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas.

 Visit the dedicated website   www.swingmusic.net/Count_Basie.html


 

 

   Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

 

    Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, the Duke started as a pool hall piano player and grew to become one of the great figures in American jazz. Ellington was one of the first to use classical themes in jazz, and is still considered one of the most innovative composers in jazz history.

   (Many of his later numbers were written with his long time collaborator Billy Strayhorn, who wrote Ellington's signature tune "Take the 'A' Train.") At the height of his career Ellington toured the world with his orchestra and composed such standards as "Mood Indigo," "In A Sentimental Mood," and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing."

  According to the official site of his estate, "Ellington got his nickname of "Duke" from a childhood friend who commented on his elegant manners, bearing, and dress"... Stevie Wonder's pop hit "Sir Duke" is a tribute to Ellington.

 Two websites to visit; the official website at; www.dukeellington.com/about/bio.htm and a fascinating site where you can hear some of his recordings: www.redhotjazz.com/duke.html


 

  Ted Heath (1900 - 1969)

 

Forty years before the Beatles led the British Invasion of the American musical scene, there was a similar American musical invasion of the U.K.: jazz. Sidney Bechet, one of the earliest and most enduring jazz expatriates, toured England in the mid-1920s, sparking a rush of interest in early jazz. And playing alongside Bechet was one of the most enthusiastic converts, trombonist, Ted Heath.

Heath caught the jazz bug and kept it for the rest of his life. He spent the late twenties and most of the thirties playing with most of the biggest British big bands: Jack Hylton, Ambrose (for nearly ten years), and Geraldo. Inspired by Glenn Miller's big band sound, Heath formed his own group in 1944, and it became the dominant swing group in the U.K. until his death (and beyond).

Heath attracted many of the best performers and arrangers. Johnny Dankworth, trumpeter Kenny Baker, Stanley Black, Ronnie Scott (who went on to own the most famous jazz club in London), and Jack Parnell were among Heath's featured players. And his roster of arrangers is even more impressive: Dankworth, Johnny Keating, George Shearing (his rare ventures into arranging were for Heath), Tadd Dameron, Robert Farnon, and Roland Shaw.

Heath was successful enough, both commercially and critically, to be invited to tour the U.S. and play Carnegie Hall in 1953. Heath had a steady series of mid-chart hits throughout the fifties, with such tunes as "Dragnet," "Swinging Shepherd Blues," "Skin Deep," and "Sucu Sucu." One of the first acts to record for London's Phase Four stereo showcase series, Heath had the label's biggest hit in 1962 with Big Band Percussion.

Heath suffered from a heart condition in the late 1960s and retired from performing. Trombonist Don Lusher took over the lead of the band, though, and it continued to record and perform for over 20 years, finally retiring with a gala concert at London's Royal Festival Hall in December 2000. Sadly Don passed away in 2006.



  Great Jazz Artists

 Sidney Bechet (1897 - 1959)

 

  Sidney Bechet was a child prodigy in New Orleans. He was such a good clarinet player, that in his youth he was featured by some of the top bands in the city. Bechet's style of playing clarinet and soprano sax dominated many of the bands that he was in.

    He played lead parts that were usually reserved for trumpets and was a master of improvisation. In 1917 he moved to Chicago. In 1919 he was playing with Will Marion Cook's Syncopated Orchestra and with Louis Mitchell's Jazz Kings in Europe. While overseas he bought a soprano sax and from then on it was his main instrument. Back in the U.S. Bechet made his recording debut in 1923 with Clarence Williams and during the next two years he appeared on several of Williams' records backing up blues singers and on a classic session with the Clarence Williams Blue Five, featuring Louis Armstrong whom he knew as a child in New Orleans.

    Bechet played in an early version of Duke Ellington's Washingtonians but unfortunately never recorded with them. From 1925 to 1929 Bechet lived and played in Europe, playing in England, France, Germany and Russia. While living in Paris, Bechet got into a dispute with another musician and a gun fight broke out. Three people were wounded and Sidney spent a year in a French jail as a result of the fracas. He was deported upon release from prison and went to Berlin, Germany.

 

    He could not stay in France and he would not get a visa for England so he stayed in Berlin till 1931 then joined the Noble Sissle Orchestra and returned to America. Bechet managed to keep playing during the Thirties, but he also ran an unsuccessful tailor's shop with Tommy Ladnier and made some memorable recordings with the trumpeter under the name of the New Orleans Feetwarmers. In 1938 he had a hit record of "summertime".

   In the Forties Bechet worked regularly in New York with Eddie Condon and tried to start a band with Bunk Johnson. Bechet was a popular figure of the Dixieland revival of the late Forties often recording with Mezz Mezzrow. Bechet returned to France in 1952 and was warmly received there. While in France he recorded hit records that rivaled the sales of pop stars. He lived a very rich life, always managing to "make the scene" where it was "happening", whether it be in New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Berlin or Paris. He died in France in 1959.


 

    Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong (1901-1971)

 

Louis Armstrong was the greatest of all Jazz trumpet players in his youth, and although he started out on the Cornet, he moved over to the trumpet later. He defined what it was to play Jazz. His amazing technical abilities, the joy and spontaneity, and amazingly quick, inventive musical mind earned him the respect of many of his contemporaries in jazz through his lifespan.

Only Charlie Parker (Alto Saxophone) comes close to having as much influence on the history of Jazz as Louis Armstrong did. Like almost all early Jazz musicians, Louis was from New Orleans.

He was from a very poor family and was sent to reform school when he was twelve after firing a gun in the air on New Year's Eve. At the school he learned to play the cornet. After being released at age fourteen, he worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal from a cart. He didn't own an instrument at this time, but continued to listen to bands at clubs like the Funky Butt Hall. Joe "King" Oliver was his favourite player, and the older man acted as a father to Louis, even giving him his first real cornet and instructing him on the instrument.

 

By 1917 he was good enough to play in an Oliver inspired group at dive bars in New Orleans' Storyville section. In 1919 he left New Orleans for the first time to join the Fate Marable band in St. Louis. Marable led a band that played on the Strekfus Mississsippi river boat lines. When the boats left from New Orleans, Armstrong also played regular gigs with the Kid Ory band.

Louis stayed with Marable until 1921 when he returned to New Orleans and played in Zutty Singleton's band. He also played in parades with the Allen Brass Band, and on the bandstand with Papa Celestin's Tuxedo Orchestra, and the Silver Leaf Band. When King Oliver left the city in 1919 to go to Chicago, Louis took his place in Kid Ory's band from time to time.

 In 1922 Louis received a telegram from his mentor Joe Oliver, asking him to join his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens (459 East 31st Street) in Chicago. This was a dream come true for Armstrong, and his amazing playing in the band soon made him a sensation among other musicians in Chicago. The New Orleans style of music took the town by storm and soon many other bands from down south made their way north to Chicago.

 Whilst playing in Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Armstrong met Lillian Hardin, a piano player and arranger for the band. In February of 1924 they were married. Lil was a very intelligent and ambitious woman who felt that Louis was wasting himself playing in Oliver's band. By the end of 1924 she pressured Armstrong to reluctantly leave Joe

. He then briefly worked with Ollie Powers' Harmony Syncopators before he moved to New York to play in Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra for 13 months. During that time he also did dozens of recording sessions with numerous Blues singers, including Bessie Smith's 1925 classic recording of "St. Louis Blues".

 

He also recorded with Clarence Williams and the Red Onion Jazz Babies. In 1925 Armstrong moved back to Chicago and joined his wife's band at the Dreamland Cafe (3520 South State Street). He also played in Erskine Tate'sVendome Orchestra and then with Carrol Dickenson's Orchestra at the Sunset Cafe (313-17 East 35th Street at the corner of Calmet Street).

Armstrong recorded his first Hot Five records that same year. This was the first time that Armstrong had made records under his own name and the records made by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be absolute jazz classics and speak volumes of Armstrong's creative powers. The band never played live, but continued recording until 1928. While working at the Sunset, Louis met his future manager, Joe Glaser.

Glaser managed the Sunset at that time. Armstrong continued to play in Carrol Dickenson's Orchestra until 1929. He also led his own band on the same venue under the name of Louis Armstrong and his Stompers. For the next two years Armstrong played with Carroll Dickerson's Savoy Orchestra and with Clarence Jones' Orchestra in Chicago.

 

 By 1929 Louis was becoming a very big star. He toured with the show "Hot Chocolates" and appeared occasionally with the Luis Russell Orchestra, with Dave Peyton, and with Fletcher Henderson. Armstrong moved to Los Angeles in 1930 where he fronted a band called ?Louis Armstrong and his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra?. In 1931 he returned to Chicago and assembled his own band for touring purposes, and in June of that year he returned to New Orleans for the first time since he left in 1922 to join King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band.

 

Armstrong was greeted as a hero, but racism marred his return when a White radio announcer refused to mention Armstrong on the air and a free concert that Louis was going to give to the cities' African-American population was cancelled at the last minute.

 Louis and Lil also separated in 1931. In 1932 he returned to California, before leaving for England where he was a great success. For the next three years Armstrong was almost always on the road. He crisscrossed the U.S. dozens of times and returned to Europe playing in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and England. In 1935 he returned to the U.S. and hired Joe Glaser to be his manager. He had known Glaser when he was the manager of the Sunset Cafe in Chicago in the 1920s. Glaser was allegedly connected to the Al Capone mob, but proved to be a great manager and friend for Louis.

 

 Glaser remained Armstrong's manager until his death in 1969. Glaser took care of the business end of things, leaving Armstrong free to concentrate on his music. He also hired the Luis Russell Orchestra as Louis' backup band with Russell as the musical director. This was like going home for Armstrong, because Russell's Orchestra was made up of predominantly New Orleans musicians, many of whom had also played with King Oliver. The band was renamed Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra and was one of the most popular acts of the Swing era.

Glaser put the band to work and they toured constantly for the next ten years. During this period Armstrong became one of the most famous men in America. In 1938 Lil and Louis finally got a divorce. Louis then married Alpha, his third wife. The endless touring was hard on their marriage and they were divorced four years later, but Armstrong quickly remarried Lucille and they remained married for the rest of his life.

 For the next nine years the Louis Armstrong Orchestra continued to tour and release records, but as the 1940s drew to a close the public's taste in Jazz began to shift away from the commercial sounds of the Swing era and big band Jazz. The so-called Dixieland Jazz revival was just beginning and Be Bop was also starting to challenge the status quo in the Jazz world. The Louis Armstrong Orchestra was beginning to look tired and concert and record sales were declining. Critics complained that Armstrong was becoming too commercial. So, in 1947 Glaser fired the orchestra and replaced them with a small group that became one of the greatest and most popular bands in Jazz history. The group was called the Louis Armstrong All Stars and over the years featured exceptional musicians like Barney Bigard, Jack Teagarden, Sidney ?Big Sid? Catlett , vocalist Vilma Middleton, and Earl Hines. T

He band went through a number of personnel changes over the years but remained extremely popular worldwide. They toured extensively travelling to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America for the next twenty years until Louis' failing health caused them to disband. Armstrong became known as America's Ambassador. In 1963 Armstrong scored a huge international hit with his version of "Hello Dolly".

This number one single even knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts. In 1968 he recorded another number one hit with the touchingly optimistic "What A Wonderful World". Armstrong's health began to fail him and he was hospitalized several times over the remaining three years of his life, but he continued playing and recording. On July 6th 1971 one of the world's greatest Jazz trumpet players died in his sleep at his home in Queens, New York.

   Visit http://www.swingmusic.net/ArmstrongLouis.html

 

 

Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)

 

    John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, along with Charlie Parker, ushered in the era of Be-Bop in the American jazz tradition. He was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, and was the youngest of nine children. He began playing piano at the age of four and received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Most noted for his trademark "swollen cheeks", Gillespie admitted to copying the style of trumpeter Roy Eldridge early in his career. He replaced Eldridge in the Teddy Hill Band after Eldridge's departure.

    He eventually began experimenting and creating his own style which would eventually come to the attention of Mario Bauza, the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz who was then a member of the Cab Calloway Orchestra. Joining Calloway in 1939, Gillespie was fired after two years when he cut a portion of Calloway's buttocks with a knife after Calloway accused him of throwing spitballs (the two men later became lifelong friends and often retold this story with great relish until both of their deaths). Although noted for his on- and off-stage clowning, Gillespie endured as one of the founding fathers of the Afro-Cuban &/or Latin Jazz tradition.

    Influenced by Bauza, known as Gillespie's musical father, he was able to fuse Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a burgeoning CuBop sound. Always a musical ambassador, he toured Africa, the Middle East and Latin America under the sponsorship of the US State Department. Quite often he returned, not only with fresh musical ideas, but with musicians who would eventually go on to achieve world renown.

   Among his proteges and collaborators are Chano Pozo, the great Afro-Cuban percussionist; Danilo Pérez, a master pianist and composer originally from Panama; Arturo Sandoval, trumpeter, composer and music educator originally from Cuba; Mongo Santamaría, an Afro-Cuban conguero, bonguero and composer; David Sanchez, saxophonist and composer; Chucho Valdés, an Afro-Cuban virtuoso pianist and composer; and Bobby Sanabria, a Bronx, NY-born Nuyorican percussionist, composer, educator, bandleader and expert in the Afro-Cuban musical tradition.

    Indeed, many Latin jazz classics such as "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia" and "Guachi Guaro [Soul Sauce]" were composed by Gillespie and his musical collaborators. With a strong sense of pride in his Afro-American heritage, he left a legacy of musical excellence that embraced and fused all musical forms, but particularly those forms with roots deep in Africa such as the music of Cuba, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Additionally, he left a legacy of goodwill and good humour that infused jazz musicians and fans throughout the world with a genuine sense of jazz's ability to transcend national and ethnic boundaries--for this reason, Gillespie was and is an international treasure.


 

   

 

URBIE GREEN  (1926-)

 

Urban Clifford "Urbie" Green (born August 8, 1926) is an American professional jazz trombonist who toured with Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Jan Savitt, and Frankie Carle. He appears on over 250 recordings and has released more than two dozen albums as a soloist and is highly respected by his fellow trombonists. Green's trombone sound is especially noted for its warm, mellow tone, even in the higher registers where he is more fluent than most trombonists. His technique is considered flawless by many in the music industry and has appeared in major jazz festivals, motion pictures, concert halls, nightclubs, radio, television and the White House. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, USA, Green was taught the piano as a child by his mother, jazz and popular tunes from the beginning. He picked up the trombone, which both older brothers played, when he was about 12. Although he listened to such trombone greats as Tommy Dorsey, J. C. Higginbotham, Jack Jenny, Jack Teagarden and Trummy Young he has said that he was more influenced by the styles of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. Urbie's trombone style was also influenced by vocalists such as Perry Como, and the vocal style of Louis Armstrong. Green's father died when he was 15 and Urbie went straight into professional music, first joining the Tommy Reynolds Band in California before moving on to stints with Bob Strong, Jan Savitt, and Frankie Carle. Green also played with the Auburn Knights, a college big band based at Auburn University.

In 1947, Green joined Gene Krupa's band and quickly moved up to Woody Hermans third "Thundering Herd" Big Band in 1950 to play with his brother, Jack. In 1954 he was awarded the "New Star" Critics Award from Down Beat International. Moving to New York City in 1953 and established himself as the premier trombonist in demand for the booming recording industry. He was voted "Most Valuable Player" several times by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Some have even proposed that he may be the most recorded musician of all time. He recorded with virtually all of the major jazz musicians of the 1950s and 1960s and led his own groups while also joining tours as a featured performer, including a three-month tour helming the Benny Goodman Orchestra and the unusual job of fronting the Tommy Dorsey orchestra after Dorsey's death in 1956. He collaborated with innovative producer Enoch Light for the Command and Project 3 labels, producing what are probably his most notable recordings, such as the two-volume sets "The Persuasive Trombone of Urbie Green" and "21 Trombones."

In the 1970s Green began making strides in innovations with his instrument. He designed a signature mouthpiece for Jet Tone and collaborated with Martin Brass on practical improvements to trombone design, including modifications of the hand brace and slide, water valve, and finish. Urbie's also began experimenting with the "Green Monster", a King trombone using a King Vox Amp pickup in the mouthpiece connected to an octave doubler and reverb unit. Some of his best recordings of the 70s were with Enoch Light and the Light Brigade, Dick Hyman, Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. After the very productive Enoch Light years, Urbie's style changed a bit. His recordings under the CTI label contained much more music by Urbie's band and fewer solos by Urbie.

The 1980s and beyond saw a slowing down of Urbie Green's recording career. Both albums recorded by Urbie during this period are live, straight Jazz works; Just Friends, and Sea Jam Blues.

He now spends most of his time with his second wife Kathy, a jazz singer, at their home in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. Urbie still plays live at the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Festival every September, just miles down the road from his home. Urbie and Kathy have two children, Jesse and Casey. Jesse is a noted jazz pianist and lives nearby, while Casey is a director/editor in Los Angeles, California. Urbie's first wife was Darlein Dietz and they had two children, Urban Clifford Green and James Preston Green. Urban has a daughter, Gretchen Alexandra Pöelker-Green, and lives in Sea Cliff, Long Island. James lives in Tallahasse, Florida and has a son named Vincent.

In 1995 Urbie was elected into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

Read more about Urbie at www.trombonesonline.com

   BILL WATROUS (1939-) 

 

   Bill Watrous was born on June 8, 1939 in Middletown, Connecticut. He was introduced to the jazz trombone at an early age by his father, also a trombonist. While serving in the military, Watrous studied with jazz pianist and composer Herbie Nichols. His first professional performances were in Billy Butterfield's band.

  Watrous' career blossomed in the 1960's. He played and recorded with many jazz luminaries, including Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Johnny Richards, and fellow trombonist Kai Winding. He also played in the house band on the Merv Griffin Show from 1965 - 1968.

  In 1971, he played with the jazz fusion group Ten Wheel Drive. Also in the 1970s, Watrous formed his own band, "The Manhattan Wildlife Refuge Big Band," and recorded two albums with the band on the Columbia Records label. The band was later renamed "Refuge West" when Watrous relocated to southern California.

  He has continued to work actively since the 1980s as a band leader, studio musican, and performing at various jazz clubs. In 1983, Watrous published Trombonisms, an instructional manual covering various performance techniques for the trombone. He has recorded as a solo artist, band leader and in various small ensembles on a number of different labels. These recordings include an 2001 album with Carl Fontana, whom Watrous has cited as his favorite trombonist. This may be so, but Bill is regarded as the finest jazz trombonist ever, with his inovative, and amazing technique, plus his lovely rich tone is admired by thousands of trombonists around the World.

You can visit his official website at;  www.billwatrous.com/recordings.asp

 

  

John Coltrane  (1927-1967)  

 

Despite a relatively brief career (he first came to notice as a sideman at age 29 in 1955, formally launched a solo career at 33 in 1960, and was dead at 40 in 1967), saxophonist John Coltrane was among the most important, and most controversial, figures in jazz. It seems amazing that his period of greatest activity was so short, not only because he recorded prolifically, but also because, taking advantage of his fame, the record companies that recorded him as a sideman in the 1950s frequently reissued those recordings under his name and there has been a wealth of posthumously released material as well. Since Coltrane was a protean player who changed his style radically over the course of his career, this has made for much confusion in his discography and in appreciations of his playing. There remains a critical divide between the adherents of his earlier, more conventional (if still highly imaginative) work and his later, more experimental work. No one, however, questions Coltrane's almost religious commitment to jazz or doubts his significance in the history of the music.

Coltrane was the son of John R. Coltrane, a tailor and amateur musician, and Alice (Blair) Coltrane. Two months after his birth, his maternal grandfather, the Reverend William Blair, was promoted to presiding elder in the A.M.E. Zion Church and moved his family, including his infant grandson, to High Point, NC, where Coltrane grew up. Shortly after he graduated from grammar school in 1939, his father, his grandparents, and his uncle died, leaving him to be raised in a family consisting of his mother, his aunt, and his cousin. His mother worked as a domestic to support the family. The same year, he joined a community band in which he played clarinet and E-flat alto horn; he took up the alto saxophone in his high school band. During World War II, his mother, aunt, and cousin moved North to New Jersey to seek work, leaving him with family friends; in 1943, when he graduated from high school, he to headed north, settling in Philadelphia. Eventually, the family was reunited there.

While taking jobs outside music, Coltrane briefly attended the Ornstein School of Music and studied at Granoff Studios. He also began playing in local clubs. In 1945, he was drafted into the navy and stationed in Hawaii. He never saw combat, but he continued to play music, and in fact made his first recording, with a quartet of other sailors, on July 13, 1946. A performance of Tadd Dameron's "Hot House," it was released in 1993 on the Rhino Records anthology The Last Giant. Coltrane was discharged in the summer of 1946 and returned to Philadelphia. That fall, he began playing in the Joe Webb Band. In early 1947, he switched to the King Kolax Band.

 

 During the year, he switched from alto to tenor saxophone. One account claims that this was as the result of encountering alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and feeling the better known musician had exhausted the possibilities on the instrument; another says that the switch occurred simply because Coltrane next joined a band led by Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, who was an alto player, forcing Coltrane to play tenor. He moved on to Jimmy Heath's band in mid-1948, staying with the band, which evolved into the Howard McGhee All Stars until early 1949, when he returned to Philadelphia. That fall, he joined a big band led by Dizzy Gillespie, remaining until the spring of 1951, by which time the band had been trimmed to a septet. On March 1, 1951, he took his first solo on record during a performance of "We Love to Boogie" with Gillespie.

 

At some point during this period, Coltrane became a heroin addict, which made him more difficult to employ. He played with various bands, mostly around Philadelphia, during the early 1950s, his next important job coming in the spring of 1954, when Johnny Hodges, temporarily out of the Duke Ellington band, hired him. But he was fired because of his addiction in September 1954. He returned to Philadelphia, where he was playing when he was hired by Miles Davis a year later. His association with Davis was the big break that finally established him as an important jazz musician. Davis, a former drug addict himself, had kicked his habit and gained recognition at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1955, resulting in a contract with Columbia Records and the opportunity to organize a permanent band, which, in addition to him and Coltrane, consisted of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer "Philly" Joe Jones.

 

 This unit immediately began to record extensively, not only because of the Columbia contract, but also because Davis had signed with the major label before fulfilling a deal with jazz independent Prestige Records that still had five albums to run. The trumpeter's Columbia debut, 'Round About Midnight, which he immediately commenced recording, did not appear until March 1957. The first fruits of his association with Coltrane came in April 1956 with the release of The New Miles Davis Quintet (a/k/a Miles), recorded for Prestige on November 16, 1955. During 1956, in addition to his recordings for Columbia, Davis held two marathon sessions for Prestige to fulfil his obligation to the label, which released the material over a period of time under the titles Cookin' (1957), Relaxin' (1957), Workin' (1958), and Steamin' (1961).

Coltrane's association with Davis inaugurated a period when he began to record as a sideman frequently. Davis may have been trying to end his association Prestige, but Coltrane began appearing on many of the label's sessions. After he became better known in the 1960s, Prestige and other labels began to repackage this work under his name, as if he had been the leader, a process that has continued to the present day. (Prestige was acquired by Fantasy Records in 1972, and many of the recordings in which Coltrane participated have been reissued on Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics [OJC] imprint.)

Coltrane tried and failed to kick heroin in the summer of 1956, and in October Davis fired him, though the trumpeter had relented and taken him back by the end of November. Early in 1957, Coltrane formally signed with Prestige as a solo artist, though he remained in the Davis band and also continued to record as a sideman for other labels. In April, Davis fired him again. This may have given him the impetus finally to kick his drug habit, and freed of the necessity of playing gigs with Davis, he began to record even more frequently. On May 31, 1957, he finally made his recording debut as a leader, putting together a pickup band consisting of trumpeter Johnny Splawn, baritone saxophonist Sahib Shihab, pianists
Mal Waldron and Red Garland (on different tracks), bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Al "Tootie" Heath. They cut an album Prestige titled simply Coltrane upon release in September 1957. (It has since been reissued under the title First Trane.)

 

In June 1957, Coltrane joined the Thelonious Monk Quartet, consisting of Monk on piano, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Shadow Wilson on drums. During this period, he developed a technique of playing several notes at once, and his solos began to go on longer. In August, he recorded material belatedly released on the Prestige albums Lush Life (1960) and The Last Trane (1965), as well as the material for John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio, released later in the year. (It was later reissued under the title Traneing In.) But Coltrane's second album to be recorded and released contemporaneously under his name alone was cut in September for Blue Note Records. This was Blue Train, featuring trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Kenny Drew, and the Miles Davis rhythm section of Chambers and "Philly" Joe Jones; it was released in December 1957. That month, Coltrane rejoined Davis, playing in what was now a sextet that also featured Cannonball Adderley. In January 1958, he led a recording session for Prestige that produced tracks later released on Lush Life, The Last Trane, and The Believer (1964). In February and March, he recorded Davis' album Milestones ?, released later in 1958. In between the sessions, he cut his third album to be released under his name alone, Soultrane, issued n September by Prestige. Also in March 1958, he cut tracks as a leader that would be released later on the Prestige collection Settin' the Pace (1961)

 

. In May, he again recorded for Prestige as a leader, though the results would not be heard until the release of Black Pearls in 1964.

Coltrane appeared as part of the Miles Davis group at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1958. The band's set was recorded and released in 1964 on an LP also featuring a performance by Thelonious Monk as Miles & Monk at Newport. In 1988, Columbia reissued the material on an album called Miles & Coltrane. The performance inspired a review in Down Beat, the leading jazz magazine, that was an early indication of the differing opinions on Coltrane that would be expressed throughout the rest of his career and long after his death. The review referred to his "angry tenor," which, it said, hampered the solidarity of the Davis band. The review led directly to an article published in the magazine on October 16, 1958, in which critic Ira Gitler defended the saxophonist and coined the much-repeated phrase "sheets of sound" to describe his playing.

Coltrane's next Prestige session as a leader occurred later in July 1958 and resulted in tracks later released on the albums Standard Coltrane (1962), Stardust (1963), and Bahia (1965). All of these tracks were later compiled on a reissue called The Stardust Session. He did a final session for Prestige in December 1958, recording tracks later released on The Believer, Stardust, and Bahia. This completed his commitment to the label, and he signed to Atlantic Records, doing his first recording for his new employers on January 15, 1959, with a session on which he was co-billed with vibes player Milt Jackson, though it did not appear until 1961 with the LP Bags and Trane

 

. In March and April 1959, Coltrane participated with the Davis group on the album Kind of Blue. Released on August 17, 1959, this landmark album known for its "modal" playing (improvisations based on scales or "modes," rather than chords) became one of the best-selling and most acclaimed recordings in the history of jazz. In between the sessions for the album, Coltrane began recording what would be his Atlantic Records debut, Giant Steps, released in early 1960. The album, consisting entirely of Coltrane compositions, in a sense marked his real debut as a leading jazz performer, even though the 33-year-old musician had released three previous solo albums and made numerous other recordings. His next Atlantic album, Coltrane Jazz, was mostly recorded in November and December 1959 and released in February 1961. In April 1960, he finally left the Davis band and formally launched his solo career, beginning an engagement at the Jazz Gallery in New York, accompanied by pianist Steve Kuhn (soon replaced by McCoy Tyner), bassist Steve Davis, and drummer Pete La Roca (later replaced by Billy Higgins and then Elvin Jones). During this period, he increasingly played soprano saxophone as well as tenor.

 

In October 1960, Coltrane recorded a series of sessions for Atlantic that would produce material for several albums, including a final track used on Coltrane Jazz and tunes used on My Favorite Things (March 1961), Coltrane Plays the Blues (July 1962), and Coltrane's Sound (June 1964). His soprano version of "My Favorite Things," from the Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II musical The Sound of Music, would become a signature song for him. During the winter of 1960-61, bassist Reggie Workman replaced Steve Davis in his band, and saxophone and flute player Eric Dolphy gradually became a member of the group.

 

In the wake of the commercial success of My Favorite Things, Coltrane's star rose, and he was signed away from Atlantic as the flagship artist of the newly formed Impulse! Records label, an imprint of ABC-Paramount, though in May he cut a final album for Atlantic, Ole (February 1962). The following month, he completed his Impulse! debut, Africa/Brass. By this time, his playing was frequently in a style alternately dubbed "avant-garde," "free," or "The New Thing." Like Ornette Coleman, he played seemingly formless, extended solos that some listeners found tremendously impressive, and others decried as noise. In November 1961, John Tynan, writing in Down Beat, referred to Coltrane's playing as "anti-jazz." That month, however, Coltrane recorded one of his most celebrated albums, Live at the Village Vanguard, an LP paced by the 16-minute improvisation "Chasin' the Trane."

Between April and June 1962, Coltrane cut his next Impulse! studio album, another release called simply Coltrane when it appeared later in the year. Working with producer Bob Thiele, he began to do extensive studio sessions, far more than Impulse! could profitably release at the time, especially with Prestige and Atlantic still putting out their own archival albums. But the material would serve the label well after the saxophonist's untimely death. Thiele acknowledged that Coltrane's next three Impulse! albums to be released, Ballads, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, and John Coltrane with Johnny Hartman (all 1963), were recorded at his behest to quiet the critics of Coltrane's more extreme playing. Impressions (1963), drawn from live and studio recordings made in 1962 and 1963, was a more representative effort, as was 1964's Live at Birdland, also a combination of live and studio tracks, despite its title. But Crescent, also released n 1964, seemed to find a middle ground between traditional and free playing, and was welcomed by critics. This trend was continued with 1965's A Love Supreme, one of Coltrane's best-loved albums, which earned him two Grammy nominations, for jazz composition and performance, and became his biggest selling record. Also during the year, Impulse! released the standards collection The John Coltrane Quartet Plays ? and another album of "free" playing, Ascension, as well as New Thing at Newport, a live album consisting of one side by Coltrane and the other by Archie Shepp.

 

1966 saw the release of the albums Kulu Se Mama and Meditations, Coltrane's last recordings to appear during his lifetime, though he had finished and approved release for his next album, Expression, the Friday before his death in July 1967. He died suddenly of liver cancer, entering the hospital on a Sunday and expiring in the early morning hours of the next day. He had left behind a considerable body of unreleased work that came out in subsequent years, including "Live" at the Village Vanguard Again! (1967), Om (1967), Cosmic Music (1968), Selflessness (1969), Transition (1969), Sun Ship (1971), Africa/Brass, Vol. 2 (1974), Intersteller Space (1974), and First Meditations (For Quartet) (1977), all on Impulse! Compilations and releases of archival live recordings brought him a series of Grammy nominations, including best jazz performance for the Atlantic album The Coltrane Legacy in 1970; best jazz performance, group, and best jazz performance, soloist, for "Giant Steps" from the Atlantic album Alternate Takes in 1974; and best jazz performance, group, and best jazz performance, soloist, for Afro Blue Impressions in 1977. He won the 1981 Grammy for best jazz performance, soloist, for Bye Bye Blackbird, an album of recordings made live in Europe in 1962, and he was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, 25 years after his death.

Visit his official website (turn on your sound!)   www.JohnColtrane.com

 

 

 

    

Pulitzer Prize Winner         

                                             

         Wynton Marsalis (1961-)

 

"I wanted to make somebody feel like Coltrane made me feel listening to him"                   

Wynton Marsalis was born in New Orleans, where his father, Ellis Marsalis, is a well-respected jazz pianist and teacher. His brothers Branford and Delfeo are also notable musicians. Wynton received his first trumpet at age six, and played in public at age seven, but did not begin to study seriously until he was 12. At 14 he made his debut with the New Orleans Philharmonic. Throughout high school, he played first trumpet with the New Orleans Civic Orchestra, while playing funk and jazz with other local groups. A straight-A student, he graduated from high school with honours, and at age 17, began his studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

Still in his teens, the young trumpeter joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the great finishing school of many jazz musicians. Drummer Blakey was often called the Lion Tamer, because of his dedication to discovering and training the best young instrumentalists.

By age 19, Marsalis had signed a recording contract with CBS Records. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1982, and over the next 17 years produced close to 40 jazz and classical recordings for Columbia Jazz and Sony Classical.

After leaving the Art Blakey band, Marsalis struggled for some years to hold his own group together. Many players found it more lucrative to play pop or rock music than to adhere to Marsalis' uncompromising vision. His criticism of rock and fusion music alienated some critics and listeners, but he persevered, taking time out on the road to visit schools and instruct young people all over America on the traditions of jazz and its place in American life.

   In 1983 he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy Awards in the same year, a feat he immediately repeated. To date he has won six Grammy awards for his jazz recordings and two for recordings of classical music. He has received five ?Musician of the Year? awards, and his recordings regularly sell hundreds of thousands of copies; one album stayed on the charts for 39 weeks.

His recordings include Black Codes (From the Underground) the series Standard Time which includes the albums The Resolution of Romance and Intimacy Calling, both of which feature his father on piano, and an epic meditation on the blues entitled Soul Gestures in Southern Blue. The three volumes of Soul Gestures are: Thick in the South, Uptown Ruler and Levee Low Moan. Marsalis' Sony Classical recordings include concert, chamber and solo music for trumpet from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th-century repertoires.

In 1987 Wynton Marsalis co-founded Jazz at the Lincoln Centre to sponsor jazz performance and educational programs at New York's premier performing arts centre. Since 1992, Marsalis has served as the organization's Artistic Director, and as leader of the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra. Wynton has also  written numerous concert works for the orchestra, beginning in 1992 with In This House, On This Morning, an extended piece based on the form of a traditional gospel service.

Beginning in 1993, Marsalis has composed music for ballet and modern dance, creating works for the New York City Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, in collaboration with choreographers such as Peter Martins, Judith Jamison, Garth Fagan and Twyla Tharp. In 1994, he published his first book, Sweet Swing Blues on the Road (Norton Publications).

In 1997, Wynton Marsalis received the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his oratorio Blood in the Fields. Marsalis was the first jazz musician ever to be so honoured. The year 2000 saw the release of the eight-volume CD series Swinging Into the 21st. The series includes a seven-disc boxed set of live performances from the Village Vanguard and seven other volumes including works by Jelly Roll Morton, Thelonious Monk and Igor Stravinsky and new works by Marsalis himself, including At the Octoroon Balls: String Quartet No. 1, A Fiddler's Tale, Reel Time and Sweet Release and Ghost Story: Two More Ballets by Wynton Marsalis.

In addition to his busy schedule of composing and performing, Marsalis produces music education programs for public radio and television. His four-part, Peabody Award-winning TV series Marsalis on Music, introduces young viewers to the adventure of making music. The Peabody citation for Marsalis on Musicalso recognized his 26-part National Public Radio series, Making the Music, which was based on the Jazz for Young People concerts he leads at Lincoln Center. Most recently Marsalis served as a principal consultant and on-camera commentator for the 20-hour documentary series, Jazz, produced by Ken Burns, which appeared on public television in January, 2001.

In 2004, Marsalis presided over the long-awaited opening of Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home: Frederick P. Rose Hall, the world's first performing arts facility designed specifically for jazz education, performance and broadcast. Part of the enormous Time Warner Center on Manhattan's Columbus Circle, the facilities of Frederick P. Rose Hall include classrooms, studios, a theatre, a nightclub and the architecturally ingenious Allen Room, a flexible performance space with a breathtaking view of Central Park. Under the leadership of Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Centre produces a year-round schedule of education, performance and broadcast events with the Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and a comprehensive array of guest artists. It is the world's largest not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to jazz.

                 visit: http://airjudden.tripod.com/jazz/wyntonmarsalis.html

 

 


 

   Miles Davis (1926-1991)

 

Miles Davis is more than a jazz musician: he is a cultural icon, known even to people who can't tell bebop from fusion. That may seem strange considering that Davis made a career of defying the expectations of critics and audience alike, but it is just one more paradox associated with this mercurial artist.

Miles was born in Alton, Illinois on May 26, 1926. He grew up in East St. Louis in a middle class family, playing in his high school band as well as with several local R&B groups. He quickly became enamoured of jazz, particularly the new sounds being created by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Davis' father sent him to Juliard to study music, but Miles didn't spend much time there, dropping out to play with Parker's quintet from 1946 to 1948. That proved to be a humbling experience at first, since Miles didn't yet have the chops to keep up with Parker's breakneck tempos and chord substitutions. He learned quickly, though, and grew immensely as a musician during his tenure with Bird.

Next, Miles hooked up with a group of musicians who were doing something completely different. This group included J.J. Johnson, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, and Max Roach. While all were excellent bop players, they were developing a style that was less volatile and more relaxed, which suited Davis' temperament. The arrangements crafted by Lewis, Mulligan, John Carisi, and Gil Evans added more uniqueness to the nine-piece group's sound. Davis became the group's ad-hoc leader, and the classic Birth of the Cool was the result.

The early 50s were an erratic time for Davis, mostly due to his heroin addiction, and he was a disappointing performer during this time. By the middle of the decade, however, he had cleaned up and formed his first quintet, comprised of Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. This group became very popular and recorded several essential albums for the Prestige label: Cookin', Steamin', Workin', and Relaxin'.

 When the quintet broke up, Davis spent time collaborating again with arranger Gil Evans, resulting in great albums like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. He finished the decade out by recording one of the best known jazz albums of all time, Kind of Blue, with a sextet that included Coltrane, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

In the 1960s Davis put together a second quintet, this time utilizing Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter. The music of this group was more complex, moving through post-bop modal experimentation and eventually into some of the group improvisation and open forms of free jazz.

Some of Davis' fans were mystified by the group's music, but it was uniformly applauded by critics, other musicians, and avid music fans eager for new sounds. The group's output has recently been collected in the 6-disc set The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings, 1965-'68.

As the 1970s beckoned, Miles realized that rock had replaced jazz as the music of choice for the younger generation. In order not to get left behind, he began to perform with an electronic band: electric guitar, electric bass, banks of electronic keyboards, and even an amplified trumpet. The sound was bubbling, dark, and dense, and it further alienated some jazz fans and many critics as well. There was no denying the power of the music Davis was producing, however: upon its release in 1970, Bitches Brew sold 400,000 copies, making it the best-selling jazz album of all time. The group included Chick Corea, Hancock, John McLaughlin, and others who went on to become mainstays of the jazz fusion movement.

Davis continued to perform and record throughout the 1970s and 1980s, continuing to perform with primarily electronic groups, often playing organ instead of his trumpet, and playing with his back to the audience. Some of the minimalist experiments he performed at the close of the 70s foreshadowed the ambient and electronic music that would become common in the 80s and 90s. Miles died on September 28, 1991, but his music, style, and collaborators all continue to influence not only jazz music, but popular culture as well.

 

Visit these websites to hear the most influential musician in jazz since Charlie Parker at; www.miles-beyond.com/ and if you want to hear him play, go to www.bbc.co.uk/music/profiles/davismiles.shtml

 

 

  CHARLIE PARKER  (1920 - 1955)

 

   Charlie Parker was recognized as the greatest influence in jazz improvising, and a central figure in the development of ?bop? in the 1940s. his ear for music was incredible, and he knowledge of chords was astounding. Great jazz players who played with him swear that Charlie never repeated any phrase, and everything he improvised was original and new. A legendary figure in his own lifetime, he was idolized by those who worked with him and he inspired several generations of jazz performers and composers.

   Parker was the only child of Charles and Addle Parker. In 1927, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, an important centre of African-American music in the 1920s and 1930s. Parker had his first music lessons in the local public schools; he began playing alto saxophone in 1933 and worked occasionally in semi-professional groups before leaving school in 1935 to become a full-time musician.

    From 1935 to 1939, he worked mainly in Kansas City with a wide variety of local blues and jazz groups. Like most jazz musicians of his time, he developed his craft largely through practical experience: listening to older local jazz masters, acquiring a traditional repertory, and learning through the process of trial and error in the competitive Kansas City bands and jam sessions.

   Parker's name first appeared in the music press in 1940, and from this date his career is more fully documented. From 1940 to 1942 he played in Jay McShann's band, with which he toured the Southwest, Chicago, and New York, and took part in his first recording sessions in Dallas (1941).

  These recordings, and several made for broadcasting from the same period, document his early, swing-based style, and at the same time reveal his extraordinary gift for improvisation. In December 1942, he joined Earl Hines' big band, which then included several other young modernists such as Dizzy Gillespie. By May 1944 they, with Parker, formed the nucleus of Billy Eckstine's band.

  During these years, Parker regularly participated in after-hours jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House in New York, where the informal atmosphere and small groups favored the development of his personal style and of the new bop music generally.

   Unfortunately, a strike by the American Federation of Musicians silenced most of the recording industry from August 1942, causing this crucial stage in Parker's musical evolution to remain virtually undocumented. Though there are some obscure acetate recordings of him playing tenor saxophone dating from early 1943.

  When the recording ban ended, Parker recorded as a sideman (from September 15, 1944) and as a leader (from November 26, 1945), which introduced his music to a wider public and to other musicians.

  The year 1945 marked a turning point in Parker's career: in New York he led his own group for the first time and worked extensively with Gillespie in small ensembles. In December 1945, he and Gillespie took the new jazz style to Hollywood, where they fulfilled a six-week nightclub engagement.

  Parker continued to work in Los Angeles, recording and performing in concerts and nightclubs, until June 29, 1946, when a nervous breakdown and addiction to heroin and alcohol caused his confinement at the Camarillo State Hospital. He was released in January 1947 and resumed work in Los Angeles.

  Charlie returned to New York in April 1947. He formed a quintet (with Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach) that recorded many of his most famous pieces. The years from 1941 to 1951 were Parker's most fertile period.

  He worked in a wide variety of settings (nightclubs, concerts, radio, and recording studios) with his own small ensembles, a string group, and Afro-Cuban bands, and as a guest soloist with local musicians when travelling without his own group.

  Parker visited Europe (1949 and 1950) and recorded slightly over half his surviving work. Though still beset by problems associated with drugs and alcohol, he attracted a very large following in the jazz world and enjoyed a measure of financial success.

  In July 1951, Parker's New York cabaret license was revoked at the request of the narcotics squad. This banned him from nightclub employment in the city and forced him to adopt a more peripatetic life until the license was reinstated (probably in autumn 1953).

 

 Sporadically employed, badly in debt, and in failing physical and mental health, he twice attempted suicide in 1954 and voluntarily committed himself to Bellevue Hospital in New York. His last public engagement was on March 5, 1955 at Birdland, a New York nightclub named in his honour. He died seven days later in the Manhattan apartment of his friend the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, sister of Lord Rothschild. Visit the dedicated website to CharlieParker: www.bbc.co.uk/music/profiles/parkercharlie.shtml    turn on your speakers and hear this genius play!

 

 


                                   

      Mark Nightingale (1967 -)

 

   Mark is regarded as one of the finest jazz trombonists in the World, and is currently in great demand as both jazz soloist and sideman. Born in 1967, Mark started playing the trombone at the age of nine, and at fifteen, won the coveted Don Lusher Award in the BBC National Rehearsal Band Competition.

   A year later he became the lead trombonist with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, a position he held for six years. During this time he not only graduated from Trinity College of Music, London but also formed and lead the five-trombone group "Bonestructure", producing their debut album in 1988 and appearing alongside Carl Fontana and Jiggs Whigham at the 1989 International Trombone Workshop.

 

  In 1990, Mark was chosen as the sole British representative for the European Broadcasting Union Big Band. Since that time he has had the opportunity to work as a soloist with many of the Radio Orchestras and Jazz Orchestras across Europe.

 

 The Mark Nightingale Trombone has been featured with artists as musically diverse as Frank Sinatra, Sting, Henry Mancini, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Urbie Green, Cleo Laine, London Brass and the BBC Radio Big Band.

 

 In 1993, Mark was voted "Rising Star" at the British Jazz Awards, and the following year received the prize for "Best Trombonist".

 

Hear him play at this  website at; www.trombone-usa.com/nightingale_mark.htm

 

Also visit www.trombonesonline.com  a brilliant website that lists thousands of trombone players the World over. Read about the greats of the instrument, past, and present.


  

     Rock Stars

 

 

Jimi Hendrix (1945-1976) 

 

Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix at 10:15 in the morning on November 27th, 1945 in Seatle, Washington. On September 11th, 1946, Jimi's official name changed to James Marshall Hendrix. Jimi's parents divorced in the early fifties, afterwards he was raised by his father, Al. Jimi was obsessed by the classic blues and jazz records in his father's collection. A little later Jimi was consumed by the pure magic of rock 'n' roll and R&B he heard on the local radio stations.

Al recognized his son?s obsession and bought him a cheap guitar when he was 16. Jimi learned to play by playing along with the hot tunes of the day. He joined a band, the Rocking Kings, a year after he got his first guitar. Pretty soon he was playing with a variety of local bands. In May 1961 he quit Seattle to enlist in the army, only to be discharged after an injury the following year. Hendrix returned to music, becoming a side man for any band playing the chitlin circuit: the black touring network of bars, theaters and clubs. He was also a pick-up guitarist for big names like Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, The Isley Brothers, the Impressions, and Sam Cooke.

His musical ambitions were properly focused, however, when he reached New York. Jimi discovered Greenwich Village, where he was exposed to a vast explosion of new music: the influence of English beat groups, for instance John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and the lyrical possibilities shown by Bob Dylan...

In 1966 Jimi formed a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and elected to sing for the first time. The band had a regular spot in Greenwich Village. One night, while they were playing at Cafe Wha?, Chas Chandler checked out the show. He had been the bass player for the Animals but was trying to form a business. Chandler was overwhelmed by Jimi's performance. By the end of the set he invited Hendrix to London. This was the turning point in Jimi?s career. After five years his break had finally come. 

On September 24, 1966 Hendrix arrived in London. For the first time the spelling of his first name had been changed from 'Jimmy' to 'Jimi'. However, he hardly needed a name change to make an impression. His effect on London was electrifying as he absorbed the phycedelic movement in music. Chandler introduced him to England. Following an impromptu jam with Cream, Jimi Hendrix was a rising star in London. His first priority was getting a band. After hastily convened auditions he settled on a trio featuring Mitch Michell on drums and bass player Noel Redding.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience? was formed on October 6, 1966. Three weeks later they recorded "Hey Joe". It was released December 13th, 1966 and by February it was number four on the singles charts. Jimi Hendrix was officially the hottest new name in Britain. By this time his creative impulse was running on overdrive. On January 11, 1967 the band cut "Purple Haze", written the previous month. An album was urgently required. Jimi was immersed in frantic bouts of writing and recording. 

?Purple Haze? and the following "The Wind Cries Mary" were massive hits to say the least. They created maximum anticipation for the album "Are You Experienced?", released in May, 1967. It took quality opposition to stop the album from reaching number one: The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper took the top place while "Are You Experienced?" was number two in Britain through the summer of 1967.

The time had come to introduce America to the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In June the band played the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix produced one of his finest performances and closed with a trick perfected in London months before. Hendrix torched his guitar and smashed it to pieces. America had been conquered. On December 1, 1967 the Jimi Hendrix Experience unveiled a new album: "Axis: Bold As Love". Jimi's sonic experiments had become married with rich vein lyrics, performed with the purest expressive quality of the blues.

The following February the band was back in America. The Album "Are you Experienced?" had sold well over a million copies in the U.S. and the newly released "Axis" was rising in the top 20. Hendrix now decided to base himself in New York and start working on his next album: "Electric Ladyland". This album included contributions from Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane, Al Kooper, Buddy Miles from Traffic, Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood. The next single released was "All Along The Watchtower" on October 18, 1968. This was a remake of Bob Dylan's song but it was considered an epic interstellar performance which came as a prelude to "Electric Ladyland" released the following week.  

The start of 1969 was spent in Europe. The band gave their last European concert on February 24 in London's Royal Albert Hall. Then came the band's final American tour which ended in Denver that June at a pop festival. After this the band broke up and Jimi went his own way. He then met up with his old friend Billy Cox and met a producer Alan Douglas who had also become a close friend. During 1969 he began to work on musical collective, "The Band Of Gypsys".

Jimi Hendrix's new Band, "The Band of Gypsys" first show was the August festival in upper New York state: Woodstock. This is where he made one of his most memorable shows which included the Star Spangled Banner performance. The band then worked on their first album ?The Band of Gypsys"; which was released in April 1970. After Jimi's European tour he started a new Band: ?Cry of Love Band? with which he went on tour in August of 1970 beginning at the Isle of Wright Festival followed by a week of European dates during which the bass player Billy Cox fell ill. Hendrix brought Cox back to London where he could recover away from the pressures of touring. Jimi was staying in London with a girlfriend, Monika Dannemann.

On the night of September 17, 1970, Jimi decided to take some sleeping pills. The idea was to sleep through the next day and leave for America after the weekend. Early the next morning Monika noticed that he had vomited during the night. He seemed to be breathing normally. She felt no reason to panic. Later she tried to wake him but he remained unconscious. This time she was alarmed. She called an ambulance, but it was to late. Jimi Hendrix had died of suffocation.

The night before Jimi had been working on a new song. It was the called "The Story of Life". The closing lines were: The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye.The story of love is hello and goodbye, until we meet again... ?

After Jimi's death a flood of albums - everything from old jams to live recordings to unreleased work  -has been released, including an attempt on finishing the album that Jimi was working on when he died, 'First Rays of the New Rising Sun'. Everything from tapes, notes, interviews, and song lists were used to help complete the album. Jimi Hendrix is now by far, the artist most successful after death with well over 300 albums released since he passed away.

 

visit the tribute magazine to Jimi at; www.jimi-hendrix.com/magazine/604/index.html  

 


 

Brian May  (1947-) 

Founding member of  British Rock Band Queen along with Freddy Mercury

Dr. Brian Harold May, Phd. CBE (born July 19, 1947) is a British born musician and astrophysicist most widely known as the lead guitarist in the British rock band Queen. He built (with his father) his own guitar, called the "Red Special" with wood from a mantelpiece. He wrote some of Queen's most famous songs and biggest hits, including "We Will, We Will Rock You", "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Tie Your Mother Down", "Who Wants to Live Forever" and "I Want It All". He is described as a virtuoso by music critics.[1][2][3][4] He is also well renowned for his long-term interest in astrophysics, having recently completed his doctoral thesis in the subject.[5][6][7]

 In 2007 Brian was elected to the post of Chancelor of John Moors University in Liverpool, UK. Website: www.brianmay.com 


 

 Eric Clapton (1945-)

Eric Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England.. His real father was a Canadian pilot but he didn't find that out until he was 53. He was brought up by his grandmother because his mother couldn't look after him - in fact, he thought that his grandmother was actually his real mother. When he was 14 he took up the guitar, having been influenced by blues artists such as B.B King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. In 1963, after he was chucked out of art college, he joined The Yardbirds, as he was in art school with Keith Relf. He stayed for about 18 months before beginning a stint with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Eric became known as "god", as he impressed the whole English music scene with his amazing guitar playing. After about a year Eric had had enough of impersonating his blues idols and decided to form a group of his own, so in 1966 he formed a band with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker (who had the idea) that became known as Cream. This band was not a purist blues group but a hard-driving rock and blues trio. They first performed together at a jazz and blues festival in Surrey before signing a record contract. In November 1966 their debut single, "Wrapping Paper", hit UK #34, but their next single, "I Feel Free", made more of an impression, hitting UK #11 the following January. At the same time they released their debut album "Fresh Cream", which was a top-ten hit, going to UK #6 and went on to make US #39 later in the year. Cream spent most of 1967 either touring or writing, recording and producing "Disreali Gears", which was to be one of their finest efforts. The first single that confirmed the group as a mainstream success was "Strange Brew", which went to #17 in the UK. After a hectic worldwide tour, their second album "Disreali Gears" was released and became an enormous worldwide hit, rising to UK #5 and US #4. The album's success r4esulted in one of its tracks, "Sunshine Of Your Love", a hit in the US, going to #36. In February 1968 Cream set out on a six-month US tour, the longest time that a British band ad ever been in America. The tour took in hundreds of theaters, arenas and stadiums, but in April 1968 the band was exhausted and decided to take a short break from touring. However, during their break disaster struck. While Cream was in America Eric had given an interview to the magazine "Rolling Stone" which had Eric the editor make critical points about his guitar playing. This led to an eruption within the band that was the beginning of the end. Despite this setback, the band's US tour carried on until June, during which they had been recording their most popular project, "Wheels Of Fire", a double live album that was released in August 1968, shooting to UK #3 and the studio effort of UK #7, but both going directly to US #1 for four weeks. Despite the fact that the band had sold so many records, had sold out nearly every concert, had made millions and even managed to boost "Sunshine Of Your Love" to hit US #5 and UK #25, they decided that after a farewell tour of America the band would split up. The band toured North America in October, played two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in November and the Cream was no more. Claptonexplained, "The Cream has lost direction." In the winter of 1969 Eric began jamming with former Traffic front man Stevie Winwood, with Ginger Baker also joining in Eric's mansion in Surrey. With bassist Ric Grech added to the lineup, the band became Blind Faith and started rehearsing and recording material. In June after the band finished a recording session for their first and only album, they made their live debut in Hyde Park to a crowd of over 200,000 fans. The concert itself didn't go too well, however, and Clapton and Winwood were more or less convinced that Blind Faith had blown it. However, despite their feelings, Blind Faith set out on a summer sellout tour of the US, playing in arenas and stadiums all over the country. The tour itself earned the band a fortune, but they were all convinced that the music itself was unsatisfying. After the tour was over, and their only album, "Blind Faith", was released, though, it wound up topping the charts worldwide. The band still decided to split up, though, and Clapton went on tour with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, who were Blind Faith's support act on the tour, and also performed at times with The Plastic Ono Band.

 

 Great Jazz Singers

 

    Bessie Smith  (1894(?) ? 1937)  

    The prestigious title of the "Empress of the Blues" eternally rests on the graceful shoulders of Bessie Smith, a pioneer in the vocal side of the blues music genre. With her distinctively potent voice and eye-catching delivery and appearance, she set trends in music entertainment that live on along with her own recordings. Bessie Smith was born into a poverty stricken black family in the segregated south. The precise date of her birth is unknown, and while most accounts list 1894, others state 1898 or 1900; however, April 15 remains the same as her birthday. She began singing at the age of nine on the street corners of Chattanooga and in 1912 joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels traveling show led by the legendary blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, to whom Bessie would become a protégé.

   After performing in saloons and small theaters throughout the south, Bessie signed with Columbia Records and scored a major hit with the records "Down Hearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues."  Her more than 150 recordings that followed, some of which sold 100,000 copies in a week, propelled her to fame and immortality. She toured regularly in 1920s, particularly in vaudeville, often with such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Fletcher "Smack" Henderson, James P. Johnson, and Benny Goodman. Although she primarily performed to black audiences, Bessie did find popularity among whites as well. Among her other successful songs were "Jealous Hearted Blues," "Jailhouse Blues," "Cold in Hand Blues," and a version of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Most of her songs had themes of poverty, oppression, and unrequited love, that her rich voice was perfect to deliver the mournfulness of and strike a chord in the heart of the listener.

   As well as singing, Bessie, with her tall, upright, and strikingly beautiful features, was effective at acting, appearing in the 1929 motion picture short St. Louis Blues. It was unfortunate that at this time her career fell into a sharp decline. This was mostly the result of changing trends in music; however, Bessie's long-standing alcoholism played its part as record producers found her very difficult to work with.  Nonetheless, her singing ability remained as exceptional as always. This was exemplified in a recording session (her last) in 1933 during which she created another signature song entitled "Gimme a Pigfoot." Then in 1935 she appeared to great acclaim at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.  Indeed, Bessie Smith was in the process of a comeback at the time of her tragic death at age forty-three.

   On Sept. 26, 1937, she was critically injured while on her way to a singing engagement, when the car being driven by her boyfriend Richard Morgan in which she was a passenger crashed into a truck on a road in Mississippi. According to legend segregation led to her death when a white hospital first refused her admission and by the time she arrived at a black hospital in Clarksdale, Miss., it was too late to save her and she bled to death. Although much has been said to dispute this claim, it is not implausible considering that this was the segregated south. The playwright Edward Albee dramatized the account in his 1960 play The Death of Bessie Smith. While seven thousand people attended her funeral, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Lawn Cemetery in Philadelphia. In the decades that followed, her fame quadrupled along with her record sales, as her music was continually rediscovered. Her popularity among white listeners in particular was monumental in comparison to her lifetime. Many later musicians were influenced by her work, such as singer Janis Joplin, through whose efforts Bessie Smith finally received a headstone. The music world owed her that-and much more.


   Billie Holiday 1915 -1959)

Considered by many to be the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Billie Holiday lived a tempestuous and difficult life. Her singing expressed an incredible depth of emotion that spoke of hard times and injustice as well as triumph. Though her career was relatively short and often erratic, she left behind a body of work as great as any vocalist before or since.

Born Eleanora Fagan in 1915, Billie Holiday spent much of her young life in Baltimore, Maryland. Raised primarily by her mother, Holiday had only a tenuous connection with her father, who was a jazz guitarist in Fletcher Henderson?s band. Living in extreme poverty, Holiday dropped out of school in the fifth grade and found a job running errands in a brothel. When she was twelve, Holiday moved with her mother to Harlem, where she was eventually arrested for prostitution.

Desperate for money, Holiday looked for work as a dancer at a Harlem speakeasy. When there wasn?t an opening for a dancer, she auditioned as a singer. Long interested in both jazz and blues, Holiday wowed the owner and found herself singing at the popular Pod and Jerry?s Log Cabin. This led to a number of other jobs in Harlem jazz clubs, and by 1933 she had her first major breakthrough. She was only twenty when the well-connected jazz writer and producer John Hammond heard her fill in for a better-known performer. Soon after, he reported that she was the greatest singer he had ever heard. Her bluesy vocal style brought a slow and rough quality to the jazz standards that were often upbeat and light. This combination made for poignant and distinctive renditions of songs that were already standards. By slowing the tone with emotive vocals that reset the timing and rhythm, she added a new dimension to jazz singing.

With Hammond?s support, Holiday spent much of the 1930s working with a range of great jazz musicians, including Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, and most importantly, the saxophonist Lester Young. Together, Young and Holiday would create some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time. They were close friends throughout their lives?giving each other their now-famous nicknames of ?Lady Day? and the ?Prez.? Sympathetic to Holiday?s unique style, Young helped her create music that would best highlight her unconventional talents. With songs like ?This Year?s Kisses? and ?Mean To Me,? the two composed a perfect collaboration.

It was not, however, until 1939, with her song ?Strange Fruit,? that Holiday found her real audience. A deeply powerful song about lynching, ?Strange Fruit? was a revelation in its disturbing and emotional condemnation of racism. Holiday?s voice could be both quiet and strong at the same time. Songs such as ?God Bless the Child? and ?Gloomy Sunday? expressed not only her undeniable talent, but her incredible pain as well. Due to constant racial attacks, Holiday had a difficult time touring and spent much of the 1940s working in New York. While her popularity was growing, Holiday?s personal life remained troubled. Though one of the highest paid performers of the time, much of her income went to pay for her serious drug addictions. Though plagued by health problems, bad relationships, and addiction, Holiday remained an unequaled performer.

By the late 1940s, after the death of her mother, Holiday?s heroin addiction became so bad she was repeatedly arrested? eventually checking herself into an institution in the hopes of breaking her habit. By 1950, the authorities denied her a license to perform in establishments selling alcohol. Though she continued to record and perform afterward, this marked the major turning point in her career. For the next seven years, Holiday would slip deeper into alcoholism and begin to lose control of her once perfect voice. In 1959, after the death of her good friend Lester Young and with almost nothing to her name, Billie Holiday died at the age of forty-four. During her lifetime she had fought racism and sexism, and in the face of great personal difficulties triumphed through a deep artistic spirit. It is a tragedy that only after her death could a society, who had so often held her down, realize that in her voice could be heard the true voice of the times.


 Ella Fitzgerald (1917 -1996)

Ella Fitzgerald was born in 1917 and raised in Yonkers, a New York suburb.  She got into singing by accident.  At the age of 15, she entered an amateur night talent contest at the Apollo Theater with a dancing routine.  Because of the reputation of the Apollo crowd for being hard on performers, she developed stage fright and sang, instead.  She won the contest.

Shortly thereafter, Chick Webb sent his vocalist out to find a pretty lady singer to help push his orchestra to the popular heights that Webb desired.  He brought back Fitzgerald to Webb.  Webb initially refused to let her sing, thinking that she lacked the looks he was seeking.  The vocalist threatened to quit if she wasn't given a chance.  She was an instant hit.  The Chick Webb Orchestra took off and turned out hit after hit.  The song A-Tisket, A-Tasket remained at #1 for 17 weeks.  Her voice had not fully matured, but she was blessed with an uncanny sense of rhythm and swing, as well as the ability to scat sing unlike any other woman.  Fitzgerald was voted top female vocalist over Billie Holiday by both of the top jazz magazines.

When Webb died the following year, she took over the orchestra.  She continued recording in the Fourties, but in the Fifties, she took off.  At this point in her career, her voice had reached full maturity and she had a creamy richness in her voice.  Though she lacked the emotional drama of Billie Holiday, she had mastered the ballad.  She signed with Verve records and Verve impresario Norman Granz set her up with her classic songbook series, in which she recorded separate records, each dedicated to a different composer, such as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, and Duke Ellington.  She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.

From the mid-sixties onwards her voice declined somewhat, but she continued to record and toured until poor health overtook her and she stopped recording in 1989.  She died in 1996.


 Mel Torme (1925 - )

   Full name Melvin Howard Torme; born September 13, 1925, in Chicago, Ill.; son of William (a retail merchant) and Sarah Sopkin (a sheet music demonstrator) Torme; married Candy Toxton (an actress) 1949 (divorced 1955); married Arlene Mills (a model) 1956 (divorced 1966); married Janette Scott (an actress) 1966 (divorced 1977); children: five in total. Addresses: Agent-- c/o Dale Sheets & Associates, Suite 206, 3518 W. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90068.

   Singer-songwriter Mel Torme, often referred to as "the Velvet Fog," has had a long and varied career. He sang with big bands during the 1940s but became more jazz-oriented in the 1950s; his more recent concert appearances have included a mixture of both jazz and old ballad standards. Torme has played in the best clubs in the United States, including the Copacabana and Marty's in New York City; he is also very popular in the venue of the larger hotels of Las Vegas, Nevada. Multitalented, Torme has acted in many films and appeared often on television; he has also written for the latter medium. As for his musical compositions, they are many and include the holiday classic, "The Christmas Song." He continues to record successfully, and his 1982 album An Evening with George Shearing and Mel Torme garnered him a Grammy Award.

   Torme was born September 13, 1925, in Chicago, Illinois, to Jewish-Russian immigrant parents. His father was a retail merchant, and his mother worked as a sheet-music demonstrator at a Woolworth's store; she taught Torme all the new songs from an early age. Young Torme also loved to listen to the radio, and was memorizing musical arrangements before kindergarten. He told Chris Albertson in Stereo Review: "I had my electric train, little fire engines, and all that stuff, but the radio was my favorite toy, and I loved the bands." His family would also gather on the porch after their Sabbath dinner and sing together. When Torme was four years old, his parents took him to hear one of his favorite radio bands, the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra. One of the bandleaders spotted the small boy sitting in the first row, singing and tapping his feet to the music, and invited him up to sing with them. The experience turned into Torme's first job as a performer, and he appeared weekly with the Nighthawk Orchestra for a time. At some point during his youth, Torme had his tonsils removed, and strangely enough, they partially grew back--some critics credit certain fuzziness in his voice to this odd occurrence.

   Torme also served as a radio actor during his childhood, giving voice to characters in programs such as "The Romance of Helen Trent," "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy," and "Lights Out." Perhaps because of this early fame, he did not fare well with his classmates; he confessed to Whitney Balliet in the New Yorker that he "got beaten up regularly." Torme also credits his life-long aversion to smoking to some bullies who forced him to eat tobacco as a child. But he was happier in high school. He played drums in a group that included future entertainer Steve Allen on the piano; the two became good friends.

   While still in high school, Torme began to audition for more mature spots with big bands. When he was fifteen, he almost made the cut for the famed Harry James band, but his age would have meant an added expense for the group--by law they would have had to hire a tutor for him. Nevertheless, James decided to record the song that Torme auditioned with--Torme's own composition, "Lament for Love." The song proved so successful that other big bands recorded it, and it was performed on the radio show "Your Hit Parade."

   A few years later, in 1942, Torme won a place with the West Coast-based Chico Marx band; he served as rhythm singer and arranged the band's vocal performances. Though the band broke up eleven months after he joined it, Torme was spotted in its farewell appearance by an executive from the RKO motion picture studios, who signed him for his first film role. Torme acted with famed singer Frank Sinatra in the 1943 movie Higher and Higher. More film rolls followed, and he appeared in pictures such as Pardon My Rhythm, Let's Go Steady, Good News, and Words and Music during the 1940s.

   At about the same time as his film career took off, Torme was recording with a backup group called the Mel-Tones and performing in the better clubs, and, as Albertson reported, was saddled with the nickname, "the Velvet Fog." The crooner now feels this was a misnomer, and explained to Albertson that "that whole 'velvet fog' sound, that sort of head-toney, creamy, wispy sound, was--well, I can't say manufactured, because I was singing legitimately, but not as robustly as I could have been." Torme added that later, during the 1950s he "was able to relax and open up, and sing like I really like to sing .... My whole range has gained at least an octave, and I just don't sing like I used to.... The 'Velvet Fog' ... simply does not fit."

   In addition to a change in his vocal stylings during the 1950s, Torme moved away somewhat from the big band sound in favor of a more purely jazz repertoire. While singing jazz in small clubs, Torme also continued to make his mark on other media. A stint as substitute host on fellow entertainer Perry Como's television show garnered him his own daytime talk show on CBS. Torme acted for television, too--his performance in the 1958 CBS television film The Comedian won him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor. Torme's big-screen films during the 1950s included Girls Town and The Big Operator. He began the 1960s with the motion picture The Private Lives of Adam and Eve.

   Despite Torme's long-lived popularity as a performer, he has not been terribly successful in terms of making hit records. His disc of his self-composed classic "The Christmas Song," was overshadowed by singer Nat King Cole's smash-hit version of the same. In fact, Torme only made it into the top forty on the charts with a single once--"Comin' Home, Baby," which he released in 1962. Yet during the 1960s he won more critical claim for his talents, which he put to use as music writer and adviser to "The Judy Garland Show," among other projects. Torme also wrote for television, and was involved with the NBC series "The Virginian" and "Run for Your Life." In 1971 he was the host for ABC's documentary series "It Was a Very Good Year," and during the 1980s he has made several guest appearances on the NBC comedy series "Night Court."

   During the 1970s--and well beyond--Torme's musical popularity has experienced a new vitality because of a renewed interest in the jazz genre. He has received two Grammy Awards for the albums he recorded with pianist George Shearing, and he has told interviewers, including Albertson, that he is proudest of the discs he has recorded since 1976, when he released Mel Torme Live at the Maisonette. Torme is also justifiably proud of the mixed composition of his fans; he boasted to Albertson: "My audience is filled with extremely young yuppies, not just a mass of snow-white heads."

   Singer, songwriter, piano, drums, ukelele; jazz, big band, ballads; has sung professionally with bands off and on since the age of four; was a child actor in radio shows, including "The Romance of Helen Trent," "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy," and "Lights Out"; began writing songs while still in high school; appeared in over twenty films, including Higher and Higher, RKO, 1943, Pardon My Rhythm, Universal, 1944, Let's Go Steady, Columbia, 1945, Good News, MGM, 1947, Words and Music, MGM, 1948, Girls Town, MGM, 1959, The Big Operator, MGM, 1959, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Universal, 1960. Appeared in television programs, including "The Comedian," 1957, and the series "Night Court"; had own television talk show during 1950s, has written and produced for television, served as musical writer and advisor for "The Judy Garland Show," 1963-64. Mel has also written books including a novel, an autobiography, and an account of his experiences with Garland.


 Ray Charles (1930 - 2004)

   The great Ray Charles was an explorer who returned time and again from expeditions across musical boundaries to give us, in his own unique way, melodious stories and charts of his adventures. In so doing he changed what had previously been only a black and white territorial paper map of American music into a 3-D, solid terrain model, full of colour.

   Ray was born during the Great Depression in the Deep South and was raised on blues, country, gospel, jazz and big band music. Throughout his long career he skillfully and artistically gathered and combined these separate musical elements together, added his own unique personality and styling, and freed the end result for the world to hear. Ray Charles Robinson was born Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. His father, Bailey Robinson, was a mechanic and a handyman, and his mother, Aretha, stacked boards in a sawmill. His family moved to Greenville, Fla., when Charles was an infant. During the Great Depression there was almost no such thing as financial gain for anyone and especially for a black family living in the totally segregated South.

   He recalled how poor his family was in his 1978 autobiography, "Brother Ray": "Even compared to other blacks...we were on the bottom of the ladder looking up at everyone else. Nothing below us except the ground.'' Although it was a poor existence, and his father was "hardly ever around", he described himself as a "happy kid". The tragedy and painful memories of the next several years however would change him forever.

   At just five years old Charles had to endure the trauma of witnessing the drowning death of his younger brother in his mother's large portable laundry tub. Soon after the death of his brother he gradually began to lose his sight and by 7 years of age Ray Charles was blind. Although it is presumed that untreated glaucoma was the cause, no official diagnosis was ever made. His mother refused to let him wallow in self-pity however and since the sight loss was gradual, she began to work with him on how to find things and do things for himself.

   Ray had shown an interest in music since the age of 3, encouraged by a cafe owner who played the piano. At 7, he became a charity student at the state-supported school for the deaf and blind in St. Augustine, Fla. Although he was heartbroken to be leaving home, it was at school where he received a formal musical education and learned to read, write and arrange music in Braille; score for big bands; and play piano, organ, sax, clarinet, and trumpet. His influences were the popular stars of the day like big band clarinetist Artie Shaw, big band leaders and pianists Duke Ellington and Count Basie, jazz piano giant Art Tatum, alto sax man and witty vocalist and bandleader Louis Jordan, and the great classical composers like Chopin and Sibelius. But Ray Charles loved it all. At night he listened on the radio to the raw melodies and hillbilly twang of the Grand Ole Opry, to the sanctified soulfulness of gospel, and to the secular emotional venting of the blues. Then at 15 his mother died and Charles, who said he never used a cane or guide dog or begged for money, left school and began touring the South on the so-called chitlin' circuit with a number of dance bands that played in black dance halls.

   In the South in 1945 the opportunities and outlook for any young black musician, just getting started and hoping for a career in music, would have been bleak. Add Mr. Charles' loss of site and new found love for heroin (a habit he did not kick for nearly 20 years) and one would think the situation to be nearly hopeless. But Charles would not be denied and rather than give up, he made a significant geographical relocation to Seattle, Washington. It was in Seattle's red light district at just 16 were he met a young Quincy Jones only 14 himself. He taught the future producer and composer how to write music and arrange. It was a friendship that lasted a lifetime with the two working on many sessions together later in their careers.

   Ray Charles Robinson dropped his last name to avoid confusion with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and patterned himself in his early career after Nat "King" Cole. His first 3 recordings were made in Tampa, Florida in 1947 and included Guitar Blues, Walkin' And Talkin,' and Wonderin' And Wonderin'. With a recording contract in 1949 on the former Downbeat label, but at the time under the Swingtime banner, Charles and his trio (called the McSon Trio) moved to Los Angeles and cut numerous sides on which the influence of King Cole is clearly evident including the somewhat autobiographical All To Myself Alone and a medium tempo jiver called Let's Have A Ball. During the early 1950s, the trio released several singles including Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand, which hit the U.S. R&B chart.

   In 1952, Atlantic Records signed him to a contract although his first recordings with the label were not made until May of the next year. Charles got his first taste of commercial success in 1953, when he arranged and played piano on bluesman Guitar Slim's recording of The Things That I Used to Do, which sold more than a million copies. In 1994 he told the San Jose Mercury News, "When I started to sing like myself - as opposed to imitating Nat Cole, which I had done for a while - when I started singing like Ray Charles, it had this spiritual and churchy, this religious or gospel sound. It had this holiness and preachy tone to it. It was very controversial. I got a lot of criticism for it."

   The real Ray Charles emerged in 1954 on a record called I Got A Woman. The recording reached #1 on the R&B chart in 1955. More significantly it brought together elements of gospel music in a secular setting, in a way they had never been married before, and served to spawn a whole new genre later to become known as Soul. On this record Charles began singing with inner emotional intensity like never before by way of hoots, hollers and other genuinely enthusiastic voicings. He had finally put to use the advice his mother had given him years before to "just be yourself."

   Much the same as his early idol Nat King Cole achieved fame with his vocals, so Ray Charles finally broke through to white America. But in the years preceding 1959's smash What'd I Say, like Nat Cole, Ray Charles first cut some superb jazz sides. Many recordings done for Atlantic in the mid to late 1950s, some arranged by old friend Quincy Jones, are among his finest in the mainstream jazz idiom. Sessions in November of 1956 produced such gems as Doodlin' Parts 1&2, Rockhouse Parts 1&2, The Ray, Hornful Soul, and Sweet Sixteen Bars. These recordings were all instrumentals and most featured reedman David Fathead Newman who became another lifelong friend.

   By the late 1950s Charles was being called "The Genius." In September of 1957 he recorded an album called Soul Meeting with members of the Modern Jazz Quartet and featuring vibraphonist Milt Jackson. In April of 1958 he got together with Jackson again. This time the vibraphonist was flanked by guitarist Kenny Burrell, bass man Percy Heath and drummer Arthur Taylor for the release Soul Brothers. On the cut X-Ray Blues Charles recalled his roots at St. Augustine and played a reed instrument, the alto saxophone. It is one of the only instances of Charles playing the instrument on record.

   This foray into jazz landed Charles, accompanied by his rhythm section, David Fathead Newman, his back-up vocal group The Raelets, Bennie Crawford, Marcus Belgrave and Lee Harper, smack dab in the middle of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in July of 1958. Whilst this success would be enough to make some settle down into a particular style or genre and rest on their laurels; such was not the case for the ramblin' Ray Charles. In February of the same year he recorded a song combining a Latin-esque blues riff, with gospel call-and-response vocals between himself and the Raelets, and blatantly suggestive and playful lyrics and attitude. What resulted was a million selling monster hit called What'd I Say, which ran more than six minutes in its LP form. The song became one of Charles' signature tunes and was his first crossover hit, reaching #6 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart in 1959.

   Still Charles turned back to jazz and big band again for two sessions in May and June of 1959. These sessions were combined together for the release The Genius Of Ray Charles. Half of the album featured backing instrumentation by Quincy Jones who directed an all-star big band consisting of numerous Count Basie alumni for the release. This combination of talents provided Charles with a hip and swinging backdrop on a number of standards and cover tunes. The release garnered Charles two of his first four Grammy Awards in 1960; one in the Best Rhythm & Blues Performance category for Let The Good Times Roll (a cover tune of one of his early influences Louis Jordan); and another in the Best Vocal Performance Album, Male category. On June 26th, 1959 Charles cut his first country cover when he recorded the song I'm Movin' On, originally done by Hank Snow. Perhaps it was irony that this would be his last session for Atlantic, as move on he did. Charles, by 1959, had posted some 20 hits on the R&B charts. This coupled with the crossover success of What'd I Say allowed him to move from Atlantic to the larger ABC Paramount label late in the year.

   One of the chief attractions of the ABC deal for Charles was a much greater degree of artistic control of his recordings. His first session with ABC in December of 1959 produced just three recordings but his next session in March of 1960 was a superb success. The album that resulted was a geographical theme album called The Genius Hits The Road. One of the twelve songs on the original pressing of the LP (ABC 335) was a Hoagy Carmichael tune. The Ray Charles version of the piece was declared the official song of the state of Georgia in 1979. Georgia On My Mind garnered Charles two more Grammy Awards at the 1960 ceremony in the Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male, and Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist categories. In August of 1960 Charles recorded the second of a number of theme albums for ABC Paramount called Dedicated To You on which all of the song?s titles contained a woman's name. The idea of theme albums, with tunes tied together by a particular common subject matter, was not new. Many artists who trod down the theme path did so with varying degrees of success, as was the case with Charles. However his fortune with theme albums began well when the string-laden Marty Paich arrangement of Ruby charted for five weeks near the end of 1960.

   With Charles achieving commercial success with his ballads like Georgia On My Mind and Ruby you would think that, like Nat King Cole, he might abandon recording jazz or R&B tunes. But in December of 1960, little more than two weeks after Ruby had peaked on the chart, he was in the ABC Paramount studios again. What resulted was arguably his best jazz album ever. This one found "The Genius" singing and playing Hammond B3. Once again he received expert backing by a number of Count Basie alumni on several Quincy Jones arrangements. The release was called Genius+Soul=Jazz and yet again the public responded. The cut, One Mint Julep went to #8 on the pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart in 1961. Although One Mint Julep may have been the hit, the album featured other tastefully swinging tunes like Mr. C., Stompin' Room Only, From The Heart, and a Ralph Burns arrangement of a blues called I've Got News For You.

   His next chart hit in 1961 was even bigger. Hit The Road Jack topped both the Pop chart, where it stayed at #1 for two weeks in October, and the R&B chart for 5 weeks beginning October 2nd. The recording also won a Grammy in 1961 for the Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. Amazingly, it was yet to be released on an LP when it garnered such high accolades, evidence of the power of the 45 RPM record medium in 1961. Hit The Road Jack was originally released on just a two-song 45 RPM (ABC-Paramount 10244) and a four song extended play 7" jukebox 45 RPM called The Genius Hits The Road (ABC Paramount Records EP19), not to be confused with the LP bearing the same name. It was not until 1962 that the song was released on an LP (ABC 415) called Ray Charles Greatest Hits.

   Then Charles did what, to many, was the unthinkable; he tackled country and western music. And not only did he tackle it, he conquered it and forever changed its face when on June 1st, 1962 the landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was released. On this LP Charles re-interpreted some of the greatest songs written in the country music field, filling them with newfound energy and soul. In doing so, he inspired other artists to reconsider their thoughts and assessments of country tunes. It also beckoned to a wide range of music fans to come in and sit a spell and hear what country music and country songwriters had to offer.

   Although he had a hit in 1959 with the aforementioned single cover of Hank Snow's I'm Movin' On, his decision to record a full album of country songs was initially discouraged by his record label and by others around him. Charles said later that he knew it was risky business recording a country album. "I didn't know what was going to happen," he said, "because all my friends and people around me was telling me I was making a big mistake because 'you're doing country-western music. Oh, man you're going to ruin your career 'cause everybody know you're from rhythm and blues, and you're going to go out, oh, you've got to be nuts." The album covered a broad spectrum of what the country music song book had to offer at the time including the Everly Brothers' Bye Bye, Love, Hank Williams Sr.' Half As Much, You Win Again and Hey, Good Lookin', Don Gibson's hit of I Can't Stop Loving You, and Eddy Arnold's Just a Little Lovin' and You Don't Know Me. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was #1 on the Billboard Pop Album chart for three and a half months and stayed on that chart for two years. The album's producer, ABC-Paramount A&R director Sid Feller, said about the album's initial splash, "I didn't know that a Pop artist could do country songs and become a national monument. You know how unimportant it seemed? I put I Can't Stop Loving You in the number 5 position on the B-side of the album." Four singles from the album were released. Born to Lose, Careless Love and You Don't Know Me all charted Pop, but I Can't Stop Loving You was a #1 Pop hit for five weeks.

   After the phenomenal success of the first country album, another one was inevitable. Enter Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume 2 recorded in September of 1962. Surprisingly enough the sequel was just as solid as the original, and more varied. It went to #2 on the Album chart, powered by two singles: the ancient standard You Are My Sunshine, redone as a powerhouse R&B, and a soul filled, slow reading of Take These Chains From My Heart. One of the surprising facts about Charles' forays into the world of country and western music was the success of many of the songs on the R&B chart. You Are My Sunshine, maxed out at #7 on the Pop chart, but went all the way to #1 on the R&B chart in 1962. In 1963, Take These Chains From My Heart went to #8 Pop and #7 R&B.

   On July 10th and 13th of the following year the release Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul was recorded and Charles had another hit single on his hands with Busted. Country songwriter Harlan Howard wrote the song however it was not done in a style resembling country and western. Instead it was given treatment by one of the greatest big band arrangers and jazz songwriters of all time, himself a consummate player and genius in his own right, the great Benny Carter. Carter created a bluesy big band backdrop for Charles' soulful reading of the piece, as was the case with a number of scores for the LP. In 1963, Busted made it to #4 on the Pop chart and was voted best Rhythm And Blues Recording by the Grammy committee.

   Sixteen songs were recorded on the incredibly productive aforementioned July 13th session. Of the sixteen, several other recordings featuring Benny Carter arrangements were laid down as well as some Gerald Wilson and Johnny Parker scores. Although some of the songs were somewhat trite in lyrical content, nine were used on a 1964 release called Have A Smile With Me. Also appearing on the LP (but recorded a year later in July of 1964) was a single, which the great Benny Carter again arranged, called Smack Dab In The Middle. Smack Dab In The Middle, with its Raelets backing, was one of the highlights of the LP. However the song that makes the album worth owning is Charles' cover of an old Hank Williams tune. The peppy, humorous and carefree Move It On Over is a song about a man who is cast (literally) into the doghouse by his "little baby." Mr. Charles sounds in high spirits on the whole album, with an excellent swinging big band behind him, but on Move It On Over the energy and mood both come together in a roaring climax. In the 1980s George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers rather dryly covered the song, scoring a hit on AOR stations. Even with all of its amplification, the Thoroughgood version didn't come close to the big bang of energy emitted on this swinging Ray Charles gem.

   During the 60s Charles became involved in films, appearing in the 1962's Swinging Along and recording soundtracks for several more. By 1964 he seemed on top of the world with his own label, an ABC imprint called Tangerine Records (which would release albums by Charles and his productions of vocalist-writer Percy Mayfield and singer Jimmy Scott). He also controlled his publishing and his masters. And he had opened his own L.A. studio, designed in part by Atlantic engineer Tom Dowd. But his personal life was coming apart.

   On Oct. 31, 1964, he was busted in a Boston airport after customs officers found marijuana, heroin and a syringe in his overcoat. Charles, who had been arrested for drug possession earlier in Indianapolis and Philadelphia, was shaken and scared. Taking a year off from touring, he checked into a California sanitarium and kicked his junk habit. Charles celebrated with the late-1965 release of Crying Time, his No. 6 Pop cover of Buck Owens' country hit. The recording won two Grammys: for Best R&B Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male. It proved to be his last top-10 Pop chart entry. In December of 1966 he was convicted and given a five-year suspended sentence for his drug bust. Yet there was a sense of humor about even that as he released both I Don't Need No Doctor, and Let's Go Get Stoned, in 1966. He later became reluctant to talk about the drug use, fearing it would taint how people thought of his work.

   The 1970s began with a release on his Tangerine label called My Kind Of Jazz with longtime friend Quincy Jones. It was the source of his last Pop chart hit, intriguingly titled Booty Butt, which reached number 36 on the chart. Also in the 1970s Charles made a stirring guest shot on Aretha Franklin's album Live at the Fillmore, and a hallmark pure-funk rendition of America the Beautiful on his 1972 collection A Message From the People. His output during this period also included work with singers Randy Newman and Stevie Wonder. In 1976, he collaborated with English vocalist Cleo Laine on an interpretation of Gershwin's Porgy & Bess. The following year, he returned to Atlantic with the underrated album True to Life. His second stint with the label lasted until 1980. That year, Charles' lagging career received a boost when he was signed by Rick Blackburn, head of CBS Records' Nashville division, and returned to country music. His association with Columbia Records yielded hit duets with George Jones, Hank Williams Jr. and Mickey Gilley, and a No. 1 Country album, 1984's Friendship, and single, the Willie Nelson duet Seven Spanish Angels.

   Charles moved to Warner Bros. Records in 1990. I'll Be Good to You, his duet with Chaka Khan for his old Seattle colleague Quincy Jones' Qwest imprint, won a Grammy in 1991. He received the last of his dozen Grammys in 1994, for A Song For You. In 1997, Charles' classic recordings got extensive re-release through a licensing deal between the singer and Rhino Records. Charles' most recent album, prior to his passing, was 2002's Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again, on his own Crossover imprint. However, just prior to his death, he had completed work on an album for Concord Records of duets with such talents as Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor. The disc was released as scheduled on Aug. 31, 2004. Charles achieved cult-movie fame for his role in the 1980 musical comedy, The Blues Brothers. Among other film roles, he played a bus driver in the 1996 comedy, Spy Hard. Meant to be a gag--a blind man operating a motor vehicle--the Spy Hard bit wasn't far from the truth. The ever-resourceful Charles admitted to getting behind the wheel every now and then. He had also been on Saturday Night Live and on an episode of Who's the Boss? and St. Elsewhere.

   Mr. Charles recorded a number of commercials, many of which were self-produced. His Diet Pepsi commercial, which features his singing "You got the right one baby-uh-huh," was rated most memorable commercial in 1991. Although many saw the commercial as selling out, it is said to have boosted his popularity among a younger audience. In his well-traveled career, Charles won 12 competitive Grammys, earned three Emmy nominations, scored the Kennedy Center Honors, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Medal of Arts and inductions into the Rock, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues halls of fame.

   From his website www.raycharles.com Mr. Charles' take on jazz is as follows; "I cannot understand how we as Americans, possessing such a rich heritage of music and the artists who play it, don't recognize all those talented people. It's a shame that so many of today's young people don't know the work of Art Tatum or Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker or Clifford Brown, to name a few. They are the creators; they are the artists who helped form the backbone of our country's popular music.... When you talk about, say, classical music, you're talking about a form that came from Europe and European composers and musicians from an earlier time. But, we basically created jazz in this country; we own that form of music. And it's sad that we all don't have more extensive knowledge of that fact.... In Europe, though, you find people who know all about our music. I'm talking about the average person. I've been to Europe and talked to people who have records of mine that I forgot I ever made! And I find that incredible."

   On Thursday June 10th, 2004 the leader of a great expedition through the pages of American music history made his final journey. Ray Charles died from acute liver disease. He was 73. He left behind a long list of hits and Grammy awards and the musicians he influenced are as diverse in genre as the music he wrote, arranged, performed and recorded. This time he crossed a boundary of a different sort, a boundary of which he cannot cross back over and bring us songs and tales of his adventure. Simple cliches cannot aptly describe the passing of Ray Charles; just as a simple swing, gospel, soul, R&B, country and western, or jazz biography could ever cover his career.

 

  Stevie Wonder (1950 -)

 

    Blind from birth and raised in inner-city Detroit, Steveland Hardaway Judkins was a skilled musician by age eight. Renamed Little Stevie Wonder by Berry Gordy, Jr., the president of Motown Records, to whom he was introduced by Ronnie White, a member of the Miracles, Stevie Wonder made his recording debut at age 12. The soulful quality of his high-pitched singing and the frantic harmonica playing that characterized his early recordings, were evident in his first hit single, ?Fingertips (Part 2),? recorded during a show at Chicago's Regal Theatre in 1963.

   But Wonder was much more than a freakish prepubescent imitation of Ray Charles, as audiences discovered when he demonstrated his prowess with piano, organ, harmonica, and drums. By 1964 he was no longer described as ?Little,? and two years later his fervent delivery of the pounding soul of ?Uptight (Everything's Alright),? which he also had written, suggested the emergence of both an unusually compelling performer and a composer to rival Motown's stable of skilled songwriters. (He had already cowritten, with Smokey Robinson, ?The Tears of a Clown.?)

   Over the next five years Wonder had hits with ?I Was Made to Love Her,? ?My Cherie Amour? (both co-written with producer Henry Cosby), and ?For Once in My Life,? songs that suited dancers as well as lovers. Where I'm Coming From, an album released in 1971, hinted not merely at an expanded musical range but, in its lyrics and its mood, at a new introspection. Music of My Mind (1972) made his concerns even more plain.

    In the interim he had been strongly influenced by Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, the album in which his Motown stablemate moved away from the label's ?hit factory? approach to confront the divisive social issues of the day. Any anxieties Gordy may have felt about his protégé's declaration of independence were amply calmed by the run of recordings with which Wonder obliterated the competition in the mid-1970s. Those albums produced a steady stream of classic hit songs, among them ?Superstition,? ?You Are the Sunshine of My Life,? ?Higher Ground,? ?Living for the City,? ?Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing,? ?Boogie On Reggae Woman,? ?I Wish,? and ?Sir Duke.? Although still only in his mid-20s, Wonder appeared to have mastered virtually every idiom of African-American popular music and to have synthesized them all into a language of his own.

   His command of the new generation of electronic keyboard instruments made him a pioneer and an inspiration to rock musicians, the inventiveness of his vocal phrasing was reminiscent of the greatest jazz singers, and the depth and honesty of his emotional projection came straight from the black church music of his childhood. Such a fertile period was unlikely to last forever, and it came to an end in 1979 with a fey and overambitious extended work called Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

   Thereafter his recordings became sporadic and often lacked focus, although his concerts were never less than rousing. The best of his work formed a vital link between the classic rhythm-and-blues and soul performers of the 1950s and '60s and their less commercially constrained successors. Yet, however sophisticated his music became, he was never too proud to write something as apparently slight as the romantic gem ?I Just Called to Say I Love You? (1984). He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2005.

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