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Suzanne Cloud

pianist, arranger, and composer, was born Clifton Edward Green Jr. in Abington, Pennsylvania, the son of Clifton Edward Green Sr., a paper hanger and carpenter, and Carrie Townes, who worked as a domestic. Self taught, Eddie Green began playing piano at five years of age and became active in music in public school. His formal secondary education ended at Abington High School when he was in the tenth grade. At age sixteen he came under the tutelage of the hard bop pianist Richie Powell and his brother, the bebop legend Bud Powell. During this time, Green learned the essentials of jazz by listening to and absorbing the lessons of his mentors. Green also formed a band and regularly played a local African American venue in Willow Grove called the Three C s Like many African American communities that supported young musicians and vocalists the ...

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John Harris-Behling

jazz saxophonist, pianist, and composer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Walter Harris and Alice Harris. When his parents moved to the city in 1913, his father, originally from Cuba, worked in the stockyards, while his mother, a native of New Orleans, worked as a laundress. Harris lost his father when he was young and was raised by his mother. He began singing with South Side church choirs when he was five and also began taking piano lessons from his cousin, Bernice Benson.

Like many African American musicians in Chicago, Harris attended DuSable High School. He studied with the band director Walter Dyette, whose students included jazz musicians like Johnny Griffin and Gene Ammons as well as Harris's classmates the bassist Richard Davis and the saxophonist John Gilmore Dyette first taught Harris the marimba and the vibraphone and later the clarinet But ...

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Kofi Natambu

pianist and composer, was born Hampton B. Hawes Jr. in Los Angeles, California, the son of Hampton B. Hawes Sr., a Presbyterian minister. The name of his mother, who played piano in her husband's church, is unknown. When Hampton was eight, he learned how to play piano by watching his sister, who was training to become a concert pianist, and by listening to records by his favorite jazz musicians. His intense study of such prominent jazz pianists as Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines during the 1930s and early 1940s had a profound influence on him during his youth. He began playing regularly while attending Polytechnic High School. He later recalled going straight from his high school graduation ceremony to a jazz gig with the Cecil James McNeely Big Jay McNeely band Throughout the 1940s Hawes played at a wide range of clubs on black Los Angeles ...

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Zachary J. Lechner

musician, was born Johnnie Clyde Johnson in Fairmont, West Virginia, to Priscilla Banks Johnson and Johnnie “Buddy” Johnson, a coalminer. After Priscilla's death, Buddy's sister Cora and her husband Ernest Williams took in the infant Johnnie. Cora later purchased an upright piano, and a young Johnnie took to the instrument immediately. He quickly learned big band, R&B, and country tunes by listening to late-night radio broadcasts. One of Johnson's favorite artists was Meade “Lux” Lewis. Lewis's boogie-woogie style, in which the left hand plays a heavy, steady rhythm, would influence Johnson's piano technique. Johnson moved to Detroit at seventeen and there found work on a Ford Motor Company assembly line. Johnson served in the Marines in the South Pacific in World War II. He joined the Barracudas, a twenty-two piece orchestra that included servicemen from such bands as Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz pianist, was born Kenneth Lyons Kersey in Harrow, Ontario, Canada. His parents' names are unknown, but Kersey's father was a cellist, and as a child Kersey studied with his mother, who taught piano. During further studies at the Detroit Institute of Musical Art, he took up the trumpet.

Kersey went to New York to work as a trumpeter and pianist in 1936, but physical problems made him give up the brass instrument. He replaced the pianist Billy Kyle in Lucky Millinder's big band in February 1938; later that year he was a member of Billy Hicks and His Sizzling Six. By the year's end he had left Hicks for a brief stay with the singer Billie Holiday for the opening of a second Café Society in Greenwich Village. While continuing to work there with the trumpeter Frankie Newton's band in 1939 he made ...

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David Sanjek

pianist and singer, was born in Houston, Texas, one of thirteen children of Amos Milburn Sr., a laborer for a general contractor, and Amelia, a homemaker. Milburn exhibited a precocious musical talent and began to play piano at the age of five. Eager to serve in the military, Milburn lied about his age and entered the U.S. Navy when only fifteen years old. He served in the Pacific Theater and was wounded in engagements at Guadalcanal and the Philippines. In his off-hours, he played at military clubs, and when he returned home to Houston at the age of eighteen, he possessed sufficient skill and organizational wherewithal to form a band.

In 1946, during a performance in San Antonio, Lola Anne Cullum the wife of a Houston dentist approached Milburn and solicited him for her booking and management agency She recorded some work by Milburn and ...

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David E. Spies

composer and musician, was born Herbert Horatio Nichols in New York City, the son of Joel Nichols, a building supervisor, and Ida (maiden name unknown). His parents, originally from Trinidad and St. Kitts, had moved to New York in 1910. Nichols first lived at Sixty-first Street and Eleventh Avenue, in the area known at the time as San Juan Hill. The family moved to Harlem when Nichols was seven. When he was not practicing or winning at chess, checkers, or marbles, the young Nichols spent much time in the public library. From age seven to age fourteen he took lessons in classical piano and general music instruction with Charles L. Beck. An intelligent and motivated youngster, Nichols attended DeWitt Clinton High School and began study at City College of New York at age fifteen.

While still in high school Nichols who was introduced to jazz piano ...