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Maxine Gordon

tenor saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. John Coltrane, often called Trane, is considered one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, both for his technical influence and for the spiritual nature of his music.

John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, and when he was two months old his parents, John Sr. and Alice, moved to High Point, North Carolina. There Coltrane lived in the home of his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, the Reverend William Wilson Blair, was a prominent member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Coltrane's father played several musical instruments, and at age twelve John joined the band of the Boy Scout troop of the church, first playing E-flat alto horn and then clarinet.

While in high school Coltrane began to play the alto saxophone. He considered the alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges a member of the ...

Article

Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, singer, musician, and composer, was born Benjamin Sherman Crothers in Terre Haute, Indiana, the youngest of five children of Benjamin Crothers, a clothing store owner and odd jobber from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Fredonia Lewis Crothers. Crothers's mother bought him his first drum which along with the guitar he taught himself to play Although unable to read music he began street performing for small change at age seven Crothers encountered discrimination in largely segregated Terre Haute when black players were barred from the high school football team Responding with what would soon become his characteristic blend of superficial accommodation and subversive disregard of racist standards he tolerated such discrimination as a temporary situation and became the yell leader for school pep rallies At the same time he flouted segregation by using his winning personality to frequent whites only restaurants As he later recalled I did a lot ...

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James Sellman

Born in Havana, Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera entered the Havana Conservatory in 1960, where he studied woodwinds. Two years later he began playing professionally. During his mandatory military service, D'Rivera played in an army band. He then joined the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna (OCMM) and in 1973 became a founding member—along with Chucho Valdés and Arturo Sandoval—of the Afro-Cuban jazz rock ensemble Irakere, Cuba's most popular Jazz group. In 1980 D'Rivera defected to the United States, settling in New York City, where he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and pianist McCoy Tyner and started his own band. In 1989 he joined Gillespie's last group, the United Nation Orchestra, made up in equal numbers of African American and Latin American jazz musicians, for a tour of Europe and the United States. D'Rivera led the ensemble after Gillespie's death in 1993.

D Rivera plays alto saxophone in a ...

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Jeremy Rich

musician and dancer, was born on 14 October 1935 in the city of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). Little is available about his parents or his early life. His father worked for much of the 1940s in the Central African Republic (then the French colony of Ubangi-Shari), and so Diboua lived away from his homeland. In the Central African Republic, Diaboua learned the musical and dance styles of the Ngbaka people. Diaboua became a dancer and choreographer later in life, and organized dance groups using Ngbaka styles that Congolese called the “ngouakatours.” Diaboua had returned to the city of Brazzaville by 1950 He joined the Boy Scout movement supervised by Catholic missionaries who supported Diaboua s creative efforts to blend Congolese musical styles to the dances he had learned in the Central African Republic During this period he became acquainted with a student Jean Serge Essous ...

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Jeremy Rich

Cameroonian jazz musician, was born Emmanuel Dibango N’Djoké on 12 December 1933 in Douala, Cameroon. His mother was a successful clothing designer from a wealthy family of the Douala ethnic community, while his father, Michel Manfred N’Djocké Dibango, was a civil servant from the Yabassi ethnic group. Although Dibango’s parents’ families had difficulties with one another, his parents found a common bond in Protestant teachings. Despite that faith, his father still demanded that Dibango be circumcised and that his son undergo traditional indigenous initiation ceremonies. Dibango later recalled his father as a very rigid disciplinarian who frequently resorted to physical punishment, but he remained inspired by his father’s strong moral foundation. It was in a Protestant primary school that Dibango began to develop his musical gifts. His cousin André Titty joined Dibango in a Douala school choir, and Dibango learned to love hymns. By 1940 Dibango was attending a ...

Article

Norman Weinstein

Dyani's musical career began in the context of South Africa's first racially integrated experimental Jazz band, Chris MacGregor's Blue Notes (which later evolved into MacGregor's big-band, The Brotherhood of Breath). The band went into exile during a tour of Great Britain in 1965 during the heyday of South African Apartheid, and Dyani made London his home until the 1970s. His sure grasp of bass fundamentals in a variety of Swing and bop styles assured him of steady work, but his memories of his South African past stirred him into constantly seeking fellow players interested in creating a new form of South African jazz.

Dyani formed a close musical friendship with a fellow South African jazz musician in European exile, Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand). Their collaboration in the recording studio resulted in two duo albums, Echoes of Africa (1979) and Good News from Africa (1973 ...

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Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo Congo Brazzaville His father Michael Elenga was from Brazzaville while his mother was from the Central African Republic Little is known of Elenga s early life but he attended Catholic primary schools prior to enrolling in a seminary Elenga s vocation did not last and supposedly missionaries expelled him from their school After leaving seminary Elenga found work as an office clerk in Brazzaville However he then moved to Kinshasa now in the Democratic Republic of Congo just across the Congo River from Brazzaville Although Elenga found work at the Établissement Israel company as a typist his real interest was music Living on Rue Usoke Street Elenga met a young Angolan man Paul Mwanga The two men quickly discovered they had a common passion for music While Mwanga loved to sing Elenga took up the ...

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Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in the town of Mossendjo, Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) on 15 January 1935 His father was François Essous a nurse in the colonial medical service who had been assigned to work in the Niari Ogooué region Adèle Matsanga Essous s mother belonged to a Tsangui speaking clan Essous also belonged to the Tsangui ethnic community As was typical for the colonial period Essous s family name had been changed to sound more French Originally the last name was Itsouhou a fact Essous later brought up in his song Mama a Leli Ti When Essous was two the family moved to the colonial capital of Brazzaville There Essous spent the majority of his childhood although the family moved on occasion to the port city of Pointe Noire when François Essous was assigned to work there for a time Adèle taught Essous the Tsangui language and pride ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz tenor-saxophonist and arranger, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother was an amateur pianist. Foster originally studied piano at the Cosmopolitan School of Music but switched to tenor saxophone when he was a teenager.

Foster picked up early experience working with a variety of swing bands in Cincinnati starting in 1942. They included the Andrew Johnson Orchestra, Jack Jackson's Jumping Jacks, and an ensemble led by Count Basie altoist Earle Warren. During 1945–1946, the teenaged Foster led his own big band. He attended Wilberforce University during 1946–1949, playing with the Wilberforce Collegians.

Foster moved in 1949 to Detroit, where for two years he was part of the local jazz scene, working with trumpeter Snooky Young, Phil Hill's band, and many of the young talents in town. He was drafted and served in Korea with the U.S. Army during 1951–1953.

Shortly after his discharge ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born on 27 October 1933 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the era of Belgian colonial rule when the city was known as Léopoldville. Little is known about his parents or early life, but in his youth he moved to Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Congo-Brazzaville (then a French colony), situated across the Congo River from Kinshasa. After he graduated from the respected Ecole Professionielle secondary school in Brazzaville in 1953, Ganga became a technical artist for a timber company, even though he had received a degree in carpentry. However his real interest lay in music. He played drums on the early Joseph Kabasélé song “Para Fifi,” recorded in 1953. Ganga, a talented athlete, also played soccer for the Racing Club team in Brazzaville. He found a new job in 1954 working as a clerk for Shell ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz tenor saxophonist, was born in Summit, Missouri, and grew up in Chicago. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. He began studying the clarinet when he was 14 under the guidance of the legendary teacher Capt. Walter Dyett at the city's DuSable High School.

Gilmore served in the U.S. Air Force from 1948 to 1952, switching to tenor saxophone so he could play with the Air Force band. After his discharge, he worked with the short-lived Earl Hines Big Band back in Chicago in 1952.

In 1953 Gilmore joined the Sun Ra Arkestra, an association that lasted for 40 years. His relationship with Ra had similarities to altoist Johnny Hodges's situation with Duke Ellington Gilmore was Ra s top soloist no matter what style of music the band was performing He could play hard bop with the best tenors By the mid 1950s ...

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James Sellman

When pianist Rubén González recorded Introducing…Rubén González (1996), he was seventy-seven years old. It was his first album under his own leadership. He had last recorded in the mid-1940s, as part of the legendary Afro-Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez's conjunto (a nine-to-eleven-member ensemble combining a rhythm section, stringed instruments, and two trumpets playing the melody line). In a career spanning more than half a century, González mastered many divergent styles of Cuban music, including danzón, Bolero, guaracha, Son, Mambo, and chachachá. He encapsulated much of Cuba's twentieth-century musical history. Although well known within Cuba, he was virtually unknown to the wider world.

González was born in Santo Clara, Cuba As a youth he studied at the Cienfuegos Conservatory where he devoted himself to learning and completed his studies by age fifteen He did not however continue formal studies that ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trombonist, was born in Chicago, Illinois. He came from a musical family, which included a brother (Elbert Green) who played tenor sax with Roy Eldridge. Green studied trombone at Chicago's DuSable High School.

After gaining some experience working with local groups, Green became a longtime member of the Earl Hines Big Band, joining in 1942 and staying until the orchestra broke up in 1948 except for a period (late 1943–1945) when he was serving in the Army. Green, originally a swing player, was with Hines during the period in 1943 when Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (on tenor) were members. He was influenced by them to modernize his style.

Green had a fat sound that fit well into the swing era along with his fertile wit but he also developed fluency and a knowledge of bop that made it possible for him to sound very comfortable ...

Article

Donald Roe

jazz musician, philanthropist, and black Republican. Lionel Hampton's career as a musician spanned seven decades, during which he became a jazz icon. While Hampton was an excellent drummer, his mastery of the vibraphone and his popularity as a bandleader enabled him to stamp his unique signature on jazz. He presented music to the people with panache, exuberance, and showmanship. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on 20 April 1908, but moved to Chicago with his maternal grandmother, Louvenia Morgan, after his mother, Gertrude, remarried following the apparent death of his father, Charles, during World War I. Morgan enrolled Hampton in the Holy Rosary Academy, a Catholic School in Collins, Wisconsin, to protect him from the mean streets of Chicago. He learned to play the drums in the academy's fife and drum corps.

Hampton s grandmother was a conservative evangelical Christian but she encouraged his interest in secular ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

vibraphone pioneer, philanthropist, and big band leader, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles Edward, a railroad worker, and Gertrude Morgan, a waitress. Lionel's father was sent to France as a combat soldier during World War I and was soon declared missing in action. When his family could not learn of his whereabouts, they presumed that he had been killed. Mrs. Hampton had returned to her parents in Birmingham, Alabama, where Lionel was entrusted to his grandparents, Richard and Louvenia Morgan Lionel considered them to be his parents after his mother remarried and started a new family After achieving fame Lionel had a brief reunion with the father he thought he had lost three decades earlier when a fan told him of an elderly man who had been blinded in the war and living in a Veterans Administration hospital in Ohio who told everyone ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz alto-saxophonist, was born in Dallas, Texas. He is not related to Captain John Handy, another alto-saxophonist. Handy, who spent 1943–1944 in Los Angeles but otherwise grew up in Dallas, was a boxer as a youth. He won the amateur featherweight championship in 1947.

Handy began playing music in 1945 when he was twelve, teaching himself the clarinet. In 1949, the year that his family moved to Oakland, he started playing alto and would later add tenor, saxello, baritone, and oboe. Handy became a professional that year at the age of sixteen, working with the Boppraines. He moved with his family to Cleveland in 1950 where he had opportunities to play blues and R&B with Lowell Fulsom, Stanley Willis, Hank Crawford, Ernie Lewis, and Roy Hawkins. Handy relocated to San Francisco in 1952 where he attended San Francisco State University majoring in clarinet and worked with ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz pianist, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Hanna began playing piano when he was eleven years old. His first music teacher was his father, a preacher at the local church, who also played saxophone. His brother played trumpet and violin. Hanna doubled on the alto saxophone when he was attending Cass Technical High School, although he did not pursue that instrument.

Hanna began working professionally in Detroit clubs in 1948 when he was sixteen years old. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1952, he became a significant part of the rich Detroit jazz and piano scene, following in the footsteps of Hank Jones and his contemporaries Barry Harris and Tommy Flanagan.

Moving to New York to study at Juilliard in 1955, Hanna gained attention and displayed his versatility during stints with the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1958 including performing at the Newport Jazz ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz pianist, was born Eugene Haire in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Harris taught himself piano when he was nine. He was inspired early on by seeing a band led by Charles Metcalf, the music he heard in church, and the boogie-woogie piano records of Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. When he was twelve, he had his own radio show in Michigan. He worked in local clubs as a teenager. Harris served in the army during 1951–1954, playing in the 82nd Airborne Band, where he learned to read music.

After his discharge from the army, Harris worked with several obscure groups during 1954–1956. In 1956 he formed a band called The Four Sounds which originally included a tenor saxophonist The following year the unit s personnel became set with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy and the group was known as The Three Sounds mostly playing ...

Article

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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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

jazz musician and Tuskegee airman, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Arelethia and Percy Heath Sr. Heath was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as in his parents' native North Carolina, and graduated from Williston High School in Wilmington. The Heaths were a musical family; his mother, a hairdresser, sang in a church choir, and his father, an automobile mechanic, was an amateur clarinetist. Heath studied violin as a child and sang in the church choir. Both of his younger brothers, Jimmy Heath and Albert “Tootie Heath,” were also well-known accomplished jazz musicians. During World War II, Heath volunteered for the army, but was rejected (which Heath attributed to racism). He was eventually drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, an elite group of black fliers, from 1943 to 1945 He did not fly combat missions ...