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Barry Kernfeld

jazz drummer, was born Adolphe Paul Barbarin in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Isidore John Barbarin, a coachman for undertakers, and Josephine Arthidore. The Barbarins were a distinguished musical family. Paul's father played alto horn with the Onward, Excelsior, and Tuxedo brass bands and recorded with Bunk Johnson in 1945. Paul's brothers were Louis, a drummer in New Orleans long associated with Papa Celestin; Lucien, also a drummer; and Willie, a cornetist. Barbarin's nephew was the jazz musician Danny Barker.

Having begun to play by using two forks on kitchen chairs, Barbarin was later arrested for drumming his sticks too loudly on the neighbor's steps; such was his skill that on his performing in court the judge dismissed the case, paid him fifty cents (his first professional income), and sent him home. Around 1915 he began working as a freight elevator operator to ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a bass drummer, vocalist, and leader of the New Orleans-based Treme Brass Band, is perhaps most famous as a New Orleans personality. He grew up as one of sixteen children of a blacksmith. As a child, he worked as a shoeshiner in the French Quarter and often entertained with his tap dancing performances at a whites-only club. He began playing rhythm sticks and bells at the age of eight. He later settled on the snare drum, noting that he wanted to avoid both damaging his lips from playing brass or developing a sore jaw from a reed instrument. Batiste learned his signature slide-and-hop dance from studying drummer Papa Knox. Batiste also played the banjo, piano, violin, washboard, and kazoo.

Throughout his career Batiste performed as a drummer with various bands including the Square Deal Social and Pleasure Club but earned steady income by working as a bricklayer ...

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T. Dennis Brown

jazz drummer and composer, was born Denzil de Costa Best in New York City, the son of immigrant parents from Barbados; his mother was Josephine Best (his father's name is unknown). Denzil Best married Arline Riley (date unknown), with whom he had two daughters. Best began studying piano when he was six years old but later learned trumpet, which he played professionally in the mid‐1930s with the drummer Chris Columbus (Joe Morris). By the end of the decade Best became associated with several seminal bop musicians playing at Minton's nightclub in New York, including Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, and house bandleader Joe Guy. Because of a lung disorder, Best stopped playing trumpet in 1941, returned to the piano, and later played string bass and drums.

After having worked as a drummer with locally led New York City bands (Saxie Payne, Eddie Williams ...

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T. Dennis Brown

Best, Denzil (27 April 1917–25 May 1965), jazz drummer and composer, was born Denzil de Costa Best in New York City, the son of immigrant parents from Barbados; his mother was Josephine Best (his father’s name is unknown). Best married Arline Riley (date unknown), with whom he had two daughters. Best began studying piano when he was six years old but later learned trumpet, which he played professionally in the mid-1930s with drummer Chris Columbus (Joe Morris). By the end of the decade he became associated with several seminal bop musicians playing at Minton’s nightclub in New York, including Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, and house bandleader Joe Guy. Because of a lung disorder Best stopped playing trumpet in 1941, returned to the piano, and later played string bass and drums.

After having worked as a drummer with locally led New York City bands Saxie Payne ...

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Nathaniel Friedman

jazz drummer, was born Edward Joseph in New Orleans, Louisiana, to unknown parents. He grew up steeped in his hometown's musical tradition, influenced by two tap‐dancing siblings to take up the drums. New Orleans percussionists like Paul Barbarin were Blackwell's earliest models, making him one of several future avant‐gardists whose roots were in jazz's oldest traditions.

In 1951 Blackwell relocated to Los Angeles, where he played in the rhythm and blues outfits of Plas and Raymond Johnson. More significantly he made the acquaintance the saxophonist Ornette Coleman with whom he would be associated for his entire career Coleman also working with various degrees of success in the Los Angeles rhythm and blues scene sought to introduce an unprecedented degree of melodic harmonic and rhythmic freedom into jazz This new approach required an almost telepathic bond between band members as interaction was governed by little more than improvisational ingenuity In ...

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Lewis Porter

(b Pittsburgh, Oct 11, 1919; d New York, Oct 16, 1990). American jazz drummer and bandleader. By the time he was a teenager he was playing the piano full-time, leading a commercial band. Shortly afterwards he taught himself to play the drums in the aggressive swing style of Chick Webb, Sid Catlett and Ray Bauduc, and he joined Mary Lou Williams as a drummer for an engagement in New York in autumn 1942. He then toured with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra (1943–4). During his years with Billy Eckstine’s big band (1944–7) Blakey became associated with the modern-jazz movement, along with his fellow band members Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro and others.

In 1947 Blakey organized the Seventeen Messengers a rehearsal band and recorded with an octet called the Jazz Messengers He then travelled in Africa probably for ...

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James Sellman

As a drummer and bandleader, Art Blakey had a profound impact on the shape of modern Jazz. During the late 1940s, along with Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, he was one of the creators of modern jazz drumming. His long-standing group, the Jazz Messengers (1955–1990)—together with Miles Davis's quintet with John Coltrane, the Max Roach–Clifford Brown Quintet, and the Horace Silver Quintet—popularized the style known as hard bop. Hard bop draws equally on the harmonic and rhythmic complexity of bebop and on the visceral sounds and simpler rhythms that characterize the Blues and Gospel Music. In an interview published in The Black Perspective in Music, Blakey summed up his approach simply, declaring that he wanted to play music that would “wash away the dust of everyday life.”

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania born Blakey was also one of the great talent scouts of ...

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T. Dennis Brown

jazz drummer and bandleader, was born Art William Blakey in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Burtrum Blakey, a barber, and Marie Roddericker. His father left home shortly after Blakey was born, and his mother died the next year. Consequently, he was raised by a cousin, Sarah Oliver Parran, who worked at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill in Pittsburgh. He moved out of the home at age thirteen to work in the steel mills and in 1938 married Clarice Stuart, the first of three wives. His other wives were Diana Bates and Ann Arnold. Blakey had at least ten children (the exact number is unknown), the last of whom was born in 1986.

As a teenager Blakey taught himself to play the piano and performed in local dance bands but he later switched to drums Like many of his contemporaries Blakey initially adapted the ...

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Timothy J. O'Brien

jazz musician. Arthur William Blakey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was raised by relatives and a family friend. His father, Bertram, a barber, had left the family when Blakey was an infant, and his mother died when he was twenty-one months old. By age fourteen he was working as a pianist in a Pittsburgh nightclub. He switched to drums, learning to play a hard swinging style by listening to recordings of Chick Webb and Sid Catlett.

After a stint in the Mary Lou Williams combo in 1942, Blakey traveled with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra in 1943–1944. From 1944 to 1947 he played in Billy Eckstine's orchestra, a group that included the influential musicians John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Miles Davis. Blakey formed his own group, the Seventeen Messengers, in 1947 making the first recordings under his name for the ...

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Michael J. Budds

singer, drummer, and bandleader, was born Myron Carlton Bradshaw in Youngstown, Ohio. His parents' names are unknown. He played the drums from the age of ten and soon after was performing professionally as a drummer and vocalist. Early in his career he served as the drummer of the Jump Johnson Band in Buffalo, New York. He attended Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and majored in psychology. Before forming his own big band in 1934, he sang with Horace Henderson's Collegians, and in New York he either drummed or sang with Marion Hardy's Alabamians, the Savoy Bearcats, Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1932–1933), and Luis Russell (1933–1934).

Bradshaw s own band enjoyed long engagements in the ballrooms and nightclubs of Harlem notably the Savoy and the Apollo Philadelphia and Chicago and toured throughout the United States and Europe making its reputation with powerful blues based jazz His ...

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Barry Kernfeld

drummer, was born Sidney Catlett in Evansville, Indiana, the son of John B. Catlett, a chauffeur. His mother (name unknown) was a cook. Catlett briefly studied piano before playing drums in school, an activity that he continued at Tilden Technical High School after the family moved to Chicago. There he studied under the theater orchestra drummer Joe Russek.

Catlett worked with lesser-known bands and on occasion substituted for Zutty Singleton in Carroll Dickerson's band, which included Louis Armstrong, at the Savoy in 1928. Later that year Catlett joined Sammy Stewart's orchestra at the Michigan Theater. In 1930 the band toured from Chicago to New York, picking up the tenor saxophonist Leon “Chu” Berry along the way. Catlett left Stewart in New York and began working with the banjoist Elmer Snowden at Smalls’ Paradise. He joined Benny Carter's big band, recording in June 1932 and ...

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Barry Kernfeld

Catlett, Big Sid (17 January 1910–25 March 1951), drummer, was born Sidney Catlett in Evansville, Indiana, the son of John B. Catlett, a chauffeur. His mother (name unknown) was a cook. He briefly studied piano before playing drums in school, an activity he continued at Tilden Technical High School after the family moved to Chicago. There he studied under theater orchestra drummer Joe Russek. He worked with lesser-known bands and on occasion substituted for Zutty Singleton in Carroll Dickerson’s band, which included Louis Armstrong, at the Savoy in 1928. Late that year he joined Sammy Stewart’s orchestra at the Michigan Theater. In 1930 the band toured from Chicago to New York, picking up tenor saxophonist Leon “Chu” Berry along the way. Catlett left Stewart in New York and began working with banjoist Elmer Snowden at Smalls Paradise He joined Benny Carter s big band ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz drummer and bandleader, was born Kenneth Clarke Spearman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Spearman and Martha Grace Scott. His birth date is almost always given as 9 January, but the writer Ursula Broschke Davis maintains that the actual date is 2 January His mother played piano and at a young age Kenny learned to play both this instrument and in church pump organ Biographers concur that his boyhood was miserable and he hid the experience behind rosy and contradictory memories His father abandoned the family When Kenny was around five years old his mother died Her companion a Baptist preacher placed him in the Coleman Industrial Home for Negro Boys in Pittsburgh where he tried a few brass instruments before taking up drums At about age eleven or twelve he resumed living with his stepfather He attended several elementary schools and Herron Hill Junior ...

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Barry Kernfeld

Clarke, Kenny (?9 Jan. 1914–26 January 1985), jazz drummer and bandleader was born Kenneth Clarke Spearman in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania the son of Charles Spearman and Martha Grace Scott His birth date is almost always given as 9 January but writer Ursula Broschke Davis maintains that the actual date is 2 January His mother played piano and at a young age he learned to play both this instrument and in church pump organ Biographers concur that his boyhood was miserable and he hid the experience behind rosy and contradictory memories His father abandoned the family When he was around five years old his mother died Her companion a Baptist preacher placed him in the Coleman Industrial Home for Negro Boys in Pittsburgh where he tried a few brass instruments before taking up drums At about age eleven or twelve he resumed living with his stepfather He attended several ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz drummer born in Washington, D.C. Mostly self-taught as a teenager, Cobb began his career in the District of Columbia, working with local musicians and also such visiting artists as baritone Leo Parker, tenor-saxophonists Charlie Rouse and Frank Wess, Billie Holiday and Pearl Bailey. Cobb toured with Earl Bostic's popular rhythm-and-blues band in 1950 and 1951, making his recording debut on the alto-saxophonist's hit record “Flamingo.” After moving to New York, he was singer Dinah Washington 's musical director and regular drummer on and off from 1952 to 1956.

After his association with Dinah Washington ended, Cobb freelanced for two years. He was a member of the early Cannonball Adderley Quintet during 1957 and 1958 and played briefly with a quintet coled by Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz. In 1958 he joined the Miles Davis Sextet as the replacement for Philly Joe Jones.

Jimmy Cobb ...

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Thaddeus Russell

jazz percussionist, was born William Randolph Cole in East Orange, New Jersey. He was led into a musical career by his three brothers, all of whom were jazz musicians. Cole took up the drums when he was a young boy, and he continued to study the instrument in high school. He began playing professionally as a teenager before attending Wilberforce College in Ohio for two years.

In 1926 Cole moved to New York City, where he continued his study of jazz percussion with Billy Gladstone and Charlie Brooks, two noted drummers in the New York jazz scene of the 1920s. In 1928 he was hired by the clarinetist and bandleader Wilbur Sweatman and then led his own group before joining several prominent jazz bands in the 1930s. During that decade Cole performed and recorded with bands led by Jelly Roll Morton, Blanche Calloway, Benny Carter, Willie ...

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Thaddeus Russell

Cole, Cozy (17 October 1909–29 January 1981), jazz percussionist, was born William Randolph Cole in East Orange, New Jersey. He was led into a musical career by his three brothers, all of whom were jazz musicians. Cole took up the drums while a young boy and continued to study the instrument in high school. He began playing professionally as a teenager before attending Wilberforce College in Ohio for two years.

In 1926 Cole moved to New York City, where he continued his study of jazz percussion with Billy Gladstone and Charlie Brooks, two noted drummers in the New York jazz scene of the 1920s. In 1928 he was hired by clarinetist and bandleader Wilbur Sweatman and then led his own group before joining several prominent jazz bands in the 1930s. During that decade Cole performed and recorded with bands led by Jelly Roll Morton Blanche Calloway ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz drummer, was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were born in Haiti. Cyrille played in a drum and bugle corps when he was eleven and was in a trio with guitarist Eric Gale when he was fifteen. At one point he planned to become a chemist, starting college by studying science at St. John's University, but he switched careers soon afterward, playing jazz at night and transferring to Juilliard. Cyrille studied at Juilliard and the Hartnett School during 1958–1962, also having a few drum lessons from Philly Joe Jones.

While still in school, Cyrille almost immediately became a highly rated drummer for swing, bop, and hard bop dates. He worked with major jazz artists including pianists Nellie Lutcher, Mary Lou Williams, and Roland Hanna; saxophonists Coleman Hawkins (with whom he recorded in 1961), Illinois Jacquet, Bill Barron, and Rahsaan Roland ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz drummer and educator, was born George Alan Dawson in Marietta, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His father played piano and guitar in addition to singing, while his mother was a pianist-singer. As a teenager, Dawson was already a professional, playing locally with Tasker Crosson and Hopeton Johnson.

By 1947, Dawson was becoming an important part of the jazz scene in Boston. He was based in Massachusetts throughout much of his career, while making frequent appearances in New York. He worked with Jimmy Martin, Buster Daniels, Wilbur Pinckney, Phil Barboza, Art Royall, Ike Roberts, Ray Perry, Frankie Newton, Sabby Lewis (1950–1951), and Serge Chaloff.

Dawson served in the military from 1951 to 1953 playing in an Army dance band After his discharge he was a member of one of Lionel Hampton s finest orchestras for ...

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David Borsvold

jazz drummer, was born in Chicago. His mother Eva Jeanette Johnson, a poet, and his uncle, Roy L. Wood, Sr. (a popular jazz radio announcer on the South Side), helped foster in him a love of music, as did his grandmother Rosalie Wood, who bought him his first piano. DeJohnette's earliest musical involvement was on the piano, on which he took lessons from age four to fourteen, and not the drums for which he later became famous. In his teens he became immersed in jazz, blues, classical, and every kind of popular and commercial music. DeJohnette did not begin to take up the drums until high school, when he played with the concert band. He continued piano studies at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, from which he later graduated.

DeJohnette's early influences as a drummer included Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones ...