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Frank Tirro

jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with the band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. Adderley then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group.

Adderley served in the army from 1950 until 1953, leading the Thirty-sixth Army Dance Band, to which his younger brother, the cornetist Nathaniel “Nat” Adderley, was also assigned. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1952 Adderley continued to play ...

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Jack Sohmer

jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, was born William C. Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of his parents. He attended the Clay Street School in Memphis, where he began studying clarinet at age thirteen. In 1917 he turned professional after joining the touring band of the famed blues composer W. C. Handy, and it was during a trip to New Orleans with Handy that he first heard authentic jazz. In early 1919 he left Handy to move to Chicago, where he studied with Franz Schoepp, first clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony, and worked in Erskine Tate's Vendome Theatre Orchestra and doubled in Freddie Keppards's small jazz band at the Lorraine Gardens. In late 1923 or early 1924 Bailey replaced Johnny Dodds in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band for an extensive tour that concluded with its return to the Lincoln Gardens in June 1924. In August ...

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Salim Washington

clarinetist, soprano saxophonist, and composer, was born Sidney Joseph Bechet, the youngest of five sons and two daughters (three other children died in infancy) born to Omar Bechet, a shoemaker, and Josephine Michel in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bechet was raised as a middle-class Creole at the time when state law reclassified Creoles of color as Negro. The adoption of the black codes and de jure segregation had profound repercussions for the first generations of ragtime and jazz musicians in the Crescent City. Although Sidney spoke French in his childhood household and his grandfather, Jean Becher, was free and had owned property since 1817, Sidney Bechet identified himself as African American.

The Bechet family was decidedly musical Sidney s father played the flute and trumpet for relaxation and Sidney s brothers all played music as a hobby and developed skills in various trades for their ...

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James Sellman

Although well known to Jazz listeners and critics, Sidney Bechet has never enjoyed the reputation of his only peer, cornet and trumpet player Louis Armstrong. Yet in recent years Bechet has gained greater recognition, at least from jazz scholars and critics. For example, Barry Singer, in a 1997New York Times article, described him as an “intrepid musical pioneer who was not merely Louis Armstrong's contemporary but in every way his creative equal.”

In many respects, the two men shared much: They were near contemporaries, born and raised in New Orleans and both were virtuosos on their chosen instruments Both were known above all as improvisers as soloists rather than bandleaders composers or arrangers Various factors help account for Armstrong s greater renown His clarion like trumpet moved even nonmusicians while Bechet s facility on woodwinds was less visceral in effect Armstrong found his greatest popularity as ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

musician, actor, and raconteur, known to millions as the “Big Man,” was born and raised in Norfolk County (now Chesapeake), Virginia, to a very religious family. His grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher and his father, Clarence Anicholas Clemons Sr., owned a fish market. Clarence Jr. received an alto saxophone for Christmas when he was nine years old. He grew up hearing a lot of gospel music but was enthralled with early rock and roll where saxophone rather than guitar was usually the solo instrument. Clarence switched to tenor saxophone after being deeply influenced by the legendary King Curtis, whose most famous solo was perhaps on “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters in 1958. Clemons also enjoyed the soul music of the 1960s and cited Junior Walker as another significant influence, as well as Gato Barbieri.

Clemons was a gifted athlete and played football in high ...

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Salim Washington

jazz innovator, saxophonist, composer, and trumpeter, was born Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman, in Fort Worth, Texas, the youngest of four children of Randolph Coleman, a cook, mechanic, and baseball player, and Rosa (maiden name unknown), a clerk and seamstress. Ornette's early life was marked by family tragedy: his oldest brother, Allen, died in the 1940s; his oldest sister, Vera, died as an adolescent; and his father died when Ornette was only seven. His surviving sister, Truvenza Coleman Leach, was a trombonist and vocalist who performed under the name Trudy Coleman.

Ornette began playing the alto saxophone in 1944 after his mother purchased an instrument with the agreement that he would get a job. A year later, at age fifteen, he began to play professionally. The saxophonists Dewey Redman and Prince Lashay and the drummer Charles Moffett were among the first musicians with whom ...

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Salim Washington

John Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, but his family moved to a lower-middle-class neighborhood in High Point, North Carolina, shortly after John was born. The Coltranes lived within an extended family headed by Reverend William Blair, John's maternal grandfather, and they followed him to High Point when he accepted a pastorate there. John's father was a tailor and an amateur musician who sang and played the ukulele for his own enjoyment. His mother Alice Coltrane not to be confused with Coltrane s second wife of the same name was a seamstress who also sang and played piano in her father s gospel choir and at one point wanted to be a concert pianist Also included in Reverend Blair s household were his daughter Betty her husband Goler and their daughter Mary Cousin Mary who was immortalized by a song with the same title was like ...

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John Runcie

musician, composer, and bandleader, was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, the son of John Robert Coltrane, a tailor and amateur musician, and Alice Gertrude Blair. A few months after John's birth, the Coltranes moved to nearby High Point to live with his maternal grandfather, the Reverend William Blair. Alice, who had studied music at Livingstone College, accompanied her father's choir on piano. The young Coltrane grew up in a secure middle-class environment in which both religion and music were highly valued. At age twelve he began studying alto horn, then the clarinet, and joined the High Point Community Band. From the outset, Coltrane practiced constantly, a pattern that he sustained throughout his life. By 1942 he was playing clarinet and alto saxophone in his high school band.

After graduating from high school in 1943 Coltrane moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania where he worked as a laborer in ...

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Maxine Gordon

jazz tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and actor. Dexter Keith Gordon was born in Los Angeles, California. His father, Dr. Frank Gordon, a graduate of Howard Medical School in Washington, D.C., was one of the first African American doctors in Los Angeles. His mother, Gwendolyn Baker Gordon, was the daughter of Captain Edward L. Baker Jr., one of the five African American recipients of the Medal of Honor during the Spanish-American War and a member of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry, the African American unit often referred to as the “buffalo soldiers.”

Gordon's first music teacher was Lloyd Reese, who had played alto in the Les Hite Orchestra—a popular West Coast band in the 1930s—and also taught Charles Mingus Jr., Eric Dolphy, and Buddy Collette. While a senior at Jefferson High School, known for its band director, Sam Browne and ...

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Frank Tirro

jazz tenor saxophonist, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Frank Alexander Gordon and Gwendolyn Baker. His father was a physician and surgeon who numbered among his patients the musicians Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. His father's personal interest in jazz encouraged Dexter at an early age, and he first studied clarinet and elementary music theory at age seven with the New Orleans-born clarinetist John Sturdevant, a disciple of Barney Bigard. Dexter's father died when Dexter was twelve, but he continued studying music, adding the alto saxophone when he was fifteen and playing in the school dance band. Other contemporaries at Jefferson High School, where Sam Brown directed the bands, were Chico Hamilton, drums; Ernie Royal, trumpet; and Vi Redd, alto saxophone. Dexter studied saxophone with Lloyd Reese, lead trumpet in the Les Hite Orchestra and Reese formed a ...

Article

Dexter Gordon was one of the most influential tenor saxophone players of the 1940s movement known as Bebop. Gordon also played a major role in the development of saxophone styles after the big-band era of the 1930s and 1940s.

Gordon began playing the clarinet at the age of thirteen. By age seventeen he had switched to tenor saxophone. An important early influence was tenor saxophonist Lester Young, whose smooth phrasing prefigured that of the bebop style. In 1940 Gordon left high school, began playing in a local band, and was invited to tour with the big band of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Gordon remained with Hampton for three years.

In 1943, after working briefly with bandleader Fletcher Henderson, Gordon recorded with a quintet that featured pianist Nat “King” Cole. The following year Gordon played with the big band of trumpeter Louis Armstrong before joining ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

jazz tenor saxophonist, was born Coleman Randolph Hawkins in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of William Hawkins, an electrical worker, and Cordelia Coleman, a schoolteacher and organist. He began to study piano at age five and the cello at seven; he then eagerly took up the C-melody saxophone he received for his ninth birthday. Even before entering high school in Chicago, he was playing professionally at school dances. Recognizing his talent, his parents sent him to the all-black Industrial and Educational Institute in Topeka, Kansas. His mother insisted that he take only his cello with him. During vacations, however, Hawkins played both cello and C-melody saxophone in Kansas City theater orchestras, where the blues singer Mamie Smith heard him in 1921.

Smith hired Hawkins to tour with her Jazz Hounds, and he traveled and recorded with the group until June 1923 at which time he ...

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Eddie S. Meadows

jazz musician, was born in Brinkley, Arkansas, the son of Jimmy Jordan, a bandleader and music teacher, and Lizzia Read. Louis was taught both clarinet and saxophone by his father, and while still in high school, he performed with his father's band, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Jordan's professional career began in 1929 with Jimmy Pryor's Imperial Serenaders. From 1930 to 1936 he performed with various bands, playing alto and soprano saxophones and occasionally singing. While in Arkansas he also worked with Ruby Williams between 1930 and 1936.

Jordan moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1932 and became a sideman in the band of the tuba player Jim Winters. Between 1933 and 1938 Jordan performed with Charlie Gaines (1933–1935), Leroy Smith (1935–1936), and Chick Webb (1936–1938), and he had brief stints with Fats Waller and Tyler Marshall before forming the Tympany ...

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Sola Olorunyomi

Nigerian musician and political activist, was born Fela Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta Nigeria to the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome Kuti a clergyman and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti née Thomas a women s activist Fela along with his mother would later drop the Ransome from his name as a rejection of British colonialism and adopt the Yoruba middle name Anikulapo which means one who has death in his pocket Fela was the fourth of five children born into the Ransome Kuti family which belonged to the Ègbá Yorùbá community One of his older brothers Olikoye Ransome Kuti was a noted medical doctor and Nigerian minister of health Another brother Beko Ransome Kuti was a leading human rights activist The Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was a cousin Though he was deprived of interacting with the vital and deep rooted Ègbá cultural tradition as a youth his ...

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James Sellman

Together with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker was the primary creator of Bebop. His musical innovations profoundly influenced other alto saxophonists, as is evident in the playing of Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Lou Donaldson, Charles McPherson, and Frank Morgan. Indeed, Parker's influence extended well beyond Jazz to popular music and film and television scores. Despite his musical brilliance, however, Parker led a troubled life that included the use of heroin at an early age, an addiction that contributed to his death and was deeply intertwined with his musical mystique.

Born Charles Christopher Parker in Kansas City, Kansas, he acquired the nickname “Yardbird” (usually shortened to “Bird”) as a young man. His father, Charles Parker Sr., was a singer and dancer from Mississippi and Tennessee who abandoned the family when his son was about eleven years old. His mother, Adelaide Bailey ...

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Kent J. Engelhardt

jazz alto saxophonist, known as “Bird,” “Yardbird,” or “Yard,” was born Charles Parker Jr. in Kansas City, Kansas. He was the only child of Charles Parker Sr., a chef on the Pullman Line who was a former dancer and singer, and Addie Boxley, a charwoman for Western Union who also cleaned houses, did laundry, and rented to boarders. Parker had an older half brother, John “Ikey,” who was his father's son from a previous relationship. The Parkers, without the often absent Charles Sr., moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1927. Parker attended Penn School in Westport and during that time began to play the alto saxophone. He enrolled at Lincoln High School in 1932 and joined the school marching band, where he played the alto horn and later the baritone horn. During this time Parker started playing alto saxophone with the pianist Lawrence Keyes and ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

tenor saxophonist, was born Theodore Walker Rollins in Harlem, New York City, the son of Walter Theodore Rollins and Valborg Solomon Rollins. His parents were both from the West Indies and loved music; they often played Enrico Caruso 78s, and they brought Sonny to see a performance of the Pirates of Penzance when he was two. Sonny spent time as a child with an uncle from Georgia who played records by bluesmen like Lonnie Johnson and the jump blues saxophonist Louis Jordan. He also spent a good deal of time with his grandmother, a follower of Marcus Garvey, and she also brought him to the local Sanctified church, exposing him to the sect's jubilant and rhythmically powerful worship.

Rollins began to study piano at age nine taking up the alto saxophone at age eleven and the tenor at fourteen Although he grew up in a neighborhood ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

saxophonist and composer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Joseph Shorter, a welder, and Louise Paige, who worked for a furrier. Wayne grew up in a middle-class black community. He showed an original, creative bent even as a youngster; he read science fiction and was nicknamed “Mr. Weird” by his friends. His interest in jazz developed when he heard Thelonious Monk on the radio and grew when his father urged him to play the clarinet when he was sixteen; he switched to the tenor saxophone the following year and played at area high school dances. He graduated from the Newark High School of Music and Art in 1952 and enrolled as a clarinet major at New York University, where he received a BS in Music Education in 1956.

Shorter participated in jam sessions while in college and played briefly with Horace ...

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James Fargo Balliett

musician and record producer, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Lillian Washington, a hairdresser and business owner, and Grover Washington Sr., a steelworker. Young Washington grew up in a family that encouraged creativity in music. His father played saxophone and was an avid record collector, and his mother sang in the church choir. Both of Washington's brothers were also musically inclined: Darryl played the drums and Michael played the keyboard At age ten Washington began playing saxophone and by his teenage years was sneaking out of the house to watch and play in jazz clubs His parents enrolled him in the Wurlitzer School of Music to study classical music He took lessons on the piano bass guitar and drums By high school he was a member of the Buffalo all city high school band as a baritone saxophonist At age sixteen Washington left home to become a professional ...