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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Chicago. He began studying piano at age seventeen and is largely self-taught, though in the late 1940s he studied briefly at Chicago Musical College and at Governors State University in Chicago. Abrams played his first professional gig in 1948, and during the early 1950s he wrote arrangements for the saxophonist King Fleming and other rhythm and blues groups. From 1957 to 1959 he was pianist, composer, and arranger for the hard-bop group MJT+3. Throughout the 1950s he also accompanied visiting soloists like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Keith Gordon, and Max Roach.

In the early 1960s Abrams and a group of young Chicagoans that included saxophonist Eddie Harris and bassist Donald Garrett began to make plans for a rehearsal band. This initial attempt failed, but Abrams and Garrett revived the effort in 1961 and ...


James M. Salem

musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star, was born John Marshall Alexander Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of John Marshall Alexander and Leslie Newsome. His father earned his living in Memphis as a packer, but his lifework was as a commuting minister to two rural Baptist churches in eastern Arkansas. At LaRose Grammar School in South Memphis, John Jr. as his family called him displayed both musical and artistic talent He mastered the piano at home but was allowed to play only religious music Along with his mother and siblings he sang in the choir at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Becoming restless at Booker T Washington High School John Jr dropped out in the eleventh grade to join the navy and see the world His sisters recalled military police coming to the house in search of their brother and thought of his brief period ...


Christine Gangelhoff

was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 30 September 1949. Her mother, Doris Monica Mills Alberga, was an academic who founded a high school in Jamaica. Her father, Christopher Gerald Alberga, managed a factory. Both parents enjoyed musical activities non professionally: her mother played the piano and violin and sang; her father played clarinet.

Alberga grew up in an intellectual and creative environment. Her family lived on the campus of her mother’s high school, where she was exposed to the classics and the sound of piano lessons from an early age. She took up the piano herself at the age of 5 and had the early dream of becoming a concert pianist. While still young, she began composing music and taught herself to play guitar. She performed both with the Jamaican Folk Singers and with Fontomfrom, an African-dance troupe. In 1970 Alberga won the Biennial West Indian Associated Board ...


Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...


pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...


Barry Kernfeld

jazz pianist, was born in Chicago. His parents' names are unknown; both were pianists. Albert was a teenage friend of Meade Lux Lewis. The two learned to play by following the key action of player pianos and by imitating more experienced musicians, including Hersal Thomas and Jimmy Yancey. Albert, having access to his parents' instrument, developed his skills faster than Lewis. Both men were particularly influenced by a tune called “The Fives,” a blues tune involving strong, repetitive, percussive patterns in the left hand set against equally strong and percussive but less rigorously repetitive counterrhythmic patterns in the right. This piano blues style came to be known as boogie-woogie.

In 1924 Ammons joined a band in South Bend, Indiana. He married around this time, although details about his wife are unknown. His ultimately more famous and talented son, the tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons was born in ...


Jack Sohmer

jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Dempsey Hardin, a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. Nothing is known of her father. At age six Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones' Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin became house pianist for the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé's band at Bill Bottoms's Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with the cornetists “Sugar Johnny” Smith, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver; the trombonist Roy Palmer; and other New Orleans musicians Because she was still a minor her mother ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Armstrong's career as a Jazz musician began with a job in a music store in Chicago, Illinois. She met Louis Armstrong while they were both with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. They married in 1924 and divorced in 1938 Armstrong worked with her husband in the ...


Lil Hardin Armstrong is one of the great treasures of American jazz. In a day when women in music were the singers, Hardin played the piano, composed, arranged, and managed—both her own career and that of her husband Louis Armstrong. Uncredited for many years, happily she has begun to gain some well-deserved attention.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Lillian Beatrice Hardin was the daughter of Dempsey Martin and William Hardin Reports differ on whether Hardin s parents divorced or whether her father died when she was young but it is known that Hardin was raised by her mother and her maternal grandmother in a strictly religious household Hardin was attracted to music almost from birth and began playing the organ when she was very young By the time she was six her mother had arranged that she take additional piano lessons from her schoolteacher and by nine she ...


Antoinette Broussard Farmer

classical pianist, civil rights activist, and social worker, was born Nettie Craig in Leavenworth, Kansas, the daughter of William P. Wallingford, an immigrant farmer from England, and Viola, his former slave. In 1837, prior to Nettie's birth, Wallingford moved his family from Kentucky and settled on the Platte purchase in Missouri. He was married three times and fathered seventeen children including six by Viola. Nettie, the youngest of these, was the only one born free. Information is scarce about Viola. After she was emancipated she rejected Wallingford's name and adopted Craig as her surname, likely because she was born on the Craig plantation in Kentucky. She took her children to Leavenworth, Kansas, where she married Taylor Turner. Her occupation was listed as a domestic. She died in Denver, Colorado, on 29 September 1906 at the age of seventy‐six.

Nettie Craig began studying the piano at eight ...


Hope Munro Smith

was born on 27 April 1913 or 1919 (date of birth uncertain) in Tunapuna, Trinidad, to middle class parents. Her father, Frederick Monroe Atwell, was a pharmacist, and her mother, Sarah Elizabeth Atwell, was a district nurse.

Like many middle-class children at the time, Winifred began piano lessons at a young age. Since her parents owned a successful pharmacy, it was expected that Atwell and her siblings would assist in the family business. However, Winifred continued to pursue music even as she trained as a pharmacist. She gave piano lessons, and was frequently asked to perform popular tunes in various settings. It was for a series of shows for the Servicemen’s Club at the air base in Piarco that she composed her first original tune, “Piarco Boogie,” which she later renamed “Five Finger Boogie.” In 1942 Atwell migrated to New York where she became a student of the Russian ...


Philip Herbert

Famous pianist in the United Kingdom during the 1950s, selling over 20 million records. She was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad, in February 1914. She studied the piano as a child and had a local following. It was hoped that she would eventually work for the family business, after her training in pharmacy.

To gain further musical training, Atwell moved to the United States in 1945, and then came to London in 1946, to the Royal Academy of Music, to become a concert pianist. To sustain her studies, she performed piano rags at hotels, theatres, and clubs in London. By 1950 she had attained national celebrity, and signed to record with Decca. She recorded such hits as Let's Have a Ding‐Dong, Poor People of Paris, Britannia Rag, and many others. The Black and White Rag became the signature tune for the BBC's Pot Black ...


Marcus B. Christian

The names of Barès's parents are unknown. When very young, he began work at the large music store of J. A. Périer on Royal Street in New Orleans. Whether or not he was related to this white merchant, the New Orleans Tribune—a noted periodical of free blacks—frequently referred to him as “Basile Pérrier.” Basile Barès is often referred to as a self-made musician and composer because, unlike many of his musical contemporaries, he never attended recognized conservatories. Like most of them, however, he studied music under some of the leading white instructors of his day. Basile was clearly a musical prodigy; he began to show evidence of this while still in his teens. He began his musical studies under Eugène Prevost a prominent musician who had formerly directed the orchestras of the Orleans Theater and the famed French Opera of New Orleans He later studied harmony and composition ...


Ann Ostendorf

composer and pianist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Augustine Celestine, a slave, and Jean Barès, a white French-born carpenter. He was baptized at the age of one month in Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church in the French Quarter. Basile Barès was born a slave of Adolphe Périer, the French-born owner of a music emporium, where Barès learned to tune pianos. Barès worked at this Royal Street business while receiving piano instruction under Eugène Prévost, former director of the Orleans Theater and the French Opera of New Orleans, and instruction in composition under C. A. Predigam. Barès played both piano and saxophone and composed for piano.

Barès's first-known published piece of sheet music, “Grande polka des Chasseurs à Pied de la Louisiane,” was copyrighted to him in 1860 despite the illegality of this action because he was a sixteen year old slave Very few slaves are ...


Maria-Antoaneta Neag

was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 3 February 1944, the youngest of three daughters born to Everald A. Barrett, a mathematician and physicist, and Mary M. Barrett (née McDonald), a teacher and secretary. She also had a younger brother. Her father was the first native-born headmaster of Cornwall College in Montego Bay. Nerine Barrett grew up in a family where music was truly a part of life. Her mother and two older sisters all played the piano, and they discovered that Nerine could already play the piano at the age of 2. Her musical lessons started soon after. In fact, she performed on Radio Jamaica on the eve of her third birthday. She studied in Kingston, first with Ena Helps and later with the Trinidadian musical scholar Rita Coore.

Following the recommendation of the world-renowned British pianist Dame Myra Hess, Barrett was awarded a Jamaican government grant in 1961 ...


Scott Yanow

jazz pianist and keyboardist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children of William Barron Sr., a construction worker, and Rella Bradley Barron. He was part of a very musical family that included older brother Bill Barron (who would become a notable tenor saxophonist), another brother, and two sisters, all of whom played piano. Kenny had his first piano lessons when he was twelve years old. His teacher was the pianist Ray Bryant’s sister, who was also the mother of the guitarist Kevin Eubanks. Kenny also played bass in high school (1956–1959), although he did not continue for long on that instrument.

Barron’s first musical job was with Mel Melvin’s rhythm-and-blues group in 1957. He was fifteen years old at the time, and brother Bill was also a member of the band. He picked up important experience working with the drummer Philly Joe ...


Burton W. Peretti

jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, was born William James Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey, the son of African American parents Harvey Lee Basie, an estate groundskeeper, and Lillian Ann Chiles, a laundress. Basie was first exposed to music through his mother's piano playing. He took piano lessons, played the drums, and acted in school skits. An indifferent student, he left school after junior high and began performing. He organized bands with friends and played various jobs in Red Bank, among them working as a movie theater pianist. In his late teens he pursued work in nearby Asbury Park, but he met with little success. Then, in the early 1920s, he moved to Harlem, where he learned from the leading pianists of the New York “stride” style, Willie “The Lion” Smith, James P. Johnson, Luckey Roberts, and especially Fats Waller, his exact contemporary.

Basie ...


William Carney

orchestra leader. William “Count” Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1904. Although he received some formal musical training, much of Basie's skill as a musician was the result of self-teaching and apprenticeship to some of the leading jazz musicians of the early 1920s. After working with Fats Waller in New York City and playing the organ in Harlem movie houses, Basie went on the road with Gonzelle White and her jazz band in 1927. Stranded in Kansas City, Missouri, as a result of poor decisions by White and several promoters, Basie became a mainstay of the local jazz scene there. He played piano for some of Kansas City's leading dance bands before joining the Oklahoma Blue Devils in the early 1930s.

Basie was subsequently recruited by Bennie Moten who gave him the nickname No Count as a joke about Basie s alleged financial ...


Although white clarinetist Benny Goodman was proclaimed the “King of Swing,” by all rights the title belonged to Count Basie. For nearly half a century, with the exception of a brief hiatus between 1949 and 1952, Basie headed one of the finest big bands in Jazz, one that has enjoyed an unrivaled longevity. No other jazz orchestra has continued so long under the same leadership. In fact, Basie led two distinct bands, which some critics designate the Old Testament and New Testament bands. The Old Testament band was Basie's aggregation from the mid-1930s through the 1940s; the New Testament band encompasses the Basie band from the early 1950s on.

The earlier band played hard-swinging, rough-around-the-edges Kansas City jazz and often used head arrangements—arrangements made up in rehearsal and memorized—rather than written charts. It featured brilliant musical stylists, including tenor saxophonist Lester Young, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry ...


James Sellman

Mario Bauzá was a talented multi-instrumentalist whose greatest musical achievement lay in his prominent role in the founding of Afro-Latin Jazz. Prior to his 1930 departure for New York City, Bauzá had concentrated on classical music, playing oboe and clarinet in the Havana Philharmonic. But in the United States he found his true calling as a jazz musician. In 1932, while working in Noble Sissle's band, Bauzá began to perform on trumpet, and he went on to serve as a trumpet player and the musical director for Chick Webb's big band (1933–1938). Bauzá, who had always been impressed with Ella Fitzgerald, helped convince the initially skeptical Webb of Fitzgerald's great potential as a vocalist.

Later Bauzá played trumpet with bandleaders Don Redman (1938–1939) and Cab Calloway (1939–1941 Bauzá played a major role in convincing Calloway to hire the brash ...