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Ashby, Irving C.  

Barry Kernfeld

jazz guitarist, was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston, the son of an apartment superintendent. His parents' names are unknown. The family was musical and closely in touch with the world of entertainment: “Fats Waller used to come by the house all the time,” Ashby told the writer James Haskins Ashby taught himself to play guitar At age fifteen he joined a band that played sophisticated arrangements for college dances and deeply embarrassed by his inability to read music he began to learn chordal notation He performed at a nightclub at Revere Beach while attending Roxbury Memorial High School Ashby s abilities as a classical guitarist won him a scholarship at an open audition for the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston but the school had no guitar teacher and thus the award went to the runner up So that s the extent of my conservatory background ...

Article

Baquet, Achille  

Charles Blancq

jazz clarinetist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Theogene V. Baquet, a cornetist, music teacher, and leader of the Excelsior Brass Band of New Orleans, and Leocadie Mary Martinez. Achille was the younger brother of the clarinetist George Baquet. No information exists about the extent of Achille Baquet's formal education; however, he was probably exposed to some musical instruction at an early age by virtue of his musical family. Nevertheless, like so many other New Orleans musicians of that period, he was initially an “ear” musician before he began lessons with Santo Juiffre at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans.

Later, while still a young man, Baquet developed a reputation of his own as a teacher of music fundamentals. Achille Baquet was both a successful teacher and an instrumentalist and was known to have been active both in early jazz bands and in ...

Article

Burrell, Kenny  

Sunny Nash

Grammy Award–winning guitarist, composer, and jazz educator, was born Kenneth Earl Burrell in Detroit, Michigan, during the Depression to parents about whom little information is available. It is known that he was the youngest of three sons, and that his family enjoyed music as part of their daily lives. His mother played piano and sang in the choir at Second Baptist Church, Detroit's oldest black congregation. Burrell's father played banjo and ukulele, which may account for Burrell's and his brother's mastery of stringed instruments.

Because there was a piano in the home, it became the first instrument Burrell played as a child. He performed once before an audience in a school auditorium. Listening to saxophonists like Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins saxophone was his first love but his family could not afford to buy him one Burrell began playing guitar and at age 12 settled for the inexpensive instrument ...

Article

Byrd, Donald  

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, was born Donaldson Touissant L’Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit, Michigan. His father was both a minister for the Methodist Church and a musician. Byrd studied at Cass Technical High School and, while still a teenager, performed with Lionel Hampton. During 1951–1953 he was in the U.S. Air Force, where he had the opportunity to play with military bands. After his discharge, he finished earning a degree in Music from Wayne Street University in 1954. Byrd moved to New York in mid-1955, where he earned a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music.

Very busy as a trumpeter as soon as he arrived in New York, Byrd worked with pianist George Wallington, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (during part of 1956) and drummer Max Roach. He also co-led the Jazz Lab with altoist Gigi Gryce.

At that time ...

Article

Carter, John  

Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and educator, was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Carter studied clarinet and alto saxophone as a youth. He earned a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1949 and a masters in music education from the University of Colorado in 1956.

Carter spent thirty-three years earning his living as a school teacher. He taught in Fort Worth's public schools from 1949 to 1961 and in the Los Angeles school system from 1961 to 1982. Having this important day job gave him the freedom to play whatever music he desired without having to earn a living from performing. Carter never compromised his music yet sought to educate audiences about what he was playing.

While originally inspired on the clarinet and alto saxophone by Charlie Parker and Lester Young, Carter made the acquaintance of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the late 1940s ...

Article

Davis, Anthony  

Eric Bennett

The son of the first African American professor at Princeton University, Anthony Davis studied classical music as a child in New York and as an undergraduate at Yale University he played free-jazz with Anthony Braxton. After earning his B.A. at Yale in 1975, Davis moved to New York City, where he supported himself as a Jazz pianist. As Davis developed musically, his compositions deviated from traditional jazz. He often abandoned improvisation and drew elements from Western classical music and African and South Asian rhythms. His recordings from this period include Hidden Voices (1979) and Lady of the Mirrors (1981). In 1981 Davis formed an eight-piece ensemble, Episteme, whose repertoire included a combination of improvised and scored music, blurring the distinction between jazz and classical music.

In the 1980s Davis began focusing much of his work on historical subjects. Middle Passage (1984 ...

Article

Dixon, Bill  

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter and educator, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His parents’ names are not recorded. He moved with his family to New York in 1934, where he was so inspired by attending a Louis Armstrong performance that he knew that he eventually wanted to play trumpet. Dixon briefly tried clarinet in high school, studied painting at Boston University, and served in the army, but in 1946, when he was 21, finally began studying the trumpet.

Dixon studied at the Hartnette Conservatory of Music from 1956 to 1961. He freelanced as a musician in New York during this period but also had a full-time day job working at the United Nations from 1956 to 1962. In 1962 Dixon dedicated himself to music. A free-jazz and avant-garde trumpeter and composer, Dixon (who met Cecil Taylor as early as 1951 was a newcomer at the age of ...

Article

Graves, Milford  

Scott Yanow

jazz drummer, was born in Queens, New York. His parents’ names are not recorded. Graves played congas as a child. As a teenager he was featured on timbales in a Latin band from 1959 to 1961. After seeing Elvin Jones play with John Coltrane, Graves taught himself how to play drums. In his twenties he studied Indian music extensively, learning the tabla from Wasantha Singh. He worked with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in the early 1960s.

Starting in 1964, Graves was an important contributor to the avant-garde jazz scene in New York. One of the earliest free-form drummers, Graves came to the jazz world's attention when he was featured at the historic October Revolution concerts in late 1964 with saxophonist Giuseppi Logan and the New York Art Quartet He showed that it was possible to swing while playing very freely and he helped liberate ...

Article

Green, Bunky  

Scott Yanow

jazz alto saxophonist and educator, was born Vernice Green Jr. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The names and occupations of his parents are not recorded. He was mostly self-taught on the alto sax and considered Charlie Parker to be his main early influence. By the time he was 15, Green had memorized most Charlie Parker solos and was sitting in at clubs.

Green mostly played local jobs in Milwaukee, including at a club called the Brass Rail for several years. In 1960 he had a brief stint with Charles Mingus, where he replaced Jackie McLean. Mingus was a strong inspiration, and Green credited Mingus with helping him find his own style. Green moved to Chicago later that year and became a significant part of the local scene. He played with the top Chicago musicians of the period, including Ira Sullivan; tenors Eddie Harris Nicky Hill and Red Saunders ...

Article

Hamilton, Jimmy  

Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and tenor-saxophonist, was born in Dillon, South Carolina, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His cousin was saxophonist Bootsie Barnes.

A talented musician from a young age, Hamilton played baritone horn, piano, trumpet, and trombone starting when he was just seven. A professional as a teenager, he played trumpet and trombone with Frankie Fairfax's band, sitting in a trumpet section next to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Shavers. He also gained experience working in a group led by Lonnie Slappy.

By the late 1930s, Hamilton had settled on clarinet and tenor. He worked with the big bands of Lucky Millinder and Jimmy Mundy, and gained some recognition for his playing with pianist Teddy Wilson's sextet during 1940–1942. Hamilton was most influenced during his early years by Benny Goodman. He also worked with Benny Carter Eddie Heywood and Yank Porter and had chances to ...

Article

Heath, Jimmy  

James Fargo Balliett

jazz saxophonist, composer-arranger, and teacher, was born James Edward Heath, one of four children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Percy Heath Sr., an auto mechanic and amateur clarinetist, and Arlethia, a hairdresser who sang in the church choir. His brothers Percy and Albert (Tootie Heath) also went on to become noted jazz musicians. His parents bought their first home in 1945 on the south side of Philadelphia, and it became a place for musicians to gather, make music, and have meals.

Heath was sent to Wilmington North Carolina to attend school when he was fourteen This was where his grandparents lived and owned a local food market It was during this time that he began to pursue music playing an alto sax his father sent him as a Christmas present Just five feet three inches tall Heath was considered too small to play ...

Article

Henderson, Joe  

Brian P. Hochman

jazz saxophonist, composer, and educator, was born Joseph Arthur Henderson in Lima, Ohio, the son of Dennis Lloyd Henderson, a worker in a steel mill, and Irene Farley. Henderson was one of fifteen children, and much of his introduction to the world of jazz came as a result of the musical interests of his many siblings. An older brother, James T., was an especially important influence: his collection of jazz recordings sparked Joe's curiosity, and James eventually helped Joe, then around nine, to transcribe a solo by Lester Young. Joe was precocious from the beginning. By the age of sixteen he was performing professionally, and he had already penned what eventually became his best-known jazz composition, “Recordame.”

After graduating from high school Joe Henderson left Lima for Frankfort Kentucky to study music at Kentucky State College He moved to Detroit just a year ...

Article

Hendricks, Barkley  

Cynthia Haveson Veloric

artist and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Ruby Arlene Powell, a homemaker, and Barkley H. Hendricks, a carpenter who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Barkley L. Hendricks “didn't like school” (unpublished interview, 2005), preferring to sketch and draw in his spare time, but once he entered high school, his teachers encouraged his art studies. Another outlet for his talent was the high school yearbook, for which he was both editor and illustrator. Outside school he created chalk and pastel markings on city walls, which he later called “pre-aerosol graffiti” (unpublished interview, 2005).

After graduating from Simon Gratz High School in 1963, Hendricks enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the oldest art school in the country. At the time, there were few black students or faculty. He can easily recall fellow students Lou Sloan and Raymond Saunders ...

Article

Hill, Andrew  

Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Chicago. As a child he played accordion, danced, and sang on street corners. His talent was first rewarded when he won two Thanksgiving turkeys in a talent show sponsored by the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper that he delivered to homes in his neighborhood, including that of the pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines. As a child Hill attended the University of Chicago's experimental Laboratory School, and he began to play the piano seriously around 1950, learning blues changes from the baritone sax player Pat Patrick; within a couple of years Hill was playing in local rhythm and blues groups. He later noted that jazz was everywhere in his Chicago childhood: it was “the spiritual element that kept the community together” (Osby).

Hill made his recording debut on a 1954 Vee-Jay session with a quintet led by the bassist Dave Shipp ...

Article

Land, Harold  

Scott Yanow

He grew up in San Diego and began playing tenor sax when he was sixteen.

Land made his recording debut on his own record date for Savoy in 1949. He worked locally in Southern California for several years, developing a cool-toned hard bop style influenced by Lucky Thompson, Wardell Gray, and Dexter Gordon. In 1954 he became a member of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, his first opportunity to become prominent. Land moved to Philadelphia, where the group was based, he remained there for two years and appeared on some classic albums, such as Study in Brown (1955). However, following news of his grandmother’s health problems, he left the band in late 1955 and moved back to Los Angeles where he rejoined his wife, Lydia, and young song. He was succeeded by Sonny Rollins.

Land was based in Los Angeles for ...

Article

Lewis, John  

Jay Sweet

Lewis, John (03 May 1920–29 March 2001), pianist, composer, and educator, was born John Aaron Lewis in La Grange, Illinois. His parents' names do not appear in readily available sources of information; reportedly, his father was an interior decorator (or, according to some sources, an optometrist), his mother a classically trained singer. After the death of his father, Lewis moved with his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a young child. By the time he was four, his mother had also passed away. Being raised mostly by relatives in a large musical family, Lewis at the age of seven began studying piano with his aunt. As a teenager he performed locally with his cousins and several older musicians. In 1938 he enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where he first majored in anthropology, then switched to music.

After graduating in 1942 Lewis served overseas in the ...

Article

Lewis, John Aaron  

Jay Sweet

pianist, composer, and educator, was born in La Grange, Illinois. His parents' names do not appear in readily available sources of information; reportedly, his father was an interior decorator (or, according to some sources, an optometrist), and his mother was a classically trained singer. After the death of his father, Lewis moved with his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a young child. By the time he was four, his mother had also passed away. Being raised mostly by relatives in a large musical family, Lewis at the age of seven began studying piano with his aunt. As a teenager he performed locally with his cousins and several older musicians. In 1938 he enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where he first majored in anthropology, then switched to music.

After graduating in 1942 Lewis served overseas in the U S Army Special Services Musical Branch ...

Article

McLean, Jackie  

Kofi Natambu

alto saxophonist, composer, and teacher, was born John Lenwood McLean Jr. in Harlem, New York, to John Lenwood McLean Sr., a jazz guitarist who died when Jackie was seven. Raised by his doting mother, whose name is unknown, Jackie McLean grew up in Harlem's Sugar Hill district, a community teeming with musical talent. In this neighborhood he met and worked with Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins, musicians who served as his early mentors and later became jazz greats. At the age of fifteen McLean began playing alto saxophone. The bebop pianist and composer Bud Powell gave McLean music lessons, teaching him chord changes and the important lesson of how to keep and extend rhythmic time. McLean later described Powell as “my inspiration.” In 1948 Powell introduced McLean to the jazz giant and fellow alto saxophonist Charlie Parker who quickly became ...

Article

Newton, Frankie  

Jack Sohmer

jazz trumpeter, was born William Frank Newton in Emory, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents, childhood, or musical training, but his first professional work was with the Cincinnati-based band of Clarence Paige, with whom he began playing several years before 1926. In early 1927 while in Lexington, Kentucky, he joined Lloyd Scott's Symphonic Syncopators, then on tour. When Lloyd and his brother Cecil Scott returned home to work in Ohio, Newton settled in Harlem, where he played trumpet during the summer of 1927 in Elmer Snowden's band at the Nest Club. In the fall he went on another tour with the Scotts, and in December the band took up residency at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.

Newton remained at the Savoy through the next two years, making his first records with Cecil Scott's Bright Boys in November 1929 After their return to the Savoy following ...

Article

Perez, Manuel  

Barry Kernfeld

brass band and dance band cornetist, was born Emile Emanuel Perez in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Catholic and a Creole, he was the son of a Hispanic father and an African American mother, whose names are unknown. His parents ran a grocery on Touro Street, and his father was also a cigar maker. Manuel was educated in a French-speaking grammar school, and he was raised on European classical and popular music. He took up cornet at age twelve, after which he entered the emerging world of syncopated music that later became ragtime and jazz.

While working steadily as a cigar maker Perez played in brass bands and dance bands in New Orleans, and he recalled that he was already playing ragtime on cornet in 1898. He married Lena (maiden name unknown) in 1900 they had at least one child That same year he joined the Onward Brass ...