Albert Collins (guitar, electric) 1932-1993 :: Albert Collins was an American electric blues guitarist and singer with a distinctive guitar style. Collins was noted for his powerful playing and his use of altered tunings and capo. His long association with the Fender Telecaster led to the title “The Master of the Telecaster”
He was introduced to the guitar at an early age through his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins, also a Leona resident, who frequently played at family associations (reunions). In 1938 his family relocated to Marquez, Texas, eventually settling in Houston, Texas, in 1941 where he later attended Jack Yates High School. Collins initially took piano lessons when he was young but during periods when his piano tutor was unavailable his cousin Willow Young would loan him his guitar and taught Collins the altered tuning that he used throughout his career. At the age of twelve, he made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing “Boogie Chillen’” by John Lee Hooker. At eighteen Collins started his own group called the Rhythm Rockers in which he honed his craft while remaining in employment including four years working on a ranch in Normangee, Texas, followed by twelve years of driving a truck for various companies. Collins initially played an Epiphone guitar during his first two years with the Rhythm Rockers but in 1952 after seeing Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown playing a Fender Esquire he decided to purchase a Fender. Collins had wanted to buy a Telecaster but due to their cost he opted instead to buy an Esquire which he then took to the Parker Music Company in Houston to have it fitted with a genuine Telecaster neck; this would remain his main guitar up until his move to California and the guitar that he used on his earliest recordings including his signature song “Frosty”. In 1954 Collins, then aged 22 and still without a record release, was joined in the Rhythm Rockers by the 17 year old Johnny Copeland who had just left the Dukes of Rhythm (a band he had started with Houston blues musician Joe “Guitar” Hughes).
Collins started to play regularly in Houston most notably at Shady’s Playhouse where James “Widemouth” Brown (brother of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown) and other well-known Houston blues musicians would meet for the Blue Monday jams. By the mid 1950s he had established his reputation as a local guitarist of note and had started to appear regularly at a Fifth Ward club called Walter’s Lounge with the group Big Tiny and the Thunderbirds. The saxophonist and music teacher Henry Hayes had heard about Collins from Joe “Guitar” Hughes. After seeing him perform live Hayes encouraged Collins to record a single for Kangaroo Records; a label he had started with his friend M. L. Young. Collins recorded his debut single “The Freeze” b/w “Collins Shuffle” for Kangaroo Records at Gold Star Studios, Houston, in the spring of 1958 with Henry Hayes on saxophone. Texas blues bands of this period incorporated a horn section and Collins later credited Henry Hayes with teaching him how to arrange for horns. In 1964 he recorded “Frosty” at Gulf Coast Recording Studio, Beaumont, Texas, for Hall Records owned by Bill Hall, who had signed Collins on the recommendation of Cowboy Jack Clement; a songwriter and producer who had engineered sessions for Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records. His debut album The Cool Sounds Of Albert Collins was released in 1965 on the TCF label and consisted of previously released instrumentals including “Thaw Out” and “Don’t Lose Your Cool”.
Albert Collins was an inspiration to a generation of Texas guitar players including Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughn. He was amongst a small group of Texas blues players, along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Johnny Copeland, who together shaped the legacy of T-Bone Walker into a modern blues template that was to have a major influence on many later players. From an interview with Robert Cray in Guitar World magazine:
…it was seeing Albert Collins at a rock festival in 1969 that really turned his head around. Two years later, Collins played at Cray’s high school graduation party in Tacoma, Washington, and the ice-pick sound really sunk in deep. “That was it,” Cray recalls. “That changed my whole life around. From that moment I started seriously studying the blues.”
Curtis Lundy(bass) 1955 :: Happy birthday to Curtis Lundy. Curtis is an American double bass player, composer, producer, choir director and arranger. Lundy is best known for his work as part of jazz vocalist Betty Carter’s band, through whose ranks several eventually renowned musicians have passed.
Lundy has also played on other jazz artists’ recordings, including albums by John Hicks, Bobby Watson, Steve Nelson Quintet and Johnny Griffin. Inn the late 1980s, he briefly stepped out of the background and issued Just Be Yourself (1988). A decade later, with Justin Time Records, he released Against All Odds (1999) and Purpose (2002). Both albums feature pianists John Hicks and Anthony Wonsey.
Curtis Lundy’s arrangement of “Walk With Me”, recorded by the ARC Gospel Choir was sampled by rapper Kanye West and became the Grammy Award Winning, ground breaking hit “Jesus Walks”.
Curtis Lundy is the brother of jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy.
Dave Holland(bass) 1946 :: Many happy returns to bassist Dave Holland. Dave Holland is an English jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader who has been performing and recording for five decades. He has lived in the United States for 40 years.
His work ranges from pieces for solo performance to big band. Holland runs his own independent record label, Dare2, which he launched in 2005. He has explained his musical philosophy by quoting fellow jazz artist Sam Rivers. “Sam said, ‘Don’t leave anything out — play all of it,’ ”
Holland has played with some of the greatest names in jazz, and has participated in several classic recording sessions.
At 20, Holland was keeping a busy schedule in school, studios and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, London’s premier jazz club, where he often played in bands that supported such touring American jazz saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Joe Henderson. He also linked up with other British jazz musicians, including guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonist Evan Parker, reedsman John Surman, South Africa-born London-based pianist Chris McGregor, and drummer John Stevens, and performed on the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s classic 1968 album Karyobin. He also began a working relationship with Canada-born, England-based trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.
In 1968, Miles Davis and Philly Joe Jones heard him at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, playing in a combo that opened for the Bill Evans Trio. Jones told Holland that Davis wanted him to join his band (replacing Ron Carter). Davis left the UK before Holland could contact him directly, and two weeks later Holland was given three days’ notice to fly to New York for an engagement at Count Basie’s nightclub. He arrived the night before, staying with Jack DeJohnette, a previous acquaintance. The following day Herbie Hancock took him to the club, and his two years with Davis began. This was also Hancock’s last gig as Davis’s pianist, as he left afterwards for a honeymoon in Brazil and was replaced by Chick Corea when he couldn’t return for an engagement due to illness. Holland’s first recordings with Davis were in September 1968, and he appears on half of the album Filles de Kilimanjaro (with Davis, Corea, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams).
Holland was a member of Davis’s rhythm section through the summer of 1970; he appears on the albums In a Silent Way and Bitches’ Brew. All three of his studio recordings with Davis were important in the evolution of jazz fusion.In the first year of his tenure with Davis, Holland played primarily upright bass. By the end of 1969, he played electric bass guitar (often treated with wah-wah pedal and other electronic effects) with greater frequency as Davis’s music became increasingly electronic, amp-based and funky.
Holland was also a member of Davis’s working group during this time, unlike many of the musicians who appeared only on the trumpeter’s studio recordings. The so-called “lost quintet” of Davis, Shorter, Corea, Holland and Jack DeJohnette was active in 1969 but never made any studio recordings as a quintet
After leaving Davis’s group, Holland briefly joined the avant-garde jazz group Circle with Chick Corea, Barry Altschul and Anthony Braxton. This started a 34-year association with the ECM record label. After recording a few albums, Circle disbanded when Corea departed. 1972 saw the recording of Conference of the Birds, with Rivers, Altschul and Braxton – Holland’s first recording as a leader, and the beginning of a long musical relationship with Rivers. The title of the album is taken from that of a 4,500 line epic poem by Persian Sufist writer, Farid al-Din Attar.
Holland formed his first working quintet in 1983, and over the next four years released Jumpin’ In, Seeds of Time, and Razor’s Edge, featuring alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, trumpeter Wheeler and trombonist Julian Priester. Subsequently, he formed the Dave Holland Trio (with Coleman and DeJohnette) for the 1988 album Triplicate, and teamed with Coleman, electric guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith for Extensions. He also recorded Life Cycle, an album of compositions played on solo cello.
During the ‘90s, he renewed an affiliation, begun in the 1970s, with Joe Henderson, joining the tenor saxophonist on So Near (So Far), a tribute to Miles Davis, Porgy & Bess, and Joe Henderson Big Band. Holland also reunited with vocalist Betty Carter, touring and recording the live album Feed the Fire (1993). Fellow Davis alumnus Herbie Hancock invited Holland to tour with him in 1992, subsequently recording The New Standard. Holland joined Hancock’s band again in 1996. More recently, he was part of the sessions for River: The Joni Letters, winner of the 2008 Grammy for Album of the Year.
In 2009, Holland was a co-founder of an all-star group called The Overtone Quartet. The group consisted of Holland on bass, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Jason Moran on piano, and Eric Harland on drums. The group toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.
Donny Hathaway(vocalist) 1945 - 1979 :: Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician. Hathaway contracted with Atlantic Records in 1969 and with his first single for the Atco label, “The Ghetto, Part I” in early 1970, Rolling Stone magazine “marked him as a major new force in soul music.”
His collaborations with Roberta Flack scored high on the charts and won him the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the duet, “Where Is the Love” in 1973.
Donny Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer. Working first at Chicago’s Twinight Records, he later did the arrangements for hits by The Unifics (“Court of Love” and “The Beginning Of My End”) and took part in projects by The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. After becoming a “house producer” for Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records, he started recording there as a member of The Mayfield Singers. He recorded his first single under his own name in 1969, a duet with singer June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby”. They also recorded the duet “Just Another Reason”, released as the b-side. Former Cleveland Browns president Bill Futterer, who as a college student promoted Curtom in the southeast in 1968 and 1969, was befriended by Hathaway and has cited Hathaway’s influence on his later projects.
That year, Hathaway signed to Atco Records after being spotted for the label by producer/musician King Curtis at a trade convention. He released his first single of note, “The Ghetto, Pt. 1”, which he co-wrote with former Howard roommate Leroy Hutson, who became a performer, writer and producer with Curtom. The track appeared the following year on his critically acclaimed debut LP, Everything Is Everything, which he co-produced with Ric Powell while also arranging all the cuts.
His second LP, Donny Hathaway, consisted mostly of covers of contemporary pop, soul, and gospel songs. His third album Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway was an album of duets with former Howard University classmate and label mate Roberta Flack that established him, especially on the pop charts. The album was both a critical and commercial success, including the Ralph MacDonald-penned track “Where Is The Love”, which proved to be not only an R&B success, but also scored Top Five on the pop Hot 100. The album also included a number of other covers, including versions of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, “Baby I Love You”, originally a hit for Aretha Franklin, and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”.
Perhaps Hathaway’s most influential recording is his 1972 album, Live, which has been termed “one of the best live albums ever recorded” by Daryl Easlea of the BBC. The album can also be found on the British online music and culture magazine The Quietus’ list of “40 Favourite Live Albums”. It was recorded at two concerts: side one at The Troubadour in Hollywood, and side two at the The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.
Donny Hathaway is also known as the co-composer and performer of the Christmas standard, “This Christmas”. The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television and advertising.
His final studio album, Extension of a Man came out in 1973 with two tracks, “Love Love Love” and “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” reaching both the pop and R&B charts. However, it was probably best noted for his classic ballad, “Someday We’ll All Be Free” and a six-minute symphonic-styled instrumental piece called “I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry”. He told UK music journalist David Nathan in 1973, “I always liked pretty music and I’ve always wanted to write it.” Added the writer, “He declined to give one particular influence or inspiration but said that Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky were amongst whom he studied.”
Mark Helias(bass, acoustic) 1950 :: Birthday greetings to Mark Helias. Mark is an American jazz double bass player and composer born in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
He did not begin playing the double bass until the age of 20, graduating from Yale University’s School of Music with a Masters degree in 1976. He has also studied at Rutgers University. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, The New School, and SIM (School for Improvised Music).
Helias has performed with a wide variety of musicians, first and foremost with trombonist Ray Anderson, with whom he led the ironic 1980s avant-funk band Slickaphonics, and a trio with Gerry Hemingway on drums, formed in the late 1970s, later named BassDrumBone, and continuing to play together. Besides Helias performed with the previous members of Ornette Colemans original band, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, and Ed Blackwell, just as with musicians affiliated with the AACM, such as Anthony Braxton, Anthony Davis, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Julius Hemphill. Furthermore he played with Cecil Taylor, Marilyn Crispell, Simon Nabatov, and reed players i cludings Oliver Lake, Carlos Ward, Arthur Blythe, Don Byron, and Marty Ehrlich, whereas less usual were performances with Abbey Lincoln, Mose Allison, and J.B. Horns.
Since 1984 Mark Helias has released six recordings under his own name and further six albums leading the archetypal improvising trio Open Loose since 1996. The group comprises Helias on bass, first Ellery Eskelin, then Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums.
Wendell Harrison(sax, tenor) 1942 :: Bornday greetings to Wendell Harrison. Wendell is an American jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist.
Harrison began playing clarinet at age seven, and switched to tenor saxophone in high school. He studied under Barry Harris before moving to New York City in 1960. There he played with Jack McDuff, Elvin Jones, Sonny Stitt, Grant Green, Hank Crawford, and Sun Ra in the 1960s. In 1970 he moved back to Detroit and has remained a mainstay of the music scene there for over forty years.
In addition to albums as a leader, Harrison has worked as a session musician, and has a long list of famous artists with whom he has recorded. Early collaborations included recordings and concerts with premier jazz, R&B, soul, and Motown musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Sun Ra, and Marvin Gaye.
Harrison co-founded the Tribe record label and collective with Phil Ranelin in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he initiated the construction of a non profit “jazz performance and education organization”; Rebirth Inc. Two related record labels; Rebirth Records, and Wen-Ha Records are the product of Rebirth, Inc. He has worked as an educator, and played with Leon Thomas, Marcus Belgrave, Dennis Rowland, Kirk Lightsey, Roy Brooks, Charles Tolliver, and James Carter, among many other famous jazz musicians. Also, Harrison has collaborated with performers outside the jazz realm, such as techno artist Carl Craig, rapper Proof, R&B artist Amp Fiddler, and world music performer Sean Blackman.