Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass
Ohhhhh Mr. Blonde makes me swoon.
Bobby Few (piano) 1935 - Birthday greetings to Bobby Few. Bobby is an American jazz pianist and vocalist.
Few was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in the Fairfax neighborhood of the city’s East Side. Upon his mother’s encouragement, he studied classical piano but later discovered jazz upon listening to his father’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” records. His father became his first booking agent and soon Few was gigging around the greater Cleveland area with other local musicians including Frank Wright. He knew avant-garde jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler as a youth, and the pair studied jazz and played together in high school.
Few led a trio in New York from 1958 to 1964, while working with a diverse range of musicians, including singer Brook Benton, and saxophonists Jackie McLean and Ayler. Few played on several of Ayler’s recordings, as well as with Alan Silva, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Steve Lacy, Noah Howard, Booker Ervin, and Kali Fasteau. From 2001 he toured with American saxophonist Avram Fefer, with whom he has recorded four critically acclaimed CDs. Few has been based in Europe since 1969, making regular trips back to the United States. He played with saxophonist Charles Gayle in 2011. Few is interviewed in a 2008 documentary, later released on DVD, on drummer Sunny Murray - “Sunny’s Time Now”.
Some of Few’s various playing styles were described by Kevin Whitehead: “He can play delicate single-note melodies, roll out lush romantic chords, rap out explicitly Monkish close-interval clanks - though he’s a busier pianist than Monk - or roil around in classic free style, using a sustain pedal to shape the density of his sound”.
Celia Cruz(vocalist) 1925-2003 :: Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad was a Cuban-American salsa performer. One of the most popular salsa artists of the 20th century, she earned twenty-three gold albums and was renowned internationally as the “Queen of Salsa” as well as “La Guarachera de Cuba.”
She spent much of her career living in New Jersey, and working in the United States and several Latin American countries. Leila Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said “Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.”
In 1950, Cruz made her first major breakthrough, after the lead singer of the Sonora Matancera, a renowned Cuban orchestra, left the group and Cruz was called to fill in. Cruz was hired permanently by the orchestra, but she wasn’t well accepted by the public at first. However, the orchestra stood by their decision, and soon Cruz became famous throughout Cuba. During the 15 years she was a member, the band traveled all over Latin America, becoming known as “Café Con Leche” (coffee with milk). Cruz became known for her trademark shout “¡Azúcar!” (“Sugar!” in Spanish). The catch phrase started as the punch line for a joke Cruz used to tell frequently at her concerts. Once, she ordered cafe cubano (Cuban coffee) in a restaurant in Miami. The waiter asked her if she’d like sugar, and she replied that, since he was Cuban, he should know that you can’t drink Cuban coffee without it! After having told the joke so many times, Cruz eventually dropped the joke and greeted her audience at the start of her appearances with the punch line alone.
With Fidel Castro assuming control of Cuba in 1959, Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, refused to return to their homeland and became citizens of the United States. In 1966, Cruz and Tito Puente began an association that would lead to eight albums for Tico Records. The albums were not as successful as expected. However, Puente and Cruz later joined the Vaya Records label. There, she joined accomplished pianist Larry Harlow and was soon headlining a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Cruz’s 1974 album with Johnny Pacheco, Celia y Johnny, was very successful, and Cruz soon found herself in a group named the Fania All-Stars, which was an ensemble of salsa musicians from every orchestra signed by the Fania label (owner of Vaya Records). With the Fania All-Stars, Cruz had the opportunity of visiting England, France, Zaire (Today’s DR Congo), and to return to tour Latin America; her performance in Zaire is included in the film Soul Power. In the late 1970s, she participated in an Eastern Air Lines commercial in Puerto Rico, singing the catchy phrase ¡Esto sí es volar! (This really is flying!).
In 1990, Cruz won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance - Ray Barretto & Celia Cruz - Ritmo en el Corazon. She later recorded an anniversary album with la Sonora Matancera. In 1992, she starred with Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas in the film The Mambo Kings. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded Cruz the National Medal of Arts. In 2001, she recorded a new album, on which Johnny Pacheco was one of the producers.
On July 16, 2002, Cruz performed to a full house at the free outdoor performing arts festival Central Park SummerStage in New York City. During the performance she sang, “Bemba Colora.” A live recording of this song was subsequently made available in 2005 on a commemorative CD honoring the festival’s then 20-year history entitled, “Central Park SummerStage: Live from the Heart of the City”.
Cleveland Watkiss(vocal) 1959 :: Many happy returns to Cleveland Watkiss. Cleveland is a British virtuoso vocalist, actor and composer. He was the winner of the London Jazz Awards for Best Vocalist in 2010 and was voted Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards best vocalist for three consecutive years.
He was one of the co-founders of the vastly influential Jazz Warriors big band. His vocals can be heard on their debut album, Out of Many People, which won a video award in Japan. Watkiss was then entered for the Wire/Guardian Jazz Awards and was voted best vocalist for three consecutive years, and was the opening act of choice for two of the world’s greatest female jazz vocalists, Cassandra Wilson and Abbey Lincoln. John Fordham, the Guardian music journalist, described Cleveland as “arriving on the scene with a bang”.
Watkiss has performed with a diverse range of artists from around the world, including: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Düsseldorf Symphonic Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis & JALO, Bob Dylan, Jackie Mittoo, Keith Richards, James Taylor Quartet, Art Blakey, Sly & Robbie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stevie Wonder, Patife, Lepaja Symphonic Orchestra, Carlinhos Brown, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALO), Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, Bobby McFerrin, The Who, Branford Marsalis, George Martin, Julian Joseph, Bocato Big Band, Lisa Stansfield, Courtney Pine, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest, Soul II Soul, London Chamber Orchestra, Kassa Mady, Goldie, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Wheeler big band, Sugar Minott, Talvin Singh, Björk, Pete Townshend, London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC), and many more.
Watkiss is also a keen music educator, working as a voice instructor for Singup, with workshops in venues/schools, colleges and universities around the UK.
More recently, Watkiss was cast in the starring role in Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips ground-breaking jazz operas Bridgetower and Shadowball to considerable acclaim. Cleveland has performed in many of the major concert halls, festivals and clubs around the world with “VocalSuite”, a solo voice performance, and his new Quartet “CWQ”, accompanied by Shaney Forbes (drums) and Mark Hodgson (bass) Marco Piccioni (guitars).
Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) 1917 - 1993 :: John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and occasional singer.
Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and improviser, building on the virtuoso style of Roy Eldridge but adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unknown in jazz. His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in popularizing bebop.
In the 1940s Gillespie, together with Charlie Parker, became a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. He taught and influenced many other musicians, including trumpeters Davis, Faddis, Navarro, Clifford Brown, Arturo Sandoval, Lee Morgan, and Chuck Mangione.
Gillespie’s first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, after which he joined the respective orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill, essentially replacing Roy Eldridge as first trumpet in 1937. Teddy Hill’s band was where Gillespie made his first recording, “King Porter Stomp”. In August 1937 while gigging with Hayes in Washington D.C., Dizzy met a young dancer named Lorraine Willis who worked a Baltimore–Philadelphia–New York circuit which included the Apollo Theatre. Willis was not immediately friendly but Gillespie was attracted anyway. The two finally married on May 9, 1940. They remained married until his death in 1993.
Dizzy stayed with Teddy Hill’s band for a year, then left and free-lanced with numerous other bands. In 1939, Gillespie joined Cab Calloway’s orchestra, with which he recorded one of his earliest compositions, the instrumental “Pickin’ the Cabbage”, in 1940. (Originally released on Paradiddle, a 78rpm backed with a co-composition with Cozy Cole, Calloway’s drummer at the time, on the Vocalion label, No. 5467).
Dizzy was fired by Calloway in late 1941, after a notorious altercation between the two. In 1943, Gillespie joined the Earl Hines band. Gillespie said of the Hines band, “People talk about the Hines band being ‘the incubator of bop’ and the leading exponents of that music ended up in the Hines band. But people also have the erroneous impression that the music was new. It was not. The music evolved from what went before. It was the same basic music. The difference was in how you got from here to here to here … naturally each age has got its own shit”.
Next, Gillespie joined Billy Eckstine’s (Earl Hines’ long-time collaborator) big band and it was as a member of Eckstine’s band that he was reunited with Charlie Parker, a fellow member of Hines’s band. In 1945, Gillespie left Eckstine’s band because he wanted to play with a small combo. A “small combo” typically comprised no more than five musicians, playing the trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass and drums.
Bebop was known as the first modern jazz style. Bebop was seen as an outgrowth of swing, not a revolution. Swing introduced a diversity of new musicians in the bebop era like Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, and Gillespie. Through these musicians, a new vocabulary of musical phrases was created. Gillespie compositions like “Groovin’ High”, “Woody n’ You” and “Salt Peanuts” sounded radically different, harmonically and rhythmically, from the swing music popular at the time. “A Night in Tunisia”, written in 1942, while Gillespie was playing with Earl Hines’ band, is noted for having a feature that is common in today’s music, a non-walking bass line. The song also displays Afro-Cuban rhythms.
In the late 1940s, Gillespie was also involved in the movement called Afro-Cuban music, bringing Afro-Latin American music and elements to greater prominence in jazz and even pop music, particularly salsa. Afro-Cuban jazz is based on traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms. Gillespie was introduced to Chano Pozo in 1947 by Mario Bauza, a Latin jazz trumpet player. Chano Pozo became Gillespie’s conga drummer for his band. Gillespie also worked with Mario Bauza in New York jazz clubs on 52nd Street and several famous dance clubs such as Palladium and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They played together in the Chick Webb band and Cab Calloway’s band, where Gillespie and Bauza became lifelong friends. Gillespie helped develop and mature the Afro-Cuban jazz style.
Afro-Cuban jazz was considered bebop-oriented, and some musicians classified it as a modern style. Afro-Cuban jazz was successful because it never decreased in popularity and it always attracted people to dance to its unique rhythms. Gillespie’s most famous contributions to Afro-Cuban music are the compositions “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo” (both co-written with Chano Pozo); he was responsible for commissioning George Russell’s “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop”, which featured the great but ill-fated Cuban conga player, Chano Pozo. In 1977, Gillespie discovered Arturo Sandoval while researching music during a tour of Cuba.
In the 1980s, Gillespie led the United Nation Orchestra. For three years Flora Purim toured with the Orchestra and she credits Gillespie with evolving her understanding of jazz after being in the field for over two decades.
In 1982, Gillespie had a cameo appearance on Stevie Wonder’s hit “Do I Do”. Gillespie’s tone gradually faded in the last years in life, and his performances often focused more on his proteges such as Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis; his good-humoured comedic routines became more and more a part of his live act
Don Byas(sax, tenor) 1912 -1972 :: Carlos Wesley “Don” Byas was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, most associated with Bebop. He played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and also led his own band. He lived in Europe for the last 26 years of his life. He started playing in local orchestras at the age of 17, with Bennie Moten, Terrence Holder and Walter Page. He founded and led his own college band, “Don Carlos and His Collegiate Ramblers”, during 1931-32, at Langston College, Oklahoma.
Byas switched to the tenor saxophone after he moved to the West Coast and played with several Los Angeles bands. In 1933, he took part in a West coast tour of Bert Johnson’s Sharps and Flats. He worked in Lionel Hampton’s band at the Paradise Club in 1935 along with the reed player and arranger Eddie Barefield and trombonist Tyree Glenn. He also played with Buck Clayton.
In 1937, Byas moved to New York to work with the Eddie Mallory band, accompanying Mallory’s wife, the singer Ethel Waters, on tour, and at the Cotton Club. He had a brief stint with arranger Don Redman’s band in 1938 and later in 1939-1940. He recorded his first solo record in May 1939: “Is This to Be My Souvenir” with Timme Rosenkrantz and his Barrelhouse Barons for Victor. He played with the bands of such leaders as Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, Edgar Hayes and Benny Carter. He spent about a year in Andy Kirk’s band, recording with him between March 1939 and January 1940, including a short solo on “You Set Me on Fire”
In September 1946 Byas went to Europe to tour with Don Redman’s big band in Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. They were the first civilian jazz big band to tour the old continent after the war. Byas remained in Europe. After playing in Belgium and Spain, he finally settled in Paris, and was able to record almost immediately.
He played with Bill Coleman in early 1949; touring that autumn with Buck Clayton. From 1948 onwards, Byas became a familiar figure not only around the Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, but also on the Riviera, where he could be seen in Saint-Tropez sporting a mask, tuba, flippers and an underwater spear-gun. Byas found work, could record regularly and had many friends. They adored not only his musical talent but his skills at the pool table, as a sportsman (fishing and diving) and a chef who cooked Cajun and Creole food.
Byas relocated to the Netherlands and married a Dutch woman. He worked extensively in Europe, often with such touring American musicians as Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Duke Ellington, Gillespie, Jazz at the Philharmonic, Bud Powell, and Ben Webster. He also recorded with fado singer Amália Rodrigues during his time in Europe. Byas did not return to the U.S. until 1970, appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Fred Hersch(piano) 1955 :: Birthday greetings to pianist Fred Hersch, described by Downbeat as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation.”
As a solo pianist (he was the first artist in the 75-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play week-long engagements as a solo pianist; his second featured run is documented on the 2011 release, Alone at the Vanguard); as leader of a widely praised trio whose album Whirl found its way onto numerous 2010 best-recordings-of-the-year lists; and as the impetus behind the ambitious 2011 production, My Coma Dreams, a full-evening work for 11 instruments, actor/singer and animation/multimedia—Hersch has fully lived up to the approbation of the New York Times who, in a featured Sunday Magazine article, praised him as “singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz – a jazz for the 21st century.”
He was nominated for two 2011 Grammy Awards for Alone at the Vanguard - for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo; these are his fourth and fifth nominations. His newest trio album, the two-CD Alive at the Vanguard, has been garnering wide critical acclaim as one of his best releases in his 30-year recording career. It has been awarded the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in France and it was named one of the Best CDs of 2012 by Downbeat Magazine.
Hersch has collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists throughout worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O’Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Long admired for his sympathetic work with singers, Hersch has joined with such notable jazz vocalists as Nancy King, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling. Hersch has received commissions from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the Gramercy Trio and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. A disc of his through-composed works, Fred Hersch: Concert Music 2001-2006, has been released by Naxos Records; these works are published by the prestigious firm Edition Peters.
Steve Cropper(guitar, electric) 1941 :: Steven Lee “Steve” Cropper is an American guitarist, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and has backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, also acting as producer on many of these records.
He later gained fame as a member of the Blues Brothers band.Rolling Stone lists him 36th on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Mojo ranks Cropper as the second-best guitarist ever. His nickname is “The Colonel”.
Cropper and guitarist Charlie Freeman formed the Royal Spades, who eventually became the Mar-Keys. The name referred to the marquee outside Stax studios, known as Satellite Records at the time. Eventually the Mar-Keys began playing on sessions and had a hit single of their own with “Last Night” in 1961.
When American Records founder Chips Moman left Stax, Cropper became the company’s A&R man. He became a founding member of the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s, along with Hammond organ player Booker T. Jones, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and drummer Al Jackson Jr.. As a house guitarist he played on many recordings such as “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” co-written with and performed by Otis Redding, and Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” on which he was mentioned by name. When Cropper played on the song’s remake by the Blues Brothers, lead singer John Belushi again mentioned Cropper.
Along with influential work with Booker T & The MG’s, Cropper co-wrote “Knock On Wood” with Eddie Floyd, “In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding. In 1969, Cropper released his first solo album, With a Little Help From My Friends.
When Cropper left Stax in the fall of 1970, the label lost one of its most successful producers and songwriters. Cropper then set up TMI Studios with Jerry Williams and former Mar-Key Ronnie Stoots. There he played guitar and produced various musicians including Tower Of Power, Rod Stewart, John Prine, José Feliciano, The Jeff Beck Group, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. It’s little-known that Cropper also played guitar on the cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” that appears on fellow Memphians Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers.
By 1975, Cropper had moved to Los Angeles and along with Jackson and Dunn, reformed Booker T. & the M.G’s. Jackson, whom Cropper called “the greatest drummer to ever walk the earth,” was murdered in his Memphis home before the group could make their comeback. In 1978, Cropper and Dunn became members of Levon Helm’s RCO All-Stars, and then went on to figure prominently in the Blues Brothers Band with the drummer Willie Hall. This led to two albums and two movie soundtracks. Cropper also re-recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” (1979) for Sammy Hagar. Cropper lived in Los Angeles for the next thirteen years before moving to Nashville and reuniting with the Blues Brothers Band in 1988.
In 1996, Cropper was named “the greatest living guitar player” by Britain’s Mojo magazine. When asked what he thought of Cropper, the guitarist Keith Richards said, “Perfect, man.” In February 1998, Cropper released Play It, Steve! which included some of soul music’s most enduring songs. The album title came from the “shout” of the title phrase by Moore on Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man,” and later by John Belushi (with the Blues Brothers).
All Day Baby!!!
Ashley’s Roachclip - The Soul Searchers (Salt Of The Earth, 1974)