October 8, 2017 – Grady Tate was born on January 14, 1932 in Hayti, Durham, North Carolina. In 1963 he moved to New York City, where he became the drummer in Quincy Jones’s band.
Grady Tate’s drumming helped to define a particular hard bop, soul jazz and organ trio sound during the mid-1960s and beyond. His slick, layered and intense sound is instantly recognizable for its understated style in which he integrates his trademark subtle nuances with sharp, crisp “on top of the beat” timing (in comparison to playing slightly before, or slightly after the beat). The Grady Tate sound can be heard prominently on many of the classic Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery albums recorded on the Verve label in the 1960s. Continue reading Grady Tate 10/2017
September 3, 2017 – Walter Becker (Steely Dan) was born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York. Becker was raised by his father and grandmother, after his parents separated when he was a young boy and his mother, who was British, moved back to England. They lived in Queens and as of the age of five in Scarsdale, New York. Becker’s father sold paper-cutting machinery for a company which had offices in Manhattan.
He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan in the class of 1967. After starting out on saxophone, he switched to guitar and received instruction in blues technique from neighbor Randy Wolfe, better known as Randy California of the psychedelic westcoast sensation “Spirit”, a nickname he got from Jimi Hendrix while playing with him in New York in the mid sixties.
February 12, 2017 – Al Jarreau was born Alwin Lopez Jarreau on March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the fifth in a family of 6 children.
His father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and he and his mother performed at PTA meetings.
Jarreau went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Moving to San Franciso during the 1967 summer of love, Jarreau worked as a rehabilitation counselor and moonlighted with a jazz trio headed by George Duke. In San Francisco, Al’s natural musical gifts began to shape his future and by the late 60s, he knew without a doubt that he would make singing his life. He joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez to “spell” up-and-coming comics John Belushi, Bette Midler, Robert Klein, David Brenner, Jimmie Walker and others at the famed comedy venue, THE IMPROV and soon the duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito night club called Gatsby’s. This success contributed to Jarreau’s decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career.Continue reading Al Jarreau 2/2017
January 1, 2015 – Jeff Golub was born April 15th 1955 in Copley, Ohio. Golub started playing guitar, like so many, by emulating 1960s blues rock guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. Then, following up on the artists that these musicians cited as their inspiration, he delved deeper into the blues listening to Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, plus B.B., Albert, and Freddie King. He was in his teens when he first heard a Wes Montgomery record which set him on a whole new course of musical direction, which led him to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In a musical journey that spans more than three decades and encompasses a diverse assortment of projects from across the jazz, blues and rock spectrum, the visionary guitarist maintained the same honesty, enthusiasm and creativity that first won him his reputation as one of his era’s most skillful and original musicians. Whether it was his own inventive yet effortlessly accessible recordings or his collaborations with a dizzying array of artists, Golub’s work was consistently distinguished by the versatility and imagination that he brought to everything he did.
June 7, 2009 – Kenny Rankin was born in Los Angeles on February 10, 1940 but raised in the Washington Heights area of Brooklyn, New York.
He was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. Early in his career he worked as a singer-songwriter, while a well-regarded guitarist, he played in Bob Dylan’s backup band on the influential 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home.”
January 13, 2007 –Michael Leonard Brecker was born on March 29th 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Michael Brecker was exposed to jazz at an early age by his father, an amateur jazz pianist. Among the generation of jazz musicians that saw rock music not as the enemy but as a viable musical option, Brecker began studying clarinet, then moved to alto saxophone in school, eventually settling on the tenor saxophone as his primary instrument. After only a year at Indiana University, Michael Brecker moved to New York City in 1970 where he carved out a niche for himself as a dynamic and exciting jazz soloist.
He first made his mark at age 21 as a member of the jazz/rock band Dreams – a band that included his older brother Randy, trombonist Barry Rogers, drummer Billy Cobham, Jeff Kent and Doug Lubahn. Dreams was short-lived, lasting only a year, but influential (Miles Davis was seen at some gigs prior to his recording “Jack Johnson”).
May 29, 1992 – Ollie Halsall was born Peter John Halsall on March 14th 1949 in Southport, England.
Halsall started out playing drums and the vibraphone (an instrument on which he became extraordinarily proficient) before taking up the guitar in 1967. By 1970, as a member of the cult-favorite band, Patto, he had evolved into one of the world’s most sensational players. That he never got that recognition can only be explained by the fact that the world had a number of top players already in the marketing line up and there was only so much promotional effort made available by the record companies.
Other guitar gods that didn’t make the Super Stardom Line Up of those early days- but should have- were in my opinion Jan Akkerman from the Dutch prog band Focus, Eddie Hazel with Parliament-Funkadelic who died 7 months after Ollie, Chicago’s Terry Kath, Jimi Hendrix favorite guitar player at the time, and April Lawton from Ramatam.
March 14, 1991 – Doc Pomus was born Jerome Solon Felder on June 27th, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, he was a son of Jewish immigrants. Having had polio as a boy, he walked with the help of crutches. Later, due to post-polio syndrome, exacerbated by an accident, Felder eventually relied on a wheelchair.
Big Joe Turner turned him onto the Blues and using the stage name “Doc Pomus“, teenager Felder began performing as a blues singer. His stage name wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular; he just thought it sounded better for a blues singer than the name Jerry Felder. Pomus stated that more often than not, he was the only Caucasian in the clubs, but that as a Jew and a polio victim, he felt a special “underdog” kinship with African Americans, while in turn the audiences both respected his courage and were impressed with his talent. Gigging at various clubs in and around New York City, Pomus often performed with the likes of Milt Jackson, Mickey Baker and King Curtis. Continue reading Doc Pomus 3/1991
February 15, 1965 – Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama. Cole had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Each of Cole’s brothers would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”. Continue reading Nat King Cole 2/1965
May 16, 1953 – Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt was born on January 23, 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, into a French family of Manouche Romani descent. His father was named Jean Eugene Weiss, but used the alias “Jean-Baptiste Reinhard” on the birth certificate to hide from French military conscription. His mother, Laurence Reinhardt, was a dancer.
The birth certificate refers to: « Jean Reinhart, son of Jean Baptiste Reinhart, artist, and Laurence Reinhart, housewife, domiciled in Paris. Reinhardt’s nickname “Django”, in Romani means “I awake.” Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani encampments close to Paris, where he started playing violin, banjo, and guitar. His family made cane furniture for a living, but its members included several keen amateur musicians. Continue reading Django Reinhardt 5/1953