Leon “Ndugu” Chancler was born on July 1, 1952 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He began playing drums when he was thirteen years old and while in high school he played with Willie Bobo and the Harold Johnson Sextet.
Graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in music education he had already performed with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, and recorded with Miles Davis, Fre ddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, among many others.
Chancler often works as a studio percussionist, his playing ranging from jazz to blues to pop, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, as well as Hampton Hawes, Harold Land, Azar Lawrence, Julian Priester, Lalo Schifrin, Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Donna Summer, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Carlos Santana, Hubert Laws, The Crusaders, Frank Sinatra, Weather Report, Lionel Richie, George Benson, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, Thelonious Monk, John Lee Hooker, Eddie Harris, and numerous others.
As an educator in 2006 he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and teaches at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California for three weeks every summer. He is a member of Percussive Arts Society, has been named as one of the top 25 Drummers in the world, is a composer and the sole proprietor of his own publishing company. Drummer, percussionist, studio musician, composer and producer Ndugu Chancler continues to perform, record and tour.
Stanley Clarke was born on June 30, 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was introduced to the bass as a schoolboy when he arrived late on the day instruments were distributed to students and acoustic bass was one of the few remaining selections. Graduating from Roxborough High School he attended the Philadelphia Musical Academy from which he graduated in 1971.
Moving to New York City he found work with Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck, Dexter Gordon, Gato Barbieri, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders, Gil Evans and Stan Getz.
During the 1970s Clarke turned to jazz fusion joining Chick Corea and Return to Forever and started his solo career released a number of albums under his own name, his best known solo albums being School Days, Stanley Clarke and Journey to Love.
Stanley began scoring for TV and film for shows like A Man Called Hawk, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Soul Food. Boyz n the Hood, Tina Turner What’s Love Got to Do With It, Passenger 57, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Panther, The Five Heartbeats, Book of Love, Little Big League, and Romeo Must Die and The Transporter.
Clarke formed Animal Logic with rock drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police, and singer-songwriter Deborah Holland. He went on to collaborate with Jeff Beck, Ron Wood’s New Barbarians, Clarke/Duke Project with George Duke, Miroslav Vitouš, a group with Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, Najee & Deron Johnson, The Rite of Strings with Jean-Luc Ponty and Al Di Meola and Vertu’ with Lenny White and Richie Kotzen.
He has been honored with Bass Player magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, has won a Grammy Award, was the first Rolling Stone magazine “Jazzman of the Year”, won “Best Bassist” from Playboy magazine for 10 straight years, and received the Key to the city of Philadelphia, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was featured in Los Angeles magazine as one of the 50 most influential people. Acoustic and electric bassist Stanley Clarke continues to compose for TV and film while performing, recording and touring with his band,
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Ralph Jose P. Burns was born on June 29, 1922 in Newton, Massachusetts and began playing the piano as a child. In 1938, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music, learning the most about jazz by transcribing the works of Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. While a student, Burns lived in big band singer Frances Wayne’s home. Her brother, bandleader Nick Jerret began working with him and found himself in the company of performers such as Nat King Cole and Art Tatum.
After a move to New York in the early 1940s, he met Charlie Barnet and the two began working together. By 1944, he joined the Woody Herman band with members Neal Hefti, Bill Harris, Flip Phillips, Chubby Jackson and Dave Tough. Together, the group developed a powerful and distinctive sound. For 15 years, Ralph wrote or arranged many of the band’s major hits including Bijou, Northwest Passage and Apple Honey, and on the longer work “Lady McGowan’s Dream” and the three-part Summer Sequence.
Burns worked with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz on his Early Autumn solo that launched Getz’s solo career. He also worked in a small band with soloists including Bill Harris and Charlie Ventura. He went on to collaborate with Billy Strayhorn, Lee Konitz and Ben Webster to create both jazz and classical recordings. He wrote compositions for Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin and Natalie Cole, and arranged the introduction of a string orchestra on two of Ray Charles’s biggest hits Come Rain or Come Shine and Georgia on My Mind.
In the 1960s he began arranging/orchestrating for Broadway including the major show Chicago, Funny Girl, No, No, Nanette, and Sweet Charity, arranged for Woody Allen’s film Bananas, worked with film-director Bob Fosse and in 1972 won the Academy Award as music supervisor for Cabaret. He composed the film scores for Lenny, New York, New York and All That Jazz for which he also won an Academy Award in 1979. He went on to win an Emmy Award for Baryshnikov on Broadway, and won the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations in 1999 for Fosse and posthumously in 2002 for Thoroughly Modern Millie
Burns arranged music for Mel Tormé, John Pizzarelli and Michael Feinstein and was inducted into the New England Jazz Hall of Fame in 2004. Bebop pianist, songwriter, bandleader, composer, conductor and arranger Ralph Burns passed away on November 21, 2001 Los Angeles, California.
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Magni Wentzel was born on June 28, 1945 in Oslo, Norway, the daughter of musicians Odd Wentzel-Larsen and Åse Wentzel. She began her career at the tender age of 6 in 1951 in Totenlaget Barneteater. She trained under opera singers Erna Skaug, Almar Heggen and professor Paul Lohmann in Wiesbaden. She took guitar lessons from 1956 and released her debut jazz album That Old Feeling in 1959.
Instead of attending the first year of the newly established Statens Operahøgskole in Oslo, by 1963 Wentzel took another path, choosing to study classical guitar in Spain, Switzerland and England. She was also taught the art of jazz song under Tete Montoliu.
Strongly influenced by Aretha Franklin, she was a member of the Geir Wentzel Band playing Club 7 in Oslo. Magni collaborated extensively with a series of Oslo based musicians, such as the quartets and quintets including Einar Iversen and Egil Kapstad. Peter Gullin dedicated the album Far, Far Away Where Longing Live to her and later she worked for Opera Mobile, then portrayed the mother in The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach.
She has performed and recorded with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Roger Kellaway, Halvard Kausland, Ole Jacob Hansen, Carl Morten Iversen, Terje Venaas, Egil Johansen, Åse Wentzel, Art Farmer, Red Mitchell, Mads Vinding and many others.
Vocalist, guitarist and composer Magni Wentzel, the recipient of the Gammleng-prisen in 1988 and the Buddyprisen in 1998, continues to perform, compose and record at the age of 71.
Otmaro Ruíz was born June 27, 1964 in Caracas, Venezuela. He began his formal musical studies at the age of eight on piano, classical guitar, harmony, history and aesthetics. He was exposed to other artistic activities such as drawing and acting and at the same time he studied organ.
Otmaro pursued a scientific career as a biologist at the Simón Bolívar University, but kept playing keyboards on the side, landing his first professional work in a pop group in 1980. Deciding to focus entirely on music, he dropped out of school in 1983, playing in his native Venezuela. He toured and recorded with local and visiting musicians, and also became a busy studio musician as a jingles composer and arranger.
By 1989 Ruíz had moved to Los Angeles, California, where he finished his academic training at CalArts, obtaining a master’s degree in jazz performance in 1993. He played with percussionist Alex Acuña, appearing in two albums during the early 1990s. He later recorded with Arturo Sandoval, which was followed in 1996 by a world tour supporting Gino Vanelli. The rest of the decade, he worked with Jon Anderson, Robbie Robertson, Herb Alpert and John McLaughlin. In the new millennium, he has recorded with Hubert Laws, Jing Chi and Jimmy Haslip among others and has recorded and toured with Dianne Reeves.
Pianist, keyboardist, composer and arranger Otmaro Ruíz remains active up to the present day, generally recording and touring with L.A.-based groups and vocalists, and commanding his own projects.
He has also participated in an international jazz-project “JB Project” with American bassist Brian Bromberg and Japanese drummer Akira Jimbo. They released two studio albums: Brombo, followed by Brombo II. In 2012, the Shepherd University at the Cornel School of Contemporary Music awarded Otmaro Ruiz with an Honorary Doctorate in Music Arts.