Delfeayo Marsalis was born July 28, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana into the musical family in which father and three brothers are musicians. Lying under the piano as a child while his father played, he eventually tried the bass and the drums but by the sixth grade gravitated to the trombone. His early influences were J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn and Tommy Dorsey.
He went on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school and was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute. He graduated from Berklee School of Music and the University of Louisville with degrees in performance and audio production.
While a gifted trombonist, Delfeayo has recorded only five albums as a leader and is more prolific and better known for his work as a producer of over 100 acoustic jazz recordings. Since the age of 17 he has produced such artists as Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Roberts, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family members – Ellis, Branford and Wynton.
Along with Tonight Show engineer Patrick Smith, he coined “to obtain more wood sound from the bass recorded without usage of the dreaded bass direct”, a phrase that became the single sentence to define the recorded quality of many acoustic jazz recordings since the late ’80s.
Forming Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, the organization has trained over 300 youth and staged 8 original musicals, all of which are based upon the mission of “community unity.” Marsalis has toured with internationally renowned bandleaders Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Abdullah Ibrahim. In addition he has performed and toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, was a part of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and is an integral part of Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration DVD.
Delfeayo Marsalis, along with his father and brothers, are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.
Charlie Shoemake was born on July 27, 1937, in Houston, Texas to music loving parents who began him on piano at age six. Excelling in both baseball and music by high school graduation he was also playing vibes and had attracted the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals. He went on to Southern Methodist University to study music and play baseball. But it was during his first year he realized to be good he had to choose one and that choice was music.
In 1956 he moved to Los Angeles and embarked on an extensive study of the concepts of his idols, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell along with other greats Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Phil Woods, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Sonny Clark. During this period informal harmony studies with pianist Jimmy Rowles were very invaluable. But with the onset of rock and roll, the jazz scene began to dry up and he was forced to do studio work, commercials and accompanying vocalists to make ends meet.
Returning to the vibraphone in the Sixties and with the aid of Victor Feldman, Charlie was back in the jazz circles playing for composers Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. It was 1966 that a stop by Shelly’s Manne Hole that he was offered and took a five week tour with the George Shearing Quintet that turned into a 7 year relationship. This tenure saw him playing with the likes of Andy Simpkins, Stix Hooper, Harvey Mason, Joe Pass, Pat Martino and others.
By 1973 Shoemake opened a successful jazz improvisation school in Los Angeles and by 1990 he had taught and guided over 1500 people, most notably saxophonists Ted Nash and Tim Armacost, trombonist Andy Martin and even smooth jazz artists Dave Koz and Richard Elliot.
Closing his studio in 1990, he moved north to Cambria with the idea of having a quiet home base and touring around the world. But with no jazz in town, he approached a restaurateur to bring in jazz and today The Hamlet performs some thirty concerts a year and he appears with every major jazz musician stopping through from the East coast and Europe. Vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake is currently the Director of the Central Coast Jazz Institute.
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Erskine Ramsay Hawkins was born on July 26, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama and was named after a local industrialist who was rewarding parents with savings accounts for doing so. He played trumpet in the Industrial High School band directed by Fess Whatley, a teacher who trained numerous African-American musicians that went on to populate the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Louis Armstrong and Skitch Henderson.
Dubbed “The 20th Century Gabriel”, Hawkins composed the jazz standard “Tuxedo Junction” in 1939 with saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson. It became a hit during World War II rising on the national charts to #7 performed by his orchestra and #1 played by Glenn Miller’s. While a bandleader Erskine featured several female vocalist like Ida James, Delores Brown and Della Reese.
From 1967 to 1989 Hawkins played the lobby bar and show nightclub at The Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York. He was inducted in 1978 into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Erskine Hawkins, trumpeter and bandleader, died in Wilmington, New Jersey on November 11, 1993, at the age of 79.
Annie Ross was born Annabelle McCauley Allan Short to vaudeville parents on July 25, 1930 in Mitcham, London, England and was raised in Los Angeles, California by her aunt, singer Ella Logan. When she was seven years old she sang the “Bonnie Banks of o’ Loch Lomond” in Our Gang Follies of 1938 and played Judy Garland’s sister in Presenting Lily Mars. By the age of 14 she wrote the song “Let’s Fly” which won a songwriting contest and was recorded by Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers. By the end of her tenth grade she left school, went to Europe, changed her surname to Ross and quickly started her singing career.
Best known as a member of the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Annie is one of the early practitioners of a singing style known as vocalese, that involves the setting of original lyrics to an instrumental jazz solo. Her 1952 treatment of saxophonist Wardell Gray’s “Twisted” is a classic example of vocalese.
During the Fifties she recorded her first album, Singin’ and Swingin’with the MJQ, followed by Annie By Candlelight, Sing A Song With Mulligan and A Gasser! with Zoot Sims. She recorded seven albums with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross between 1957 and 1962. Their first, Sing A Song Of Basie resulted in a success and the trio became an international hit. Ross left the group in 1962 and in 1964 opened her own nightclub, Annie’s Room, in London.
Ross is also an accomplished actress appearing in a number of films such as Superman III, Throw Momma From The Train, Wicker Man, and on stage Three Penny Opera and Side By Side By Sondheim.
Annie has been the recipient of the ASCAP Jazz Wall Of Fame, the NEA Jazz Masters Award and the MAC Award for Lifetime Achievement and performs regularly at The Metropolitan Room in New York City.
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Charles McPherson was born on July 24, 1939 in Joplin, Missouri but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a teenager he played with Barry Harris, played the Detroit scene through the Fifties and in 1959 moved to New York City. Along with his Detroit partner Lonnie Hillyer joined Charles Mingus in 1960, a relationship that lasted until 1972.
The alto saxophonist, had a short-lived quintet with Hillyer in ’66, and then broke out on his own after leaving Mingus to become a full-time leader. A move to San Diego in 1978 became home while recording for such labels as Prestige, Mainstream, Xanadu, Discovery and Arabesque during his prolific career.
McPherson, a Charlie Parker disciple, who brought his own lyricism to the bebop idiom, was commissioned to help record ensemble renditions of pieces from Charlie Parker used on the 1988 “Bird” film soundtrack. To date he has 25 albums as a leader to his credit and another sixteen as a sideman working with the likes of Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Drew, Charles Tolliver, Clint Eastwood, Art Farmer and Sam Jones. The saxophonist has remained a stable figure in modern mainstream jazz.
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