José James was born on January 20, 1978 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and combines jazz, soul, drum’n’bass, and spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. Though his main influences are John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, and Billie Holiday, his sound is reminiscent of ’70s jazz-soul icon Terry Callier, and his music feels more like an update of Gil Scott-Heron’s approach, but he makes it distinctly his own.
José attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and in 2008 debuted his first album, The Dreamer, on the Brownswood label. Blackmagic followed in 2010, as well as, For All We Know on the Impulse! Label, the latter becoming the winner of both the Edison Award and L’Académie du Jazz Grand Prix for best Vocal Jazz Album of 2010.
Signing to Blue Note Records in 2012 James issued Trouble, his first single for the label, with his fourth album, No Beginning, No End released the following year. New compositions brought the release of 2014’s While You Were Sleeping, a collection that reflected rock alongside R&B and jazz.
In commemoration of the 100th birthday of his musical mother, Billie Holiday, José recorded nine songs written by or associated with her on Yesterday I Had the Blues. He fronted a band that included pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland.
Vocalist and bandleader José James, who blends modern jazz and hip-hop, continues to perform globally both as a leader and with other groups.
More Posts: vocal
Raymond Eberle was born January 19, 1919 in Mechanicville, New York and followed in his elder brother Bob’s footsteps who fronted Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra as a Big Band singer. With no formal training he started singing in his teens and in 1938, when Glenn Miller, looking for a male vocalist asked Bob if he had any siblings at home who could sing, he answered yes, and Ray was hired on the spot.
Ray went on to find success with Miller deeming the songs for the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard At Last, to be among his favorites. He also appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard’s College Poll for male vocalist.
Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. When stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, Ray was late for a rehearsal and Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in 1942 with Skip Nelson. After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa’s band before launching a solo career. He appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, and later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke’s orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade.
He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. He led his own orchestra called, The Ray Eberle Orchestra as well as the Serenade In Blue Orchestra from 1943 and maintained his band until his death.
Vocalist and bandleader Ray Eberle died of a heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60.
More Posts: vocal
Ray C. Sims was born on January 18, 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, the older brother of Zoot Sims. He learned to play the trombone and coming of age he was a part of the Swing Era in jazz.
He first played with Jerry Wald, then with Bobby Sherwood, and in 1947 was with Benny Goodman and recorded How High The Moon on Capitol Records. From 1949 to 1958 he was a trombone soloist and vocalist in the Les Brown Orchestra before joining Harry James.
In 1955 he recorded with Les Brown on trombone and vocals, Bill Johnson, Benny Goodman, Harry James and Frank Sinatra, among others It’s A Lonesome Old Town. Ray was primarily a lead trombone or session player and over the course of his career played and recorded with Earle Spencer, Lyle Griffin, Anita O’Day, Dave Pell, Billy Eckstine, The Four Freshmen, Ray Anthony, Peggy Lee, Bill Holman, Jackie and Roy, Lena Horne, Georgia Carr, Red Norvo, John Towner Williams, Jerry Gray, Maxwell Davis, Ernie Andrews, Frank Capp and Corky Corcoran.
Trombonist and vocalist Ray Sims, who never led a session, passed away in 2000.
More Posts: trombone
Earl Theodore Dunbar was born on January 17, 1937 in Port Arthur, Texas. He became interested in jazz at the age of seven and in the 1950s he joined several groups while studying pharmacy at Texas Southern University and during that period he became influenced by Wes Montgomery.
He trained as a pharmacist at Texas Southern University, but by the 1970s only did pharmacy work part-time. Dunbar was also a trained numerologist and had studied other aspects of mysticism. At one point he received accolades from Ebony and Down Beat.
In 1966 Ted moved to New York City and gained more experience. In 1972 he became one of the first jazz professors at Rutgers University and taught Kevin Eubanks, Vernon Reid and Peter Bernstein, as well as many others. He published four volumes on jazz.
He recorded five albums as a leader and another fifteen albums with Gene Ammons, Kenny Barron, Richard Davis, Gil Evans, Curtis Fuller, Albert Heath, Willie Jackson, Charles McPherson, David “Fathead” Newman, Don Patterson, Bernard Purdie, Sam Rivers, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, McCoy Tyner and Tony Williams among others. Guitarist and educator Ted Dunbar passed away on May 29, 1998 of a stroke in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
More Posts: guitar
Phillip Guilbeau was born on January 16, 1926 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Like many of his fellow musicians he took up the trumpet and during World War II served in the Navy, Honorably discharged in 1945 he moved to Detroit, Michigan and successfully became a session player. Throughout his career he recorded on hundreds of albums including sessions with Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, David “Fathead” Newman, Otis Redding, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, soloist on Hank Crawford’s recording of What A Difference A Day Makes from his Soul Clinic album and with Ray Charles, he was the soloist on the landmark 1961 album Genius + Soul = Jazz.
By the Seventies Phil moved to Washington, DC and recognizing the evolution of the music, moved into the new sound called funk. He became the trumpeter and manager of the group The Young Senators, the top-rated R&B group in the area after the release of their hit, that Guilbeau penned, The Jungle. With the success of this single they were asked to tour as the backing group of Eddie Kendricks, and recorded his seminal album My People… Hold On with them. The album included what is widely considered the first ever Disco song, Girl You Need A Change Of Mind.
As a manager, Gilbeau would go on to discover another group called Black Heat, get them to Atlantic Records and record three albums before they disbanded. After a lifetime career of playing jazz, funk and rhythm & blues music that spanned five decades, trumpeter and composer Phil Guilbeau passed away on September 5, 2005 in Florida.
More Posts: trumpet