Ruth Price was born on April 27, 1938 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Originally a dancer, she went to ballet school in 1952. One evening a friend took her to hear Lester Young and she was hooked and by 1954, when Charlie Ventura’s regular singer fell ill, after hearing her sing he approached her to fill the vacancy and a jazz vocalist was born. She went on to pursue work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City as a vocalist and dancer.
Though her catalogue is relatively minimal, the vocalist is known for producing projects that are lasting. By 1955 she was in the studio recording her debut release My Name is Ruth Price: I Sing, followed by Ruth Price Sings with the Johnny Smith Quartet the next year and then with The Party’s Over in 1957.
In 1957 Ruth moved to Hollywood in 1957, and over the next several years performed recorded and toured with Mel Torme, Red Garland, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Taylor, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, the Charles Mingus Quintet, Art Pepper, Victor Feldman, Russ Freeman and Hank Jones.
In 1961 Price recorded with Shelley Manne and His Men at the Manne Hole, recorded Live And Beautiful in ’63 and not another until 1983 with Lucky To Be Me and later toured with Harry James from 1964-1965. Her diverse repertoire includes many obscure, lesser-known gems from the Great American Songbook.
In the Nineties she never stepped far from the music and gained further renown not as a singer but as the owner of the prestigious Los Angeles nightspot The Jazz Bakery that opened in its doors in 1992 and hosted all the greats for nearly two decades until she closed them in 2009.
A talented singer whose wide expressive qualities do justice to any lyrics that she chooses to interpret made her a jazz poll winner. Highly respected for her knowledge and performances of those rare gems in American popular song, it was a natural transition to become an educator in recent years as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of California – Los Angeles in the Department of Ethnomusicology, and has taught at the Dick Grove School of Music. She continues to record and receive critical acclaim for her work.
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Karl Curtis George was born on April 26, 1913 in St. Louis, Missouri. Early in his career he played with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in 1933, and Cecil Lee. in the 1930s he spent time in the Jeter Pillars Orchestra and then in the orchestras of Teddy Wilson from 1939–40, followed by a year-long stint with Lionel Hampton in 1941.
George served in the Army from 1942 to 1943, then moved to California and played with Stan Kenton, Benny Carter, spent a spring with Count Basie and in Los Angeles with Happy Johnson, his final collaboration of note.
He also played in sessions led by Charles Mingus, Slim Gaillard, Oscar Pettiford, Dinah Washington and Lucky Thompson. During years1945-1946 Karl led his own group on record the track “Peek-A-Boo” by the Karl George Octet, originally released on Melodisc, has been reissued on a Topnotch compilation.
Jazz trumpeter Karl George retired back in his hometown once his health got the better of him, while recordings he had played on continued to be stocked on record store shelves. He lived out the rest of his life in almost total obscurity until passing away in May 1978.
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Bobbi Humphrey was born Barbara Ann Humphrey on April 25, 1950 in Marlin, Texas but was raised in Dallas. She studied classical and jazz styles before graduating from Lincoln High School in 1968 and then continued her studies at Texas Southern University and Southern Methodist University. When Dizzy Gillespie saw her play at a talent contest at Southern Methodist, he inspired her to pursue a musical career in new York City.
Humphrey followed his advice, getting her first big break performing at the Apollo Theatre on Amateur Night. She eventually began playing regularly throughout the city. By 1972, she was recording for the Blue Note Jazz label, one of the first female instrumentalists to do so. Since her debut for the label she has performed with Duke Ellington, Lee Morgan, George Benson and Stevie Wonder amongst a host of other musicians.
In 1976, she was named Best Female Instrumentalist by Billboard. In 1994 Humphrey launched her label, Paradise Sounds Records, releasing Passion Flute, which continues to be one of her best-selling recordings. She has played the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Montreux Jazz Festival and the Russian River Jazz Festival in Northern California, as well as other venues around the world.
Flautist and vocalist Bobbi Humphrey has a dozen albums in her catalogue, having taken a break from recording from 1979-1989 and has not recorded an album since her best selling Passion Flute in 1994. She continues to perform fusion, jazz funk and soul jazz music styles, compose, produce and tour.
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Stafford James was born April 24, 1946 in Evanston, Illinois. As a young man he enlisted in the Air Force and after his discharge he studied at the University of Chicago. In 1969 he moved to New York City and studied at the Mannes College for Music. Here he met Pharoah Sanders, with whom he played his first jazz concerts in New York. He played with Monty Alexander, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Albert Ayler.
James did the first road tour of the Broadway show Hair through Canada, met Melba Moore in 1971 and played the David Frost Revue with her, and went on to Rashied Ali, Roy Ayers, Al Haig, Barry Harris, Andrew Hill, Andrew Cyrille and Chico Hamilton.
In 1973 Stafford toured Europe for the first time with Gary Bartz, then became a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. At the same time he met Woody Shaw, began a lifelong friendship with Betty Carter and started teaching at the United Nations International School in NYC. He recorded his debut album as a leader in 1975 with Enrico Rava, Dave Burrell and Beaver Harris. A year later he founded a quintet and toured Europe.
He met Dexter Gordon while on tour with Al Cohn and recorded Homecoming with him upon his return to the United States. He continued to tour through the 1980s, arranged compositions by Ellington, and composed sonatas. By the end of the decade and into the next James moved to Paris, collaborated with Pharoah, Barney Wilens and Lavelle, formed the Stafford James Project, played with his trio and continued to compose for large ensembles.
His list of collaborations, recording sessions and tours is extensive and in recent years he has recorded The Stafford James String Ensemble, taught master classes at the university level, had a two-hour program on his life and compositions, founded the Top Hat Music Society, performed with Max Roach’s percussion ensemble M’Boom and continue his tradition of performance, composing, recording and touring around the world.
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Kendra Shank was born on April 23, 1958 in Woodland, California and was acting in plays at age 5, picked up the guitar at 13, and at 19 began her music career playing in Parisian subways and sidewalk cafés. After several years on the west coast folk and pop music circuit, a Billie Holiday recording inspired her to pursue jazz.
In 1989 Shank began studying with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, while keeping dual residency in Paris, France where she gigged in jazz clubs. Her jazz career blossomed quickly and in 1991 Bob Dorough hired her as vocalist-guitarist-percussionist for his west coast tour. She soon caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn, who invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York and co-produced her critically acclaimed debut release Afterglow in 1994 featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Kendra relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded Wish and Reflections for Jazz Focus Records, the latter debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band. She followed these in 2007 with her groundbreaking A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, and then with Mosaic in which she married her folk and jazz improvising talents.
Shank has been the Downbeat magazine’s top female vocalist for 1999, 2006 and 2007, has been featured on National Public Radio’s JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.
Vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Kendra Shank continues express her talents through performance recording and touring.