Ethel Llewellyn Ennis was born November 28, 1932 in Baltimore, Maryland and began performing on the piano in high school, but her natural vocal abilities soon eclipsed those as a pianist.
Embarking on a solo career Ethel recorded a number of songs for Atlantic Records before her 1955 debut of “Lullabies for Losers” on Jubilee Records. Two years later she moved to Capitol Records releasing “A Change of Scenery” followed by “Have You Forgotten”.
Ennis took a six-year hiatus from recording while she toured Europe with Benny Goodman. By the early Sixties she was back in the studio recording another four albums for RCA Records but unfortunately was dissatisfied with the creative direction and artist management left for a second recording hiatus of eight years. During this time she recorded the title song for the 1967 film Mad Monster Party and in 1973 the “10 Sides of Ethel Ennis” emerged on record store shelves.
That same year Ennis was invited to sing at the re-inauguration of Richard Nixon and her unusual a cappella rendition of the national anthem shocked some, but inspired many others. Ethel returned to Baltimore, rarely performing outside the area over the next several decades. 1980 saw her return to the studio releasing a live album, but it would be fourteen years later before her self-titled album came out, followed by the 1998 release of “If Women Ruled The World” was released on Savoy Jazz and a 2005 live recording of her performance at Montpelier was released to critical acclaim.
Maria Schneider was born on November 27, 1960 in Windom, Minnesota and started playing piano as a child. She studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, followed by earning a Masters of Music from the Eastman School of Music and studying for one year at the University of Miami.
After Eastman she became an apprentice arranger under Gil Evans, collaborating with him for the next several years, producing arrangements commissioned by Sting and scoring the films “The Color of Money” and “Absolute Beginners”. Schneider went on to study with Bob Brookmeyer from 1986 to 1991, concurrently worked as a freelance arranger in New York.
She formed The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra in 1993, appearing weekly at Visiones in Greenwich Village for five years, then hit the festival circuit and toured Europe. In 2005, her album “Concert In The Garden” won a Grammy for “Best Large Ensemble Album” and was the first Grammy for a work sold entirely via the Internet. Her second Grammy came for Cerulean Skies from her 2007 Sky Blue project for Best Instrumental Composition.
Maria was one of the first artists to use ArtistShare to produce an album, and the composer, arranger and big-band leader has garnered recognition from the Jazz Journalist Association as Composer of the Year, Arranger of the Year and Large Jazz Ensemble of the Year.
Frank Melrose was born Franklyn Taft Melrose on November 26, 1907 in Sumner, Illinois, the younger brother of Walter and Lester who set up the Melrose Brothers Music Company in Chicago in 1918. His first instrument was the violin, but he later took up the piano, strongly influenced by his brothers’ business partner, Jelly Roll Morton.
In 1924 Frank left home and began drifting around, playing and settling for short periods in St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit and playing occasionally in Chicago with Jelly Roll. In 1929 his brother Lester recorded him performing piano solos that were released under the pseudonym of “Broadway Rastus”.
1930 saw Melrose recording “Jelly Roll Blues” and other tunes that were released on the Brunswick Record label’s “race” series under the pseudonym of “Kansas City Frank”, and for some years were wrongly assumed to be the work of Morton. Throughout the decade he continued to play piano in small clubs and bars, either solo or as part of a band, recorded sporadically with Johnny Dodds and others while occasionally working in a factory to support his family.
Pianist Frank Melrose, one of the leading figures in the Midwest blues and jazz scene during the 1920s and 30s played his last recording session with Bud Jacobson’s Jungle Kings. On Labor Day, September 1, 1941 he was found dead in the road after apparently being killed in a fracas in a club in Hammond, Indiana.
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Etta Jones was born on November 25, 1928 in Aiken, South Carolina and was raised in Harlem, New York City. While in her teens she joined Buddy Johnson’s band and embarked on a nationwide tour. Her first recordings in 1944 Salty Papa Blues and Long, Long Journey were produced by Leonard Feather and backed by Barney Bigard, and George Auld. She would go on to perform with the Earl Hines Sextet from 1949 to ’52.
Over the course of her career Etta worked with Oliver Nelson, Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Cedar Walton, Frank Wess, Roy Haynes, Gene Ammons and Houston Person, whom she met in one of Johnny Hammond’s bands. Jones’ thirty-year relationship with Person helped to ensure a long and prolific career with h Her best-known recordings were Grammy nominated “Don’t Go To Strangers” in 1960, “Save Your Love For Me” in 1981 and “My Buddy” in 1999.
She recorded for Prestige, Muse and HighNote record labels and secured her a loyal and devoted following. In 2008 her album Don’t Go To Strangers was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Vocalist Etta Jones passes away from cancer on October 16, 2001 at age 72 in Mount Vernon, New York.
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Alvin Gilbert Cohn was born on November 24, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. He was initially known in the 1940s for playing in Woody Herman’s Second Herd as one of the Four Brothers, along with Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff. He contributed arrangements to the band until he left and formed a long association co-leading a quintet with Zoot while also playing with a variety of other musicians.
The partnership that began in 1956 lasted until Sims’ death and yielded one of their best albums on Mercury Records called You ‘n’ Me in 1960 and also backed Jack Kerouac on a few of his recordings. An accomplished arranger, Cohn worked Broadway arranging for such shows as Raisin’ and Sophisticated Ladies, worked with Linda Rondstadt, and appeared with Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden.
Al Cohn, a tenor saxophonist, who had a reputation as a lyrical flowing soloist, passed away in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on February 15, 1988.
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