Guillermo Serpas was born on August 1, 1969 in San Salvador, El Salvador and grew up in an environment of rich musical tradition of legendary singers and masterful guitarists of the popular folklore. A gifted musician he was inspired him to learn the highly versatile and lyrical classical guitar. By his early teens he was studying with Maestro Candido Morales.
In 1983, the family moved to Calgary, Alberta bringing the young artist new artistic experiences to embrace. He immersed himself in the music genres of blues, jazz and rock. Guillermo soon joined several local bands and experimented with these different styles, while keeping his focus on classical guitar. He went on to acquire formal studies at the University of Calgary, graduating with a Bachelors Degree in music in 1996.
With his deep Latin roots ever present in his music Serpas has infused rhythmic elements of jazz, salsa, bolero, samba, blues and rock in his performing. Always present is the exotic percussion from his Latin American folklore creating a unique mosaic of sound. He released his debut recording Mi Sol y MI Luna in 2006 with his sophomore project following in 2011 titled Guitarra Bohemia. Guitarist Guillermo Serpas continues to perform, record and tour.
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Claudia Acuña was born July 31, 1971 in Santiago, Chile and raised in Concepcion. She was inspired as a child to perform a variety of music, including folk, pop and opera by Victor Jara and Violetta Parra. Her attention turned to American popular music and jazz at the age of 15 when she first heard Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra. Upon returning to her birthplace in 1991, she quickly gained prominence on the local jazz scene through live performances and radio broadcasts with visiting artists.
By 1995, Acuña had decided to move to New York City and she began performing at jam sessions and clubs including the Zinc Bar, Smalls and with her own band at the Jazz Gallery. During this period she met pianist/composer Jason Lindner, who remains her musical director. She released her debut album, Wind from the South in 1999 for Verve Records followed by Rhythm of Life in 2001 and Luna in 2004.
In 2009 she moved to the Marsalis Music label and recorded her first session En Este Momento. Claudia has been featured on various recordings with Peck Almond, George Benson, Joey Calderazzo, Avishai Cohen, Mark Elf, Tom Harrell, Antonio Hart, Arturo O’Farrill and Guillermo Klein. She has been the co-curator of a Chilean music festival, the spokesperson for World Vision Chile, her cover of the Antonio Carlos Jobim tune “Suddenly” was featured on the soundtrack for the movie Bossa Nova.
Venturing outside the jazz medium the vocalist garnered substantial exposure by recording a single with House producers MKL and Soy Sos of 3 Generations Walking titled Slavery Days. Vocalist Claudia Acuña continues to perform, tour and record for her Cambridge, Massachusetts based record label, Marsalis Music.
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Dick McDonough was born on July 30,1904. As a child learning and perfecting his technique on the banjo, by 1927 at age 23 he was playing and recording Chasin’ A Buck and Feelin’ No Pain with Red Nichols. Soon after he joined Paul Whiteman’s outfit and later exchanged the banjo for guitar.
As a guitarist Dick did extensive work as a session musician in the 1930s playing with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, The Boswell Sisters, Joe Venuti, Benny Goodman, Miff Mole, Adrian Rollini, Red Norvo, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Billie Holiday, Pee Wee Russell Frank Trumbauer, Glenn Miller and Gene Gifford among others too numerous to list.
McDonough teamed with Carl Kress to record as a guitar duet in the mid-1930s as well. He played in the Jam Session at Victor with Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and George Wettling. His more notable compositions included Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jibe, recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra with Johnny Mercer on vocals; Stage Fright with Carl Kress, Chicken a la Swing and Danzon.
An influential guitarist and composer, the recording of his version of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose has to be considered the first “guitar solo” rendition of a jazz standard still preserved. It is a known fact that New Orleans’ guitarist Snoozer Quinn did the same in the 1920’s before everybody else, but those recordings were never issued and, until now, are considered totally lost.
The ‘guitar unaccompanied solo’ tradition followed with among others, Carl Kress, Oscar Aleman, Django Reinhardt, George Van Eps, Al Viola and in the Seventies Joe Pass brought it to a new level. But had it not been for Dick McDonough with his acoustic L5 giving to guitar a new dimension in 1934, this tradition would not have been created. Dick McDonough was unfortunately also an alcoholic and subsequently succumbed to the illness at the age of 33 on May 25, 1938.
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Ellyn Rucker was born in Des Moines, Iowa of July 29, 1937 and she started playing piano when she was eight, discovered jazz at 13, and studied classical piano at Drake University. However, it wasn’t until 1979 that she decided to become a full-time musician.
Rucker toured Europe several times both with and without Spike Robinson, recorded a small catalogue of several albums for Capri Records, has a full-length video Live In New Orleans on Leisure Jazz label, and has performed at festivals and clubs around the U.S. and Europe.
Though she is not a household name to jazz fans around the globe Ellyn Rucker is a fixture on the Denver, Colorado jazz scene. The Bill Evans influenced hard bop and bop-based pianist and vocalist continues to perform, record and tour.
Jim Galloway was born James Braidie Galloway in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland on July 28, 1936. Since emigrating from Scotland in the mid-1960s he had based his career in Canada.
Galloway recorded several albums as a leader and in the late 1970s formed an ensemble, the Wee Big Band. One of his many albums, Walking On Air, was nominated for Best Jazz Album at the 1980 Juno Awards.
He was the artistic director of the Toronto Jazz Festival from 1987 to 2009. In 2002 Jim was honored when made a Chevalier of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His musical performances continue to be listed on the Toronto Jazz Festival website.
Bandleader, songwriter, clarinet and saxophone player Jim Galloway died in palliative care in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 30, 2014.