Howard Vincent Alden was born in Newport Beach, California on October 17, 1958. Growing up in Huntington Beach, he played piano, harmonica, the four-string tenor guitar, and then four-string banjo at age ten. After hearing recordings of Barney Kessel, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and other jazz guitar greats, he got a six-string guitar and started teaching himself to play.
As a teenager he played both instruments at venues in the Los Angeles area and studied guitar with Jimmy Wyble when he was 16. In 1977 he studied jazz guitar for a year at the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) in Hollywood with Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, and Howard Roberts. While there he assisted Roberts in organizing and preparing curriculum materials, then conducted some of his own classes at GIT.
Making his first trip to the east coast in the summer of 1979, he played in the trio led by vibraphonist Red Norvo for 3 months at Resorts International in Atlantic City. Moving to New York City in 1982, Howard played an extended e engagement at Café Carlyle with jazz pianist/songwriter Joe Bushkin. Soon afterwards, he was discovered by Joe Williams and Woody Herman. 1983 saw him collaborating with Dick Hyman, appearing with him and a host of other musicians at Eubie Blake’s 100th birthday concert.
With Dan Barrett he formed the Alden-Barrett Quintet in 1985 which played in the swing idiom, as he has done for most of his career. He also began partnerships with Kenny Davern and Jack Lesberg, joined George Van Eps, innovator of the seven-string guitar, on tour and recorded albums with him, switching to the seven-string himself in 1992.
Alden has recorded the guitar performances for Sean Penn’s character Emmet Ray in the Woody Allen 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown, and taught Penn how to mime the performances for the film. He has received Best Emerging Guitar Talent by JazzTimes, Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, from Down Beat four times, named Guitar Player of the Year by American Guitar Museum and included on the Down Beat list of Top 75 Guitarists. He continues to perform and compose.
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Benjamin James Aronov, known as Ben or Benny, was born October 16, 1932 in Gary, Indiana. He played in local jazz and dance ensembles as a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a student at the University of Tulsa from 1951 to 1952, then was conscripted into the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas and played in a military band.
In 1954 he relocated to Los Angeles California and began playing at The Lighthouse, as well as with musicians such as Terry Gibbs, June Christy, and Lena Horne. But by 1961 Ben moved to New York City, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1966.
Following this, he worked with Al Cohn, Benny Goodman, Jim Hall, Morgana King, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, George Mraz, Mark Murphy, the National Jazz Ensemble, Ken Peplowski, Tom Pierson, Zoot Sims, Carol Sloane, and Warren Vache. For 18 years he was the pianist in the Broadway production of Cats from 1982 to 2000.
After leaving Broadway pianist Ben Aronov moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, where he remained until he passed away on May 3, 2015.
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Herman Chittison was born on October 15, 1908 in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. Known as Ivory in the jazz world he began his career in Zack Whyte’s territory band in Ohio in 1928. In the early Thirties he moved to New York City and found work as an accompanist to Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, and Clarence Williams. It was during these years that he visited Boston for the first time with a traveling show headlined by comic actor Stepin Fetchit.
In late 1933 he went to Europe with the Willie Lewis Orchestra and toured Europe and the following year he recorded with Louis Armstrong in Paris, France. Chittison and trumpeter Bill Coleman left Lewis in 1938 and formed a band that worked extensively in Cairo, Egypt and traveled as far east as India. The two musicians would later lead the Harlem Rhythm Makers.
By 1959 Ivory arrived in Boston for a stay of two years and took up residence as the house pianist at the Red Garter bar in the Lenox Hotel. He then moved to the Mayfair Lounge, in Bay Village. He was one of the earliest and most important ambassadors of American jazz in Europe.
Stride pianist, accompanist and virtuoso Herman Chittison, whose style and technique were very similar to Art Tatum, passed away on March 8, 1967 in Cleveland, Ohio.
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Kazumi Watanabe (渡辺香津美) was born on October 14, 1953 in Tokyo, Japan. He learned to play the guitar at the age of 12 from Sadanori Nakamure at the Yamaha Music School in Tokyo. He released his debut album as a leader at the age of 18 in 1971. By 1979, he had put together a jazz rock band with some of Japan’s leading studio musicians, and recorded the album Kylyn. The same year, he toured with the pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The 1980s saw him touring as guest soloist with different groups – Steps, the Brecker Brothers, and Word of Mouth, led by Jaco Pastorius. Watanabe created the jazz-rock/jazz-fusion band Mobo in 1983 with saxophonist Mitsuru Sawamura, pianist Ichiko Hashimoto, Gregg Lee on guitar, Shuichi Murakami on drums, and Kiyohiko Senba.
During the eighties Kazumi also released the jazz-rock albums To Chi Ka (1980), Mobo Club (1983) Mobo Splash(1985), and Spice of Life (1987). A DVD was issued from the tour which featured drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Jeff Berlin, who also played on the record.
In the 1990s Kazumi assembled an all-Japanese line-up called Resonance Vox with Vagabonde Suzuki on bass, Rikiya Higashihara on drums and Tomohiro Yahiro on percussion, releasing several adventurous fusion albums. Over his career he has released four dozen albums as a leader, four DVDs of live performances and has worked with numerous musicians such as Lee Ritenour, Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Bill Bruford, Sly and Robbie, Wayne Shorter, Patrick Moraz, Marcus Miller, Richard Bona, and Peter Erskine.
Since 1996, he has been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College and has been chosen Best Jazzman 24 years in a row by Swing Journal magazine’s annual poll. Jazz fusion guitarist Kazumi Watanabe continues to perform, record, tour and teach.
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Frank Colón was born October 13, 1951 of Puerto Rican descent in Washington, D.C. but moved to Puerto Rico with his parents at the age of five. His musical instruction began at age eleven, beginning with classical piano lessons, under the guidance of Angelina Figueroa and Rafael Figueroa, both members of Puerto Rico’s most prestigious classical music family.
Colón kept up his piano studies throughout his teenage years, trying his hand at pop guitar, electric bass, and trap drums, as well as being very active in municipal and collegiate sports, martial arts, and amateur theater. Throughout this period in his life he worked with various local pop music groups throughout the island of Puerto Rico.
Moving back to Washington, D.C. in 1970 he attended college at American University, where Frank majored in Political Science. During this time, his musical orientation changed from melodic instruments to percussion and upon completion of his university requirements, he turned full-time to his music.
In 1976, Colón moved to New York City, on a call to work with his friend and mentor, the legendary drum master, Julito Collazo. Through Julito’s guidance, he became proficient at playing the Batá drums, sacred to the Orisha in the Santería religion.He has played Brazilian percussion since the time he lived in Washington, D.C.
Frank was performed and recorded with The Manhattan Transfer, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report, Mary J. Blige, Harry Belafonte, Gato Barbieri, Chet Baker, Pat Metheny, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Gilberto Gil, Larry Coryell, Jimmy Smith, Milton Nascimento, Tania Maria, Ernie Watts, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin, Jon Lucien, João Bosco, Michael Wolff, Billy Taylor, Gal Costa, Dianne Reeves, Michel Camilo, Nestor Torres, Felix Cavalieri, Airto, and George Benson, among numerous others..
Percussionist Frank Colón has released two albums as a leader and continues to perform, record and tour.
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