Elmer Crumbley was born on August 1, 1908 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. The trombonist joined the Dandie Dixie Minstrels in 1926 in between stints with bandleader Lloyd Hunter and his Serenaders. By 1930 Elmer made it east to Kansas City and the George E. Lee band.
During the 30s he continued to work with Lloyd Hunter as well as with western swing pioneer Tommy Douglas in Nebraska, then with Bill Owens, Jabbo Smith and in Chicago with Erskine Tate. He led an ensemble in Omaha in 1934 then joined up with Jimmie Lunceford, enjoying a thirteen-year stint playing with band mates Eddie Wilcox, Lucky Millinder and Erskine Hawkins.
By the late ’50s Crumbley was touring Europe with Sammy Price and became part of the combo scene at the Apollo in Harlem. The Sixties saw him playing with Cab Calloway and Earl Hines, keeping him in slide oil.
Little is known about him after this period and trombonist Elmer Crumbley passed away in 1993 at the age of 85.
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Gaspare “Gap” Mangione was born July 31, 1938 in Rochester, New York and learned to play the piano as a child. Along with his Grammy-winning flugelhornist brother Chuck, they started performing together as the Jazz Brothers in 1958 and eventually recorded three albums for Riverside Records.
In 1968, Gap Mangione released his first solo album, “Diana in the Autumn Wind”, featured new compositions and arrangements, and was conducted by Chuck Mangione. The 1970s brought more solo albums along with tours with his own group and many as featured pianist in his brother’s orchestral performances.
By the Eighties, Gap began spending less time on the road and more time playing in and around Rochester. In 1990, he formed the Gap Mangione New Big Band, which remains the premier dance and concert big band in the Rochester area. The New Big Band has released four recordings since 1998.
Many major rappers and producers, including Jaylib, Talib Kweli, Guerilla Black, Ghostface Killah, Slum Village and People Under The Stars have sampled Gap’s “Diana in the Autumn Wind” for their recent works.
Gap Mangione has received the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester, continues to make regular appearances at Rochester locations, among them the Woodcliff Hotel and Spa, Pier 45 at the Port, as well as the Rochester International Jazz Festival. The composer, arranger, bandleader and pianist continues to play with his brother.
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Hilton Jefferson was born on July 30, 1903 in Danbury, Connecticut. He began his professional career in 1929 with Claude Hopkins and throughout the 1930s was busy working for the big bands of Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.
From 1940-49 Hilton led the saxophone section of Cab Calloway’s band then went on to perform with Duke Ellington for a year in 1952 but ultimately became a bank guard to support himself with a steady income. He continued to perform through the Fifties, especially with Rex Stewart, ‘Buster Bailey, Red Richards, Gene Ramey, Vic Dickerson, Herman Autrey and some former members of the Fletcher Henderson band.
Hilton Jefferson, alto saxophonist with a soft, delicate sound and exquisite sensibility passed away on November 14, 1968.
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Charlie Christian was born Charles Henry Christian on July 29, 1916 in Bonham, Texas but his family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when he was a small child. He started performing as a dancer with his father and brothers as buskers to make ends meet. His father would later teach him to play guitar and inherit all his instruments by age 12. Attending Douglass School he was further encouraged in music but a disagreement in instrument led him to leave music and excel in baseball.
By 1936 he was playing electric guitar and had become a regional attraction. He jammed with many of the big name performers traveling through Oklahoma City including Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Mary Lou Williams who turned him on to record producer John Hammond. This led to an audition, recommendation to Benny Goodman, subsequently gaining national exposure with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra from August 1939 to June 1941. By 1940 Christian dominated the jazz and swing guitar polls and was elected to the Metronome All Stars.
Christian was an important early performer on the electric guitar, and is cited as a key figure in the development of bebop and cool jazz. One of the best improvisational talents of the swing era, his single-string technique combined with amplification helped bring the guitar out of the rhythm section and into the forefront as a solo instrument.
Christian’s influence reached beyond jazz and swing, and in 1966, 24 years after his death, Christian was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. In 1990 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 Oklahoma City renamed a street in its Bricktown entertainment district Charlie Christian Avenue. On March 2, 1942, Charlie Christian passed away at age 25.
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Delfeayo Marsalis was born July 28, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana into the musical family in which father and three brothers are musicians. Lying under the piano as a child while his father played, he eventually tried the bass and the drums but by the sixth grade gravitated to the trombone. His early influences were J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn and Tommy Dorsey.
He went on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school and was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute. He graduated from Berklee School of Music and the University of Louisville with degrees in performance and audio production.
While a gifted trombonist, Delfeayo has recorded only five albums as a leader and is more prolific and better known for his work as a producer of over 100 acoustic jazz recordings. Since the age of 17 he has produced such artists as Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Roberts, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family members – Ellis, Branford and Wynton.
Along with Tonight Show engineer Patrick Smith, he coined “to obtain more wood sound from the bass recorded without usage of the dreaded bass direct”, a phrase that became the single sentence to define the recorded quality of many acoustic jazz recordings since the late ’80s.
Forming Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, the organization has trained over 300 youth and staged 8 original musicals, all of which are based upon the mission of “community unity.” Marsalis has toured with internationally renowned bandleaders Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Abdullah Ibrahim. In addition he has performed and toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, was a part of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and is an integral part of Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration DVD.
Delfeayo Marsalis, along with his father and brothers, are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.