Zinky Cohn was born on August 18, 1908 in Oakland, California. He played in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1920s, including in Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra from 1928–30. He recorded extensively with Noone between 1929 and 1934, especially for Vocalion Records. Many of the songs Noone recorded were written and/or arranged by Cohn, including Apex Blues that was previously attributed to Earl Hines.
He recorded as a leader in the early 1930s, with a band that featured Leon Washington on tenor saxophone. Zinky recorded with Frankie Franko & His Louisianans in 1930, and also accompanied blues singers such as Georgia White.
In late 1930s he led the Chicago musicians’ union and continued to play locally. Pianist Zinky Cohn passed away on April 25, 1952 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Ivon Karel De Bie was born August 13, 1914 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Brussels, Belgium. He received piano lessons from the age of six for ten years and around 1936 he began working as an amateur with Jimmy Turner, George Clais and with the Blue Blythe Players.
From 1938 onwards he directed his own bands as well as playing and recording beginning in the Forties in the groups of Fud Candrix, Jeff De Boeck and his metro band. In 1942 Ivon recorded his debut with a quartet with Andre Mersch, Gene Kempf and Jeff De Boeck on the Metrophone label. That same year he accompanied Django Reinhardt on a session for the Belgian label Rhythme, recording Vous et moi, Distraction, Blues en Mineur and Studio 24.
He went on to continue recording with Candrix in Berlin, with Hubert Rostaing in Brussels and with members of the Stanbrender Orchestra for the Olympia label. After the World War II De Bie directed a big band recordings for Decca Records, and also played with Robert De Kers.
From the 1950s, Ivon directed the orchestra recordings of the Middelkerke Casino played in bands led by David Bee, as well as with Brother Powell and His Dixie Rag-a-Jazz Band and The Original Syncopators Gang. In 1957 he became the artistic director of the Belgian department of RCA Victor and his last recordings were made in 1983 with the BRT Jazzorkest OLV under the direction of Etienne Verschueren.
Over the course of his career in the field of jazz he was involved in 41 recording sessions between 1941 and 1983. He wrote a series of jazz compositions such as Dixie Souvenir, partly under the pseudonym Don Bayo. His piano style was influenced by Billy Kyle, Bob Zurke, Earl Hines and Art Tatum. Pianist, composer and bandleader Ivon De Bie passed away in 1989 in Brussels.
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Lester Boone was born August 12, 1904 in Tuskegee, Alabama and studied at the Illinois College of Music before beginning his career in the Chicago bands of Alex Calamese, Charlie Elgar, Clarence Black and Carroll Dickerson. At the end of the 1920s he played in Albert Wynn’s Creole jazz band and on his recording Down by the Levee for Vocalion Records.
The following years he worked with Harry Dial, got his first big break playing with Earl Hines, and by the early Thirties was hitting with Louis Armstrong. He then moved on to play with Jerome Carrington, Emperor Marshall, Eubie Blake, the Mills Blue Rhythm Band and Jelly Roll Morton. Bouncing between Chicago and New York City he played with trumpeter Hot Lips Page and Eddie South. By 1941 he was accompanying Billie Holiday on her recording session of Am I Blue? on the Decca label.
With Tom Lord he was involved in 24 recording sessions between 1928 and 1941. From the early 1940s into the Sixties he played in New York with his own bands including with Everett Barksdale at clubs such as Harvey’s and the Lucky Bar.
Alto and baritone saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Boone, who had the honor of having the great Satchmo personally introduce his solo in that unmistakable growly voice of his, passed away in 1989.
Johnny Claes was born Octave John Claes on August 11, 1916 in London, England and received his education at Lord Williams’s School. He began playing trumpet in a jazz band that included Max Jones on reeds, and another with Billy Mason on piano. By the 1930s he had moved to the Netherlands, where he worked with Valaida Snow and Coleman Hawkins and in Belgium he worked with Jack Kluger’s.
Returning to England, Johnny led his own group, the Clay Pigeons, making a recording in 1942. Unfortunately for the jazz world in the late 1940s he abandoned his jazz career and settled in Belgium as a professional racing driver.
By 1955 Claes’ he had contracted tuberculosis and his health problems worsened. Finally trumpeter, bandleader and professional racer Johnny Claes succumbed to the disease in Brussels on February 3, 1956 at the age of 39.
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Claude Thornhill was born on August 10, 1909 in Terre Haute, Indiana and as a youth was recognized as an extraordinary piano talent and along with clarinet and trumpet prodigy Danny Polo, formed a traveling duo. While a student at Garfield High School he played with several theater bands before entering the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at age sixteen.
He and clarinetist Artie Shaw started their careers together at the Golden Pheasant in Cleveland, Ohio playing in the Austin Wiley Orchestra. By 1931 they were in New York City and in 1935 he was playing on sessions with Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, Billie Holiday and arranged Loch Lomond and Annie Laurie for Maxine Sullivan.
Later in the decade he moved out to the West Coast with the Bob Hope Radio Show and arranged for Judy Garland in Babes in Arms. In 1939 he founded the Claude Thornhill Orchestra with his old friend Danny Polo was his lead clarinetist. Although the band was a sophisticated dance band, it became known for its superior jazz musicians and for his and Gil Evans’s arrangements.
Encouraging the musicians to develop cool-sounding tones, the band played without vibrato. The band was popular with both musicians and the public and Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool nonet was modeled in part on Thornhill’s sound and unconventional instrumentation. The band’s most successful records were Snowfall, A Sunday Kind of Love, and Love for Love.
1942 saw him enlisting in the Navy and playing across the Pacific Theater with Jackie Cooper as his drummer and Dennis Day as his vocalist. After his discharge in ‘46 he reunited his ensemble and Danny Polo, Gerry Mulligan and Barry Galbraith returned with new members, Red Rodney, Lee Konitz, Joe Shulman, and Bill Barber. For a brief time in the mid 1950s, Claude was briefly Tony Bennett’s musical director.
Pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Claude Thornhill passed away on July 1, 1965. A large portion of his extensive library of music is currently held by Drury University in Springfield, Missouri and in 1984 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
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