Jack Fallon was born on October 13, 1915 in London, Ontario, Canada and played violin before making double-bass his primary instrument at age 20. During World War II he played in a dance band in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and settled in Britain after his discharge. He joined Ted Heath’s band in 1946 and played bebop in London clubs in his spare time.
1947 saw Fallon playing with Ronnie Scott and Tommy Whittle at the Melody Maker/Columbia Jazz Rally, followed by his working with Jack Jackson, George Shearing and Django Reinhardt. Soon after playing with Reinhardt, he played in a Count Basie ensemble which also included Malcolm Mitchell and Tony Crombie, playing with both of them after leaving Basie. He went on to work together with Hoagy Carmichael and Maxine Sullivan and tour Sweden together with Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.
In the 1950s he accompanied Mary Lou Williams, Sarah Vaughan, and Lena Horne. He was a sideman in the ensembles of Humphrey Lyttelton, Kenny Baker and Ralph Sharon, and was the house bassist at Lansdowne Studios. Working outside of jazz with blues musicians such as Big Bill Broonzy and Josh White, and played with Johnny Duncan’s Blue Grass Boys. As the bass guitar became more popular, Jack became a champion and played both instruments in the latter part of his career.
He became a booker/promoter establishing the booking agency Cana Variety in 1952. Cana booked primarily jazz artists in its early stages but expanded to rock acts by the 1960s, including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and was requested by the Beatles to play violin on the song Don’t Pass Me By. Bassist Jack Fallon continued to play jazz locally in London, England and in the studios into the 1990s. He published a memoir titled From the Top in 2005, and passed away on May 22, 2006 at age 90 in London, England.
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Bebo Valdés was born Dionisio Ramón Emilio Valdés Amaro on October 9, 1918 in Quivicán, Cuba. He started his career as a pianist in the nightclubs of Havana during the 1940s, replacing René Hernández as pianist and arranger in Julio Cueva’s band. In 1946 the band recorded Rareza del Siglo, one of his most famous mambos and from 1948 to 1957 he worked as pianist and arranger for the vedette Rita Montaner, who was the lead act in the Tropicana cabaret.
His orchestra, Sabor de Cuba, and that of Armando Valdés, alternated at the Tropicana, backing singers such as Benny Moré and Pío Leyva. Bebo played a role in the adaptation of the mambo into the big band format from the previously performed charangas during the late 1940s and 1950s. He developed a new rhythm to compete with Perez Prado’s mambo, called the batanga. He was also an important figure in the incipient Afro-Cuban jazz scene in Havana, taking part in sessions commissioned by American producer Norman Granz during 1952.
By the late 1950s he was recording with Nat “King” Cole and in 1960, along with Sabor de Cuba’s lead vocalist Rolando Laserie, Bebo defected from Cuba to Mexico. He then lived briefly in the United States before touring Europe, and eventually settled in Stockholm, spreading the techniques of Cuban music and Latin jazz. His career got a late boost in 1994 when he teamed up with saxophone player Paquito D’Rivera to release a CD called Bebo Rides Again. 2000 saw him in the film Calle 54 by Fernando Trueba giving his piano playing a wider audience and in 2003, Valdés and flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, recorded the album Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears).
During his career Bebo won seven Grammy Awards, His last musical production was recorded with his son in 2008, Bebo y Chucho Valdés: Juntos para Siempre (Together Forever). For that recording they won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés, who led two famous big bands, was being treated for Alzheimer’s disease, which he had suffered for several years, when he passed away in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 22, 2013 at age 94.
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Hal Singer was born Harold Joseph Singer on October 8, 1919 in Greenwood, the Black section of Tulsa, Oklahoma. After surviving the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, he grew up in Greenwood where he studied violin as a child but, as a teenager, switched to clarinet and then tenor saxophone, which became his instrument of choice. From the late 1930s he began playing in local bands, including Ernie Fields’, before joining Jay McShann’s orchestra in 1943. Moving to New York he worked in other bands, then joined Oran “Hot Lips” Page’s band in 1947 and began working as a session musician with King Records.
By early 1948 Hal left Page, formed his own small group, and was signed to Mercury Records where he cut his first single Fine As Wine with a B side Rock Around the Clock co-written with Sam Theard and not the same title made famous by Bill Haley. He got his nickname when he recorded the tune Corn Bread for the Savoy label in Newark, New Jersey after the instrumental reached #1 on the R&B charts later that year.
The early to mid 1950s he continued recording with Mercury, toured with The Orioles and Charles Brown, and increased his work as a session musician. In 1958 he began recording with Prestige Records as a jazz soloist and performing at the Metropole Cafe in New York with jazz musicians such as Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. In 1965, after touring Europe with Earl “Fatha” Hines’ band, Singer stayed in France and settled near Paris. He continued to record and tour extensively around Europe and Africa, performing with various bands including Charlie Watts’ and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Hal’s 1969 album, Paris Soul Food, featured him on saxophone and singing; Robin Hemingway, vocals, arrangements and album production; and Manu Dibango, saxophone, organ and arrangements that won a French Record Academy award for best international LP in 1969. He went on a State Department tour of Africa in 1974 with Horace Parlan, appeared on the 1981 live recording Rocket 88 with the UK-based boogie-woogie band and in the summer of 1981 recorded two albums for John Stedman’s JSP record label, Swing On It, with Jim Mullen, Peter King, Mike Carr and Harold Smith, while the second Big Blues, recorded a day later with the same group, also featured Jimmy Witherspoon.
Singer shared artist billing along with Al Copley for 1989’s Royal Blue, appeared as an actor in the award-winning 1990 feature film Taxi Blues and in 1992 was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts by the French government. A documentary film, Hal Singer, Keep the Music Going, was made by Haitian-American director Guetty Felin in 1999, in which he shares a duet with Jessica Care Moore. He was also an educator teaching jazz to younger generations of French jazz musicians. Bandleader and tenor saxophonist Hal Cornbread Singer recorded sixteen albums as a leader and currently is 96 years of age.
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Carmen Mastren was born Carmine Mastrandrea on October 6, 1913 in Cohoes, New York. By 1934 he was playing professionally as a musician when he joined the Wingy Manone and Joe Marsala band. Mastren worked with a variety of musicians during his career, including Raymond Scott, Ray McKinley and Mel Powell.
In the 1940s Mastren recorded with the Sidney Bechet and the Muggsy Spanier “Big Four”. During World War II he played with the Glenn Miller Air Force Band. It was during this period that he worked as musical director and conductor for Morton Downey, and from 1954–1970 he played for The Today Show, The Tonight Show and Say When!! on the NBC television network.
Recording as a sideman, Carmen worked with Dick Hyman And His Orchestra, Bobby Hackett, Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Bud Freeman and the Wolverine Orchestra on such labels as Mercury, Decca, Atlantic, Epic, Universal/MCA, Victor, RCA, Allegro Elite and Gennett.
Guitarist, banjoist and violinist Carmen Mastren passed away at age 68 from a heart attack on March 31, 1981 at his home in Valley Stream on Long Island, New York. He is best remembered for his work from 1936–1941 with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra as a guitarist.
Dennis Sandole was born Dionigi Sandoli on September 29, 1913 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He played guitar as a child was John Coltrane’s mentor from 1946 until the early 1950s, introducing him to theory beyond chords and scales and exposing him to the music of other cultures.
Sandole taught advanced harmonic techniques that were applicable to any instrument, using exotic scales and creating his own. His students over half a century included saxophonists James Moody, Michael Brecker, Rob Brown, and Bobby Zankel; pianists Matthew Shipp and Sumi Tonooka; guitarists Jim Hall, Joe Diorio, Pat Martino, Joe Federico, Tony DeCaprio, Jon Herington, Larry Hoffman, and Harry Leahey, Rufus Harley, Bob deVos and Frank Gerrard.
He recorded with his brother Adolph, Modern Music From Philadelphia, released by Fantasy in 1956. Guitarist, composer and music educator Dennis Sandole, who taught privately until the end of his life, passed away on September 30, 2000.
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