Peter Herbolzheimer was born on December 31, 1935 in Bucharest, Romania and migrated from communist Romania to West Germany in 1951.Two years later he moved to the United States, settling in Michigan and enrolled in Highland Park High School in the graduating class of 1954. There, he was a staple in the musical choral groups and orchestra, and accompanied several groups on guitar who often performed for various organisations and corporate functions around the Detroit area.
Returning to Germany in 1957 he took up the valve trombone, playing in numerous jazz cellar open mic groups. Peter attempted to return to Michigan, but his visa was denied, so for one year he studied at the Nuremberg Conservatory. In the Sixties he played with the Nuremberg radio dance orchestra and with Bert Kämpfert’s orchestra. He went on to play in the pit orchestra of Hamburg theater, then formed his Rhythm Combination and Brass for which he wrote most of the arrangements.
This big band had an international lineup of eight brass with saxophonist Herb Geller, Allan Botschinsky, Art Farmer, Dusko Goykovich, Palle Mikkelborg, Ack van Rooyen and Jiggs Whigham. The rhythm section had Dieter Reith, Philip Catherine, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Bo Stief, Alex Riel, Grady Tate, and Nippy Noya. In the late 1970s the band toured successfully with a “jazz gala” program featuring guest stars such as Esther Phillips, Stan Getz, Nat Adderley, Gerry Mulligan, Toots Thielemans, Clark Terry, Albert Mangelsdorff, Dianne Reeves and Chaka Khan.
The Seventies and Eighties had Herbolzheimer writing music for the opening of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, won the International Jazz Composers Competition 1974 in Monaco and was the arranger and conductor and led his orchestra for virtually every major German television network and accompanied visiting American musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie and Al Jarreau.
Between 1987 and 2006 he was the musical director of Germany’s national youth jazz orchestra, the Bundes Jazz Orchester, conducted regular workshops and clinics for big band jazz and was chosen as the music director, arranger and conductor of the European Jazz Band, which toured throughout Europe until 2009. Trombonist and bandleader Peter Herbolzheimer passed away at age 74 in Cologne, Germany on March 27, 2010.
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Joseph Alison Harris was born on December 23, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and took lessons at an early age from Pittsburgh native Bill Hammond, an acclaimed master of traditional rudimental drumming. The training gave him the ability to sit in with a band or orchestra and quickly sight-read almost any style of music. While still in his teens he hit the road playing in big-band ensembles for a globe-trotting career as one of the most versatile jazz drummers of his time, one of the last survivors of the golden era of bebop.
A former Pittsburgh band mate, bassist Ray Brown who had joined Dizzy Gillespie’s pioneering bebop band, arranged for Joe to audition for the drum chair, leading to be a member of the group. Fired for demanding overtime pay for a rehearsal, they later reconciled.
Remaining in high demand throughout his career, he married, lived and played in Sweden for five years during the Fifties, welcoming the contrast from the racial prejudices of the United States. Harris toured Europe with a band led by Quincy Jones, joined a state-run band at Radio Free Berlin and accompanied Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday and many other greats.
He spent his last decades at his Manchester home, teaching jazz history and drums for years at the University of Pittsburgh, tapered back his performing schedule and mentored younger jazz musicians. Drummer and educator Joe Harris passed away on January 27, 2016 at age of 89.
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Ronald “Ronnie” Ball was born December 22, 1927 in Birmingham, England. He moved to London in 1948, and in the early Fifties worked both as a bandleader and under Ronnie Scott, Tony Kinsey, Victor Feldman and Harry Klein.
1952 saw a move to New York City where he studied with Lennie Tristano. In the 1950s and in the Sixties he worked extensively around the jazz scene with Chuck Wayne, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, Kenny Clarke, Hank Mobley, Art Pepper, J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Warne Marsh, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge and Chris Connor among others.
By the 1960s he relatively disappeared from music. Pianist, composer and arranger Ronnie Ball passed away in October,1984.
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David Nathaniel Baker Jr. was born on December 21, 1931 in Indianapolis, Indiana and took up the trombone attending Crispus Attucks High School. He went on to matriculate through Indiana University, earning his Bachelor and Master degrees in Music, having studied with J. J. Johnson, János Starker, and George Russell.
His first teaching position was at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri in 1955, a historic black institution, but Baker had to resign his position under threats of violence after he had eloped to Chicago, Illinois to marry white opera singer Eugenia (“Jeanne”) Marie Jones. Thriving in the Indianapolis jazz scene of the time, he was as a mentor of sorts to Indianapolis-born trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Forced to abandon the trombone due to a jaw injury that left him unable to play, he subsequently learned to play cello.
The shift to cello largely ended his performing career but began his life as a composer and pedagogue. Among the first and most important people to begin to codify the then largely aural tradition of jazz he wrote several seminal books on jazz, including Jazz Improvisation in 1988. Baker taught in the Jazz Studies Department at Indiana University and made the school a highly regarded destination for students of jazz. His students included Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Jim Beard, Chris Botti, Jeff Hamilton, and Jamey Aebersold.
Baker’s compositions range from Third Stream to traditional to symphonic works. He composed some 2000 compositions, has been commissioned by over 500 individuals and ensembles, nominated for a Pulitzer and a Grammy award, honored three times by Down Beat magazine, and was the third inductee to their jazz Education Hall of Fame, as well as several other jazz awards.
Trombonist, cellist, composer and pedagogue David Baker, who performed with his second wife Lida, a flautist, since the Nineties and has more than 65 recordings, 70 books, and 400 articles to his credit, passed away on March 26, 2016, at age 84 at his Bloomington, Indiana home.
Robert Edward Brookmeyer was born an only child on December 19, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri and began playing professionally in his teens. Attending though not graduating from the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, he played piano in big bands led by Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, but concentrated on valve trombone from when he moved to the Claude Thornhill orchestra in the early 1950s.
He was part of small groups led by Stan Getz, Jimmy Giuffre, and Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s and during the Fifties and Sixties he played New York City clubs, television house band, studio recordings, and arranged for Ray Charles and others. In the early 1960s Brookmeyer joined flugelhorn player Clark Terry in a band and they appeared together on BBC2’s Jazz 625.
A move to Los Angeles, California in 1968 saw Bob becoming a full-time studio musician, spending 10 years on the West Coast, and sinking into a serious alcohol problem. After overcoming this debilitation he returned to New York and became musical director for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1979. Writing for and performed with jazz groups in Europe from the early 1980s, he went on to establish and run a music school in the Netherlands, taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as other institutions.
Eight time Grammy nominated trombonist, composer, arranger, bandleader and educator Bob Brookmeyer, who played n the mainstream, cool, post bop and West Coast jazz genres, passed away on December 15, 2011 in New London, New Hampshire.
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