Bill Lee was born William James Edwards Lee III on July 23, 1928 in Snow Hill, Alabama the son of Alberta Grace Edwards, a concert pianist, and Arnold Wadsworth Lee, a musician. A bassist by profession, he is also a composer, arranger and conductor.
Bill scored his son’s first four movies, and was also the musical director and performer Sonny Darling in She’s Gotta Have It, the bassist in the Phyllis Hyman Quartet and the music conductor of the Natural Spiritual Orchestra for School Daze and Do The Right Thing, and appeared as Father of the Bride and also the music director for Mo’ Better Blues.
Lee was arrested in 1991 during a police drug sweep for heroin possession, fell out with his son, Spike Lee, over the arrest and subsequent interracial marriage to second wife that took place shortly after his first wife Jacquelyn, Spike’s mother, passed away from cancer. Bad blood continued as Spike made Jungle Fever that set a negative light on White/Black romantic relationships.
Along with Stuart Scharf he was the music arranger for the stage play A Hand is on the Gate. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Harry Belafonte television specials, has composed operas, stage music for the Apollo Theatre and has recorded with The Brass Company, Stanley Cowell, Richard Davis, Clifford Jordan, Harold Mabern, Pat Martino, Johnny Griffin, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Odetta, Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot and Peter, Paul and Mary among others. Double bassist and bass guitarist Bill Lee continues to compose, arrange and conduct.
The Lady’s in Love With You comes from the 1939 film Some Like It Hot starring Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, and was composed by Burton Lane with lyrics by Frank Loesser. It was a major hit for Glenn Miller that year and is a favorite of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and others.
Some Like It Hot is a 1939 comedy film starring Bob Hope, Shirley Ross and Gene Krupa. Based upon the play The Great Magoo but the title of the film is taken from a nursery rhyme, and bears no relation to the Billy Wilder acclaimed 1959 comedy movie Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. The movie was reissued for television as Rhythm Romance.
The Story: Nicky Nelson is a fast-talking sideshow barker with a wax-and-alive concession on Atlantic City’s boardwalk. Even with the band of his friend, struggling musician Gene Krupa, playing on the sidewalk to attract the customers, “The Living Corpse” and other low-rent acts aren’t enough to lure the seen-it-all boardwalk strollers, and the landlord closes the show in lieu of never-paid rent. Nicky, always promoting goes to Stephen Hanratty, head of the pier’s Dance Pavilion, to plug Krupa’s band as an attraction, but Hanratty won’t even listen to them. But, while there, he meets singer Lily Racquel, who knows he is a phony but might have the ability to talk a radio-station manager into giving her an audition. She gives him a ring to help finance the project; he promptly loses it in a crap-game.
Carl Charles Fontana was born on July 18, 1928 in Monroe, Louisiana and learned jazz from his father Collie, a saxophonist and violinist. He first performed with his father’s band while in high school and would go on to attend the University of Louisiana Monroe for two years prior to transferring to Louisiana State University and getting a degree in Music Education.
Fontana got his first professional break on the jazz scene in 1951 when he was hired to stand in for Urbie Green in the Woody Herman band. Impressing the bandleader with his improvisational skills he kept him on as a permanent member of the band even after Green returned..
Three years later he left Herman and joined Lionel Hampton’s big band. In early 1955 he played briefly with Hal McIntyre before joining Stan Kenton’s big band later in the year. He recorded three albums with Kenton and also worked with fellow trombonist Kai Winding during this period. Being an inventive yet fluid player made it easy for him to record and tour, but Carl was also a master of the “Doodle Tonguing” technique, that allowed him to smoothly execute runs of notes at speeds many had not previously considered possible to achieve on a slide trombone.
By 1958, Fontana was living in Las Vegas, Nevada and would tour only on rare occasions. He primarily performed with house orchestras in Las Vegas during the 1960s, particularly Paul Anka’s band with Rosolino, and in the bands backing Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. This continued into the Seventies in addition to recording with Louie Bellson, Bill Watrous, and Supersax as well as co-leading a date with Jack Hanna, titled The Hanna-Fontana Band: Live at Concord.
The 1980s saw him appearing regularly on National Public Radio’s Monday Night Jazz program. And although he recorded on more than 70 albums over his long career, his first true record as a headliner did not appear until 1985 when Uptown Jazz released The Great Fontana. He continued performing and recording sporadically throughout the 1990s.
Trombonist Carl Fontana, who never earned great fame but was on every great trombonist’s list of greats, passed away in Las Vegas, Nevada aged 75 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease on October 9, 2003.
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Vince Guaraldi was born Vincent Anthony Dellaglio on July 17, 1928 in San Francisco, California. Growing up in the North Beach area, taking the name of his stepfather Tony Guaraldi after being adopted and being around his maternal uncle was a musician, singer and whistle all became an important influence on his blossoming musical career. He attended Lincoln High School, went on to San Francisco State University and then enlisted and served as an Army cook during the Korean War.
His first recording was a self-titled LP recorded in 1953 with the Cal Tjader Trio and released early the following year. By 1955, Guaraldi had his own trio with Eddie Duran and and Dean Reilly. Reuniting with Tjader in 1956 he became an integral part of two bands that the vibraphonist assembled, the first band played mainly straight jazz with Al Torre on drums and Eugene Wright on bass and Luis Kant playing congas and bongos. The second band included Al McKibbon, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bob, Paul Horn and Jose “Chombo” Silva. He made a big splash with his performance with Tjader at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Vince left the group early in 1959 to pursue his own projects full-time. He probably would have remained a well-respected but minor jazz figure had he not written an original number to fill out his covers of Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luis Bonfá tunes on his 1962 album, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. His label, Fantasy Records released the single Samba de Orpheus with his original Cast Your Fate To The Wind on the B-side trying to catch the building bossa nova wave. As providence would have radio DJs began flipping it over and playing the B-side and the gentle, likeable tune stood out from everything else on the airwaves and became a grassroots hit and won the Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition.
Guaraldi would go on to record with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, began experimenting with electric piano and then composed a series of Latin influenced waltz tempos and jazz standards for the Eucharist chorus at the San Francisco Grace Cathedral. Through contact with Peanuts television producer Lee Mendelson, he was commissioned to score the upcoming Christmas special and played what would become Linus and Lucy over the phone two weeks later. The Vince Guaraldi Trio with drummer Jerry Granelli and bassist Fred Marshall recorded the soundtrack and he would go on to compose scores for seventeen Peanuts television specials, plus the feature film A Boy Called Charlie Brown.
Pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi passed away at age 47 on February 6, 1976. The evening before, he had dined at Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson’s home and was reportedly not feeling well, complaining of indigestion-like chest discomfort that his doctor had told him was nothing to worry about. The following evening, after concluding the first set at Butterfield’s Nightclub in Menlo Park, California with his interpretation of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, Guaraldi and drummer Jim Zimmerman returned to the room they were staying in that weekend at the adjacent Red Cottage Inn, to relax before the next set. Walking across the room he just collapsed. That was it. The cause of death has been variously described as a heart attack or an aortic aneurysm. He had just finished recording the soundtrack for It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon. He left us a modest catalogue of some 32 albums as a leader or co-leader, 14 notable appearances as a sideman and another eleven showcasing or featuring his music.
Bola Sete was born Djalma de Andrade on July 16, 1923 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. His name translates to Seven Ball and in Brazilian billiards the seven ball is the black ball on the table. He got this nickname when he was the only black member of a small jazz group. He studied guitar at the Conservatory of Rio and started performing with his own sextet and local samba groups while he was still a student. His early influences were guitarists Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Barney Kessell and Oscar Moore, as well as the big band sounds of Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman that toured South America.
His career began in 1952 playing various clubs and hotels around Italy for four years. Then returning to Brazil while touring South America he was spotted by the manager of the Sheraton hotels who brought him to the States to play in New York’s Park Sheraton and San Francisco’s Sheraton Palace. Dizzy Gillespie was staying there at the time and listening to Bola Sete playing every day. When Gillespie decided to bring his pianist Lalo Schifrin to the hotel, he discovered that Lalo and Bola had already met and played together in Argentina. This meeting was the beginning of Bola’s success in the US. In the fall of 1962, Gillespie took the guitarist to the 9th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival. Enjoying huge success he toured for a while with Gillespie then returned to San Francisco and joined the Vince Guaraldi Trio.
Bola was already well known in the US, and his partnership with Guaraldi yielded several well-received recordings. After staying for a couple of years Bola formed his own trio with his fellow Brazilians, bassist Sebastian Neto and drummer Paulinho da Costa. In the 1970s, he became friends with guitarist John Fahey, who had been an admirer of Sete’s. In 1975, Fahey used his Takoma label to release Ocean, which is now seen as one of Sete’s greatest accomplishments.
During the eighties, Sete suffered from lung cancer and though he attempted to counter with yoga and meditation, on February 14, 1987 guitarist Bola Sete passed away at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California from complications caused by pneumonia and cancer.
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