Ismael Rivera also known as Maelo was born on October 5, 1931 in the Santurce sector of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The oldest of five children he was always singing and banging on cans with sticks. He received his primary education at the Pedro G. Goyco Elementary School and then went on to learn carpentry at a vocational school. He also shined shoes to help his family financially and when he was 16 years old, he worked as a carpenter. During his free time he would hang around the corner with his best friend Rafael Cortijo and sing songs. In 1948, he and Cortijo joined El Conjunto Monterrey, where he played the conga and Cortijo the bongos, but was unable to work full-time as a musician because of his work as a carpenter.
In 1952, Ismael joined the U.S. Army but was quickly discharged, because he didn’t speak English. He returned to Puerto Rico and went to work as the lead singer with Orquesta Panamericana, recording and scoring his first hits with the songs El charlatán, Ya yo sé, La vieja en camisa and La sazón de Abuela. However, an incident between Rivera and another band member, over a girl, led to his departure from the popular band. In 1954, he joined Cortijo’s Combo and recorded songs, such as, El Negro Bembón, El Yayo, María Teresa and Yo Soy del Campo, which soon became hits in the Latin community in America
With Cortijo’s Combo continuing to gain fame, so did Rivera’s reputation as a lead singer. Rivera was named sonero mayor by Cuban producer Ángel Maceda, owner of club Bronx Casino in New York and played the band went to New York City and played in the famed Palladium Ballroom.
By 1959, Rivera, together with Cortijo and his Combo were casted in the Harry Belafonte movie titled Calipso. He toured with the combo that included Rafael Ithier and Roberto Roena, throughout Europe, Central and South America. Arrested for drug possession after a trip to Panama with the Cortijo combo, he took the fall to spare the other band members. After his release he formed his own band called Ismael Rivera and His Cachimbos, becoming quite successful for eight years. He reunited with Cortijo and recorded Juntos otra vez. Eventually going solo, he did well with the recordings of El Sonero Mayor, Volare and scored his greatest hit with Las Caras Lindas (de mi gente negra).
1974 saw Ismael in a recording in concert at Carnegie Hall and four years later was in Paris, France opening for Bob Marley in 1978. The death of his childhood friend, Rafael Cortijo in 1982, affected him emotionally to the point that he couldn’t sing in the tribute, and was actively involved in the creation of a historical museum which depicts the contributions made to the cultural life of Puerto Rico by the black Puerto Ricans.
Composer and vocalist Ismael Rivera passed away on May 13, 1987 in the arms of his mother Margarita, from a heart attack. He recorded eleven albums as a leader and has had some thirty compilations released. Posthumously in 2008 Puerto Rico’s governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá signed a proclaim stating that every anniversary of Rivera’s birth will be celebrated as Día Conmemorativo del Natalicio de Ismael Rivera, the Puerto Rican Senate declared October 5 as Ismael Rivera Day, has a plaza named for him Plaza de los Salseros that has a statue and plaque dedicated to him.
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Ann Richards was born Margaret Ann Borden on October 1, 1935 in San Diego,California. She began taking singing lessons at ten and was self-taught on the piano. Appearing on the West Coast music scene in 1954, she had a short stint with Charlie Barnet’s band only to be later brought to the attention of Stan Kenton by songwriter Eddie Beal.
Richards was only with Kenton’s band for a few months in 1955 before the two were married. Kenton helped her secure a contract with Capitol Records and she was paired with conductor Brian Farnon and arranger Warren Baker for her 1958 debut album, I’m Shooting High. A duet album with Kenton, Two Much, was released in 1961.
The two separated in 1961 after she created scandal posed for the June 1961 issue of Playboy. She subsequently signed a contract with the Atco Records division of Atlantic Records. She released seven albums as a leader, two of them with Kenton. The cover of her 1961 album Ann, Man! was taken from the shoot. Vocalist Ann Richards committed suicide from a gunshot on April 1, 1982 in Hollywood, California, passing away at age 46.
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Carmen Leggio was born on September 30, 1927 in Tarrytown, New York. His last name literally translates to “music stand” and he taught himself to play at the age of nine. He began on clarinet, imitating Artie Shaw on the radio. At 14, he switched to tenor sax and began playing in clubs in his hometown of Tarrytown, a suburb just north of New York City.
He quit high school because he knew he was destined to be a musician and after playing the local scene, he moved to New York City in 1950. There he first worked with Terry Gibbs and became a studio musician.
His notable associations from the Fifties through the Seventies were with Marty Napoleon, Sol Yaged, Benny Goodman, the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, Woody Herman and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.
He went on to play with Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, and Doc Severinsen. Carmen has appeared on television, in movies, at the Newport Jazz Festival, Birdland and Carnegie Hall. Since 1961 and for the rest of his career Leggio played the same instrument, a Gold Medal SML made in France by Strasser, Marigaux & Lemaire with a Selmer D mouthpiece. He continued to perform Stardust, Nightmare and Begin the Beguine on an old King metal clarinet.
In his final years, he performed in various clubs and restaurants throughout Westchester. Tenor saxophonist Carmen Leggio passed away in Tarrytown on April 17, 2009.
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Raymond Kenneth Warleigh was born on September 28, 1938 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He migrated to England in 1960, where he quickly established himself as an in-demand session player.
He played and recorded with many major figures and bands of the UK jazz and blues scene, including Alexis Korner, Tubby Hayes, Humphrey Lyttelton, Terry Smith, Ronnie Scott, Long John Baldry, John Mayall, Allan Holdsworth, Soft Machine, Georgie Fame, Mike Westbrook, Dick Morrissey and Kenny Wheeler, as well as Mike Oldfield, Nick Drake, and Charlie Watts. He accompanied visiting artists such as Champion Jack Dupree and his successful 30-year career partnered him with Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull, Scott Walker and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Warleigh’s First Album was released in 1968 and in 1971 he played saxophone and clarinet with the loosely connected UK folk group P. C. Kent. In 1973 he joined Latin fusion band Paz, led by vibist and composer Dick Crouch. He featured with the band for 8 years playing a weekly Sunday residency at the Kensington, a pub in Holland Park.
He recorded seven albums as a leader as well as his sideman sessions with for Spotlite, Magnus and Paladin Record labels producing Kandeen Love Song, Paz Are Back , Paz Live at Chichester Festival and Look Inside. Members of the band were Dick Crouch leader and vibes, guitarist Ed Speight, Geoff Castle on keyboards, bass guitarist Ron Mathewson, drummer Dave Sheen and percussionist Chris Fletcher. His critically acclaimed last album Rue Victor Massé was issued in 2009 and is an improvisation with free-jazz drummer Tony Marsh.
In his leisure time he was an accomplished yachtsman before serious illness struck in 2011. Alto saxophonist and flautist Ray Warleigh passed away of cancer on September 21, 2015.
Lynn Hope was born on September 26, 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama and was noted for his apparel and instrumental remakes of established pre-rock pop anthems. He joined King Kolax’s band when he graduated from high school during the 1940s. He later converted to Islam becoming known for wearing a turban, though few ever called him by his Muslim name, Al Hajji Abdullah Rascheed Ahmed.
He signed with Miracle Records in 1950, but the contract proving invalid moved to Premium Records, There he cut Tenderly, a song that was later picked up by the Chess label. Hope recorded often for Aladdin Records between 1951 and 1957, doing interpretations of such jazz standards as September Song and Summertime. While these numbers were often performed with little or no melodic embellishment or improvisation, the flip sides were often fierce up tempo blues or jump tunes.
Tenderly earned him his only hit in 1950, reaching number eight R&B and #19 pop charts. He made his last sessions for King in 1960, then fell from sight. Tenor saxophonist Lynn Hope passed away on February 24, 1993.
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