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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Helen Sachs was born December 17, 1934 in Indonesia and began taking classical piano lessons at the age of six. During her school days, she appeared as a vocalist with her own jazz trio. Her idols were the jazz singers of the 1940s like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, as well as Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé.
In 1957 Helen moved to Germany and from 1969 she began to perform with small combos and big bands. She worked with various radio and television stations in Europe, including TROS and VARA in the Netherlands, Südwestfunk and Süddeutscher Rundfunk and TV Bratislava.
She made recordings with Mel Lewis and Jeff Hamilton, and appeared with Hank Jones, Art Farmer and Toots Thielemans. She taught from 1973 to 1988 at the University of Duisburg, and in 1997 she moved to the United States.
She works with her septet Crossings and the Big Band On The Rio Grande in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Since then vocalist Helen Sachs has frequently performed in Germany, and with her quintet and the Ralf Butscher Trio together with Curt Warren.
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Borah Bergman was born on December 13, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. He began took piano lessons as a child and then changed to clarinet, before returning to piano after being discharged from the army. As an adult, he developed his left hand playing to the point where he became essentially ambidextrous as a pianist, and could play equally fast in both hands.
Bergman cited Earl Hines, Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Ornette Coleman chamber music, Bach and Dixieland as formative influences, due to the contrapuntally and polyphonically play.
Until the 1970s Borah played little in public, concentrating on private practice and his work as a school teacher. He recorded four albums as a soloist, most notably on the European label Soul Note, before embarking on duo and trio albums beginning in the 1990s. A small number of solo and quartet albums were also released from the middle of the decade.
Free jazz pianist Borah Bergman passed away on October 18, 2012.
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Dodo Marmarosa was born Michael Marmarosa on December 12, 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received the uncomplimentary nickname Dodo as a child because of his large head, short body, and bird-like nose. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 9, receiving classical music lessons, but was influenced by the jazz playing of Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, and others after fellow pianist Erroll Garner, four years his elder, introduced him to their music. Attending Peabody High School, he practiced a lot, until his left and right hands were equally strong.
Beginning his professional career in 1941 by joining the Johnny “Scat” Davis orchestra at the age of 15, he followed this stint with Gene Krupa around the end of 1942. After Krupa’s orchestra broke up he played in Ted Fio Rito’s band then moved to Charlie Barnet’s big band. He recorded debut was with Barnet in 1943 with “The Moose”, on which the 17-year-old pianist played, combining bebop and Count Basie-style minimalism. Marmarosa recorded some trio tracks with Krupa and DeFranco in 1944. He then worked with Tommy Dorsey and appeared in the MGM film Thrill of a Romance. After Dorsey he joined Artie Shaw’s big and small bands.
From the early 1940s Dodo had searched for and experimented with advanced progressive forms of jazz and became attracted to bebop after meeting and jamming with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In 1945 Marmarosa moved to Los Angeles, California and played piano on Parker’s first recordings for Dial Records. For the next two years he recorded extensively as a sideman in both bebop and swing contexts with Wardell Gray, Lionel Hampton, Mel Tormé, Willie Smith, Lester Young, and, became the house pianist for Atomic Records, Slim Gaillard and Barney Kessel.
Making his first recordings as leader in 1946, with trio tracks that included Ray Brown on bass and Jackie Mills on drums, and in a quartet with adding saxophonist Lucky Thompson, he also recorded his only vocal track, I’ve Got News for You, in the same year. He would go on to lead the first pizzicato jazz cello sessions for Dial with Harry Babasin on cello and Jackie Mills on drums.
The Fifties were not particularly productive, suffering from psychological problems and his family getting him no help, his behavior became erratic with him disappearing for weeks at a time. He recorded an Argo Records trio session in 1962 released as Dodo’s Back!, and made his final studio recordings that same year with saxophonist Gene Ammons and another with trumpeter Bill Hardman. His last public performance was contributed to his diabetes somewhere between the late Sixties to early to mid Seventies, leading to his permanent retirement.
Living in obscurity for the rest of his life, pianist, composer and arranger Dodo Marmarosa, who played in the bebop, modern, progressive and swing genres, passed away of a heart attack on September 17, 2002, in a veterans’ hospital in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
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Ernie Carson was born December 4, 1937 in Portland, Oregon. He played trumpet from elementary school, and played with the Castle Jazz Band in the mid-1950s prior to a stint in the U.S. Marines.
Following his discharge Ernie moved to and worked in Los Angeles, California with Dave Wierbach, Jig Adams, Ray Bauduc, Pat Yankee, and Turk Murphy. He led several of his own groups from the 1970s, including the Capital City Jazz Band and a new version of the Castle Jazz Band.
After more than twenty years of playing based in Atlanta, Georgia he moved back to his hometown in 1995. Dixieland jazz revival cornetist, pianist and singer Ernie Carson, who left a small catalogue of music as his legacy, passed away on January 9, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.