Herb Ellis was born Mitchell Herbert Ellis in Farmersville, Texas on August 4, 1921 and raised in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. He first heard the electric guitar performed by George Barnes on a radio program which inspired him to take up the guitar. He became proficient on the instrument by the time he entered North Texas State University, majored in music, but with no guitar program he studied string bass. With a lack of funds he dropped out in 1941 and toured for six months with a band from the University of Kansas.
In 1943, he joined Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra and it was here that he got his first recognition in the jazz magazines. Leaving Gray for the Jimmy Dorsey band, he got his initial opportunities to recorded solos. Ellis remained with Dorsey through 1947, traveling and recording extensively, but with a six-week hole in the schedule, he John Frigo and Lou Carter took a gig in Buffalo that lasted six months and where the group Soft Winds was born he wrote the classic jazz standard Detour Ahead.
The group fashioned themselves after the Nat King Cole Trio. and stayed together until 1952. Herb then replaced Barney Kessel in the Oscar Peterson Trio in 1953. His prominence not only with his performing with the trio alongside Ray Brown until 1958 but also because he was the only white person in the group in a time when racism was still very much widespread.
With the addition of a drummer, the Oscar Peterson Trio, served as the house rhythm section for Norman Granz’s Verve Records. They supported the likes of Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Buddy Rich, Lester Young, Benny Carter, Victor Feldman, Mel Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong among numerous others.
The trio were a mainstay of Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts as they swept the jazz world, from 957 to 1960 Ellis toured with Ella Fitzgerald, and along with fellow jazz guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd and Tal Farlow, he created another ensemble, the Great Guitars.
In 1994 he was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame, received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of North Texas College of Music. Guitarist Herb Ellis, released twenty-two albums as a leader before passing away from Alzheimer’s disease at his Los Angeles home on the morning of March 28, 2010, at the age of 88.
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Kamil Hála was born on August 1, 1931 in Most, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and during his musical career he worked as a pianist and arranger with a number of renowned jazz and dance orchestras, among them he starred in the Zdeněk Barták Orchestra.
As a composer and arranger he spent time collaborating with the Karel Vlach Orchestra and also directed his own jazz big band. Together with Josef Vobruba, they worked as conductors at the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra and the Jazz Orchestra of Czechoslovak Radio .
Pianist, composer, conductor and arranger Kamil Hála, brother of trumpeter and music composer Vlastimila Hala, passed away on October 28, 2014 in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
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Roy Lee Porter was born on July 30, 1923 in Walsenburg, Colorado and moved from Walsenburg to Colorado Springs when he was eight years old and began playing drums in rhythm and blues bands while a teenager. He attended Wiley College in Texas briefly, where trumpeter Kenny Dorham was a fellow student. He joined Milt Larkin’s band in 1943, replacing Joe Marshall.
After military service Porter settled in Los Angeles, California and his talents were soon in demand by some of the pioneers of bebop. He worked with Teddy Bunn and Howard McGhee, making his first recordings with the latter. In 1946 he backed Charlie Parker on such Dial classics as A Night In Tunisia, Yardbird Suite, Ornithology and the unfortunate recording of Lover Man.
Playing on Los Angeles’ Central Avenue afforded him opportunities to perform with with Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Teddy Edwards. In San Francisco, California he performed with Hampton Hawes and Sonny Criss. In 1949 Roy organized and went on the road with a big band that included Art Farmer, Jimmy Knepper and Eric Dolphy.
During the 1950s he was inactive as a jazz musician due to drug problems and only returned to music infrequently afterwards. Drummer Roy Porter never led a recording session and passed away on January 24 or 25, 1998 in Los Angeles.
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Charles Reed “Charlie” Biddle, CM was born and raised in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 28, 1926. After completing military duties in the US Armed Forces during World War II, serving in China, India and Burma, he returned home and went on to study music at Temple University, where he started playing bass. In 1948, he arrived in Montreal while touring with Vernon Isaac’s Three Jacks and a Jill. Fascinated by the lack of racism among musicians in Canada, particularly Quebec, where he saw black jazz musicians playing alongside white jazz musicians as the best of friends, he settled in Montreal.
Employed as a car salesman from 1954 to 1972, he performed with pianists Charlie Ramsey, Milt Sealey, Alfie Wade, Sadik Hakim, and Stan Patrick in local Montreal nightclubs. As a promoter, Charlie booked musicians Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan and Thad Jones to perform in Montreal.
He performed off and on with guitarist Nelson Symonds between 1959 and 1978, changing leadership and performing as a duo. He was an important supporter and promoter of jazz in Montreal, organizing outdoor festivals of local jazz musicians, particularly Jazz Chez Nous, a 3-day jazz festival in 1979 and another in 1983 which laid the foundation for the Montreal International Jazz Festival, now the world’s largest jazz festival.
In 1981 he lent his name to a jazz club in downtown Montreal that became Biddle’s, now known as House of Jazz. It was featured in the Bruce Willis film The Whole Nine Yards with his daughter Stephanie Biddle on vocals, and he was featured in The Moderns and the French-Canadian film Les Portes Tournantes.
Biddle’s remained at the heart of jazz culture in Montreal during his lifetime. When performing at the club he would use the title, ‘Charlie Biddle on the fiddle‘, led trios at the club on a regular weekly basis, along with pianists Oliver Jones, Steve Holt, Wray Downes, and Jon Ballantyne, and recorded albums with Jones, Milt Sealey and Ted Curson.
Bassist Charlie Biddle was awarded the Oscar Peterson Prize, was made a member of the Order of Canada, was honored with the Prix Calixa-Lavallée and became a Canadian citizen three years prior to his passing away on February 4, 2003 in his Montreal home surrounded by family.
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Arthur Edgehill was born July 21, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York and studied drumming during his youth. His first professional work came while touring with Mercer Ellington in 1948, and in 1953 he toured with Ben Webster. He went on to play with Kenny Dorham’s Jazz Prophets in 1956 and with Gigi Gryce and in 1957-58 toured with Dinah Washington.
He would go on to become a member of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ quartet with George Duvivier and/or Wendell Marshall, and recorded with Shirley Scott, not only on her debut album, Great Scott! In 1958, but also on her Very Saxy album in 1959 with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Buddy Tate, Coleman Hawkins, and Arnett Cobb on tenors.
Edgehill played in quartets led by Horace Silver, one featuring Cecil Payne, and at Minton’s with Hank Mobley and Doug Watkins, and jammed with Charlie Parker and Annie Laurie.
Hard bop jazz drummer Arthur Edgehill, originally spelt Edghill, not retired at the age of 90, was active from the 1950s through the 1970s. He appeared on several of the Prestige recordings from the Van Gelder Studios in Hackensack and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. He recorded on Mal Waldron’s debut album Mal-1 in 1956 and continued recording with Little Jimmy Scott, Mildred Anderson and David Amram among others.
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