Arif Mardin was born on March 15, 1932 in Istanbul, Turkey into a family of privilege that included statesmen, diplomats, leaders and business owners of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. He grew up listening to Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller, met jazz critic Cuneyt Sermet, who turned him onto this music and eventually became his mentor. After graduating from Istanbul University in Economics and Commerce, he studied at the London School of Economics. Though never intending to pursue a career in music, influenced by his sister’s music records and jazz, he became an accomplished orchestrator and arranger.
In 1956 fate took him down a different path when he met Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones at a Ankara concert. He sent three demo compositions to his radio friend Tahir Sur who subsequently took these compositions to Jones and Mardin became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Two years later with fiancé Latife, he relocated to Boston. After graduating in 1961, he taught at Berklee for one year and then moved to New York City to try his luck.
His career began at Atlantic Records in 1963 as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegün. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming studio manager, label house producer and arranger. In 1969, Arif became the Vice President and later served as Senior Vice President until 2001. He worked closely on many projects with co-founders Ertegün and Jerry Wexler, as well as noted recording engineer Tom Dowd. The three of them, Dowd, Mardin, and Wexler, became legendary and were responsible for establishing the Atlantic Sound.
He recorded two solo albums in the Seventies, Glass Onion and Journey, the latter wearing the hats of composer, arranger, electric pianist and percussionist. Mardin performed with Randy and Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell, Gary Burton, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham and many others. He composed, arranged, conducted and produced The Prophet in 1974, an interpretation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet voiced by Richard Harris.
Arif produced George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Vince Mendoza, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but not limited to jazz he also produced, among others, Margie Joseph, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Raul Midón, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Queen, Jeffrey Osborne, and numerous others. In 1975 he discovered Barry Gibb’s distinctive falsetto that became the Bee Gees trademark.
Over a 40 year career Mardin produced forty gold and platinum albums, 11 Grammy Awards, was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, and was a trustee of Berklee and awarded an honorary doctorate
Pianist, percussionist, producer, arranger, studio manager and vice president Arif Mardin passed away at his home in New York City on June 25, 2006 following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Sonny Cohn was born George T. Cohn on March 14, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois and started playing in small groups in his hometown with King Fleming while still a teenager. He sat in with Red Saunders’ group in 1945, while Saunders was out of the Club DeLisa and working with a sextet instead of his usual mid-sized band.
Fresh out of military service, on a recommendation from Leon Washington Sonny joined the Saunders group at the Capitol Lounge in Chicago. He was featured on Saunders’ first recordings as a leader for Savoy, Sultan, and behind Big Joe Turner on National. He performed on the records that Saunders made for OKeh Records from 1951–1953 and for Parrot and Blue Lake 1953–1954. In 1958 he was apart of the James Moody recording session on the Last Train From Overbrook on the Argo label.
Sonny Cohn survived several downsizings of the Red Saunders band, as well as the closure of the Club DeLisa, but eventually accepted an offer from Count Basie, with whom he worked from 1960 through 1984, and recording twenty-eight albums with the band..
After Basie’s death, he returned home and remained active for another two decades. Trumpeter Sonny Cohn, who never recorded as a leader, passed away on November 7, 2006 in Chicago at the age of 81.
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Allan Ganley was born on March 11, 1931 in Tolworth, Surrey, England and was a self-taught drummer. In the early 1950s Ganley played in the dance band led by Bert Ambrose. In 1953 he came to prominence as a member of Johnny Dankworth’s band, then the most popular modern jazz group in the UK. Throughout the 1950s, he worked with pianist Derek Smith, Dizzy Reece, clarinettist Vic Ash, Ronnie Scott and with visiting American musicians. Towards the end of the decade he was co-leader with Ronnie Ross of a small group known as the Jazzmakers.
By the early 1960s, Ganley was often performing with Tubby Hayes, with his small groups or occasionally assembling a big band. He was the house drummer at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and played with numerous Americans including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Jim Hall, Freddie Hubbard and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. By the early 1970s he took time out to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, then returned to the UK to form and lead a big band, which he maintained sporadically for ten years.
Throughout the Seventies and ’80s and Nineties, Allan appeared on many broadcasts and recording dates, playing jazz and effortlessly slipping from traditional to post-bop to big band to mainstream, all the while swinging with great subtlety. He accompanied pianists as different as Teddy Wilson and Al Haig and for singers from Carol Kidd to Blossom Dearie.
As an arranger, he provided charts for many leading British jazzmen and for the BBC Radio Big Band, thus enhancing the enormous yet understated contribution he made to the British jazz scene over the years. Drummer and arranger Allan Ganley passed away on March 29, 2008.
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Roy Williams was born on March 7, 1937 in Bolton, Lancashire, England and began his career as a trombonist during the British trad jazz movement of the 1950s. He played with trumpeter Mike Peters and clarinetist Terry Lightfoot in the early Sixties, then joined trumpeter Alex Welsh’s Dixieland outfit in 1965, replacing Roy Crimmins. While with Welsh, he played with visiting American jazz players as Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, and Ruby Braff.
Williams left Welsh in 1978 and joined Humphrey Lyttlelton’s band, staying with the latter for four years. In the ’80s he began working freelance and soon became a first call trombone playing with clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, trumpeter Bent Persson and clarinetist John Barnes. He performed with The World’s Greatest Jazz Band.
Among Roy’s recordings are Gruesome Twosome on the Black Lion label, and Interplay for Sine Records, both with Barnes. In 1998 he co-led a swing-oriented quintet date with saxophonist Danny Moss titled Steamers! on the Nagel-Heyer label. Though not as active as he was up through the Nineties, trombonist Roy Williams won numerous jazz polls, toured Europe and the United States and remains a popular presence when he’s on the British mainstream jazz scene.
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Eddie Jones was March 1, 1929 in Greenwood, Mississippi and grew up in Red Bank, New Jersey. In the early 1950s with Sarah Vaughan and Lester Young.
From 1951 to 1952 he taught music in South Carolina before becoming a member of Count Basie’s orchestra in 1953, a relationship that remained until 1962. During this period he recorded frequently with this ensemble, and also played with Basie in smaller ensembles, featuring Joe Newman, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Thad Jones, Ernie Wilkins, Milt Jackson, Coleman Hawkins, Putte Wickman.
Jones quit music in 1962, took a job with IBM, then later became vice president of an insurance company. By the 1980s he returned to jazz and played on and off in swing jazz ensembles. He recorded a couple of dozen albums with Dorothy Ashby, Count Basie, Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Cleveland, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Frank Wess and Ernie Wilkins.
Double bassist Eddie Jones passed away May 31, 1997 in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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