Bob Cranshaw was born Melbourne R. Cranshaw on December 10, 1932 in Evanston, Illinois and started on drums and piano before switching to the tuba and bass in high school. He was a founding member of Walter Perkins’ MJT +3 band in 1957 and it was Perkins who recommended Bob to Sonny Rollins as a replacement bassist for a gig at the first Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago in 1959.
His long association with Rollins has spanned over five decades with their first recording of the album The Bridge in 1962. From the heyday of Blue Note Records to the present, though never a leader, Cranshaw has a long list of accolades performing and recording with such giants as Lee Morgan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon, Duke Pearson, Grant Green, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson, Shirley Scott, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and the list goes on and on.
One of the early jazz bassists to trade his upright bass for an electric bass, Bob was criticized for this by jazz purists, who either never knew or cared that he was forced to switch due to a back injury incurred in a serious auto accident. Never stopping, he served as the sole session bassist for Sesame Street and The Electric Company and played on all songs, tracks, buttons and cue recorded by The Children’s Television Workshop under the tenure of songwriter and composer Joe Raposo.
Cranshaw has performed on Broadway, on hundreds of television shows such as the David Frost Show band under Dr. Billy Taylor and the original 70s Saturday Night Live, has worked on film and television scores, and appeared on The Blue Note Story documentary of the famous label. He has also recorded for Vee Jay, Prestige and other labels throughout his career as a sought after sideman. He remains an active performer and member of the New York Musicians Union.
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Eddie Gladden was born on December 6, 1937 in Newark, New Jersey and became interested in drums before he was ten years old. He would bet on the furniture around the house until his mother bought him a drum set. He attended Newark’s Arts High School, majored in music, and eventually got into different groups.
As an up-and-comer, Gladden held down a few jobs outside music but by his early ’20s he was working professionally around Newark. He played jam sessions, gigged and recorded with Larry Young, Freddie Roach, Woody Shaw, Johnny Coles, Connie Lester and Buddy Terry. By 1972 he was touring with James Moody, then worked with Kenny Dorham, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Scott, Richie Cole and Horace Silver prior to joining Dexter Gordon.
Performing, recording and touring worldwide with Gordon was Eddie’s crowning career achievement with performances on such classic albums as “Live at Carnegie Hall” and “Nights at the Keystone”. Suffering a stroke in 1988 he was sidelined from music and it took several years to recuperate but finally returning to play occasionally. His list of who’s who includes but not limited to Eddie Jefferson, Cecil Payne, David “Fathead” Newman, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Kirk Lightsey, Clifford Jordan, Albert Dailey and Jimmy Ponder to name a few.
Eddie Gladden, the powerful, fiery and creative drummer who was easy to work with, passed away of a heart attack on September 30, 2003.
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Jim Hall was born James Stanley Hall on December 4, 1930 in Buffalo, New York. Learning to play guitar as a child, he was educated at the Cleveland Institute of Music. After his matriculation he moved to Los Angeles, California and began to attract national then international attention in the late 50s. It was during this period that he further studied classical guitar with Vincente Gomez.
Hall would play with the Chico Hamilton Quintet and Jimmy Guiffre in the Fifties, Ella Fitzgerald in the early 60s, then played with Ben Webster, Hampton Hawes, Bob Brookmeyer, John Lewis, Zoot Sims, and Lee Konitz, among others. A move to New York led him to work with Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer and his live and recorded collaborations there with Bill Evans, Paul Desmond and Ron Carter have become legendary.
Formal recognition as a composer came in 1997, when Jim won the New York Jazz Critics Circle Award for Best Jazz Composer/Arranger. His pieces for string, brass, and vocal ensembles can be heard on his “Textures and By Arrangement” recordings. He has been commissioned to compose for guitar and orchestra, awarded an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, was one of the first musicians to join the fan-funded label ArtistShare.
Hall changed the way jazz guitar sounded, with his innovation, composition, and improvisation. Apart from Metheny, he influenced other contemporary artists such as Bill Frisell, Mick Goodrick, John Scofield, and John Abercrombie. He continued to perform, tour and record up until he passed away in his sleep on December 10, 2013 in his Manhattan apartment.
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Lou Rawls was born Louis Allen Rawls on December 1, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. Raised on the South side he began singing in church at age seven, and then started singing with local groups where he met Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield.
After graduating from Dunbar Vocational High School he sang briefly with Cooke in the Teenage Kings of Harmony followed by a stint with the Holy Wonders. He replaced Cooke in the Highway QC’s when Cooke went to the Soul Stirrers. He was recruited by the Chosen Gospel Singers, moved to Los Angeles and was subsequently joined the Pilgrim Travelers.
After serving in the Army he returned to the Travelers touring the South with Sam Cooke, was in a serious crash and off the music scene for a year. He returned to perform at the Hollywood Bowl, signed with Capitol Records, released his first jazz album Stormy Monday in 1962 and four years later opened for The Beatles in Cincinnati. His Live album went gold but it wasn’t until Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing winning his first Grammy Award for Dead End Street.
He would go on to co-host the Dean Martin Show, performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, left Capitol for MGM, then Bell and finally settling in at Philadelphia International Records, releasing his gold album All Things In Time that featured “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”, followed by a string of albums.
Over the course of his career he would act in motion pictures and on television, voiced-over cartoons and animated television series, receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1982, perform the national anthem at the Ernie Shavers-Muhammad Ali fight and several the World Series, and would start the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon in 1980 raising over $200 million in 27 years for the United Negro College Fund.
Lou Rawls, jazz, soul and blues singer known for his smooth vocal style, once lauded by Frank Sinatra as having “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game”, passed away from cancer on January 6, 2006.
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Ethel Llewellyn Ennis was born November 28, 1932 in Baltimore, Maryland and began performing on the piano in high school, but her natural vocal abilities soon eclipsed those as a pianist.
Embarking on a solo career Ethel recorded a number of songs for Atlantic Records before her 1955 debut of “Lullabies for Losers” on Jubilee Records. Two years later she moved to Capitol Records releasing “A Change of Scenery” followed by “Have You Forgotten”.
Ennis took a six-year hiatus from recording while she toured Europe with Benny Goodman. By the early Sixties she was back in the studio recording another four albums for RCA Records but unfortunately was dissatisfied with the creative direction and artist management left for a second recording hiatus of eight years. During this time she recorded the title song for the 1967 film Mad Monster Party and in 1973 the “10 Sides of Ethel Ennis” emerged on record store shelves.
That same year Ennis was invited to sing at the re-inauguration of Richard Nixon and her unusual a cappella rendition of the national anthem shocked some, but inspired many others. Ethel returned to Baltimore, rarely performing outside the area over the next several decades. 1980 saw her return to the studio releasing a live album, but it would be fourteen years later before her self-titled album came out, followed by the 1998 release of “If Women Ruled The World” was released on Savoy Jazz and a 2005 live recording of her performance at Montpelier was released to critical acclaim.