Melvin Rhyne was born on October 12, 1936 in Indianapolis, Indiana and started playing the piano shortly thereafter. By the time he turned 19 he was playing piano with then-unknown tenor saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk but quickly switched to the Hammond B3 organ. His skills as a pianist fluidly translated to the organ fluently and he soon became a sideman for B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.
Melvin’s big break came in 1959 when he joined fellow Indianapolis jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery’s newly formed trio. Playing with Montgomery for five years, he recorded four sessions with the trio: Guitar on the Go, Round Midnight, Boss Guitar, and Portrait of Wes.
After the Montgomery years, Rhyne moved to Wisconsin and largely kept to himself for the next two decades. However, in 1991 Rhyne returned to the jazz scene in full force, playing on Herb Ellis’ album Roll Call, with Brian Lynch on At the Main Event, and his own comeback The Legend. Rhyne continued to be prolific in the years to come, releasing eight more solo albums for the Criss Cross jazz label.
In 2008 Rhyne teamed up with Rob Dixon forming the Dixon-Rhyne Project, a boundary-pushing jazz quartet and released Reinvention for Owl Studios in 2008. Melvin continues to perform live and record with his trio consisting of drummer Kenny Washington and guitarist Peter Bernstein. On March 5, 2013 hard bop organist, bandleader and composer Melvin Rhyne passed away in his hometown of Indianapolis at age 76.
Amos Leon Thomas Jr was born on October 4, 1937 in East St. Louis, Illinois. He studied music at Tennessee State University and went on to become the vocalist for Count Basie and others in the Sixties. In 1969, Leon released his first solo album for the prestigious Flying Dutchman label, however, an earlier album he recorded still remains unreleased.
Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song “The Creator Has a Master Plan” from the Karma album. His most distinctive attribute was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal, developed after he fell and broke his teeth before a show. This style influenced singers James Moody and Tim Buckley.
Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973 but was largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in soul jazz and several of his tracks have been sampled in hip-hop and down-tempo records. Leon Thomas, jazz singer, often in the avant-garde genre, died of heart failure on May 8, 1999.
More Posts: vocal
George Wein was born on October 3, 1925 in Boston, Massachusetts. As a youth he was a jazz pianist and while studying at Boston University led a small group, playing professionally around the Boston area. In 1950 he opened a jazz club and record label called Storyville.
In 1954 Newport residents Louis and Elaine Lorillard invited him to organize a festival in their hometown of Newport, Rhode Island, with funding to be provided by them; the subsequent festival was the first outdoor jazz festival in the United States, becoming an annual tradition. Wein went on to start a number of festivals in other cities, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and the Newport Folk Festival. In the 60s he set up Festival Productions, a company dedicated to promoting large-scale jazz events.
Pioneering the idea of corporate sponsorship, his “Schlitz Salute to Jazz” and “Kool Jazz Festival” were the first jazz events to feature title sponsors. His JVC Jazz Festivals are worldwide hosting New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Warsaw and Tokyo.
Wein has received a wide array of honors for his work with jazz concerts being honored at the White House by both Presidents Carter and Clinton. He has also received the Patron of the Arts from the Studio Museum in Harlem, France’s Legion d’Honneur and appointed Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres and named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts to name a few.
He has written his autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, received honorary degrees from the Berklee College of Music and the Rhode Island College of Music, is a Lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall and sits as a distinguished member of the Board of Directors Advisory committee of The Jazz Foundation of America.
Oscar Pettiford was born September 30, 1922 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma to a Choctaw mother and Cherokee/African American father. Growing up playing in the family band in which he sang and danced, he switched to piano at the age of 12 then to double bass when he was at the age of 14. Despite being admired by the likes of Milt Hinton, he stopped playing in 1941, feeling he couldn’t make a living. Five months later, he once again met Milt, who persuaded him to return to music.
In 1942 he joined the Charlie Barnet band and 1943 saw him gaining wider public attention after recording with Coleman Hawkins on his “The Man I Love.” He also recorded with Earl Hines, Ben Webster, led a group with Dizzy Gillespie and went to California with Hawkins to play in the film The Crimson Canary and on the soundtrack.
Following this he joined Duke Ellington, then Woody Herman but by the 50s mainly became a leader. It was in this role he inadvertently discovered Cannonball Adderley after one of his musicians tricked him into letting Adderley, an unknown music teacher, onto the stand, he had Adderley solo on a demanding piece, on which Adderley performed impressively.
Pettiford is considered the pioneer of the cello as a solo instrument in jazz music, first played the cello as a practical joke on Woody Herman. However, in 1949, after breaking his arm and finding it impossible to play his bass, he started playing the cello allowing him to perform during his rehabilitation. He made his first recordings with the instrument in 1950. The cello thus became his secondary instrument, and he continued to perform and record with it throughout the remainder of his career.
He recorded extensively during the 1950s for the Debut, Bethlehem and ABC Paramount labels among others, and for European companies after his move to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1958. Oscar Pettiford passed away from a virus associated with polio on September 8, 1960 in Copenhagen and along with his contemporary, Charles Mingus, he stands out as one of the most-recorded bassist and bandleader/composers in jazz
Lammar Wright, Jr. was born September 28, 1927 in Kansas City, Missouri to a big band trumpeter father. He began playing with local bands and by 16 the young trumpeter performing professionally with the Lionel Hampton band. Stints with Dizzy Gillespie and as principal soloist with the Charlie Barnet big band followed.
Often substituting for one another on recordings, Sr. or Jr. were never put in the credits on discographies, leaving the two to become ambiguous. However it was only the younger that hired out as a session player in the genres of R&B, rock and roll, doo-wop and others forms of music backing such artists as Wynonie Harris, Esther Phillips, The Coasters and Otis Redding during the ‘50s and ‘60s.
He later even had a brief association with Stan Kenton, whose modernistic charts were obviously influenced by some of the Hampton band’s more eccentric traits. Lammar Wright Jr. eventually settled on the West Coast, where he passed away on July 8, 1983 in Los Angeles.
More Posts: trumpet