Kenny Davern was born John Kenneth Davern on January 7, 1935 in Huntington, Long Island, New York of Austrian-Irish ancestry. After hearing Pee Wee Russell the first time, he was convinced that he wanted to be a jazz musician and at the age of 16 he joined the musician’s union, first as a baritone saxophone player. In 1954 he joined Jack Teagarden’s band, and after only a few days with the band he made his first jazz recordings.
He would later work with bands led by Phil Napoleon and Pee Wee Erwin before joining the Dukes of Dixieland in 1962. The late 1960s found him free-lancing with, among others, Red Allen, Ralph Sutton, Yank Lawson and his lifelong friend Dick Wellstood.
Davern had taken up the soprano saxophone, and when a spontaneous coupling with fellow reedman Bob Wilber at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party turned out be a huge success, one of the most important jazz groups of the 1970s, Soprano Summit, was born. The two co-led the group switching between the clarinet and various saxophones, and over the next five years Soprano Summit enjoyed a very successful string of record dates and concerts. When the group disbanded in 1979, he devoted himself to solely playing clarinet, preferring trio formats with piano and drums.
He revived his collaboration with Bob Wilber in 1991 and the new group was called Summit Reunion. Leading quartets since the 1990s, Kenny preferred the guitar to the piano in his rhythm section, employing guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden and James Chirillo. He appeared numerous times at the Colorado Springs Invitational Jazz Party; in 1997 he was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame at Rutgers University, and in 2001 he received an honorary doctorate of music at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
Mainly playing in traditional jazz and swing settings, he ventured into the free-jazz genre collaborating in 1978 with avant-garde players Steve Lacy, Steve Swallow and Paul Motian that produced the album titled Unexpected. He also held an ardour and knowledge of classical music. Clarinetist Kenny Davern passed away of a heart attack at his Sandia Park, New Mexico home on December 12, 2006.
Jack” Brokensha was born John Joseph Brokensha on January 5, 1926 in Nailsworth, South Australia. He studied percussion under his father, and played xylophone in vaudeville shows and on radio. He played with the Australian Symphony Orchestra during the war years from 1942–44, and then joined a band in the Air Force from 1944 to 1946.
Forming his own group, Jack began performing in Melbourne in 1947, moving around Australia and playing in Sydney from 1949 to mid–50, Brisbane later in 1950 and Adelaide in 1951. By 1953 he had moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada with Australian pianist Bryce Rohde and together they formed the Australian Jazz Quartet/Quintet. They enlisted fellow Australian bassoonist/saxophonist Errol Buddle and American saxophonist/flutist/bassist Dick Healey to complete the ensemble that toured together until 1958 and often grew to quintet /sextet to record.
Leaving Canada for Detroit, Michigan, Brokensha was hired by Berry Gordy of Motown Records as a percussionist, becoming one of the few white members of Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio’s house band, The Funk Brothers. He was given the nickname “White Jack”, to distinguish him from Jack Ashford, an African American percussionist nicknamed “Black Jack”.
During the 1970s he ran “Brokensha’s”, a steakhouse high up in a Downtown Building whilst working at Motown. Though relatively small, the club had good food and Jack’s great music, with occasional appearance by his friend and pianist Detroit resident, pianist Bess Bonnier. Following tours of Australia with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Stan Freberg, he founded his own music production company and did a session with Art Mardigan in 1963. Jack then became more active in radio as a disc jockey and writing music for television. He recorded as a leader again in 1980 and continued to lead his own group well into the 1990s. The Australian Jazz Quartet also reunited for tours and recording in 1994, leaving a small collection of some thirteen albums as a leader and member of the quartet.
Vibraphonist Jack Brokensha moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he passed away due to complications from congestive heart failure, at age 84 on October 28, 2010.
Alan Littlejohn was born Albert John Alan Littlejohns on January 4, 1928 in Highgate, London, England. Taking up the trumpet in 1946, he trained as an accountant after the War but also played semi-professionally with bands such as the Blue Note Swingtet and the Galleon Jazz Band. In 1952 he joined Cy Laurie and then a year later moved to play with Eric Silk. Moving to Manchester for eight months he worked with Ron Simpson and the Saints Jazz band in 1954, but then returned to London to work with Eric Silk again.
1955 saw Littlejohn taking a residency at the Putney Jazz Club and a further residency in Chelsea in 1960. In 1963 he led a quintet with trombonist Tony Milliner, pianist Mat Mathewson, bassist Bucky Cowman and Terry Cox on drums, emulating the style of the Bob Brookmeyer/Clark Terry band. Cox and Cowman were soon replaced by Max Cutlan and Dave Holland, respectively.
Over the course of his career Alan would play with Mal Cutlan, Lew Hooper, Jimmy Hamilton, Matt Methewson, Cat Anderson, Peanuts Hucko, Earl Warren, Sonny Dee, the Georgia Jazz Band and to be the support band for Dave Brubeck at his Festival Hall gig. From 1973 to 1978, he played with Alvin Roy’s Band which had a residency at The Prospect of Whitby in London.
When not in residency at clubs in London Littlejohn toured Spain and Germany, guest appeared with the Merseysippi Jazz Band and during the Eighties played as a full-time professional musician for a short period. From 1990 he worked with Laurie Chescoe’s Good Time Jazz until a month before his death. Trumpeter, flugelhornist and bandleader Alan Littlejohn, most notable for his work with artists such as Ben Webster, Earl Hines, Billy Butterfield and recording with Bill Coleman, passed away on November 12, 1995 in Barnet in Hertfordshire.
Jackie Williams was born on January 02, 1933 in Harlem, New York City, New York. Growing up in the fertile jazz atmosphere of the city, he also absorbed the dance grooves of rhythm and blues. Citing Papa Joe Jones as one of his greatest influences, by the mid 1950s he was playing for dancers and soon became a first call musician for recording sessions. He is a recipient of Yale University’s Duke Ellington Fellowship Medal
For 18 years Jackie played with Doc Cheatham at Greenwich Village’s Sweet Basil and performed and recorded with Buck Clayton on a U.S. State Department tour of the Middle East and Africa. He has also been a sideman with Bobby Hackett, Illinois Jacquet, Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, Alberta Hunter, Buddy Tate, Billy Butler, Al Casey, Stéphane Grappelli, Johnny Guarnieri, Jimmy Shirley, Buddy Tate, Slam Stewart, Barbara Morrison, Milt Hinton, Dizzy Gillespie, Maxine Sullivan, Vic Dickenson, Jay McShann, Bobby Short, Teddy Wilson and Errol Garner to name a few.
At one time or another during his career Williams was a member of The Cliff Smalls Septet, The Dan Barrett Octet, The Howard Alden / Dan Barrett Quintet, Warren Vaché Quartet, Warren Vaché, Jr. And His All-Stars, Statesmen of Jazz, The Floating Jazz Festival Trio and many others.
Drummer Jackie Williams is currently a member of the Junior Mance Trio.
More Posts: drums
Jack Montrose was born December 30, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. After attending university in Los Angeles, California he worked with Jerry Gray, then Art Pepper and did arrangements for Clifford Brown. He became known for cool jazz and/or West coast jazz.
Beginning in the mid-1950s Montrose’s heroin addiction became a liability and by the time he had kicked his habit, his style of jazz was no longer popular. For a while he played in strip joints until relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked in the casinos. He returned to recording in 1977 and in 1986 found some success collaborating with Pete Jolly.
He recorded with Clifford Brown, Bob Gordon, Red Norvo, Ron Stout, Ross Tompkins, Richard Simon, Paul Kreibich, Chet Baker, Elmer Bernstein, Frank Butler, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers and Mel Torme. Tenor saxophonist and arranger Jack Montrose aka West Coast Jack, passed away on February 7, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
More Posts: saxophone