Kirk Stuart was born Charles Kincheloe Stuart on April 13, 1934 in Charleston, West Virginia. He studied at a conservatory before accompanying singers such as Billie Holiday in 1956, Della Reese from 1957–59 and for another two years with Sarah Vaughan beginning in 1961. He also arranged and conducted for these singers.
Stuart led his own unit in Los Angeles, California later in the 1960s, and recorded with Al Grey and once more with Reese along with a few 45 rpm records as a leader on the Josie and Jubilee labels during the decade. In later years he led ensembles in Las Vegas, and accompanied Joe Williams at the Smithsonian Institution in 1982.
Pianist, vocalist and educator Kirk Stuart, who taught at Howard University, passed away during spleen surgery on December 17, 1982.
Ollie Mitchell was born Oliver Edward Mitchell in Los Angeles, California on April 8, 1927. His father, Harold Mitchell, lead trumpeter for MGM Studios, taught his son to play the trumpet.
His career would see him playing in the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rich and Pérez Prado, among others, as well as the NBC Symphony Orchestra. In the 1960s, Mitchell joined The Wrecking Crew, a group of studio and session musicians who played anonymously on many records for popular singers of the time, as well as television theme songs, film scores, advertising jingles.
An original member of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Ollie would go on to lead his own bands under the names of Ollie Mitchell’s Sunday Band and the Olliephonic Horns. It was in 1995 that he moved from to Puako, Hawaii and founded the Horns.
Mitchell recorded some two dozen albums over the course of his career with Chet Baker, Harry James, Stan Kenton, Irene Kral, Shorty Rogers, Pete Rugolo, Dan Terry and Gerald Wilson, among others.
In 2010, Ollie published his memoir, Lost, But Making Good Time: A View from the Back Row of the Band. Around this time he stopped playing the trumpet, due to macular degeneration, hand problems from an automobile accident and complications from cancer. Trumpeter and bandleader Ollie Mitchell passed away on May 11, 2013 in Puako, Hawaii at the age of 86.
More Posts: trumpet
Gerry Mulligan was born Gerald Joseph Mulligan on April 6, 1927 in Queens Village, Queens, New York. His father’s career as an engineer moved them frequently through numerous cities and while less than a year old, the family moved to Marion, Ohio. Taking on a nanny to help raise the children, Lily rose became fond of Gerry and he spent time at her home and became enamored with her player piano that had amongst it collection of rolls, Fats Waller. Her home was also a boarding house for Black musicians who came through town giving him the chance to meet them..
During a family move to Kalamazoo, Michigan he took up the clarinet in the Catholic school’s orchestra and made an attempt to arrange the Richard Rodgers song Lover. By 14 he was in Reading, Pennsylvania studying clarinet with dance-band musician Sammy Correnti, who encouraged his arranging. During this period Mulligan began professionally playing the saxophone in dance bands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was the family’s next move.
He attended the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys, organized a school big band, and wrote arrangements and by 16 was selling arrangements to local radio station WCAU. Dropping out of high school during his senior year he worked with a touring band Tommy Tucker, picking up a $100.00 a week for two or three arrangements.
A move to New York City in 1946 saw Gerry joining the arranging staff on Gene Krupa’s bebop-tinged band pumping out arrangements of Birdhouse, Disc Jockey Jump and How High the Moon” that quoted Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” as a countermelody. He began arranging for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, along with Gil Evans and occasionally sitting in as a member of the reed section.
In September 1948, Miles Davis formed a nine-piece band that featured arrangements by Mulligan, Evans and John Lewis that ended up on the Capitol Records album, titled Birth of the Cool. The band initially consisted of Davis on trumpet, Mulligan on baritone saxophone, trombonist Mike Zwerin, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, Junior Collins on French horn, tubist Bill Barber, pianist John Lewis, bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Max Roach. The Davis nonet has been judged by history as one of the most influential groups in jazz history, creating a sound that, despite its East Coast origins, became known as West Coast Jazz.
Throughout the late Forties and early Fifties he worked with Davis, George Auld, Chubby Jackson and led his debut as a leader with Mulligan Plays Mulligan. By 1952 he was moving to Los Angeles, California and arranging for Stan Kenton and getting a recording contract with Pacific Jazz Records. These sessions enlisted trumpeter Chet Baker as part of his pianoless quartet that included bassist Bob Whitlock and Chico Hamilton on drums.
Valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer would replace Baker, and Mulligan and Brookmeyer both occasionally play piano, would enlist Jon Eardley, Art Farmer, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Lee Konitz and Annie Ross. He performed as a soloist or sideman with Paul Desmond, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Witherspoon, André Previn, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Fletcher Henderson, Manny Albam, Quincy Jones, Kai Winding and Dave Brubeck, to name a few. Mulligan appeared in Art Kane’s A Great Day in Harlem portrait of 57 major jazz musicians taken in August 1958.
Gerry appeared in the films Follow That Music, I Want to Live!, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, The Rat Race, The Subterraneans and Bells Are Ringing and wrote music for A Thousand Clowns, Luv, La Menace, and Les Petites galères and I’m Not Rappaport.
Baritone saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger Gerry Mulligan passed away on January 20, 1996 in Darien, Connecticut at the age of 68, following complications from knee surgery. He had won numerous awards not limited to Down Beat Poll Winners, Kennedy Center Honors, and a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Big Band for Walk on the Water.
More Posts: saxophone
Knobby Totah was born Nabil Marshall Totah on April 5, 1930 in Ramallah, Palestine. He emigrated to the United States in 1944 and began playing the bass in 1953. He first worked in Japan with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Hampton Hawes in 1953 and ‘54, then with Bobby Scott , Johnny Smith and with Charlie Parker, Gene Krupa, Woody Herman and Eddie Costa.
From 1956 he played with Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, with whom he played with until 1959. Around 1957 Knobby performed with Tal Farlow, Bobby Jaspar and George Wallington. From 1958-1961 he worked with Herbie Mann and with Slide Hampton, then with Bobby Hackett, Teddy Wilson, Stephanie Nakasian, Johnnie Ray and with Gene Krupa through the Sixties and in 1973, played on his last album.
Totah recorded two trio albums as a leader in the mid-Eighties and late Nineties, working with Mike Longo and Ray Mosca, in addition to his recording and performing as a sideman.
Double bassist Knobby Totah passed away on June 7, 2012 in York, Pennsylvania.
More Posts: bass
Don Butterfield was born on April 1, 1923 in Centralia, Washington and though he wanted to play trumpet in high school, the band director assigned him to tuba instead. After serving in the U.S. Military from 1942-46 he went on to study the instrument at the Juilliard School.
Butterfield started his professional career in the late 1940s playing for the CBS and NBC radio networks. He played in orchestras, including the American Symphony and on albums by Jackie Gleason until he became a full time member at the Radio City Music Hall.
By the 1950s, Don had switched to jazz, backing such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Charles Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Jimmy Smith, and Moondog. He fronted his own sextet for a 1955 album on Atlantic Records and played the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.
The mid 1960s saw him taking a temporary, nearly unpaid, position conducting an amateur group of musicians known as the Gloria Concert Band, located in upstate New Jersey. In the Seventies he worked as a session musician playing on recordings for a variety of artists, and on television and film soundtracks, including The Godfather Part II.
As a sideman he recorded with Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, David Amram, Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Teddy Charles, Jimmy Cleveland, Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Roland Kirk, John Lewis, Arif Mardin, Gil Mellé, Charles Mingus, Modern Jazz Quartet, James Moody, Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan, Oliver Nelson, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Lalo Schifrin, Jimmy Smith, Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra and Stanley Turrentine
Suffering a stroke in 2005 left him unable to no longer play the tuba and on November 27, 2006 tubist Don Butterfield passed away in Clifton, New Jersey from a stroke-related illness.
More Posts: tuba