Billy Cobham was born William Emanuel Cobham on May 16, 1944 in Panama but moved to New York City with his family during his early childhood. A drummer from his youth, he attended New York’s High School of Music and Art. Graduating in 1962, he played in a U.S. Army Band from 1965 to 1968, followed by joining Horace Silver’s ensemble for a year. He went on to work with Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott and George Benson.
Branching out into jazz fusion Cobham blended elements of jazz, rock and funk to create a signature sound and recorded with the Brecker Brothers in their 1970 group Dream. From here he performed with John Abercrombie, then touring extensively with Miles Davis and recording on may albums including A Tribute To Jack Johnson.
By 1970s, Cobham was working with John McLaughlin, co-founding the Mahavisnu Orchestra, released his first solo debut titled Spectrum, and played with Carlos Santana, George Duke and Jan Hammer. It was during this period that he began recording a series of groundbreaking fusion records and experiencing astral projections during his concerts.
He would record extensively for the fusion-oriented CTI Records, while simultaneously becoming a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. By the Eighties he was working with Jack Bruce & Friends, joined up with the Grateful Dead for a performance at Radio City Music Hall, formed his Glass Menagerie, releasing two albums with Michael Urbaniak, Gil Goldstein, Tim Landers and Mike Stern. The Nineties saw Billy with an all-star cast Live At The Greek with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Najee and Deron Johnson.
In the millennium a number of solo albums have followed with drummer Billy Cobham releasing more than 30 recordings under his own name, and continuing to record, perform and teach.
Dennis Chambers was born May 9, 1959 in Baltimore Maryland. He started playing drums at the age of 4 and his ardent interest in drums at that age propelled him to keep playing whenever he got a chance. A child prodigy started performing in clubs at the age of 6, despite his lack of formal training. Within a short time, he had been invited to perform in most nightclubs in Baltimore area.
After graduating from high school in 1978, Chambers, then 18, joined George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, a band he played with until 1985. He was recruited in 1981 by the Sugar Hill Label to be their house drummer and played on many Sugar Hill releases including, “Rapper’s Delight”. A sought after first call drummer for his technique and speed, as well as his ability to play “in the pocket”. His session work and performance have included John Scofield, George Duke, The Brecker Brothers, Santana, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, CAB, Craig Howe, Sugar Hill Gang and his own band Niacin, among others.
Dennis went on to gain membership with Special EFX for two years, then joined David Sanborn, and performed on the critically acclaimed Maceo Parker live album “Roots and Grooves” with the WDR Big Band. He has played with most of the major jazz-fusion musicians.
Drummer Dennis Chambers has appeared as a featured drummer on the late Show with David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week II, alongside other such notable players Tony Royster Jr., Gavin Harris, Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. He continues to perform, tour and record.
Ella Gahnt was born Ella M. Hilton on May 7, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She studied piano, voice, guitar, saxophone and music theory at the Granoff and Settlement Music schools, the PCPA which is now the University of The Arts.
Turning professional at age 18, she has worked as vocalist and music copyist on recordings with Grover Washington, Jr., The Stylistics, Pieces of a Dream, Sam Reed, Roger Prieto, Tony Williams, Sam Dockery, Butch Ballard, Gerald Smith, and her own E.G. Trio/Quartet. She is the featured vocalist with the Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra and the Clef Club Big Jazz Band as well as being a founding member of the group Instruments & Voices
Jazz vocalist and arranger Ella Gahnt continues private instruction with her husband Leon Mitchell, musical director of The Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra, has been named a Jazz Ambassador in her hometown and performs at museums, clubs, colleges and jazz festivals throughout Philadelphia and the tri-state area.
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Andrea Brachfeld was born on May 3, 1955 and grew up in a household where it was mandatory to take the piano. She began her study at age six for seven years but at age 10 she discovered she could I found out of class if she took flute. Adding the instrument to her lessons she entered the High School of Music and Art in 1969, majoring in the flute. There she met and played with, Noel Pointer, Nat Adderley Jr., Dave Valentín, as well as Angie Bofill, Kenny Kirkland, Fred Hersch and Rodney Jones among many other musicians. But it was Noel who taught her how to write music down.
She went on to attend the Manhattan School of Music and study with Hubert Laws, Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, and Mike Longo, who helped her develop her own improvisational style. She began her professional career as a musician at age 16, composing music for the quartet she put together. Her breakthrough moment came in performance as the flutist for the popular Latin band Charanga ’76, catapulted her into Salsa history and fame as the first female flutist to play this music in the United States.
Andrea has performed and recorded jazz, Latin jazz, Charanga, funk, country western, and devotional music. She received the Louis Armstrong Award, Chico O’Farrill Lifetime Achievement Award, the Pionero Award, and the Tribute to the Charanga Flutes. She has six CDs out as a leader, another 17 as a side woman and is a member of the Wallace Roney, “Universe” Orchestra playing Wayne Shorter’s long lost music originally written for Miles Davis.
She has presented her flute and composition workshops and has performed with Hubert Laws, Rufus Reid, Winard Harper, Paquito D’Rivera, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Nestor Torres, Wallace Roney, Dave Valentín, Wycliffe Gordon, Hilton Ruiz, Steve Turre and Wayne Wallace. Flutist, piccolo player, composer and educator Andrea Brachfeld continues to perform and record.
Abdul Wadud was born Ronald DeVaughn on April 30, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn, he took up the cello and concentrated solely on the instrument from the age of nine, and never decided to double on bass.
Abdul studied at Youngstown State and Oberlin in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He played in the Black Unity Trio at Oberlin, met Julius Hemphill and the two subsequently worked together well through the Eighties. He has performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in the ’70s, earned his master’s degree in 1972, and then in 1976 played with Arthur Blythe for the first time and has maintain a working relationship.
He also worked and recorded with Frank Lowe, George Lewis, Oliver Lake, Sam Rivers, Cecil Taylor, David Murray, Chico Freeman, Anthony Davis and James Newton. Along with Newton and Davis they performed as a trio and were also a part of the octet Episteme from 1982 to 1984. Abdul recorded and in a duo with Jenkins for Red in the ’70s and as a leader for Bishara and Gramavision in the ’70s and ’80s. He has been a member of the Black Swan Quartet, Human Arts Ensemble, Julius Hemphill Quartet and Muhal Richard Abrams Orchestra.
Cellist Abdul Wadud’s plucking and bowed solos have been featured in jazz and symphonic/classical settings, he is easily considered the finest cellist to emerge from the ’60s and ’70s generation, playing in both jazz and classical settings as he continues to perform, record and tour.
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