Anthony Branker was born August 28, 1958 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and raised in Piscataway and Plainfield, New Jersey. He attended the music program and graduated from Piscataway High School, then went on to Princeton University for his B.A. in Music, the University of Miami for a Master of Music in Jazz Pedagogy and finally to Columbia University, Teachers College receiving degrees of Master of Education and Doctor of Education; with specialties in Music and Music Education.
Hailing from Trinidad and Barbados heritage his family boasts a musical director and pianist with the Platters, a composer and pianist who worked with the Copasetics and Billy Strayhorn, and a music producer and bassist who has worked with Roberta Flack, Cyndi Lauper, Simply Red and others.
His lists of fellowships, commissions, compositions and collaborations while at Princeton University are extensive. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has conducted symphonies, orchestras and ensembles all over the world. Branker has performed and recorded with the Spirit of Life Ensemble and has shared the stage in a variety of musical settings with such artists as Ted Curson, Talib Kibwe, Guilherme Franco & Nova Bossa Nova, Steve Nelson, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Higgins, John Hicks, Michael Cochrane, Calvin Hill, Bobby Watson, Jacky Terrasson, Steve Nelson, Bob Mintzer, Don Braden, Ralph Peterson Jr.,Orrin Evans, Antonio Hart, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, Ted Curson, Oliver Lake, Frank Foster, Benny Carter, Conrad Herwig, Eddie Henderson, James Weidman, Stanley Jordan, Benny Carter, Ralph Peterson, Terence Blanchard, Big John Patton, Roscoe Mitchell, Gary Burton,among numerous others, and has performed in the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical.
As an educator Anthony recently retired from Princeton University after 27 years on the faculty and the endowed chair in jazz studies, serving as founding director of the Program in Jazz Studies, director of university jazz ensembles program, and associate director of the Program in Musical Performance.
In 1999 with medical problems stemming from two brain aneurysms and the discovery of an arteriovenous malformation caused trumpeter, composer, educator, scholar, and conductor Anthony Branker to give up trumpet playing and to take a leave of absence from teaching.
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Ron Escheté was born in Houma, Louisiana on August 19, 1948 and after receiving his first guitar at the age of 14, he joined a quartet and was working clubs in Louisiana before he had even graduated from high school. Attending Loyola University he majored in classical guitar and minored in flute, studying with classical guitarist Paul Guma. Shortly after leaving Loyola he toured with Buddy Greco, setting his sites on the Los Angeles, California music scene.
In 1970 Ron moved to California, working and recording with vibist Dave Pike. By 1975 he joined pianist Gene Harris and quickly establish his reputation as a premier accompanist. However, it was in 1988 that he stepped into the spotlight as a leader during a gig in San Diego. That pivotal moment would lead to a contract with Concord Records and the release of his debut solo recording A Closer Look in 1994. Since then he has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.
As an educator Escheté has dedicated nearly twenty-five years teaching music at many colleges and universities, not limited to North Texas State University, Utah State University, Loyola University, Louisiana State University at New Orleans, California State Universities at Long Beach and Fullerton, and Musicianís Institute in Hollywood. He has authored three books: Melodic Chord Phrases, The Jazz Guitar Soloist and a book of Howard Roberts solos titled Super Solos.
Over the decades the consummate sideman has worked and recorded some 30 albums with among others Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Diana Krall, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Buddy Greco, Mort Lindsey, Dave Pike, Dewey Erney, Mort Weiss, Gene Harris, and Ray Brown. Guitarist Ron Escheté continues to perform, record and tour.
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Eddie Gale was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 15, 1941 and early in life he studied trumpet with Kenny Dorham. In the early 1960s he was introduced to Sun Ra by drummer Scoby Stroman and spent many hours exposed to Sun Ra’s philosophy about music and life. During this period he explored the use of trills, placement of whole tones and then a space chord, all ideas he could not find in exercise books.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he toured and recorded extensively with Sun Ra, until Ra’s death in 1993. In 1972 he moved to San Jose California, has helped to bring jazz into the 21st century by delving into the hip-hop world with the Oakland group Coup and by the late 1990s. Eddie has held regular creative music workshops at the Black Dot Cafe, a grassroots performance space in Oakland ran by artist/activist Marcel Diallo and his Black Dot Artists Collective.
Gale also held He has recorded with Cecil Taylor, Larry Young, and Elvin Jones, and performed with John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, Booker Ervin, and Illinois Jacquet.
Trumpeter Eddie Gale, known for his work in free jazz, has recorded his debut album as a leader Ghetto Music in 1968 and has since recorded four more as well as several more as a sideman. He continues to record, perform and educate young musicians.
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Howard Lewis Johnson was born August 7, 1941 in Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1960s he worked with Charles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Archie Shepp, and Hank Mobley on the album A Slice of the Top.
He began a long association with Gil Evans in 1966, arranger of a horn section that backed Taj Mahal on Mahal’s 1971 live album, The Real Thing, which featured three other tubists/multi-instrumentalists, Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley and Earl McIntyre. Howard played with The Band on their Rock of Ages live album, The Last Waltz and into the late 2000s with The Band drummer, Levon Helm’s Band. During the 1970s, he was the band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band; he can be seen in several musical numbers, including playing bass saxophone in the King Tut sketch.
He has also led three tuba bands, collaborated with Tomasz Stanko, Substructure, Tuba Libre and GRAVITY, perhaps his best-known band. In 1981 he performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio.
He had a minor role in the 1983 film, Eddie and the Cruisers as Wendell’s replacement and also appeared in episodes of Matlock and Hill Street Blues. Johnson famously accompanied James Taylor in a performance of Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street in 1983, and also on tin whistle when Taylor sings to Oscar The Grouch.
Tubist, baritone saxophonist, arranger, conductor and bandleader Howard Johnson, who also plays bass clarinet, trumpet and other reed instruments, continues to perform, record and tour.
Lenny Breau was born Leonard Harold Breau on August 5, 1941 in Auburn, Maine. His francophone parents were professional country and western musicians who started their son playing guitar at the age of eight. At twelve he started a small band with friends and by the age of fourteen he was the lead guitarist for his parents’ band, billed as Lone Pine Junior, playing Merle Travis and Chet Atkins instrumentals and occasionally singing. He made his first professional recordings in Westbrook, Maine at the age of 15 while working as a studio musician. Many of these recordings were released posthumously on Boy Wonder.
In 1957 the family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba,, and their new touring band became the CKY Caravan. It was at one of these shows that he met sixteen year old Randy Bachman and they soon became friends, eventually Lenny began informally teaching the young guitarist. Two years later he left his parents after his father slapped him in the face for using jazz improvisations on stage. He then sought out local jazz musicians and met pianist Bob Erlendson, who began teaching him more of the foundations of jazz.
1962 saw Breau leaving for Toronto and soon created the jazz group Three with singer/actor Don Francks and bassist Eon Henstridge. They performed in Toronto, Ottawa, and New York City, their music was featured in the 1962 National Film Board documentary Toronto Jazz, recorded a live album at the Village Vanguard and appeared on the Jackie Gleason and Joey Bishop shows. Returning to Winnipeg he became a regular session guitarist recording for CBC Radio, CBC Television and contributed to CBC-TV’s Teenbeat, Music Hop, and his own Lenny Breau Show.
An ensuing friendship with Chet Atkins resulted in Lenny’s first two LP issues, Guitar Sounds from Lenny Breau and The Velvet Touch of Lenny Breau. Live! on RCA. Moving around over Canada and the United States he finally settled in Los Angeles, California in 1983. There he spent years performing, teaching, and writing for Guitar Player magazine. Unfortunately he had continual drug problems stemming from the mid-1960s, which he managed to get under control during the last years of his life. However, on August 12, 1984 his body was found in the swimming pool at his apartment complex in Los Angeles and the coroner reported that he had been strangled. Though his wife Jewel was the chief suspect but was never charged with murder and the case is still unsolved.
Several tributes were created in honor of his contributions to guitar playing and jazz. A documentary titled The Genius of Lenny Breau was produced in 1999 by his daughter Emily Hughes that included interviews with Chet Atkins, Ted Greene, Pat Metheny, George Benson, Leonard Cohen, and Bachman. In 2006 the book One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau written by Ron Forbes-Roberts was published by the University of North Texas Press. CBC Radio presented a documentary-soundscape on Lenny Breau entitled On the Trail of Lenny Breau in 2009.
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