Junko Onishi was born April 16, 1967 in Kyoto, Japan and studied piano at Berklee College of Music. She then moved to New York City where she played with Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Kenny Garrett and the Mingus Dynasty but has also worked with Jackie McLean, Holly Cole, Billy Higgins and many others.
Primarily playing in the post-bop genre, Junko cites her influences as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman but one can hear McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland and Mulgrew Miller’s influences in her playing. As a leader she has recorded nine albums on Blue Note Records label Somethin’ Else.
Choosing to study and practice she stopped performing in the late Nineties and when her mentor, Jaki Byard passed away she stopped playing completely for two years. Redeveloping her technique Onishi returned to playing and started a gym regimen to help her cope with the physical rigors of playing.
She appears in the 1997 documentary “Blue Note: A Story Of Modern Jazz playing the song “Trinity” and “Quick” from her album Play, Piano, Play: Junko Onishi Trio in Europe. In 2009 she released her Blue Note album “Musical Moments” followed by her Verve large band project “Baroque”. She continues to perform, record and tour worldwide.
Richard Davis was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 15, 1930 who began his musical career as a singer with his brothers. Davis sang bass in his family vocal trio in addition he began studying the double bass in high school with his music theory and band director, Captain Walter Dyett. After graduation, he went on to study the double bass with Rudolf Fahsbender of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra while attending Vandercook College.
After college, Davis performed in dance bands making a name for himself around Chicago, making connections that led him to pianist Don Shirley. In 1954 he and Shirley moved to New York City, performed together until 1956, when he began playing with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra.
Richard then toured and recorded as part of Sarah Vaighan’s band, worked with Dorothy Ashby, Jaki Byard, Booker Ervin, Charles Lloyd, Candido Camero, Jimmy Forrest and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra among others. Some of his most famous contributions were Eric Dolphy’s 1964 “Out To Lunch”, Andrew Hill’s “Point Of Departure” and Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, Laura Nyro’s “Smile” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run”.
He has recorded fifteen albums as a leader and over a hundred as a sideman. A long-time educator, he has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1977 where he teaches bass, jazz history, and improvisation. Bassist Richard Davis received the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters award.
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Milton “Shorty” Rogers was born Milton Rajonsky on April 14, 1924 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He worked first as a professional trumpeter with Will Bradley and Red Norvo. For two years beginning in 1947 he worked extensively with Woody Herman and then from 1950 to1951 he played with Stan Kenton.
Rogers appeared on Shelly Manne’s 1954 album “The Three and the Two” along with Jimmy Guiffre, later recording with Guiffre showing his experimental side, resulting in an early form of avant-garde jazz. Settling in Los Angeles in the early fifties, by 1953 he was recording as a leader with RCA through 1962 that incorporated avant-garde, cool jazz and the “hot” style of Count Basie, who was a great inspiration for him.
Shorty’s composer credits include Mr. Magoo cartoon “Hotsy Footsy” and the Looney Tune “Three Little Bops”, scored the Brando film “The Wild One” and the Sinatra vehicle “The Man With The Golden Arm”. Becoming better known for his skills as a composer and arranger than as a trumpeter in the early ‘60s he stopped performing on trumpet, left the jazz scene and concentrated on writing for television and film for many years.
In 1982, he returned to the trumpet and jazz and by the 1990s formed a Lighthouse All Stars group with Bud Shank, Bill Perkins and Bob Cooper. Trumpeter, composer and arranger Shorty Rogers, a figurehead in the West Coast era of “cool jazz” passed away on November 7, 1994.
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Promises, Promises opened at the Shubert Theatre on December 1, 1968 and ran for 1281 performances, ushering it into the blockbuster hall of fame. Composers Burt Bachrach & Hal David scored the music that rendered I’ll Never Fall In Love Again that went on to become a jazz standard. Jerry Orbach, Ken Howard and Jill O’hara star.
The Story: In this adaptation of the Jack Lemmon movie vehicle “The Apartment”, a young man (Jerry Orbach) attempts to get ahead in the world of business, climbing the corporate ladder by lending his apartment to various executives.
Broadway History: A reluctant success of Broadway is the fact that many of the plays had been turned into movies by the Hollywood film industry. When the movie studios began implementing sound technology for film screenings, musicals were some of the first productions released on the silver screen. Not only did the scripts migrate from the stage to the screen, but many actors and actresses did as well. To this day, many well-known film actors began their career on Broadway.
Alwin Lopez Jarreau was born March 12, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a minister/singer father and church pianist mother. He started out sing church concerts and benefits with his family and PTA meetings with his mother. He attended Ripon College where he sang with a group called the Indigos but graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and went on to earn his Masters in Vocational Rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. He then worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor in San Francisco and moonlighted with a jazz trio led by George Duke.
By 1967, Al found success with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez and the duo became the star attraction at Gatsby’s, a small Sausalito nightclub, which ultimately guided his decision to make singing his profession. Heading south the duo hit the L.A. hotspots, appeared on Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and David Frost shows, and sang at The Improv between rising star comics like Bette Midler, Jimmie Walker and John Belushi.
Jarreau made jazz his primary occupation and in 1975 he signed with Warner Brothers dropping his critically acclaimed debut album, “We Got By”, that catapulted him to international fame and was soon followed by his second release “Glow”. He wrote and performed the Grammy-nominated theme to the 1980s television show “Moonlighting” and is also well known for his scat singing and the ability to imitate conventional guitar, bass, and percussive instrumentation.
Al was a featured vocalist on USA for Africa’s “We Are The World”, toured extensively, got his symphony program under way, performed on the Broadway production of “Grease” and signed with Verve. He has toured and performed with Joe Sample, Kathleen Battle, Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Rick Braun and George Benson among others. The seven-time Grammy winner in jazz, pop and R&B categories received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He continues to tour, perform and record.
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