Charlie Christian was born Charles Henry Christian on July 29, 1916 in Bonham, Texas but his family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when he was a small child. He started performing as a dancer with his father and brothers as buskers to make ends meet. His father would later teach him to play guitar and inherit all his instruments by age 12. Attending Douglass School he was further encouraged in music but a disagreement in instrument led him to leave music and excel in baseball.
By 1936 he was playing electric guitar and had become a regional attraction. He jammed with many of the big name performers traveling through Oklahoma City including Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and Mary Lou Williams who turned him on to record producer John Hammond. This led to an audition, recommendation to Benny Goodman, subsequently gaining national exposure with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra from August 1939 to June 1941. By 1940 Christian dominated the jazz and swing guitar polls and was elected to the Metronome All Stars.
Christian was an important early performer on the electric guitar, and is cited as a key figure in the development of bebop and cool jazz. One of the best improvisational talents of the swing era, his single-string technique combined with amplification helped bring the guitar out of the rhythm section and into the forefront as a solo instrument.
Christian’s influence reached beyond jazz and swing, and in 1966, 24 years after his death, Christian was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. In 1990 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2006 Oklahoma City renamed a street in its Bricktown entertainment district Charlie Christian Avenue. On March 2, 1942, Charlie Christian passed away at age 25.
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Delfeayo Marsalis was born July 28, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana into the musical family in which father and three brothers are musicians. Lying under the piano as a child while his father played, he eventually tried the bass and the drums but by the sixth grade gravitated to the trombone. His early influences were J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn and Tommy Dorsey.
He went on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school and was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute. He graduated from Berklee School of Music and the University of Louisville with degrees in performance and audio production.
While a gifted trombonist, Delfeayo has recorded only five albums as a leader and is more prolific and better known for his work as a producer of over 100 acoustic jazz recordings. Since the age of 17 he has produced such artists as Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Roberts, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family members – Ellis, Branford and Wynton.
Along with Tonight Show engineer Patrick Smith, he coined “to obtain more wood sound from the bass recorded without usage of the dreaded bass direct”, a phrase that became the single sentence to define the recorded quality of many acoustic jazz recordings since the late ’80s.
Forming Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, the organization has trained over 300 youth and staged 8 original musicals, all of which are based upon the mission of “community unity.” Marsalis has toured with internationally renowned bandleaders Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Abdullah Ibrahim. In addition he has performed and toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, was a part of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and is an integral part of Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration DVD.
Delfeayo Marsalis, along with his father and brothers, are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.
Charlie Shoemake was born on July 27, 1937, in Houston, Texas to music loving parents who began him on piano at age six. Excelling in both baseball and music by high school graduation he was also playing vibes and had attracted the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals. He went on to Southern Methodist University to study music and play baseball. But it was during his first year he realized to be good he had to choose one and that choice was music.
In 1956 he moved to Los Angeles and embarked on an extensive study of the concepts of his idols, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell along with other greats Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Phil Woods, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Sonny Clark. During this period informal harmony studies with pianist Jimmy Rowles were very invaluable. But with the onset of rock and roll, the jazz scene began to dry up and he was forced to do studio work, commercials and accompanying vocalists to make ends meet.
Returning to the vibraphone in the Sixties and with the aid of Victor Feldman, Charlie was back in the jazz circles playing for composers Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. It was 1966 that a stop by Shelly’s Manne Hole that he was offered and took a five week tour with the George Shearing Quintet that turned into a 7 year relationship. This tenure saw him playing with the likes of Andy Simpkins, Stix Hooper, Harvey Mason, Joe Pass, Pat Martino and others.
By 1973 Shoemake opened a successful jazz improvisation school in Los Angeles and by 1990 he had taught and guided over 1500 people, most notably saxophonists Ted Nash and Tim Armacost, trombonist Andy Martin and even smooth jazz artists Dave Koz and Richard Elliot.
Closing his studio in 1990, he moved north to Cambria with the idea of having a quiet home base and touring around the world. But with no jazz in town, he approached a restaurateur to bring in jazz and today The Hamlet performs some thirty concerts a year and he appears with every major jazz musician stopping through from the East coast and Europe. Vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake is currently the Director of the Central Coast Jazz Institute.
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Almost In Your Arms is the love song from the 1958 romantic comedy Houseboat starring Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer, Paul Peterson, Charles Herbert and Mimi Gibson. Jay Livingston and Ray Evans composed and wrote the music and lyrics.
The Story: Estranged husband Tom Winters returns home from Europe after his wife’s death and takes his three unwilling children to Washington DC where he works for the State Department. Unhappy, Robert runs away and is found by Cinzia Zaccardi, the daughter of a famous Italian conductor, who is also running away. Unbeknownst, Winters offers her a job as a maid and eventually she accepts. Sister-in-law offers Tom and the children her guest house which is destroyed by a train, the driver sells Winters his broken down houseboat, all move in and the fun begins. Eventually Tom and Cinzia get married and the rest is happily-ever-after.
Erskine Ramsay Hawkins was born on July 26, 1914 in Birmingham, Alabama and was named after a local industrialist who was rewarding parents with savings accounts for doing so. He played trumpet in the Industrial High School band directed by Fess Whatley, a teacher who trained numerous African-American musicians that went on to populate the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Louis Armstrong and Skitch Henderson.
Dubbed “The 20th Century Gabriel”, Hawkins composed the jazz standard “Tuxedo Junction” in 1939 with saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson. It became a hit during World War II rising on the national charts to #7 performed by his orchestra and #1 played by Glenn Miller’s. While a bandleader Erskine featured several female vocalist like Ida James, Delores Brown and Della Reese.
From 1967 to 1989 Hawkins played the lobby bar and show nightclub at The Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York. He was inducted in 1978 into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Erskine Hawkins, trumpeter and bandleader, died in Wilmington, New Jersey on November 11, 1993, at the age of 79.