Charlie Hunter was born on May 23, 1967 in Rhode Island but by age four his mom packed him and his younger sister in an old yellow school bus and headed west. After several years living on a commune in Mendocino County they settled in Berkeley, California and graduating from Berkeley High School and taking lessons from guitar teacher Joe Satriani. At eighteen he moved to Paris, becoming a professional busker, working 8 to 12 hours a day to make ends meet.
Returning to the Bay area, he played a seven-string guitar and organ in Michael Franit’s political rap group, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Since the 1993 debut of his self-titled Charlie Hunter Trio with John Ellis on sax and Jay Lane on drums, he has recorded seventeen albums. He co-founded Garage A Trois, a jazz fusion band with Stanton Moore and Sherik, has collaborated with Bobby Previte on the ongoing project Groundtruther, and has recorded and toured with Previte’s The Coalition of the Willing.
Charlie has recorded with Christian McBride, has played in the band T.J. Kirk, that merged the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He is an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards judging panel to support independent artists, and over the years has performed and recorded with Erik Deutch, Tony Mason, Eric Kalb, Ben Goldberg, Ron Miles, Scott Amendola, and Curtis Fowlkes, continuing to perform, compose and tour.
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Lonnie Liston Smith, Jr. was born into a musical family on December 28, 1940 in Richmond, Virginia. With his father a member of Richmond Gospel music group The Harmonizing Four, as a child he was privy to groups such as the Swan Silvertones and the Soul Stirrers with a young Sam Cooke at his house. He learned piano, tuba and trumpet in high school and college, graduating from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland with a degree in music education.
Influenced by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, while still a teenager at college, Smith became well known locally as a backing vocalist and pianist. He played the Baltimore area with Gary Bartz, Grachan Moncur, Mickey Bass, backed Betty Carter and Ethel Ennis and played in the house band at the Royal Theatre.
1963 saw him moving to New York, once again with Carter for a year followed by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and recording Here Comes The Whistleman. After this stint with Kirk he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers sharing the piano seat with Mike Nock and Keith Jarrett and then with Max Roach. He would go on to play with Pharoah Sanders improvising and pushing the creative boundaries of free jazz. It is at this point that Smith began experimenting with electric keyboards:
In 1969 Lonnie also backed Sanders vocalist Leon Thomas on his first album Spirits Known and Unknown, played with Gato Barbieri on The Third World, and with Miles Davis for On The Corner. He formed the Cosmic Echoes in 1973 with Cecil McBee, George Barron, Joe Beck, David Lee, James Mtume, Sonny Morgan, Badal Roy and Geeta Vashi. The group blended fusion, soul and funk on several recordings for Flying Dutchman Records over the next twelve years.
After the crossover success of the 1970s, he moved into the smooth jazz format, however, public interest slowly waned. By the mid-Eighties he returned to his acoustic roots with McBee and Al Foster recording a session of standards for Bob Thiele’s Startrak label. But dealing with the labels bottom line he returned to smooth jazz working with Phyllis Hyman and Stanley Turrentine. He also delved into hip-hop working with rapper Guru on his groundbreaking Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. Pianist and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith established his own label Loveland, gathered greater recognition with Sony International distributing his Cosmic Echoes years, and has since continued to compose, record and tour to festivals worldwide.
Big John Patton was born on July 12, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri. His mother, a church pianist, taught him how to play the fundamentals. When he was about 13 years old, in 1948, he began to teach himself. He was inspired by the music he heard in Kansas City, but he wanted to play beyond his hometown jazz scene.
In 1954 after high school, he headed east and found professional work in Washington D.C., he found out that R&B star Lloyd Price was playing at the Howard Theater, that he had just fired his pianist and needed a new player. John played a few bars from the introduction to “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” and was given the job.
It was a five-year relationship that gave him an education he couldn’t have gotten elsewhere. He was Lloyd’s “straw boss” and the leader, he recruited top players including drummer Ben Dixon, who encourage him to check out the Hammond B-3 organ when they played in clubs that had one. A man called Butts first showed Patton how to set up the organ and find the right registrations. When he moved to New York in late 1959, it was his friend Herman Green who played with Lionel Hampton who helped him learn how to play it.
That same year Big John formed his own Hammond organ trio. Blue Note artist Ike Quebec became his mentor, introducing him into Blue Note and to one of the most important relationships in his career, with guitarist Grant Green. He went on to work as a sideman for Lou Donaldson for three and a half years. During the 1960s he became one of the most recognizable figures on the jazz scene and was a driving force of the sound of electric organ.
Over the years he recorded for Blue Note with Harold Alexander, George Coleman, George Braith, Don Wilkerson, Clifford Jordan, Harold Vick, Johnny Griffin, Grachan Moncur III, Ron Carter, Black Star, James “Blood” Ulmer, John Gilmore, John Zorn, Jimmy Ponder, Johnny Lytle, Red Holloway, Art Blakey and Marshall Allen to name a few.
Patton’s style has been resistant to imitation because of its space and economy, often being called minimalist. But he claimed that he emulated the sounds of his favorite trumpet and reed players. By the time the Acid Jazz movement emerged in the 1980s there was a resurgence in interest in his music in the UK and he made several trips to England where he was embraced by the Acid Jazz community.
Patton continued recording until the late Nineties and he developed a loyal following in both Japan and Europe, both of which he toured in addition to his dates in the United States. He recorded as a part of the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album Red Hot + Indigo in tribute to Duke Ellington. He recorded 16 albums as a leader and another twenty-six as a sideman.
Pianist and organist Big John Patton, a major figure in the development of the funk and blues rooted jazz known as soul jazz and considered the inspiration for the Acid Jazz movement, passed away from complications arising from diabetes in Montclair, New Jersey on March 19, 2002.
Roy Ayers was born on September 10, 1940 in Los Angeles, California and grew up in the epicenter of southern California Black music scene known as South Park, now called South Central. He received his first set of mallets at age five from Lionel Hampton thus leading him to the vibraphone.
He studied music attending Central Avenue area schools Wadsworth elementary, Nevins Middle and Thomas Jefferson High that also graduated Dexter Gordon. He became part of the West Coast jazz scene in the early ‘60s, played withCurtis Amy as well as Herbie Mann for four years and recorded his first album West Coast Vibes in 1963 and several albums for Atlantic Records as a post-bopper. It was during this period that he became exposed to new styles of music outside bebop.
The 70s saw the advent of jazz funk and Roy was there to help pioneer its rise. With highly successful soundtracks like “Coffy” Ayers went on to record “Mystic Voyage”, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, “Running Away” and a string of hits throughout the decade. By 1980 he had teamed with Fela Kuti releasing Afrobeat “Music of Many Colors, went on to produce Sylvia Striplin’s “Give Me Your Love”, and released several albums on the Ichiban label. He collaborated on the Stolen Moments: Red, Hot+ Cool project, turned his attention to house music, founded two record labels – Uno Melodic and Gold Mink, and currently is the feature of the documentary called the Roy Ayers Project.
Roy Ayers, vibraphonist, vocalist, keyboardist, producer, jazz, funk and soul composer has recorded over 50 albums during his long and prolific career and he continues to perform, record and tour.
John Scofield was born on December 26, 1951 in Dayton, Ohio but early in his life the family moved to Wilton, Connecticut and it was here that he discovered his interest in music. He attended Berklee College of Music but left to record with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan followed by joining the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band touring and recording for two years.
Affectionately known as “Sco”, he went on to record with Charles Mingus, replace Pat Metheny in Gary Burton’s band and in 1976 signed with Enja Records releasing his first album “John Scofield” the next year. He formed his own band with Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum in ’70 and joined Miles Davis for three and half years in 1982. Leaving Miles he formed the Blue Matter Band and released three albums, in the nineties he put together a quartet that included Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette and recorded several albums for Blue Note. Towards the end of his tenure with Blue Note, Scofield returned to a more funk and soul jazz-oriented sound, a direction that has dominated much of his subsequent output to the present.
Scofield has played and collaborated with Joe Henderson, Joey DeFrancesco, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Mavis Staples, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Jaco Pastorious, John Mayer, Hal Galper and the Metropole Orchestra along with many other well-known artists.
Guitarist John Scofield is at ease in the bebop idiom as well as he is versed in Jazz-fusion, funk, blues, soul, rock and other forms of modern American music and currently is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education.
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