Jack” Brokensha was born John Joseph Brokensha on January 5, 1926 in Nailsworth, South Australia. He studied percussion under his father, and played xylophone in vaudeville shows and on radio. He played with the Australian Symphony Orchestra during the war years from 1942–44, and then joined a band in the Air Force from 1944 to 1946.
Forming his own group, Jack began performing in Melbourne in 1947, moving around Australia and playing in Sydney from 1949 to mid–50, Brisbane later in 1950 and Adelaide in 1951. By 1953 he had moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada with Australian pianist Bryce Rohde and together they formed the Australian Jazz Quartet/Quintet. They enlisted fellow Australian bassoonist/saxophonist Errol Buddle and American saxophonist/flutist/bassist Dick Healey to complete the ensemble that toured together until 1958 and often grew to quintet /sextet to record.
Leaving Canada for Detroit, Michigan, Brokensha was hired by Berry Gordy of Motown Records as a percussionist, becoming one of the few white members of Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio’s house band, The Funk Brothers. He was given the nickname “White Jack”, to distinguish him from Jack Ashford, an African American percussionist nicknamed “Black Jack”.
During the 1970s he ran “Brokensha’s”, a steakhouse high up in a Downtown Building whilst working at Motown. Though relatively small, the club had good food and Jack’s great music, with occasional appearance by his friend and pianist Detroit resident, pianist Bess Bonnier. Following tours of Australia with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Stan Freberg, he founded his own music production company and did a session with Art Mardigan in 1963. Jack then became more active in radio as a disc jockey and writing music for television. He recorded as a leader again in 1980 and continued to lead his own group well into the 1990s. The Australian Jazz Quartet also reunited for tours and recording in 1994, leaving a small collection of some thirteen albums as a leader and member of the quartet.
Vibraphonist Jack Brokensha moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he passed away due to complications from congestive heart failure, at age 84 on October 28, 2010.
Alan Littlejohn was born Albert John Alan Littlejohns on January 4, 1928 in Highgate, London, England. Taking up the trumpet in 1946, he trained as an accountant after the War but also played semi-professionally with bands such as the Blue Note Swingtet and the Galleon Jazz Band. In 1952 he joined Cy Laurie and then a year later moved to play with Eric Silk. Moving to Manchester for eight months he worked with Ron Simpson and the Saints Jazz band in 1954, but then returned to London to work with Eric Silk again.
1955 saw Littlejohn taking a residency at the Putney Jazz Club and a further residency in Chelsea in 1960. In 1963 he led a quintet with trombonist Tony Milliner, pianist Mat Mathewson, bassist Bucky Cowman and Terry Cox on drums, emulating the style of the Bob Brookmeyer/Clark Terry band. Cox and Cowman were soon replaced by Max Cutlan and Dave Holland, respectively.
Over the course of his career Alan would play with Mal Cutlan, Lew Hooper, Jimmy Hamilton, Matt Methewson, Cat Anderson, Peanuts Hucko, Earl Warren, Sonny Dee, the Georgia Jazz Band and to be the support band for Dave Brubeck at his Festival Hall gig. From 1973 to 1978, he played with Alvin Roy’s Band which had a residency at The Prospect of Whitby in London.
When not in residency at clubs in London Littlejohn toured Spain and Germany, guest appeared with the Merseysippi Jazz Band and during the Eighties played as a full-time professional musician for a short period. From 1990 he worked with Laurie Chescoe’s Good Time Jazz until a month before his death. Trumpeter, flugelhornist and bandleader Alan Littlejohn, most notable for his work with artists such as Ben Webster, Earl Hines, Billy Butterfield and recording with Bill Coleman, passed away on November 12, 1995 in Barnet in Hertfordshire.
Ehud Asherie was born on December 20, 1979 in Israel and with his family moved to Italy at the age of three. He started playing piano at the age of seven and attended the Sir James Henderson School, now The British School of Milan, before they moved to the United States when he was nine. As a New York City teenager he visited Smalls Jazz Club, taking private lessons from Frank Hewitt, a pianist who often played there and attending the New School University.
Asherie first played at Smalls when he was a high school sophomore. In 2010 he recorded his debut solo piano album, Welcome to New York with a focus on stride and standards. The same year he played Hammond organ on his quartet release, Organic, mixing bop and swing with standards.
He has recorded seven albums as a leader ranging from duo to quintet group configurations on the Arbor and Posi-Tone labels. He has been a sideman recording with Bryan Shaw, Hilary Gardner and Harry Allen. He has performed with Peter Bernstrin, Joe Cohn, Billy Drummond, Bobby Durham, Frank Gant, Paul Gill, Jimmy Green, Dennis Irwin, Jimmy Lovelace, Joe Magnarelli, Bob Mover, Tim Pleasant, Ben Street and Mark Taylor.
Pianist and organist Ehud Asherie has for two years been playing regularly at Smalls with his own trio, the Grant Stewart Quartet and the Neil Miner Quintet. He has also served as a rehearsal pianist for the Village Vanguard Orchestra and Since January 2000 he’s part of Trio65 at New York City’s Rainbow Grill with bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer Tommaso Cappellato. He continues to perform, record and tour.
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Ellen Johnson was born on December 18, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. Surrounded by music as a child, her mother was a professional singer who played piano and her uncle had played clarinet in Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band.
Growing up in Chicago she studied guitar in high school but had originally planned to become a theater actress. However when she took voice lessons, Ellen became hooked on the music, and began singing in a local band while studying jazz with Willie Pickens at a music conservatory. Moving to the San Diego, California she earned a Master’s Degree from San Diego State University in Vocal Performance.
Notable for her work as an educator, Johnson has been teaching part of the voice faculties of the University of San Diego and the Old Globe Theatre, as well as conducted voice clinics since the mid-1980s. She has also performed special concerts of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music.
With a wide range for jazz improvisation, in the mid -’90s she recorded her debut album, Too Good to Title. She also recorded a few songs on Bob Willey’s album Peace Pieces. Vocalist Ellen Johnson continues to perform, and record.
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Russell Jacquet was born on December 4, 1917 in Saint Martinville, Louisiana, the elder brother of tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. He had stints with Floyd Ray and Milt Larkin before he studying music at Wiley College and Texas Southern University.
Moving west he played with his brother’s band for a time, later forming his own group, that became the house band at the Cotton Club from 1945 to 1949. After that residency ended Russell rejoined his brother’s group. He would later play with several small groups in Oakland, California, as well as in Houston, Texas with Arnett Cobb. He also performed with his brother on a few dates in New York City.
Trumpeter Russell Jacquet passed away on February 28, 1990 in Los Angeles, California. He left a small catalogue of recordings as a leader during his Cotton Club years and four as a sideman with his brother, recorded between 1951 and 1969 on Clef, Argo and Prestige record labels.
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