Herman Riley was born on August 31, 1933 in Algiers, Louisiana across the river from the French Quarter in New Orleans into a family setting where his mother Nell Brooks was a hard swinging jazz and gospel singer. He attended the L.B. Landry High School and under the influence of his music teacher William Houston, heard local jazzmen playing at assemblies and school dances.
In his mid-teens Herman took to the saxophone after seeing Illinois Jacquet but inspired by the locals he organized a jazz combo with his friends and took part in his school orchestra and marching band. It wasn’t long before he “was on the street, playing professionally”, taking short-lived gigs with R&B bandleaders like Ivory Joe Hunter, Guitar Slim and Paul Gayten. By the time he was majoring on cello and bassoon at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Riley had completed eight years of study of European music.
After two non-musical years in the US army and a short spell in New York, he ended up in San Diego, California, pursuing his music studies at City College, while playing in clubs and taking private lessons. After winning an award as outstanding solo artist at the 1962 California colleges’ jazz festival at Monterey, Riley felt confident enough to make for Los Angeles.
Recruited for some of LA’s better jazz groups, he played and recorded with Dolo Coker, Bobby Bryant, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, Della Reese, Sammy Davis Jr, Gene Ammons, Bobby Hutcherson and Blue Mitchell among others. Over the course of his illustrious career Riley added flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet and bass clarinet to the arsenal of saxophones that he carried to meet the demands of studio sessions. He toured with Quincy Jones, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Mercer Ellington, Monk Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Etta James, as well as with the Count Basie, Bill Berry and Juggernaut big bands. Quiet in manner and self-effacing, bebop and blues tenor saxophonist Herman Riley died on April 14, 2007 at the age of 73.
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Wayne Shorter was born August 25, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey and attended Newark Arts High School where his love of music flourished under the encouragement of his father to take up the saxophone. In his youth Shorter had acquired the nickname “Mr. Gone”, which later became an album title for Weather Report.
Graduating in 1952, he matriculated through New York University in 1956, spent two years in the Army, during which he briefly played with Horace Silver and after his discharge, he played with Maynard Ferguson.
In 1959, Shorter became a Messenger joining Art Blakey, stayed five years and became the bands musical director. When Coltrane left Miles Davis’ band he proposed Wayne, as his replacement but his unavailability di not release him from Blakey until 1964. Along with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, the Second Great Quintet was born.
During his tenure with Miles, Wayne would compose “Prince of Darkness”, “E.S.P.”, “Footprints”, “Sanctuary”, “Nefertiti”, and many others; often providing half of the compositions on an album, typically hard bop workouts with long, spaced-out melody lines above the beat. He remained in Davis’s band after the breakup of the quintet in 1968, playing on the early jazz-fusion recordings including “In A Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew”.
Until 1968, he played the tenor saxophone exclusively but the next year he put down the tenor after his final Davis recording of Filles de Kilimanjaro and began playing the soprano, which he used on his own Super Nova release with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. By the early 1970s, however, he chiefly played soprano.
Shorter recorded eleven albums for Blue Note Records featuring almost exclusively his own compositions, with a variety of line-ups, quartets and larger groups. He would enlist the talents of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones.
Juju, Speak No Evil and Adam’s Apple The All Seeing Eye and Schizophrenia played in the spaces between free-jazz and carefully constructed melodies. Hey incorporated old friends like Hancock, Carter, Curtis Fuller and Joe Chambers. He recorded occasionally in the sideman slot with Donald Byrd, McCoy tyner, Grachan Moncur III, Hubbard, Morgan, Hancock and Williams.
In 1970, Shorter formed the fusion group Weather Report with Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous, Airto Moreira and Alphonse Mouzon. They lasted until 1985. One of the most notable alumni included revolutionary bassist Jaco Pastorious and the band produced funk, bebop, Latin jazz, ethnic music and futuristic recordings.
He would record with Milton Nascimento, Carlos Santana, V.S.O.P Quintet, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan’s Aja, Terri Lynne Carrington, Marilyn Mazur, Jim Beard, Don Henley, Wallace Roney, and can be heard on the Harrison Ford film soundtrack of The Fugitive. By the mid 90s Wayne released his Verve Records debut High Life and received a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1997.
Into the millennium Shorter has continued to receive wide acclaim working with Hancock once again in 1997, on the much acclaimed and heralded album 1+1. The song “Aung San Suu Kyithem won them both a Grammy Award. He continues to work in a number of group configurations and winning Grammys for his Beyond The Sound Barrier & Alegria – Best Instrumental Jazz Album amongst his 10 Grammy Awards, and has been a Down Beat reigning critics’ poll winner for ten consecutive years and the readers’ for 18. The soprano saxophonist has amassed an impressive discography and continues to compose, reinvent his music, perform and tour.
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Lex Humphries was born on August 22, 1936 in New York City and passed away on July 11, 1994 in his hometown. A jazz drummer, he worked with two musicians known for mixing world music with jazz: Sun Ra and Yusef Lateef. As a member of Sun Ra’s “Arkestra” he appeared in the film Space Is The Place.
Humphries played on the Giant Steps sessions with John Coltrane. The renditions he and Cedar Walton recorded with Coltrane were released as alternative tracks in 1974. He was also the first drummer in the Art Farmer and Benny Golson Jazztet, appearing on their first album titled Meet The Jazztet in 1960.
Between 1959 and 1973 Lex also played and recorded albums with Donald Byrd, John Coltrane including The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings, Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef, Wes Montgomery, Duke Pearson, Sonny Red, Chet Baker, Junior Mance, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner and Doug Watkins among numerous others.
The understated drummer and solid bebopper cited Philly Joe Jones as his only influence. He was also a member of the band that accompanied Leon Thomas, and amassed a catalogue of over 70 sessions and was a steady collaborator. Though his reputation was firmly established, Lex Humphries, however, only rated a mere five lines in Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz.
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Arthur Stewart Farmer was born August 21, 1928, an hour before his twin brother, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Their parents, James Arthur Farmer and Hazel Stewart Farmer, divorced when the boys were four, and their steelworker father was killed in a work accident not long after. He moved with his grandfather, grandmother, mother, brother and sister to Phoenix, Arizona when he was still four. He began playing piano while in elementary school, then moved on to bass tuba and violin before settling on cornet and then trumpet at the age of thirteen. He taught himself to read music and practiced his new main instrument, the trumpet.
Farmer and his brother moved to Los Angeles in 1945, attending the music-oriented Jefferson High School where they got music instruction and hung out with other developing musicians such as Sonny Criss, Ernie Andrews, Big Jay McNeely and Ed Thigpen. By sixteen he was playing trumpet professionally, performing in the Horace Henderson, Jimmy Mundy and Floyd Ray bands, among others.
Art left school to tour with a group led by Johnny Otis, but this job lasted for only four months, as Farmer’s lip gave out, becoming lacerated through underdevelopment of his technique. He then received technique training in New York, auditioned unsuccessfully for Dizzy Gillespie and returned to the West Coast in 1948 as a member of Jay McShann’s outfit.
Farmer played and toured with Benny Carter, Wardell Gray, Roy Porter and Gerald Wilson in the early 50s.He would record his first studio session with Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, and gained great attention with his piece titled “Farmer’s Market”. He joined Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, toured Europe, became a member of Teddy Charles’ New Directions band, relocated to New York and in 1953, had his first recording session as leader for Prestige titled The Art Farmer Septet.
Over the course of his career he has worked with Quincy Jones, Gigi Gryce, Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus, appeared on the Steve Allen show, Newport Jazz Festival, and two films – I Want To Live and The Subterraneans. As a member of Jazz at the Philharmonic he toured Europe again, that helped him gain an international reputation. He formed the Jazztet with Benny Golson, assited the careers of McCoy Tyner and Granchan Moncur, appeared in the photo Great Day In Harlem, recorded prolifically and led groups through the Sixties, and took a job in the orchestra pit on Broadway as jobs in jazz dried up.
He would settle in Vienna and divide his time between Europe and New york, revive the Jazztet with Golson, form a quintet with Clifford Jordan as a member, lost 30 pounds, quit smoking and drinking, avoided drugs, performed regularly, was awarded the Austrian Gold Medal of Merit, and was selected as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 1999. A few months later on October 4, 1999 bebop trumpeter, flugelhorn and flumpet player and bandleader Art Farmer passed away of a heart attack at his New York Manhattan home. He was 71.
Benny Bailey was born Ernest Harold Bailey on August 13, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Having some training in piano and flute in his youth, he switched to trumpet, concentrating on the instrument while at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He was influenced by his hometown colleague, Tadd Dameron, seven years his elder, and subsequently had a significant influence on other prominent Cleveland musicians including Bill Hardman, Bobby Few, Albert Ayler, Frank Wright and Bob Cunningham.
In the early 1940s he worked with Bull Moose Jackson and Scatman Crothers. He later worked with Dizzy Gillespie, toured with Lionel Hampton and while on the European tour with Hampton, decided to stay and spend time in Sweden. This Swedish period saw him working with Harry Arnold’s big band. His preference for big bands over small groups associated him with several European big bands including the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band.
For a while her worked with Quincy Jones returning to the States briefly in 1960. During this time, he worked with Tony “Big T” Lovano and recorded with Freddie Redd’s sextet invited to the studio as part of Freddie Redd’s sextet on the Blue Note Records album Redd’s Blues. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Europe first to Germany, and later to the Netherlands where he would settle permanently.
In 1969 he played on the Eddie Harris/Les McCann project Swiss Movement, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival that included a memorable unrehearsed solo on “Compared To What”. Then in 1988 he worked with British clarinetist Tony Coe and kept producing albums until 2000 when he was in his mid-70s. He recorded 18 albums as a leader and another half-dozen as a sideman working with such luminaries as Eric Dolphy, Benny Golson, Randy Weston and Jimmy Witherspoon. Bebop and hard bop trumpeter Benny Bailey died at home in Amsterdam on April 14, 2005.
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