Klaus Weiss was born February 17, 1942 in Gevelsberg, Germany and his influences were Big Sid Catlett and Buddy Rich. He began playing professionally at age 16. His first gigs, with a group called the Jazzopators, provided accompaniment for trumpeter Nelson Williams and vocalist Inez Cavanaugh.
Klaus worked with the Klaus Doldinger Quartet, played the Paris Blue Note with Bud Powell, Kenny Drew and Johnny Griffin. He led a trio beginning in 1965, with pianist Rob Franken and bassist Rob Langereis, recorded his first LP Greensleeves as a leader and won the International Jazz Competition in Vienna in 1966. He would go on to win several Twen Jazz Polls as well. During the late ’60s, he also played with the Erwin Lehn Big Band, the Bayerischer Rundfunk Jazz Ensemble and Friedrich Guida.
Weiss recorded half a dozen LPs during the early ’70s, several with a quintet or sextet including work by trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, bassist George Mraz and pianist Walter Norris. He also led an international all-star big band with Slide Hampton, Herb Geller, Philip Catherine and Don Menza among others for the live 1971 album I Just Want To Celebrate
During the late ’70s and early ’80s, Klaus worked mostly with his quintet, but also toured with Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Clifford Jordan and Horace Parlan while making frequent quintet albums as a leader. He recorded two albums during the ’90s, including the trio outing L.A. Calling and the Christmas album A Message from Santa Klaus with the NDR Big Band.
Later in his career, as his extensive discography continued to grow, he began composing music for movies and television. Drummer Klaus Weiss, who played with American expats and led his own bands in trio, quartet, sextet and big band settings from the ‘60s through the ‘90s, passed away unexpectedly, reportedly of heart failure, on December 10, 2008 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Germany.
Rick Laird was born Richard Quentin Laird on February 5, 1941 in Dublin, Ireland. He played music from a young age and enrolled for guitar and piano lessons. He started playing jazz after moving to New Zealand at the age of 16 with his father. He played guitar in jam bands in New Zealand before buying an upright bass. After extensive touring in New Zealand he moved to Sydney, Australia, where he played with many top jazz musicians.
He moved to England in 1962 and became house bassist at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, where he had the opportunity to play with Wes Montgomery and Sonny Stitt among others. In 1963 Laird attended London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1965 He performed with Victor Feldman and recorded on the Sonny Rollins album ”Alfie” and then went on to play in The Brian Auger Trinity and The Brian Auger Group.
Heading to the States, Rick enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied arranging, composition and string bass. He then teamed up with ex-pat John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra as a founding member to play electric bass until 1973, when the band broke up. Moving to New York he joined Stan Getz’s tour in 1977 followed by Chick Corea the next year.
He put out one album as a leader, Soft Focus. Today, he is a successful photographer as well as a private bass tutor and an author of a number of intermediate to advanced level bass books. Richard Laird, as he is known in the art world, in March 2009 came across a collection of photographs in a file cabinet that he had taken in years past. The legendary jazz artists like Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Elvin Jones, and Keith Jarrett are now a part of an online archive.
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Roy Eldridge was born David Roy Eldridge on January 30, 1911 on the North Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His mother was a gifted pianist with a talent for reproducing music by ear, a talent inherited from her. He began playing piano at age five, took up drums at six, played bugle in church and by eleven began seriously honing the instrument, especially the upper register. Though lacking a proficiency at sight-reading, he could replicate melodies by ear effectively.
Eldridge’s early years had him leading and playing in a number of Midwest bands and absorbed the influence of saxophonists Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins in developing an equivalent trumpet style. Leaving home after expulsion from high school in ninth grade he joined a traveling show at sixteen until it folded in Youngstown, Ohio. He then joined a carnival, returned home and found work in another traveling show. By 20, he led an orchestra, auditioned for Horace Henderson, played in a number of territory bands, formed his own short-lived band once again, moved to Milwaukee and took part in a cutting contest with Cladys “Jabbo” Smith.
Eldridge moved to New York in 1930, playing in Harlem dance bands, and got the nickname “Little Jazz” from Ellington saxophonist Otto Hardwick. He laid down his first recorded solos with Teddy Hill in 1935, led his own band at the reputed Famous Door nightclub and recorded a number of small group sides with singer Billie Holiday. He would join Fletcher Henderson’s band, becoming his featured soloist because of his ability to swing a band. He would move to Chicago to form a band with his older brother, playing saxophone and arranging. In the 40s he joined the Gene Krupa Orchestra, staying until the band broke up after Krupa was jailed for marijuana possession.
Over the course of his career, Little Jazz would play with Anita O’Day, Jazz At The Philharmonic, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Earl Hines, Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Max Roach, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and the list goes on and on. His sophisticated use of harmony, including the use of triton substitutions, his virtuosic solos exhibiting a departure from the smooth and lyrical style of earlier jazz trumpet innovator Louis Armstrong, and his strong impact on Dizzy Gillespie mark him as one of the most influential musicians of the swing era and a precursor of bebop.
In 1971 trumpeter Roy Eldridge was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. After suffering a heart attack in 1980, he gave up playing. He died at the age of 78 on February 26, 1989 at the Franklin General Hospital in Valley Stream, New York, three weeks after the death of his wife, Viola.
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Jean Reinhardt better known as “Django” was born on January 23, 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-a-Celles, Belgium into a French family of Manouche Romani descent. His family made cane furniture for a living but it was comprised of several good amateur musicians. He spent most of his youth in Romani encampments close to Paris, where he started playing violin, banjo and guitar.
Reinhardt was attracted to music at an early age, first playing the violin. At age 12, he received a banjo-guitar as a gift and quickly learned to play by mimicking the fingerings of musicians he watched. By age 13, Reinhardt was able to make a living playing music. He received little formal education and acquired the rudiments of literacy only in adult life. His first known recordings, made in 1928, were of him playing the banjo.
At age 18 in 1928 Reinhardt was injured in a fire started by a knocked over candle. Over half his body suffered burns, two fingers and one leg were paralyzed and it was thought he would never walk or play again. But with therapy and practice he re-learned to play differently and walked with a cane.
The years between 1929 and 1933 were formative musically for Django when he became attracted to jazz listening to Louis Armstrong. Shortly thereafter he met Stephane Grappelli who had similar interests. The two became musical partners. In 1934, with an invitation by Hot Club de France secretary Pierre Nourry, he and Grappelli formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Over the years it hosted different players and adding a singer but for the most part allowed only stringed instruments.
In 1933, Reinhardt recorded two takes each of vocal numbers “Parce-que je vous aime” and “Si, j’aime Suzy”, continued to record into 1934, and in 1935 he and Stephane recorded sides for Decca Records. He played and recorded with Adelaide Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington.
By 1946, he was debuting at the Cleveland Music Hall as a special guest soloist with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. As part of the U.S. tour Django also played two nights at Carnegie Hall, then secured an engagement at Café Society Uptown, where he played four solos a day, backed by the resident band drawing large audiences.
Returning to France in ’47, Reinhardt became re-immersed in Gypsy life, finding it difficult to adjust to the postwar world. Missing sold-out concerts, showing up without guitar or amplifier and wandering off were commonplace. However, during this period he continued to attend the R-26 artistic salon in Montmartre, improvising with his devoted collaborator, Stéphane Grappelli.
From 1951 until his death at age 43 on May 16, 1953 of a brain hemorrhage, Reinhardt retired to Samois-sur-Seine near Fontainbleau. He had continued to play in Paris jazz clubs and began playing electric guitar. (He often used a Selmer fitted with an electric pickup, despite his initial hesitation about the instrument.) His final recordings made with his “Nouvelle Quintette” in the last few months of his life show him moving in a new musical direction; he had assimilated the vocabulary of bebop and fused it with his own melodic style.
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Don Pullen was born on December 25, 1941 and was raised outside Roanoke, Virginia and learned to play the piano at an early age. He played with the choir in his local church, was heavily influenced by his jazz pianist cousin, Clyde “Fats” Wright and took some lessons in classical piano. He knew little of jazz, concentrating mainly on church music and the blues.
Leaving Roanoke for Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina to study for a medical career, Pullen soon realized that his true vocation was music. After playing with local musicians and being exposed for the first time to albums of the major jazz musicians and composers he abandoned medical studies for music.
By 1964 he was in Chicago with Muhal Richard Abrams, then moved to New York City and immersed in the avant-garde recording with Giuseppi Logan. Along with band mate Milford Graves formed a duo, started a small label and recorded his first sessions that did great in Europe. He turned to more profitable organ and during the 60’s and 70s played trio dates and backed such vocalists as Arthur Prysock, Irene Reid, Ruth Brown, Jimmy Rushing and Nina Simone. He held a brief position with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in 1972.
Over the course of his career he would play with Charles Mingus, lead his own groups, form the George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet, put together the African Brazilian Connection, worked with Native American drummers and choir, and played with Nilson Matta, Carlos Ward, Gary Peacock, Tony Williams, Hamiet Bluiett, Bill Cosby, Jack Walrath, Maceo Parker, Roy Brooks, Jane Bunnett and David Murray among others.
Don Pullen jazz pianist, organist and composer of blues to bebop, who recorded over 30 albums as a leader and more than three dozen as a sideman, passed away of lymphoma on April 22, 1995.