Elvira “Vi” Redd was born September 20, 1928 in Los Angeles, California to New Orleans drummers and Clef Club co-founder Alton Redd. She was deeply influenced during her formative years by her father, who was one of the leading figures on the Central Avenue jazz scene, as well as her other important musical mentor, her paternal great aunt Alma Hightower.
After working for the Board of Education from 1957 to 1960, Redd returned to jazz. She played in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1962, toured with Earl Hines in 1964 and led a group in San Francisco, California in the mid-1960s with her husband, drummer Richie Goldberg. During this time Vi also worked with Max Roach.
She toured as far as Japan, London, that included an unprecedented 10 weeks at Ronnie Scott’s, Sweden, Spain and Paris. In 1969, she settled back in Los Angeles where she played locally while also working as an educator. She recorded albums as a leader for United Artists and Atco and her 1963 album Lady Soul features Bill Perkins, Jennell Hawkins, Barney Kessel, Leroy Vinnegar, Leroy Harrison,Dick Hyman, Paul Griffin, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ben Tucker and Dave Bailey, with liner notes by Leonard Feather. She also performed with Count Basie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Linda Hopkins, Marian McPartland, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon.
A graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, she earned a teaching certificate from University of Southern California. She taught and lectured for many years from the ’70s onward upon returning to Los Angeles. She served on the music advisory panel of the National Endowment for the Arts in the late 1970s. In 1989 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Jazz Society. In 2001 she received the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award from the Kennedy Center. Bebop, hard bop and post bop alto saxophonist, vocalist and educator Vi Redd remained active, performing and recording until 2010. She is 87 years old.
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Otis “Candy” Finch Jr. was born on September 5, 1933 in Detroit, Michigan. He is presumed to be the son of saxophonist Otis Finch Sr. , who performed with John Lee Hooker and the Boogie Ramblers. Learning to play drums as a child he went on to perform and record in the 1960s in trio and quartet settings with among others Shirley Scott, Stanley Turrentine during the Blue Note years, and with John Patton, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Mitchell and Dave Burns.
With Turrentine he recorded from 1962 and 1964 at Blue Note with Bob Cranshaw, Blue Mitchell, Curtis Fuller, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Lewis and Les McCann. In 1967 he accompanied Dizzy Gillespie on the Impulse! album Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac. The following year he joined Dizzy’s Reunion Big Band and performed with them at the Berlin Jazz Festival. He is a modern style swing drummer and was active in the 1960s and 1970s.
Bebop and swing drummer Candy Finch passed away on July 13, 1982 in Seattle, Washington. He was never recorded as a leader.
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Ernie Henry was born on September 3, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He played in the late 1940s with Tadd Dameron, Fats Navarro, Charlie Ventura, Max Roach, and Dizzy Gillespie. From 1950 to 1952 he was in the band of Illinois Jacquet.
After a few years in the shadows, in the 1950s he returned to play with Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew, Wynton Kelly, Wilbur Ware, Matthew Gee, Art Taylor, Philly Joe Jones and Gillespie again in 1956.
He recorded four albums as a leader for the Riverside label shortly before his death Presenting Ernie Henry, Seven Standards and a Blues, Last Chorus and 2 Horns / 2 Rhythm.
Alto saxophonist Ernie Henry passed away of a heroin overdose at the age of 31 on December 29, 1957 in New York City.
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Arvin Charles Garrison was born on August 17, 1922 in Toledo, Ohio and taught himself ukulele at age nine and played guitar for dances and local functions from age twelve.
In 1941 Arv was leading his own band at a hotel in Albany, New York, then with Don Seat put together a trio that played on both the East and West coasts of the United States until 1948. After 1946 it was called the Vivien Garry Trio, after his wife and bassist.
Garrison recorded on Dial Records with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was actively at the forefront of the early New York City bebop scene in the 1940s. Jazz critic Leonard Feather interviewed him extensively about his time spent playing with Parker. In the 1950s he returned to his hometown of Toledo and played locally.
Some of his recordings can be heard on a few anthologies, such as, the Onyx 1974 release Central Avenue Breakdown, Vol. 1 shared with Teddy Edwards and Dodo Marmarosa and includes 6 of the 8 tracks that Arv and wife Vivien Garry’s quartet recorded for Sarco Records in 1945; Swing To Bop Guitar: Guitars In Flight 1939-1947 on the Hep label that includes Arv’s famous Five Guitars In Flight recorded for Black & White Records in 1946 with Earle Spencer’s Orchestra; and The Complete Dial Modern Jazz Sessions on Mosaic Records.
Guitarist Arv Garrison passed away on July 30, 1960 from drowning during an epileptic seizure.
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Malcolm Earl Waldron was born on August 16, 1925 in New York City to West Indian immigrants, his father was a mechanical engineer., however they moved out of the city to Jamaica, Long Island when he was four. His parents discouraged his initial interest in jazz, but he was able to maintain it by listening to swing on the radio. He started classical piano lessons around age seven but by 16 he became inspired to play jazz on tenor saxophone after hearing Coleman Hawkins’ 1939 recording of Body and Soul, but unable to afford a tenor he settle for an alto saxophone. He played alto for local bands that performed for dances, bar mitzvahs, Spanish weddings, frequently taking over the pianist’s role when other musicians took their solos.
In 1943 Waldron being called up by the Army was based at West Point, allowing him to listen to the greats of jazz in clubs on 52nd Street. After two years of service he returned as a student to Queens College where he studied under composer Karol Rathaus, making his final decision to switch from saxophone to piano. After college he worked for a short time in rhythm and blues bands, including with Big Nick Nicholas.
In 1950 Mal went on to work with Ike Quebec in New York, made his recording debut with the saxophonist in 1952 and played at Café Society Downtown on Mondays for six or seven months. Over the next couple of years he worked frequently with Charles Mingus, recording on several Mingus albums, including Pithecanthropus Erectus, a key development in the movement towards freer collective improvisation in jazz. He would go on to work with Lucky Millinder and Lucky Thompson, form his own band Idrees Sulieman, Gigi Gryce, Julian Euell, and Arthur Edgehill. This group recorded Waldron’s debut release as a leader, Mal-1, in 1956.
Waldron was Billie Holiday’s regular accompanist from 1957 until her death in 1959, and Introduced by Jackie McLean, he became the house pianist for Prestige Records. Other leaders he worked under at Prestige included Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane and Phil Woods. His most famous, Soul Eyes, written for Coltrane, became a widely recorded jazz standard. A prolific composer he has estimated composing more than 400 pieces of music during his time with Prestige.
He went on to perform with Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, Eric Dolphy and Booker Little, and wrote for is own band, scores for modern ballet, and film scores with his score for The Cool World becoming one of the first attempts to stress improvisation rather than composition in a jazz-based film score. In 1963 Waldron having a major breakdown caused by a heroin overdose causing him to lose the ability to remember his name or play the piano, requiring shock treatments and a spinal tap to bring him back. He had to relearn his skills, in part by listening to his own records. Recovery was a slow process, taking over two years till all his faculties fully returned.
From the mid-1960s on, Waldron lived in Paris, Rome, Bologna and Cologne, before moving permanently to Munich. He scored full-length and short films, for television and Amiri Baraka’s theater production The Slave & Dutchman, and played with Ben Webster and Kenny Clarke. He toured and recorded throughout Europe and Japan, stopping in the U.S. playing solo piano but also with Joe Henderson, Herbie Lewis, Freddie Waits, Charlie Rouse, Calvin Hill and Horacee Arnold and Cameron Brown.
The ‘90s saw Mal recording several albums with vocalist Jeanne Lee. Two of his final recordings were duets with saxophonists David Murray and Archie Shepp. Diagnosed with cancer in 2002 he continued to perform until his death on December 2nd of that year in a hospital in Brussels, due to complications resulting from the cancer. He was 77.
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