Guy Warren, also known as Kofi Ghanaba was born Warren Gamaliel Kpakpo Akwei in Accra, Ghana on May 4, 1923. Educated at the Government Boys’ School, his interest in music had him playing in the school band. After passing with distinction he enrolled as a student/founder at Ordorgonno Secondary School in 1940 and also joined the Accra Rhythmic Orchestra under Yeboah Mensah as a drummer.
He won a government teacher training scholarship to Achimota College, Accra, in 1941 with the intention of becoming a teacher at his father’s school. By 1943 Warren had enlisted in the Office of Strategic Services, a branch of the United States Army that dealt with overt and covert operations in World War II. Returning to Accra he went on to become a reporter and then held various journalistic positions before beginning to broadcast jazz programmes while working at the Gold Coast Broadcasting Service under the name Guy Warren, which he continued using for the next three decades.
Teaming up with E. T. Mensah and others they formed The Tempos, considered the greatest jazz band in Africa. In 1955 Guy left for Chicago, Illinois to join the Gene Esposito Band as co-leader, percussionist and arranger. With them he recorded his first album, Africa Speaks, America Answers on the Decca label in 1956. And confirmed his reputation as the musician who established the African presence in jazz. During his American stay, he met and worked with Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and many other leading jazz musicians.
By 1974 he had returned to Ghana, and changed his name to Ghanaba. In the 1990s, he played a role in the film Sankofa, Ghanaba continued to make music until his death. Drummer Guy Warren, pioneer of the African renaissance and author of I Have A Story To Tell that chronicled his sojourn in America, passed away on December 22, 2008.
Henri Renaud was born April 20, 1925 in Villedieu-sur-Indre, France. His styles was evolutionary over the decades he was musically active and represented the swing, bebop and cool styles. His international renown came when he served as an ensemble-organizing point-man for visiting jazz performers from the United States.
Moving to Paris in 1946, Renaud established a career as a jazz pianist and joined tenor-saxophonist Jean-Claude Fohrenbach’s combo. During 1949 and 1950 he accompanied Don Byas, James Moody and Roy Eldridge. In 1952 he performed at various times with Lester Young, Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown.
Henri would go on to record several times with Brown as well as with Milt Jackson, J. J. Johnson, Al Cohn, Oscar Pettiford, Max Roach, Frank Foster and Bob Brookmeyer. In 1954, he visited the United States and recorded during that time.
He became an executive for French CBS’ jazz division in 1964 and for the most part stopped performing, though he occasionally worked as a film composer. Pianist Henri Renaud passed away in Paris, France on October 17, 2002.
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Gerry Mulligan was born Gerald Joseph Mulligan on April 6, 1927 in Queens Village, Queens, New York. His father’s career as an engineer moved them frequently through numerous cities and while less than a year old, the family moved to Marion, Ohio. Taking on a nanny to help raise the children, Lily rose became fond of Gerry and he spent time at her home and became enamored with her player piano that had amongst it collection of rolls, Fats Waller. Her home was also a boarding house for Black musicians who came through town giving him the chance to meet them..
During a family move to Kalamazoo, Michigan he took up the clarinet in the Catholic school’s orchestra and made an attempt to arrange the Richard Rodgers song Lover. By 14 he was in Reading, Pennsylvania studying clarinet with dance-band musician Sammy Correnti, who encouraged his arranging. During this period Mulligan began professionally playing the saxophone in dance bands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was the family’s next move.
He attended the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys, organized a school big band, and wrote arrangements and by 16 was selling arrangements to local radio station WCAU. Dropping out of high school during his senior year he worked with a touring band Tommy Tucker, picking up a $100.00 a week for two or three arrangements.
A move to New York City in 1946 saw Gerry joining the arranging staff on Gene Krupa’s bebop-tinged band pumping out arrangements of Birdhouse, Disc Jockey Jump and How High the Moon” that quoted Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” as a countermelody. He began arranging for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, along with Gil Evans and occasionally sitting in as a member of the reed section.
In September 1948, Miles Davis formed a nine-piece band that featured arrangements by Mulligan, Evans and John Lewis that ended up on the Capitol Records album, titled Birth of the Cool. The band initially consisted of Davis on trumpet, Mulligan on baritone saxophone, trombonist Mike Zwerin, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, Junior Collins on French horn, tubist Bill Barber, pianist John Lewis, bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Max Roach. The Davis nonet has been judged by history as one of the most influential groups in jazz history, creating a sound that, despite its East Coast origins, became known as West Coast Jazz.
Throughout the late Forties and early Fifties he worked with Davis, George Auld, Chubby Jackson and led his debut as a leader with Mulligan Plays Mulligan. By 1952 he was moving to Los Angeles, California and arranging for Stan Kenton and getting a recording contract with Pacific Jazz Records. These sessions enlisted trumpeter Chet Baker as part of his pianoless quartet that included bassist Bob Whitlock and Chico Hamilton on drums.
Valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer would replace Baker, and Mulligan and Brookmeyer both occasionally play piano, would enlist Jon Eardley, Art Farmer, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Lee Konitz and Annie Ross. He performed as a soloist or sideman with Paul Desmond, Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Witherspoon, André Previn, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Fletcher Henderson, Manny Albam, Quincy Jones, Kai Winding and Dave Brubeck, to name a few. Mulligan appeared in Art Kane’s A Great Day in Harlem portrait of 57 major jazz musicians taken in August 1958.
Gerry appeared in the films Follow That Music, I Want to Live!, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, The Rat Race, The Subterraneans and Bells Are Ringing and wrote music for A Thousand Clowns, Luv, La Menace, and Les Petites galères and I’m Not Rappaport.
Baritone saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger Gerry Mulligan passed away on January 20, 1996 in Darien, Connecticut at the age of 68, following complications from knee surgery. He had won numerous awards not limited to Down Beat Poll Winners, Kennedy Center Honors, and a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance by a Big Band for Walk on the Water.
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Larry Gales was born Lawrence Bernard Gales on March 25, 1936 in New York City and began playing bass at age 11. He attended the Manhattan School of Music in the late 1950s. Moving into the early Sixties he worked with J.C. Heard, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Johnny Griffin, Herbie Mann, Junior Mance and Joe Williams.
From 1964 to 1969 Larry was a member of the Thelonious Monk Quartet, and as such, recorded extensively and toured worldwide. After 1969, he relocated to Los Angeles, California where he worked frequently on the local scene with Erroll Garner, Willie Bobo, Red Rodney, Sweets Edison, Benny Carter, Blue Mitchell, Clark Terry, Teddy Edwards, and Kenny Burrell.
He recorded with Buddy Tate, Bennie Green, Sonny Stitt, Mary Lou Williams, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Criss, Charlie Rouse, Johnny Lytle and Big Joe Turner, among others. His first session as a leader was A Message From Monk, released in 1990 on Candid Records that comprised one original and five Thelonious Monk tunes.
Double-bassist Larry Gales passed away on September 12, 1995 in Sylmar, California at 59 years old.
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Howard McGhee was born on March 6, 1918 in Detroit, Michigan and originally played clarinet and tenor saxophone before taking up trumpet when he was 17. By 1941 he was playing in the territory bands led by Lionel Hampton, Andy Kirk being featured on McGhee Special, then with Count Basie and landing with Charlie Barnet from 1942-43. Participating in the fabled bop sessions at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House, he modernized his style away from Roy Eldridge, moving towards Dizzy Gillespie. However, it was in a club listening to the radio when he first heard Charlie Parker and became one of the early adopters of the new style, to the disapproval by older musicians like Kid Ory.
In 1946 a new label, Dial Records, organized some record sessions in Hollywood with Charlie Parker and the Howard McGhee combo. Joining these two were pianist Jimmy Bunn, bassist Bob Kesterson and Roy Porter on drums. He continued to work as a sideman for Parker playing on titles like Relaxin’ at Camarillo, Cheers, Carvin the Bird and Stupendous. Racial prejudice cut his California stay short when it became particularly vicious towards McGhee as half of a mixed-race couple.
Back in New York Howard he recorded for Savoy Records and had a historic meeting on record with Fats Navarro in 1948 on the Blue Note label. For much of the Fifties drug problems sidelined Howard but he resurfaced in the 1960s, appearing in many George Wein productions. His career sputtered again in the mid-1960s and he did not record again until 1976. He led one of three big jazz bands trying to find success in New York in the late 1960s. While the band did not survive, a recording was released in the mid-1970s.
He taught music through the 1970s, both in classrooms and at his Manhattan apartment. He was as much an accomplished composer and arranger as he was a performer. He recorded fifteen albums as a leader and held down sessions as a sideman with Dexter Gordon, Johnny Hartman, James Moody, Don Patterson, Joe Williams. Over the course of his career he would record for Felsted, Bethlehem, Contemporary, Hep, Black Lion, Sonet, SteepleChase, Jazzcraft, Zim, and Storyville record labels. Trumpeter Howard McGhee, known for his fast fingers and very high notes, passed away on July 17, 1987.
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