René Urtreger was born July 16, 1934 in Paris, France and began his private piano studies at the age of four, and then at the Conservatory. He studied with an orientation toward jazz, playing in a small Parisian club, the Sully d’Auteil, conducted by Hubert Damisch. The Sully boasted an orchestra of talented students including Sacha Distel and Louis Viale.
In 1953, Urtreger won first prize in a piano contest for amateurs, and from that moment decided to be a professional musician. 1954 saw him accompanying saxophonist Don Byas and trumpeter Buck Clayton in a Parisian concert. Their collaboration in the “Salon du Jazz” became one of the most highly requested French performances by the American musicians that toured the French capital.
After serving in the military from 1955 to 1957, René would play in a club on the left bank of the Seine, the famous Club Saint-Germain and again he collaborated with Miles Davis and Lester Young. His work so impressed the latter that he accompanied Young for a short tour of Europe in 1956, however the following year in December, he was part of Davis’s group which recorded the soundtrack to the film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows).
The late 1950s had him working with Lionel Hampton, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Ben Webster, among others. His canon of jazz work is still widely regarded as sensitive with a full, dense sound of swing. The Academie du Jazz of France formally recognized his accomplishments in 1961 with the Prix Django Reinhardt for outstanding jazz artist of the year. This win subsequently led to him providing soundtracks for films by Claude Berri and others.
Reappearing on the Paris jazz scene he resumed his career as a small-ensemble accompanist with Lee Konitz, Aldo Romano or Barney Wilen. He was featured at “Le Jazz Cool, Le Jazz Hot: A Celebration of Modern Jazz in Los Angeles and France” at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California in 2007. Pianist René Urtreger is currently 83 years of age and continues to perform.
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Melvin Moore was born on June 15, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1944 the trumpeter began his career playing with Lucky Millinder, then joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra from 1948 to 1950. This he followed with performance in rhythm and blues bands. By 1951 he was recording with Dizzy Gillespie and singing on such titles as The Champ and Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac.
At the end of 1951 he was recording some vocal titles for King Records with Terry Gibbs, Billy Taylor, Mundell Lowe and Charles Mingus. In 1957 he was a member of Don Redman’s orchestra, the following year he recorded with John Pisano and with Billy Bean. Between 1964 and 1966 he worked with Gerald Wilson and he also accompanied Johnny Hartman. During the Sixties he performed on separate dates at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.
By 1967 he was playing in B.B. Kings band followed by the Seventies bands of Esther Phillips, T – Bone Walker, Don Sugarcane Harris, Johnny Otis, Jerry Garcia and Shuggie Otis and in the early 1980s with Ted Hawkins. Moore is not to be confused with the singer born in 1917, who sang with Jimmie Lunceford and Ernie Fields .
Trumpeter, violinist and singer of swing and bebop Mel Moore passed away on February 26, 1989 in New York City.
Georges Arvanitas was born on June 13, 1931 in Marseille, France, to Arvanite Greek immigrants from Constantinople, Turkey. At age four he began studying piano and initially trained as a classical pianist. Influenced by Bud Powell and Bill Evans he switched to jazz in his teens.
At 18 he was called up for military duty and finding himself stationed in Versailles and his proximity to Paris, he was exposed to the city’s thriving postwar jazz culture. Soon he was moonlighting at clubs alongside American musicians such as Don Byas and Mezz Mezzrow. After completing his service, Arvanitas relocated permanently to Paris where he led the house band at the Club St. Germain before he graduated to the city’s premier jazz venue, the legendary Blue Note. There he played with Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker. As his notoriety grew, he became a leader and with bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Art Taylor recorded 3 A.M. in 1963. The trio would go on to win the Prix Django Reinhardt and the Prix Jazz Hot for the album.
Georges spent half of 1965 in New York City collaborating with saxophonist Yusef Lateef and trumpeter Ted Curzon on The Blue Thing and the New Thing for Blue Note. A year later he returned stateside on tour with trombonist Slide Hampton’s big band. A respected session player earning the nickname Georges Une Prise (One-take George) for his reliable efficiency and mastery and worked closely with Michel Legrand.
Best remembered for a series of LPs he cut with bassist Jacky Samson and drummer Charles Saudrais, the trio endured from 1965 to 1993. He was received the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres award in 1985. Unfortunately his failing health forced him to retire from music in 2003 and two year later pianist and organist Georges Arvanitas passed away in Paris on September 25, 2005.
Red Holloway was born James Wesley “Red” Holloway on May 31, 1927 in Helena, Arkansas and started playing banjo and harmonica, switching to tenor saxophone when he was 12 years old. He graduated from DuSable High School] where he had played in the school big band with Johnny Griffin and Eugene Wright. He attended the Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois and then joined the Army when he was 19 and became bandmaster for the U.S. Fifth Army Band.
After completing his military service returned to Chicago and played with Yusef Lateef and Dexter Gordon, among others. In 1948 he joined blues vocalist Roosevelt Sykes, and later played with other rhythm & blues musicians such as Willie Dixon, Junior Parker, and Lloyd Price.
In the 1950s he played in the Chicago area with Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rushing, Arthur Prysock, Dakota Staton, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Wardell Gray, Sonny Rollins, Red Rodney, Lester Young, Joe Williams, Redd Foxx, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and Aretha Franklin. During this period, he also toured with Sonny Stitt, Memphis Slim and Lionel Hampton. He became a member of the house band for Chance Records in 1952. He subsequently appeared on many recording sessions for the Chicago-based independents Parrot, United and States, and Vee-Jay record labels.
From 1963 to 1966, he was in organist “Brother” Jack McDuff’s band, which also featured a young guitarist, George Benson. In 1974, Holloway recorded The Latest Edition with John Mayall and toured Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. From 1977 to 1982, Holloway worked with Sonny Stitt, recording two albums together, and following Stitt’s death, played and recorded with Clark Terry.
As a leader/co-leader he recorded with Big John Patton, Eric Gale, Shuggie Otis, Horace Parlan, Cedar Walton, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Matthias Bätzel Trio, T.C. Pfeiler, Norman Simmons, Phil Upchurch, O.C. Smith, Plas Johnson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Melvin Sparks, Sacha Boutros, Henry Johnson, Chris Foreman, Greg Rockingham, Bernhard Pichi Trio
As a sideman he has performed and recorded with Gene Ammons, George Benson, Joe Dukes, Wade Marcus, Joe Williams, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Carmen McRae, Atle Hammer, Knut Riisnæs, Clark Terry, Freddy Cole, Horace Silver, Junior Mance and Etta James among others.
Saxophonist Red Holloway passed away in Morro Bay, California, aged 84 of a stroke and kidney failure on February 25, 2012, one month after Etta James, with whom he had worked extensively.
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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.