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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Harold “Doc” West was born on August 12, 1915 in Wolford, North Dakota. He learned to play piano and cello as a child before switching to drums. By the 1930s he was playing in Chicago with Tiny Parham, Erskine Tate and Roy Eldridge. Towards the end of the decade he filled in for Chick Webb when he was unable to lead his own orchestra.
The early 1940s Doc played with Hot Lips Page and on the emerging bebop scene at Minton’s Playhouse in New York City alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Tiny Grimes and Don Byas. He played with Oscar Pettiford in 1944 and stood in for Jo Jones occasionally in Count Basie’s orchestra.
He appears on recordings led by Slam Stewart, Leo Watson, Wardell Gray, Billie Holiday, Big Joe Turner, Jay McShann and Erroll Garner, leaving a small but impressive catalogue as a sideman. Drummer Doc West passed away on May 4, 1951 in Cleveland, Ohio while on tour with Roy Eldridge.
Charles McPherson was born on July 24, 1939 in Joplin, Missouri but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a teenager he played with Barry Harris, played the Detroit scene through the Fifties and in 1959 moved to New York City. Along with his Detroit partner Lonnie Hillyer joined Charles Mingus in 1960, a relationship that lasted until 1972.
The alto saxophonist, had a short-lived quintet with Hillyer in ’66, and then broke out on his own after leaving Mingus to become a full-time leader. A move to San Diego in 1978 became home while recording for such labels as Prestige, Mainstream, Xanadu, Discovery and Arabesque during his prolific career.
McPherson, a Charlie Parker disciple, who brought his own lyricism to the bebop idiom, was commissioned to help record ensemble renditions of pieces from Charlie Parker used on the 1988 “Bird” film soundtrack. To date he has 25 albums as a leader to his credit and another sixteen as a sideman working with the likes of Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Drew, Charles Tolliver, Clint Eastwood, Art Farmer and Sam Jones. The saxophonist has remained a stable figure in modern mainstream jazz.
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Sadik Hakim was born Argonne Thornton on July 15, 1919 in Duluth, Minnesota and was taught piano by his grandfather and started playing professionally about 1939. In 1944 he moved to New York City and was hired by Ben Webster. A participant in the emergence of bebop, he shared piano duties with Dizzy Gillespie on Charlie Parker’s famous “Ko-Ko” session.
He recorded with Dexter Gordon and Lester Young, heard on the latter’s I’m Confessin’, also credited with co-writing Thelonious Monk’s standard “Eronel” and is rumored to have written a few famous bop tunes credited to other composers. He adopted his Muslim name in 1947.
Hakim moved to Montreal after visiting in 1949 and was a big fish on the small bebop scene there, working with Louis Metcalf’s International Band. Compelled to leave Canada following a drug bust in 1950 he returned to New York and through the decade worked with James Moody and George Holmes Tate.
He returned to Montreal from 1966 to 1976, leading bands and recording with Charles Biddle. He led a few recording dates from 1976–1980 and cut an album with Sonny Stitt in 1978. Hakim played “Round Midnight” at Monk’s funeral in 1982, and the pianist and composer passed away himself the following year on June 20, 1983.