Christopher Stephen Botti was born October 12, 1962 in Portland, Oregon and raised in Corvallis, although he also spent two years of his childhood in Italy. His earliest musical influence was his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher and started playing the trumpet at nine-years-old, and committing to the instrument at age 12 after hearing Miles Davis play My Funny Valentine.
1981 saw Chris selected as a member of McDonald’s All American High School Jazz band which marked his first Carnegie Hall performance. At 17, he enrolled at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, by convincing his high school to allow him to fulfill his remaining senior year credits there which allowed him to play Portland clubs at night. Mount Hood’s band under Larry McVey, was a proving ground and regular stop for Stan Kenton and Mel Tormé when they were looking for new players.
After graduating from high school, Botti studied at the Indiana University School of Music, received two NEA grants and studied with trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonist George Coleman during two consecutive summer breaks. Leaving Indiana University during his senior year for short touring stints with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, in 1985, he moved to New York City to hone his craft as a studio musician.
The Nineties had him in a decade long touring and recording relationship with Paul Simon and where he also performed/recorded with Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Scritti Politti, Roger Daltrey and others. He also met saxophonist Michael Brecker, co-produced a track on the Brecker Brothers’ Out of the Loop titled Evocations, and the album won a 1995 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
His solo debut, First Wish,released in 1995 began a succession of recordings on the Verve record label. He became a member of the experimental, jazz fusion-oriented group Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, composed the score and recorded a soundtrack for the 1996 film Caught and closed out the century touring with Sting as a featured soloist that ultimately changed the course of his career.
In 2001 Chris signed with Columbia Records through an introduction by Bobby Colomby, drummer and founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who also became his producer and manager. As his career advanced another succession of releases proved his jazz/pop crossover appeal, he played Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball weekend honoring her African American heroines, and in 2006, Billy Childs, Gil Goldstein and Heitor Pereira won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? with Sting from Botti’s album To Love Again – The Duets.
He has performed and recorded with Andrea Bocelli, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Tyler, Josh Groban, Katharine McPhee, John Mayer, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Burt Bacharach, Gladys Knight, Jill Scott and Renee Olstead, among others. Trumpeter Chris Botti has hosted a radio show for several years where smooth meets cool jazz as he continues to perform, record, produce, compose and tour.
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Dave Grusin was born Robert David Grusin on June 26, 1934 in Littleton, Colorado to pianist mother and violinist father who emigrated from Riga, Latvia. He went on to study music at the University of Colorado at Boulder and received his degree in 1956.
He produced his first single Subways Are for Sleeping in 1962 and his first film score for Divorce American Style five years later. He would go on to score Winning, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Midnight Man and Three Days of the Condor, The Graduate, The Champ, The Fabulous Baker Boys, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, Mulholland Falls and The Goonies. He has been nominated six times for Academy Awards for his scoring and in 1988, he won an Oscar for Best Original Score for The Milagro Beanfield War.
In 1978 he had started GRP Records with his business partner, Larry Rosen, and began to create some of the first commercial digital recordings. He also composed the original opening fanfare for TriStar Pictures film studio. Through the end of the century he continued to score films, television theme songs and episode music.
From 2000 through 2011, Dave concentrated on composing classical and jazz compositions, touring and recording with collaborators, including guitarist Lee Ritenour, with whom he was nominated three times and won a Grammy for the album Harlequin. won a Grammy Award in 1985.
Throughout his career he has conducted the Andy Williams Show orchestra, was musical director and arranger for the Catarina Valente TV show, lived in Amsterdam, received honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and the University of Colorado, College of Music. Pianist, composer, arranger and producer Dave Grusin has and continues to collaborate with James Taylor, Renée Fleming, Paul Simon, Sérgio Mendes, Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Billy Joel, Dave Valentin and Sadao Watanabe, among others.
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Ronny Jordan was born Robert Lawrence Albert Simpson on November 29, 1962 in London, England. His debut release in 1992 The Antidote gained critical acclaim but he truly came to prominence after being featured on Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1, released in 1993. Following this release his recordings were all featured on the Billboard charts.
He was also one of the artists whose recordings are featured on the 1994 compilation album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool to benefit the Red Hot Organization. Jordan’s song The Jackal from his 1993 album The Quiet Revolution gained wide notoriety when actress Allison Janney in the role of C. J. Cregg lip-synched it in The West Wing episode “Six Meetings Before Lunch” and also on the Arsenio Hall Show in 2013.
Ronny recorded nine albums as a leader and contributed to four more as a sideman, was the recipient of the MOBO Best Jazz Act Award, the Gibson Guitar Best Jazz Guitarist Award, and his 2000 release, A Brighter Day, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Guitarist Ronny Jordan passed away on January 13, 2014. He was known for blending jazz with hip-hop and R&B in his playing and composing and by the end of the twentieth century he was an integral part of the acid jazz movement.
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Randal Edward Brecker was born November 27, 1945 in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburb of Cheltenham to a musical family. Choosing the trumpet over the clarinet at school when he was eight, it was an easy selection after hearing Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Chet Baker at home. He attended Cheltenham High School and then Indiana University from 1963 to 1966 studying with Bill Adam, David Baker and Jerry Coker. He later moved to New York and performed with Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band, the Duke Pearson and the The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestras.
By 1967 Randy ventured into jazz-rock with the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, on their first album Child Is Father To The Man, but left to join the Horace Silver Quintet. He recorded his first solo album Score in 1968 and featured his brother Michael. Leaving Silver, he then joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers before teaming up with brother Michael, Barry Rogers, Billy Cobham and John Abercrombie to form the fusion group Dreams. They recorded two albums for Columbia Records before disbanding in 1971. In the early Seventies Randy performed live with The Eleventh House, Stevie Wonder and Billy Cobham and recorded several albums with his brother under pianist and composer Hal Galper.
By 1975, Randy and Michael formed the Brecker Brothers band, releasing six albums for Arista and garnered seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981. After the Brecker Brothers disbanded in 1982, he recorded and toured as a member of Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth big band. It was soon thereafter that he met and later married Brazilian jazz pianist Eliane Elias, formed their own band, toured the world several times and recorded one album named after their daughter together, Amanda on Passport Records.
The 1990s would see Randy and Michael reunited for a world tour and a triple-Grammy nomination for the GRP recording The Return of the Brecker Brothers. Their 1994 follow-up album Out of the Loop won two Grammy Awards and he went on to record an album with Polish composer Włodek Pawlik. His first Grammy as a solo artists came from his project Into the Sun and this was followed by a series of recordings over the next decade and winning his third Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album with 34th N Lex. He toured Europe, performed and recorded live and won a fourth Grammy with the WDR Big Band, and released a two CD set of live recordings with the Randy Brecker Band featuring Dave Kikoski, Victor Bailey, Steve Smith, Rodney Holmes and Hiram Bullock. He would go on to win a fifth Grammy with his album Randy in Brazil, and a sixth with Night in Calisia, a collaboration between Brecker, the Wlodek Pawlik Trio, the Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra and Adam Klocek
Throughout the years he has performed and recorded with David Sanborn, Mike Stern, Bill Lee, Dave Weckl, Ada Rovatti, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Cobham, Larry Coryell, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Sandip Burman, Charles Mingus, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Horace Silver, Frank Zappa, Parliament-Funkadelic, Chris Parker, Dire Straits, Todd Rundgren, Blue Öyster Cult, Richard Barone, Spyro Gyra, Barbara Dennerlein Aerosmith Arkadia Jazz All Stars, Patti Austin, Gato Barbieri, George Benson, Carla Bley, Ron Carter, Robin Eubanks, Johnny Hodges, Jaroslav Jakubovič, Hubert Laws, Yusef Lateef, Arif Mardin, Brother Jack McDuff, Alphonse Mouzon, Idris Muhammad, Duke Pearson, Don Sebesky, Stanley Turrentine, Miroslav Vitous, Roseanna Vitro, Kenny Werner, Jack Wilkins, Charles Williams among others.
Trumpeter and flugelhornist Randy Brecker continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
Rudolph “Rudy” Van Gelder was born on November 2, 1924 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His interest in microphones and electronics can be traced to a youthful enthusiasm for amateur radio. Named for his uncle who had been the drummer in Ted Lewis’s band in the mid-1930s, he took trumpet lessons and trained as an optometrist at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, in Philadelphia, thinking he could not earn a living as a recording engineer.
From 1943, after graduating, Van Gelder had an optometry practice in Teaneck, New Jersey, and moonlighted recording local musicians in the evenings who wanted 78-rpm recordings of their work. From 1946, Van Gelder recorded in his parents’ house in Hackensack, New Jersey, in which a control room was built adjacent to the living room, which served as the musicians’ performing area. The dry acoustics of this working space were partly responsible for Van Gelder’s inimitable recording aesthetic.
Interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment he acquired everything that could play back audio: speakers, turntables and amplifiers. One of Rudy’s friends, baritone saxophonist Gil Mellé, introduced him to Alfred Lion, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years he was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York City, such as Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige Records. To accommodate each label – Blue Note, Prestige, Savoy, Impulse, Verve he assigned them to different days as Lion was more stringent with the sound of original music, Weinstock had essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history.He also engineered and mastered for the classical label Vox Records in the Fifties.
Van Gelder worked during the day as an optometrist until the summer of 1959, when he moved his operations to a larger studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and became a full-time recording engineer. The new studio’s design was inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright had high ceilings and fine acoustics with “no food or drink and do not touch microphones” policy as he himself always wore gloves when handling equipment.
By 1967 the labels were beginning to utilize other engineers more regularly but Rudy remained active engineering nearly all of Creed Taylor’s CTI Records releases, a series of proto-smooth jazz albums that were financially successful, but not always well received by critics. He was not without his detractors. Despite his prominence in the industry, like Lion who didn’t care for the overuse of reverb, and Charles Mingus refused to work with him because he change the sound of his bass. He remastered the analog Blue Note recordings into 24-bit digital recordings in its RVG Edition series and also remasters of some of the Prestige albums, and was happy to see the LP go by the wayside because it was hard for him to get the sound the way he thought it should be.
He received awards and honors being named a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), received the society’s most prestigious award, the AES Gold Medal, named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, received the Grammy Trustees Award, and Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder titled Hackensack.
Producer and recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who specialized in jazz and regarded as the most important recording engineer of jazz by some observers, passed away at home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 25, 2016. Among the several thousand jazz sessions he recorded are the acknowledged classics John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’s Walkin’, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Sonny Rollins’s Saxophone Colossus and Horace Silver’s Song for My Father.