Ralph Towner was born on March 1, 1940 in Chehalis, Washington. Born into a musical family, his mother a piano teacher and his father a trumpet player, Towner learned to improvise on the piano at the age of three. He started trumpet lessons at the age of five, but did not take up guitar until attending the University of Oregon.
Ralph first played jazz in New York City in the late 1960s as a pianist and was strongly influenced by the renowned jazz pianist Bill Evans. He began improvising on classical and 12-string guitars in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and formed alliances with musicians who had worked with Evans, including flautist Jeremy Steig, Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson, Gary Peacock ad Jack DeJohnette.
He began his career as a conservatory-trained classical pianist, who picked up guitar in his senior year in college, then joined world music pioneer Paul Winter’s Consort ensemble in the late 1960s. Leaving Winter along with band mates Paul McCandless, Glen Moore and Colin Walcott, they formed the group Oregon, mixing folk, Indian classical, avant-garde jazz and frr improvisation.
Around the same time, Towner began a longstanding relationship with ECM Records, releasing virtually all of his non-Oregon recordings since his 1972 debut as a leader Trios / Solos. As a sideman he has ventured int jazz fsion with Weather Report on the 1972 album I Sing The Body Electric.
Unlike most jazz guitarists, Ralph only uses 6-string nylon-string and 12-string steel-string guitars. He tends to avoid high-volume musical environments, preferring small groups of mostly acoustic instruments that emphasize dynamics and group interplay. He make significant use of overdubbing, allowing him to play piano or synthesizer and guitar on the same track. During the Eighties he used more synthesizer but has returned to the guitar in recent years.
Composer, arranger, bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Towner, who plays 12 string guitar, classical guitar, piano, synthesizer, percussion and trumpet, has an impressive catalogue of some five-dozen recordings spread between his role as a leader, with Oregon, and as a sideman with Paul Winter and Weather Report among others. He continues to perform, record and tour.
Zoltan Sagi was born in Hungary on February 10, 1956. He attended the Guildhall School of Music studying clarinet with Robert Earle and later Frank Allen at Warwick University. Self-taught on saxophone, he draw much of his inspiration from Johnny Hodges, Cannonball Adderley and Stan Getz.
His early career was spent playing in dance bands and in New Orleans jazz genre playing in festivals stateside and overseas. This was followed by a period as an educator as Director of Music and a country music service manager. He spent two and a half years extensively touring the world with Chris Barber.
Zoltan has recorded numerous CD’s and other recordings as a freelance session musician and has also appeared with such musicians as Earl Warren, Benny Waters, Kenny Davern, Bob Humphrey Lyttleton, Marty Grosz, Digby Fairweather, Duncan Swift, , Janusz Carmello, Bill Coleman, Greg Abate, Alan Barnes, Paul Degville and John Barnes among many others.
Has worked extensively both in this country and abroad. His experience spans from New Orleans jazz to jazz fusion. Sagi has been a part of several groups including Harlem, Swing Syndicate and The Charleston Chasers. Clarinetist Zoltan Sagi also plays all saxophones and currently performs with the Sticky Wicket Big Band, the Big Chris Barber Band, the Stars of British Jazz and with his own quartets and trios.
Bill Evans was born William D. Evans on February 9, 1958 in Claredon Hills, Illinois to a father who was a classical piano prodigy. Until junior high school he studied classical clarinet but early in his studies he was able to hear such artists perform live as Sonny Stitt and Stan Getz at the jaz Showcase in Chicago. He attended Hinsdale Central High School and studied with tenor saxophonist Vince Micko. His stylistic influences include Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane, Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman.
Evans attended the University of North Texas and William Patterson University where he studied with Miles Davis alum Dave Liebman. His move to NYC in 1979 saw him spending countless hours in lofts playing jazz standards and perfecting his improvisational style. By the age of 22 he joined Miles Davis and was part of his musical comeback in the early to mid-1980s, recording on The Man With The Horn, We Want Miles, Star People and Decoy.
During the 1980s and 1990s Bill was a member of the jazz fusion group Elements. Beginning in 1990 Evans has been touring with his own band playing close to 90 concerts a year worldwide. He has recorded over 17 solo CD’s, received two GrammyAward nominations for his albums Soul Inside and Soulgrass, and recorded an award-winning CD called Bill Evans – Vans Joint with the WDR Orchestra in 2009.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Bill Evans has played a wide variety of music with his solo projects including bluegrass influenced jazz, funk and contemporary groove and has played, toured and recorded with Herbie Hancock, Michael Franks, Gil Evans, Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Les McCann, Mark Egan, Danny Gottlieb, Ian Anderson, Randy Brecker, The Allman Brothers and Medeski, Martin and Wood to name a few. He continues to perform, tour and record.
Mitchel Forman was born January 24, 1956 in Brooklyn, New York and began studying classical piano at the age of seven. At 17 he entered the Manhattan School of Music for three years of study and began working with bands in New York. Shortly after graduation he began touring and recording with Gerry Mulligan’s big band and quartet, followed by a stint with Stan Getz.
In 1980 Mitchel began a solo career with a piano performance at the Newport Jazz Festival and the subsequent recording became his first album, Live at Newport. He went on to work with Phil Woods, Carla Bley, Mel Torme and Astrud Gilberto; record for Soul Note Records and tour Europe regularly.
He joined guitarist John McLaughlin for a year and a half, recorded Mahavishnu and Adventures in Radioland. Then he joined Wayne Shorter and in between touring, contributed to and recorded Phantom Navigator.
In 1985, Forman began leading his own band and recorded his group debut for Magenta Records “Train of Thought”. At the same time he continued to work with other well-known jazz and music figures, including John Scofield, Mike Stern, Janis Siegel, Dave Samuels, Diane Schuur, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, “Freddie Hubbard and numerous others.
Pianist Mitchel Forman continues to record and play under his own name and has recently started his own record label, Marsis Jazz. His move to California has him co-leading the band Metro with guitarist Chuck Loeb and performing around Los Angeles with his own bands.
More Posts: piano
Joe Farrell was born Joseph Carl Firrantello on December 16, 1937 in Chicago Heights, Illinois and learned to play saxophone and flute. During the Sixties he played with The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and recorded with Charles Mingus, Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard, Players Association, and Elvin Jones.
In the 80s Joe released two albums with the group Fuse One, played sax and oboe on pop recordings by Hall & Oates, played with Airto and Flora Purim, his final recordings making their “Three-Way Mirror” project. He is best known for his series of albums as a leader for the CTI record label and for being an original member of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever.
Kanye West, Method Man, Redman and Common have sampled Farrell’s music “Upon This Rock”, without approval that subsequently resulted in a lawsuit by his daughter.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist and flautist Joe Farrell died of bone cancer on January 10, 1986 in Los Angeles, California at age 48.