Peter Erskine was born on June 5, 1954 in Somers Point, New Jersey and began playing the drums at the age of four. He graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, then studied percussion at Indiana University.
He began playing professionally in 1972 when he joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra. After three years with Kenton he spent two years with Maynard Ferguson and in 1978 Erskine joined Weather Report along Jaco Pastorius in the rhythm section. After four years and five albums with Weather Report and the Jaco Pastorius big band Word of Mouth, he joined Steps Ahead.
Over the course of his prolific career Peter has recorded 20 albums as a leader and to date has been a sideman on over ninety-five albums working with John Abercrombie, Diana Krall, Eliane Elias, Queen Latifah, Linda Ronstadt, Eberhard Weber, Kate Bush, Gary Burton, Randy and Michael Brecker, George Cables, Pino Daniele, Eddie Daniels, Al Di Meola, Marty Ehrlich, Joe Farrell, Jan Garbarek, Giorgio, Gordon Goodwin, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Marc Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Peacock, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Rod Stewart, Ralph Towner, Joe Zawinul, Kenny Wheeler and many more.
Drummer Peter Erskine currently splits his time between performing and teaching. He ss a professor at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. His big band recordings with the Bob Mintzer Big Band are modern big band jazz/funk performances studied by many students of drums and drumming. He has published five books on drumming and has one DVD titled The Erskine Method of Drumming.
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Max Bennett was born May 24, 1928 in Des Moines, Iowa and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and Oskaloosa, Iowa. Attending college in Iowa and studying guitar, his first professional gig was with Herbie Fields in 1949, then played with Georgie Auld, Terry Gibbs and Charlie Ventura.
After serving in the Army during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, Max played with Stan Kenton before moving to Los Angeles, California where he played regularly at the Lighthouse Cafe with his own ensemble. During this period played behind Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez through the Seventies and recorded with Charlie Mariano, Conte Candoli, Bob cooper, Bill Holman, Stan Levey, Lou Levy, Coleman Hawkins and Jack Montrose.
Bennett recorded under his own name from the late 1950s, and did extensive work as a composer and studio musician in addition to playing jazz. His session works is a who’s who list playing bass on sessions with The Monkees,The Partridge Family, Frank Zappa, With Lalo Schifrin on the soundtrack of Bullitt, Marvin Gaye, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Newley, Paul Anka, Elvis Presley, Four Tops, Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Cleo Laine, Joe Williams, Quincy Jones, Kenny Rogers, The Beach Boys, Carol King, The Temptations, The Crusaders, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel and the list goes on.
Bennett continued with his own band, L.A. Express, which included the late Joe Sample, Larry Carlton and John Guerin under the leadership of Tom Scott. After this band, Bennett formed his own group Freeway, and currently heads his most recent band, Private Reserve.
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Charlie Hunter was born on May 23, 1967 in Rhode Island but by age four his mom packed him and his younger sister in an old yellow school bus and headed west. After several years living on a commune in Mendocino County they settled in Berkeley, California and graduating from Berkeley High School and taking lessons from guitar teacher Joe Satriani. At eighteen he moved to Paris, becoming a professional busker, working 8 to 12 hours a day to make ends meet.
Returning to the Bay area, he played a seven-string guitar and organ in Michael Franit’s political rap group, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Since the 1993 debut of his self-titled Charlie Hunter Trio with John Ellis on sax and Jay Lane on drums, he has recorded seventeen albums. He co-founded Garage A Trois, a jazz fusion band with Stanton Moore and Sherik, has collaborated with Bobby Previte on the ongoing project Groundtruther, and has recorded and toured with Previte’s The Coalition of the Willing.
Charlie has recorded with Christian McBride, has played in the band T.J. Kirk, that merged the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He is an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards judging panel to support independent artists, and over the years has performed and recorded with Erik Deutch, Tony Mason, Eric Kalb, Ben Goldberg, Ron Miles, Scott Amendola, and Curtis Fowlkes, continuing to perform, compose and tour.
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Woody Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman on May 16, 1913 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced him at an early age. As a child he worked as a Vaudeville singer and tap-dancer, then started to play the clarinet and saxophone by age 12.
1936 saw him joining the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were Lonesome Me and My Heart’s at Ease. He also performed with the Harry Sosnick Orchestra, Gus Arnheim and Isham Jones, the latter writing numerous popular songes including It Had To Be You. When Jones retired Woody acquired the orchestra, which became known for its orchestrations of the blues. They first recorded for the Decca label as a cover band, eventually getting their first hit with Woodchopper’s Ball in 1939.He went on to have hits with The Golden Wedding and Blue Prelude.
As bebop was gradually replacing swing Herman commissioned Dizzy Gillespie as an arranger and he provided him three arrangements of Woody‘n You, Swing Shift and Down Under in 1942, heralding a change in the music. By 1945 Herman was with Columbia Records, recording the First Herd, the very successful Laura, the theme song to the 1944 movie of the same name. That group became famous for its progressive jazz that was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. By the end of 1946 the big band era was over and he disbanded his only financially profitable group.
In 1947, Herman organized the Second Herd that remained together until 1987. This band was also known as The Four Brothers Band derived from the song and featured three tenor and one baritone saxophone of Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward and Stan Getz. In the band was also Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, Lou Levy, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs and Shelly Manne and they had hits with Early Autumn and The Goof and I.
Herman would go on to perform in movies with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, record for RCA, Capitol, MGM and Verve record labels, put together his Third Herd and variations of the New Thundering Herd and by the Seventies was touring and working more in jazz education by offering workshops and taking on younger sidemen.
The 1980s saw Herman’s return to straight-ahead jazz, dropping some of the newer rock and fusion approaches he had used the previous decade. He continued to perform with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes that were owed because of his business manager’s bookkeeping in the 1960s. Herman owed the IRS millions of dollars and was in danger of eviction from his home. He eventually passed leadership duties to reed section leader Frank Tiberi.
Clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer and big band leader Woody Herman was awarded two Grammys for Best Big Band Jazz Album for Encore and Giant Steps, The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, had won Down Beat, Esquire and Metronome polls. He was the feature of a documentary film titled Woody Herman: Blue Flame- Portrait of a Jazz Legend, and was a featured half-time performer at Super Bowl VII. He passed away on October 29, 1987.
Gil Evans came into this world on May 13, 1912 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as Ian Ernest Gilmore Green. His name was changed to his stepfather’s Evans early in his life. His family moved to Stockton, California where he spent most of his youth.
Between 1941 and 1948, Evans worked as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. His basement apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry became a meeting place for musicians looking to develop new musical styles outside of the dominant bebop style of the day that included the leading bebop performer Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and John Carisi.
In 1948, Gil collaborated with Miles Davis, Mulligan and others to create a nonet utilizing French horns and tubas keeping the big sound with less cost. The Davis-led group was booked for a week at the Royal Roost as an intermission group on the bill with the Count Basie Orchestra. Subsequently, Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers at three sessions in 1949 and 1950 that were reissued on the 1957 Miles Davis LP titled Birth Of The Cool. He was also instrumental in contributing behind the scenes to Davis’ classic quintet albums of the 1960s.
From 1957 onwards Evans recorded albums under his own name. He brought tubist Bill Barber, trumpeter Louis Mucci along with im and featured soloists Lee Konitz, Jimmy Cleveland, Steve Lacy, Johnny Coles and Cannonball Adderley. By 1965 he was arranging the big band tracks on Kenny Burrell’s Guitar Forms album.
Evans’ influence by Latin, Brazilian and Spanish composers Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo as well as German expat Kurt Weill led him to create arrangements that included two basses, using Richard Davis, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Ben Tucker and Milt Hinton on many of his recordings. He was prolific in his recording until he became discouraged by the commercial direction Verve Records was taking with his arrangements for Astrud Gilberto’s Look To The Rainbow, causing him to take a hiatus from music.
During this period he began listening to Jimi Hendrix at the suggestion of his wife. He became interested in scoring the music of the rock guitarist, put together another orchestra in the Seventies and began working with in the free jazz and jazz rock idioms. He eventually released an album of arrangements of Hendrix’s music with John Abercrombie and RyoKawasaki and his ensembles featured electric guitars and basses, like that of Jaco Pastorious, from that date forward.
He would go on to release Where Flamingos Fly in 1981 with Coles, Harry Lookofsky, Richard Davis and Jimmy Knepper, Howard Johnson, Don Preston and Billy Harper. He created his Monday Night Orchestra in 1983 that became a staple for five years at Sweet Basil Jazz Club in Greenwich Village. Members of the band were Lew Soloff, Hiram Bullock, David Sanborn, Mark Eagan and Tom “Bones” Malone and Gil Goldstein among others. He recorded a big band album of The Police songs with Sting collaborating with apprentice arranger Maria Schneider.
Gil won two Grammy awards, has four films to his credit and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1986. He ha a catalogue of eighteen studio albums, 16 live albums, arranged fifteen albums for Miles Davis, Hal McKusick, Helen Merrill, Johnny Mathis, Macy Lutes, Don Elliott, Astrud Gilberto and Kenny Burrell.
Pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader Gil Evans, who played an important part in the development of cool, modal, free and fusion styles of jazz, passed away of peritonitis in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the age of 75 on March 20, 1988.
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