Warren Harding “Sonny” Sharrock was born on August 27, 1940 in Ossining, New York. His first love as a child was the saxophone after hearing John Coltrane play on Miles Davis album Kind Of Blue. Unfortunately asthma prevented him from the course so he began playing the guitar. By the time he was a teenager, he started singing in doo-wop groups.
By the late 60s he was collaborating with Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Solla during the first wave of free jazz. He made his recording debut on the 1966 Sanders album Tauhid. Sharrock performed with flautist Herbie Mann, made an un-credited guest appearance on Miles Davis’s project A Tribute To Jack Johnson and the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, arguably his most famous cameo. He recorded three albums as a leader in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s: Black Woman, Monkey-Pockie-Boo, and an album his wife Linda titled Paradise.
Sonny semi-retired for much of the 1970s, got divorced, got divorced, and worked as a chauffeur and caretaker for mentally challenged children. He returned at the urging Bill Laswell in 1981 and recorded Laswell’s project Memory Serves. He went on to work on the punk/jazz session with the band Last Exit, and during the late 1980s, he recorded and performed extensively with the New York-based improvising band Machine Gun, as well as leading his own bands.
Sharrock flourished with Laswell’s help, performing together, as well as producing his albums such as his solo project Guitar, the metal-influenced Seize the Rainbow, and the well-received Ask the Ages where he featured Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones. He would go on to compose the soundtrack for the Cartoon Network program Space Ghost Coast To Coast, recording a total of twelve albums as a leader and six with Last Exit. He would perform and record as a sideman with Ginger Baker, Don Cherry, Pheeroah akLaff, Roy Ayers, Brute Force, and Wayne Shorter among others.
On May 26, 1994 guitarist Sonny Sharrock died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his hometown of Ossining, just as he was on the verge of signing the first major label deal in his entire career. He was 53.
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Mike Mainieri was born Michael T. Mainieri, Jr. on July 4, 1938 in Bronx, New York. He is a pioneer in introducing the electronic vibraphone, known as a “synth-vibe”.
Mike has recorded with such jazz musicians as Buddy Rich, Wes Montgomery, Jeremy Steig, Bob James, Lauro Nyro, Dire Straits, Michael Franks, David Sanborn, Neil Larsen, Robben Ford, Manny Albam, Kenny Burrell, Paul Desmond, Art Farmer, Jim Hall, Urbie Green, Joe Henderson, Pat Martino, Michael Brecker and Sonny Stitt.
Mainieri has released seven albums as a leader, 11 with Steps Ahead and another dozen as a sideman as well as videos for a variety of labels. As a producer, he produced three albums for Carly Simon. Jazz-fusion vibraphonist Mike Mainieri continues to perform, record, tour and produce.
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Miles Dewey Davis III was born May 26, 1926 in Alton, Illinois into an affluent family, father a dentist and his mother a blues pianist. They owned a substantial ranch in the Delta region of Pine Bluffs, Arkansas. When he was one years old the family moved to East St. Louis and it was between there and Pine Bluffs that his appreciation for music came out of the Black church.
His musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a trumpet and arranged lessons with local musician Elwood Buchanan. He learned to play with out vibrato which gave him his clear signature tone. By age 16, Davis was a member of the music society and, when not at school, playing professionally first at the local Elks Club. At 17, he spent a year playing in Eddie Randle’s band, the Blue Devils and during this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band, then passing through town. His mother insisted that he finish his final year of high school and he graduated from East St. Louis Lincoln High School in 1944.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited East St. Louis with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in tow. Miles was brought in on third trumpet for a couple of weeks because the regular player, Buddy Anderson, was out sick. Even after this experience, once Eckstine’s band left town, Davis’ parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
However, In the fall of 1944, following graduation from high school, Davis moved to New York City to study at the Juilliard School of Music. His arrival marked a new chapter and he spent his first weeks attempting to contact Charlie Parker, against all advice even from Coleman Hawkins. Finally locating his idol, he became one of the cadre of musicians who held nightly jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s, both Harlem nightclubs. He was among future leaders of bebop Fats Navarro, Freddie Webster, J. J. Johnson as well as the established Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke.
Dropping out of Juilliard after asking permission from his father, Miles began playing professionally, performing in several 52nd Street bands led by Coleman Hawkins, and Eddie Lockjaw Davis. By 1945, he entered a recording studio for the first time, under the leadership of Herbie Field. This was the beginning of his many sideman recordings until 1946 when he recorded as a leader with the Miles Davis Sextet plus Earl Coleman and Ann Hathaway. Though a member of the groundbreaking Charlie Parker Quintet, he can be heard accompanying singers. He would play with Max Roach, Al Haig, Sir Charles Thompson, Duke Jordan, Curley Russell, Tommy Potter and Leonard Gaskin. This gave him numerous recording sessions and the beginning of what would become his cool jazz style.
After Parker’s breakdown and committal to Camarillo State Mental Hospital while on tour in Los Angeles, Davis, found himself stranded. He roomed and collaborated for some time with Charles Mingus, got a job with Billy Eckstine and eventually got back to New York. He would freelance and sideman in some of the most important combos on the New York jazz scene.
By 1948 Davis grew close to Canadian composer and arranger Gil Evans and his basement apartment had become the meeting place for several young musicians and composers such as Davis, Roach, John Lewis and Gerry Mulligan who were unhappy with the bebop scene. Together they created the tuba band sound that included French horn and tuba in the nonet line-up. The objective was to achieve a sound similar to the human voice, through carefully arranged compositions and by emphasizing a relaxed, melodic approach to the improvisations.
A contract and recording sessions between 1949-1950 with Capitol Records brought about the release of Birth Of The Cool in 1956, which gave its name to the cool jazz movement. Though met with resistance, years later it was co-opted by white musicians like Mulligan and Dave Brubeck and the critics who hailed it as a success.]
By the first half of the 1950s Davis was on tour in Paris with Tadd Dameron, Kenny Clarke and James Moody, and living the life of a black musician abroad. He was involved with French actress and singer Juliette Greco for a time and then returned to the States to be underappreciated by the critics and a liaison with the mother of his two children unraveled. This is when his heroin addiction began, with subsequent arrests. But iwas during this period that he became acquainted with Ahmad Jamal’s music and his elegant approach and use of space influenced him deeply and he definitely severed all ties to bebop.
Through the decade he would record for Prestige, work with Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, began using the Harmon mute creating a signature sound and phrasing. The most important Prestige recordings of this period were Dig, Blue Haze, Bag’s Groove, Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants and Walkin’. This placed him in the center of the hard bop movement. It also hailed his period of withdrawal, being distant, cold, contempt for critics, and his quick temper.
His first great quintet included John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. This group brought forth such titles as Relaxin’, Steamin’, Workin’ and Cookin’ all with The Miles Davis Quintet. From 1957 to 1963 Davis recorded a series of albums with Gil Evans playing often trumpet and flugelhorn on Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and Quiet Nights. In 1959 with Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb he recorded his magnus opus Kind Of Blue.
Through the Sixties he recoded with a number of musicians, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Sam Rivers. But it was Hancock, Williams, Carter and Wayne Shorter that became the nucleus of his second great quintets.
He would work with Chick Corea and Dave Holland, enter into his electric period playing with Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moriera, Bennie Maupin and recorded the landmark Bitches Brew. He would create the Cellar Door Band before retiring in 1975. By 1979, he overcame his cocaine addiction and regained his enthusiasm for music and put together new smaller combos playing up until his death.
Miles Davis is regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in the history of music. He has received numerous Grammy Awards, and according to the RIAA, the album is the best-selling jazz album of all time, having been certified as quadruple platinum (4 million copies sold. In 2009, the US House of Representatives voted 409–0 to pass a resolution honoring the album as a national treasure. On September 28, 1991 he passed away in Santa Monica, California.
Billy Cobham was born William Emanuel Cobham on May 16, 1944 in Panama but moved to New York City with his family during his early childhood. A drummer from his youth, he attended New York’s High School of Music and Art. Graduating in 1962, he played in a U.S. Army Band from 1965 to 1968, followed by joining Horace Silver’s ensemble for a year. He went on to work with Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott and George Benson.
Branching out into jazz fusion Cobham blended elements of jazz, rock and funk to create a signature sound and recorded with the Brecker Brothers in their 1970 group Dream. From here he performed with John Abercrombie, then touring extensively with Miles Davis and recording on may albums including A Tribute To Jack Johnson.
By 1970s, Cobham was working with John McLaughlin, co-founding the Mahavisnu Orchestra, released his first solo debut titled Spectrum, and played with Carlos Santana, George Duke and Jan Hammer. It was during this period that he began recording a series of groundbreaking fusion records and experiencing astral projections during his concerts.
He would record extensively for the fusion-oriented CTI Records, while simultaneously becoming a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. By the Eighties he was working with Jack Bruce & Friends, joined up with the Grateful Dead for a performance at Radio City Music Hall, formed his Glass Menagerie, releasing two albums with Michael Urbaniak, Gil Goldstein, Tim Landers and Mike Stern. The Nineties saw Billy with an all-star cast Live At The Greek with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Najee and Deron Johnson.
In the millennium a number of solo albums have followed with drummer Billy Cobham releasing more than 30 recordings under his own name, and continuing to record, perform and teach.
Dennis Chambers was born May 9, 1959 in Baltimore Maryland. He started playing drums at the age of 4 and his ardent interest in drums at that age propelled him to keep playing whenever he got a chance. A child prodigy started performing in clubs at the age of 6, despite his lack of formal training. Within a short time, he had been invited to perform in most nightclubs in Baltimore area.
After graduating from high school in 1978, Chambers, then 18, joined George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, a band he played with until 1985. He was recruited in 1981 by the Sugar Hill Label to be their house drummer and played on many Sugar Hill releases including, “Rapper’s Delight”. A sought after first call drummer for his technique and speed, as well as his ability to play “in the pocket”. His session work and performance have included John Scofield, George Duke, The Brecker Brothers, Santana, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, CAB, Craig Howe, Sugar Hill Gang and his own band Niacin, among others.
Dennis went on to gain membership with Special EFX for two years, then joined David Sanborn, and performed on the critically acclaimed Maceo Parker live album “Roots and Grooves” with the WDR Big Band. He has played with most of the major jazz-fusion musicians.
Drummer Dennis Chambers has appeared as a featured drummer on the late Show with David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week II, alongside other such notable players Tony Royster Jr., Gavin Harris, Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. He continues to perform, tour and record.