Michał Urbaniak was born on January 22, 1943 in Warsaw, Poland. He started his music education during high school and continued from 1961 in Warsaw in the violin class of Tadeusz Wronski. Learning to play the saxophone he first played in a Dixieland band, and later with Zbigniew Namyslowski and the Jazz Rockers, performing during the 1961 Jazz Jamboree festival.
The following year Michal played with Andrzej Trzaskowski band, The Wreckers, touring festivals and clubs in the USA in Newport, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York City. A return to Poland saw him working with the Krzysztof Komeda Quintet from 1962 to 1964, touring Scandinavia and remaining to form his own band with Wojciech Karolak, that became starting point for the famous Michał Urbaniak Fusion.
Urbaniak returned to Poland and the violin, and created the self-named Michał Urbaniak Group, to which he invited, among others, vocalist Urszula Dudziak, pianist Adam Makowicz, bassist Pawel Jarzebski and on drums Czeslaw Bartowski. Their debut recording on the international scene was in 1970 with Parathyphus B, and during the Montreux ’71 festival, he was awarded “Grand Prix” for the Best Soloist and a scholarship to the Berklee Colege of Music, though he declined to attend.
He played his final concert in Poland in 1973 and emigrated with Urszula Dudziak to the United States, signed with Columbia Records, formed the band Fusion and released Super Constellation. His 1978 Urbanizer project fused rap, hip-hop and a R&B vocal quartet. By 1995 he was engaging a 60-piece full symphony with jazz group, rapper and Apple computer in concert and recorded both CD and DVD.
Over the course of his career he has performed and recorded with Steve Jordan, Marcus Miller, Kenny Kirkland, Tony Bun, Omar Hakim, Victor Bailey, Weather Report, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Benson, Billy Cobham, Joe Zawinul, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Buster Williams and Quincy Jones.
Violinist Michal Urbaniak played on the 1985 session of the Miles Davis Tutu album and in 2012 appeared in the Polish film My Father’s Bike. He hs recorded thirty-eight albums to date and continues to perform, record and compose.
Lonnie Liston Smith, Jr. was born into a musical family on December 28, 1940 in Richmond, Virginia. With his father a member of Richmond Gospel music group The Harmonizing Four, as a child he was privy to groups such as the Swan Silvertones and the Soul Stirrers with a young Sam Cooke at his house. He learned piano, tuba and trumpet in high school and college, graduating from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland with a degree in music education.
Influenced by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, while still a teenager at college, Smith became well known locally as a backing vocalist and pianist. He played the Baltimore area with Gary Bartz, Grachan Moncur, Mickey Bass, backed Betty Carter and Ethel Ennis and played in the house band at the Royal Theatre.
1963 saw him moving to New York, once again with Carter for a year followed by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and recording Here Comes The Whistleman. After this stint with Kirk he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers sharing the piano seat with Mike Nock and Keith Jarrett and then with Max Roach. He would go on to play with Pharoah Sanders improvising and pushing the creative boundaries of free jazz. It is at this point that Smith began experimenting with electric keyboards:
In 1969 Lonnie also backed Sanders vocalist Leon Thomas on his first album Spirits Known and Unknown, played with Gato Barbieri on The Third World, and with Miles Davis for On The Corner. He formed the Cosmic Echoes in 1973 with Cecil McBee, George Barron, Joe Beck, David Lee, James Mtume, Sonny Morgan, Badal Roy and Geeta Vashi. The group blended fusion, soul and funk on several recordings for Flying Dutchman Records over the next twelve years.
After the crossover success of the 1970s, he moved into the smooth jazz format, however, public interest slowly waned. By the mid-Eighties he returned to his acoustic roots with McBee and Al Foster recording a session of standards for Bob Thiele’s Startrak label. But dealing with the labels bottom line he returned to smooth jazz working with Phyllis Hyman and Stanley Turrentine. He also delved into hip-hop working with rapper Guru on his groundbreaking Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. Pianist and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith established his own label Loveland, gathered greater recognition with Sony International distributing his Cosmic Echoes years, and has since continued to compose, record and tour to festivals worldwide.
Herb Geller was born Herbert Arnold Geller on November 2, 1928 in Los Angeles, California. His initial exposure to was from his mother who played piano accompanying silent films at a Hollywood theater. At the age of 8, he was presented with an alto saxophone and two years later started clarinet. He went to Dorsey High School, joined the school band with Eric Dolphy and Vi Redd. At the age of 14, after hearing Benny Carter live in performance, he decided to pursue a career a music career playing his original instrument of study.
By age sixteen Geller had his first professional engagement in the band of jazz violinist Joe Venuti. A short time later he discovered Charlie Parker and Johnny Hodges and along with Carter became important idols for him. A move to New York City in 1949 saw him performing in the bands of Jack Fina with Paul Desmond, Claude Thornhill, Jerry Wald and Lucky Millinder. It was during this time he met hi future wife and musical partner Lorraine Walsh.
After three years in New York, Herb joined the Billy May orchestra in 1952 and, following an engagement in Los Angeles, returned there to live. He worked and recorded with Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Holman, Shelly Manne, Marty Paich, Barney Kessell, Andre Previn, Quincy Jones, Wardell Gray, Jack Sheldon, and Chet Baker. He recorded three album as a leader for Emarcy plus some with Dinah Washington, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry, and Kenny Drew.
In 1955 he won the “New Star Award” from Down Beat Magazine, worked in the bands of Louis Bellson and Benny Goodman, played bossa nova in Beazil and sailed to Europe and played in Paris with Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, Martial Solal, Rene Thomas and toured with a French radio show, Musique Aux Champs-Elysées. He would go on to work with the RIAS Big Band in Berlin, play lead alto and arrange for the NDR Big Band in Hamburg and for twenty0eight years made the city his home. During this period her performed with Don Byas, Joe Pass, Sloide Hampton, Bill Evans, Red Mitchell, Art Farmer, Georgie Fame, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Baden Powell, Peter Herbolzheimer and George Gruntz.
He composed for two musicals Playing Jazz, a musical autobiography and Josie B, based upon the life of Josephine Baker, taught at the Hochschule fur Muzik, and wrote a method of improvisation called crossover, was knighted, and awarded the Louis Armstrong Gedachtnispreis. Alto saxophonist Herb Geller who also played clarinet, flute, oboe, English horn and passed away of pneumonia in a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, aged 85, on December 19, 2013.
Bob Belden was born James Robert Belden on October 31, 1956 in Evanston, Illinois but was raised in South Carolina. He studied saxophone and later attended the University of North Texas.
In 2008, he arranged and produced Miles from India, a world fusion music record based on the compositions of Miles Davis. In the record, he assembled alumni of Davis and musicians of India. As producer he is mostly associated with the seminal reissue of the recordings by Miles Davis for Columbia Records.
In addition to his work as arranger, composer, conductor and A & R director, Belden contributed numerous liner notes for noted recordings, such as Lou’s Blues by Lou Marini and the Magic City Jazz Orchestra, with some of his liner notes receiving Grammy Awards.
Shortly before his death, Bob became the first American musician in 35 years to bring a band from the States to Iran to perform. He may be best-known for his Grammy Award winning jazz orchestral recording, Black Dahlia. He recorded nine albums as a leader and performed and recorded as a sideman or collaborated with Paquito D’Ribera, Tim Hagans, Nicolas Payton, Sam Yahel, John Hart and Billy Drummond to name a few.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist, arranger, composer, bandleader and producer Bob Belden died of a heart attack on May 20, 2015, at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 58.
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Eddie Henderson was born on October 26, 1940 in New York City. His mother was an original Cotton Club dancer and his father sang with a popular singing group of the day, Billy Williams and The Charioteers. At the age of nine he got an informal lesson by Louis Armstrong and continued his study of the instrument as a teenager at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, after his family moved there in 1954. As a young man, he performed with the San Francisco Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. In 1957 he met Miles Davis, a friend of his parents and played a gig together when he was just 17.
After three years in the Air Force, Henderson enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley graduating with a B.S. in zoology in 1964. He then studied medicine at Howard University, then went back to the Bay area undertook his residency in psychiatry in 1968, he practiced general medicine from 1975 to 1985 in San Francisco part-time for about four hours a day working at a small clinic.
His break in music came when he took a weeklong gig with Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band that led to a three-year job. It was during this period in the early 70s that her recorded three albums with the group but more importantly came out as a leader and recorded his debut album Realization followed by Inside Out.
After leaving Hancock, Eddie worked extensively with Pharoah Sanders, Mike Nock, Norman Connors, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He joined Latin jazz band Azteca, recorded with Charles Earland and fronted his own bands, both jazz and rock-oriented. However, recognized for his work with Hancock, his own records were considered too commercial.
By the 1990s, Henderson returned to playing acoustic hard bop, touring with Billy Harper while also working as a physician. He recorded at Miles tribute album So What? with Bob Berg, Dave Kikoski, Ed Howard and Victor Lewis. He has collaborated with his wife Natsuko who composed Tender You, Precious Moment, Around the World in 3/4 and Be Cool.
As an educator trumpet and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson has been a faculty member of Juilliard since 2007 and is Associate Professor of Trumpet at the Oberlin Conservatory Jazz Department, beginning in 2014. He has recorded 23 albums as a leader, has released two anthologies, and recorded nearly four-dozen sessions as a sideman with Benny Golson, Mulgrew Miller, Richard Davis, Gary Bartz, Leon Thomas, Billy Hart, McCoy Tyner, Mal Waldron, Stanley Cowell, Grover Washington, Jr., Kenny Barron, Joe Farnsworth and the Mingus Big Band to name a few.