Roland Hanna was born on February 10, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan and began private classical piano lessons at an early age but had a strong interest in jazz. After graduation from Cass Technical High School and a two-year stint in the US Army, he continued his musical studies at the Eastman and Juilliard Schools of Music.
He worked with several big names, such as Benny Goodman and Charles Mingus in the 1950s, from 1967 to 1974 was a regular member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and was also a member of the New York Jazz Quartet during this decade. He also performed solo, contributed to orchestras, bands, and small groups; provided sensitive, sympathetic accompaniment to such artists Sarah Vaughn (also her musical director), Carmen McRae and Al Hibbler.
Hanna went into semi-retirement for most of the 1980s, though he played piano and wrote the song “Seasons” for Sarah’s 1982 album Crazy and Mixed Up, however, he returned to music later in the decade. Over the course of his career he recorded some 50 albums, formed a record label, became a tenured professor of music at Aaron Copeland School of Music, Queens College and City College of New York, and was knighted by Liberian President William Tubman for his humanitarian services to that country.
Sir Roland Hanna passed away on November 13, 2003 in Hackensack, New Jersey.
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Joseph Leslie Sample was born February 1, 1939 in Houston, Texas and began playing piano at age five, taking lessons from organ and piano great, Curtis Mayo. While in high school during the 1950s, Sample teamed up with two friends, saxophonist Wilton Felder and drummer Stix Hooper and formed the group “Swingsters”. While studying piano at Texas Southern University he added trombonist Wayne Henderson and several other players to the Swingsters, which evolved into the Modern Jazz Sextet and then the Jazz Crusaders in emulation of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Prior to graduation in 1960 the Jazz Crusader moved to Los Angeles.
The group quickly found opportunities on the West Coast, making its first recording, Freedom Sounds in 1961 and releasing up to four albums a year over much of the 1960s. The Jazz Crusaders played at first in the dominant hard bop style of the day, standing out by virtue of their unusual front-line combination of saxophone and trombone. Another distinctive quality was the funky, rhythmically appealing acoustic piano playing of Sample, who helped steer the group’s sound into a fusion between jazz and soul in the late 1960s.
In 1969 Sample made his first recording under his own name titled Fancy Dance that was followed by a string of albums such as Rainbow Seeker and Street Life. He continued to record and perform as a solo artist while maintaining steerage of The Crusaders into jazz fusion, changing the name in 1971 which it remained until the group disbanded in 1987.
Sample has had a very successful career working and recording with the likes of Miles Davis, George Benson, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, The Supremes, Minnie Riperton, Marvin Gaye, Ray Brown, Shelly Manne, Randy Crawford, Anita Baker, Lalah Hathaway, Howard Hewitt, George Duke and Lizz Wright, well into the new millennium.
His song “One Day I’ll Fly Away” was sung by Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge; and “Rainbow Seeker” is included on the Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II. Pianist, keyboardist and composer Joe Sample, who has played through various genres of jazz, continues to perform, record and tour with the Coryell Auger Sample Trio with his son Nicklas, who plays bass.
Bob Mintzer was born January 27, 1953 in New Rochelle, New York. After graduating from the Interlochen Arts Academy in 1970, he made his mark as a soloist, mainly on the tenor saxophone and bass clarinet but is also proficient on flute and the EWI (electronic wind instrument).
He is a member of the jazz-rock band the Yellowjackets but among jazz fans is even better known for his inspiring big band work since the early 1980s in the Word of Mouth Big Band and then as the leader of the Bob Mintzer Big Band. Before starting his own big band, Bob was a featured soloist and arranger with the Buddy Rich big band.
In 2008, Bob succeeded pianist Shelly Berg to hold the Bowen H. “Buzz” McCoy and Barbara M. McCoy Endowed Chair in Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.
Mintzer has been nominated for thirteen Grammy Awards both for his solo work and big band recordings an his Homage to Count Basie won him a Grammy for the Best Large Ensemble in 2001. He has performed and/or recorded with a wide variety of artists ranging from Tito Puente, Buddy Rich, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, James Taylor, The New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, American Saxophone Quartet, Art Blakey, Donald Fagan, Bobby McFerrin, Nancy Wilson, Kurt Elling, to Jaco Pastorius, Mike Manieri, and Randy Brecker.
Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, arranger and bandleader Bob Mintzer continues to perform, tour and record as he explores funk and Latin domains with his big band.
Onzy Matthews was born in Fort Worth, Texas on January 15, 1936, grew up in Dallas until he was 14, when his mother pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles for a better job. He graduated from high school at 16 and had already decided he wanted to sing. Nearly every day he walked to a nearby park, where he could play piano for hours in the recreation building.
Augmenting his early gospel roots with healthy doses of smooth California jazz and big band music, Matthews taught himself to accompany his singing on piano until he realized he needed arrangements.
He attended Westlake College of Music, studied ear training and harmony, started singing with a dance band and learning about arranging. After several years of performing, attending concerts and asking questions he had 21 original songs arranged for big band.
His musical career sprang from eight bars of music. As an aspiring singer, pianist and composer in 1963, a young Mr. Matthews gave his first professional arrangement to Les Brown for a tryout with the Band of Renown. Out of the arrangement came 8 bars that sounded good to Onzy and Les Brown advised him to take those 8 bars and start from there. Doing so he went on to become one of the most sought-after arrangers in jazz and pop music. It was later through Dexter Gordon that these first twenty-one were played by the best musicians in Hollywood that turned into a regular Wednesday night jam session. The word spread and he started getting courted by record labels to work with their artists.
Onzy’s first major arranging job was on Lou Rawls’ album Black & Blue, followed by his debut as a leader in 1964 on “Blues With A Touch Of Elegance” for Capitol. About a year later, with his career in full swing, he held a guest spot on a New York radio show hosted by mercer Ellington who introduced him to his dad, friendship was struck and four years later became collaborators, filling the void from Billy Strayhorn’s death.
Matthews tailors the arrangements according to the empathy of the artist by listening to the artist and arranging to bring out things in them they weren’t aware of. This was his magic. After Ellington death in ’74, he moved to Seattle, formed a big band for three years moved between Texas and New York and finally moved to Paris in ’79, put together another big band, played with Miles Davis and finally moved back to Dallas in 1994.
Onzy D. Matthews, whose 35-year career had him working with some of jazz’s most notables, was discovered in his Dallas apartment passed away at his typewriter by jazz singer Jeanette Brantley and her husband Hans Wango on November 15, 1997. He was 67.
John Scofield was born on December 26, 1951 in Dayton, Ohio but early in his life the family moved to Wilton, Connecticut and it was here that he discovered his interest in music. He attended Berklee College of Music but left to record with Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan followed by joining the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band touring and recording for two years.
Affectionately known as “Sco”, he went on to record with Charles Mingus, replace Pat Metheny in Gary Burton’s band and in 1976 signed with Enja Records releasing his first album “John Scofield” the next year. He formed his own band with Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum in ’70 and joined Miles Davis for three and half years in 1982. Leaving Miles he formed the Blue Matter Band and released three albums, in the nineties he put together a quartet that included Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette and recorded several albums for Blue Note. Towards the end of his tenure with Blue Note, Scofield returned to a more funk and soul jazz-oriented sound, a direction that has dominated much of his subsequent output to the present.
Scofield has played and collaborated with Joe Henderson, Joey DeFrancesco, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Mavis Staples, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Jaco Pastorious, John Mayer, Hal Galper and the Metropole Orchestra along with many other well-known artists.
Guitarist John Scofield is at ease in the bebop idiom as well as he is versed in Jazz-fusion, funk, blues, soul, rock and other forms of modern American music and currently is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education.
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