James Black was born on February 1, 1940 in New Orleans, Louisiana and though he’s little known outside of his native city and never recorded an album under his own name, the drummer was a Crescent City legend. Soaking up the city’s trademark “second line” rhythms from a young age, by the early 1960s he was already doing session work for the likes of Fats Domino. His main interest was jazz, however, and he played in a group with the young Ellis Marsalis on piano and Nat Perrilliat on saxophone. This trio was part of the Nat Adderley 1962 session In the Bag, to which he contributed two compositions. The following year, Marsalis cut an underrated album of modern jazz called Monkey Puzzle and this time out Black handled four of the seven compositions, including the intricate 5/4 piece Magnolia Triangle, which ranks as perhaps his greatest work.
James went on to play with Yusef Lateef and Lionel Hampton in the mid-’60s. However, his career was interrupted by a stint in the Angola State Penitentiary,during which time he actually played in a prison band with blues pianist James Booker and saxophonist Charles Neville. The late Sixties saw him on the R&B circuit around New Orleans, and in 1968 became the house drummer at the Scram label. He played on Eddie Bo’s Hook and Sling, helping to make it one of the great New Orleans funk singles, and soon took his place alongside Smokey Johnson and the Meters’ Ziggy Modeliste as one of the city’s top funky drummers.
He continued to play jazz on the side as part of Ellis Marsalis’ band ELM Music Company. They took up residency at Lu and Charlie’s beginning in 1972 and became local favorites. During the ’70s, Black also led his own group, the James Black Ensemble, which often featured his longtime girlfriend “Sister Mary” Bonette on vocals. He attempted several times to record a full-length album, including once for the Sound of New Orleans label and another time at Allen Toussaint’s studio, but the sessions never progressed beyond a few tracks.
He would continue performing in New Orleans into the ’80s playing with Ellis Marsalis and then teenager Harry Connick Jr., and served as the drummer for the 1982 Marsalis Family album Fathers and Sons. Drummer James Black passed away of a drug overdose on August 30, 1988 in New Orleans.
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Phillip Guilbeau was born on January 16, 1926 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Like many of his fellow musicians he took up the trumpet and during World War II served in the Navy, Honorably discharged in 1945 he moved to Detroit, Michigan and successfully became a session player. Throughout his career he recorded on hundreds of albums including sessions with Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, David “Fathead” Newman, Otis Redding, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, soloist on Hank Crawford’s recording of What A Difference A Day Makes from his Soul Clinic album and with Ray Charles, he was the soloist on the landmark 1961 album Genius + Soul = Jazz.
By the Seventies Phil moved to Washington, DC and recognizing the evolution of the music, moved into the new sound called funk. He became the trumpeter and manager of the group The Young Senators, the top-rated R&B group in the area after the release of their hit, that Guilbeau penned, The Jungle. With the success of this single they were asked to tour as the backing group of Eddie Kendricks, and recorded his seminal album My People… Hold On with them. The album included what is widely considered the first ever Disco song, Girl You Need A Change Of Mind.
As a manager, Gilbeau would go on to discover another group called Black Heat, get them to Atlantic Records and record three albums before they disbanded. After a lifetime career of playing jazz, funk and rhythm & blues music that spanned five decades, trumpeter and composer Phil Guilbeau passed away on September 5, 2005 in Florida.
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Greg Osby was born August 3, 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri. He majored in Jazz Studies at Howard University, then attended Berklee College of Music, studying with Andy McGhee. He played on Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, and has recorded with Steve Coleman, Jim Hall and Andrew Hill, thus setting the stage for Hill and Hall’s later appearance on his recording of The Invisible Hand.
He began recording under his own name in the Eighties on JMT Records, but his most celebrated work has been his run of records for the Blue Note label. Greg has followed in the footstep of many great bandleaders, discovering fresh talent and allowing players the opportunity to grow within his own band. He was responsible for giving exposure to the young pianist Jason Moran, who appeared on most of Osby’s 1990s albums including the live album Banned in New York and an experiment with adding a string quartet to the band, Symbols of Light.
Osby has contributed to the homages to Miles Davis’s 1970s electric jazz performed by Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith’s Yo Miles group and their double album Upriver. Not limiting himself to a strict jazz diet, in 2003 Osby toured North America with The Dead, a reincarnation of The Grateful Dead, and contributed in various lineups with Phil Lesh and Friends.
He has been featured in a series of magazine ads in Down Beat, JazzTimes and Saxophone Journal, and was named Playboy Magazine’s “Jazz Artist of the Year” in 2009. As an educator Greg is currently on faculty in the Ensemble Department at Berklee College of Music.
Since 1987 he has recorded nineteen albums as a leader and seven as a sideman working with Uri Caine, Steve Coleman, Robin Eubanks, Gary Thomas, CL Smooth, Joe Lovano, Stefon Harris, Jason Moran, Mark Shim, Gary Thomas, Andrew Hill, Jim Hall, Scott Colley and Teri Lynne Carrington.
Alto and soprano saxophonist Greg Osby continues to compose, record and perform mainly in the free jazz, free funk and M-Base idioms.
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Leon “Ndugu” Chancler was born on July 1, 1952 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He began playing drums when he was thirteen years old and while in high school he played with Willie Bobo and the Harold Johnson Sextet.
Graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in music education he had already performed with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, and recorded with Miles Davis, Fre ddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, among many others.
Chancler often works as a studio percussionist, his playing ranging from jazz to blues to pop, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, as well as Hampton Hawes, Harold Land, Azar Lawrence, Julian Priester, Lalo Schifrin, Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Donna Summer, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Carlos Santana, Hubert Laws, The Crusaders, Frank Sinatra, Weather Report, Lionel Richie, George Benson, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, Thelonious Monk, John Lee Hooker, Eddie Harris, and numerous others.
As an educator in 2006 he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and teaches at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California for three weeks every summer. He is a member of Percussive Arts Society, has been named as one of the top 25 Drummers in the world, is a composer and the sole proprietor of his own publishing company. Drummer, percussionist, studio musician, composer and producer Ndugu Chancler continues to perform, record and tour.
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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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