Charlie Lee Byrd was born on September 16, 1925 in Suffolk, Virginia but grew up in Chuckatuck, Virginia and his father taught him to play the acoustic steel guitar at age 10. He went on to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, served in the Army and played in the Special Services band in Paris. Returning to New York he studied composition at Hamett National Music School, taking up classical guitar.
Charlie moved to Washington, D.C. in 1950 and studied classical guitar with Sophocles Papas, then with Andre Segovia. By 1957 he teamed up with bassist Keter Betts and started gigging around D.C. for two years, joined Woody Herman for a State Department goodwill tour.
Byrd was first introduced to Brazilian music by his friend radio host Felix Grant who was well known in Brazil in 1960. A subsequent tour of Brazil and he returned home with recordings from Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He met with Stan Getz who convinced Creed Taylor, then at Verve Records to produce the album, recording “Jazz Samba” in 1962 in a building adjacent to All Souls Unitarian Church because of the excellent acoustics found there. And his love affair with Brazilian music began.
Over the course of his career he has toured the world, performed at numerous festivals, played with such jazz legends as Les McCann, Zoot Sims, Vince Guaraldi, his brother bassist Joe Byrd, Chuck Redd, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and the list goes on.
Charlie Byrd died of lung cancer on December 2, 1999 at his home in Annapolis, Maryland. He was deemed a Maryland Art Treasure in 1997 and knighted by the government of Brazil as the Knight of the Rio Branco.
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Brian Lynch was born September 12, 1956 in Urbana, Illinois but grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The young trumpeter apprenticed with pianist Buddy Montgomery and organist Melvin Rhyne while earning a degree from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. While living in San Diego 1980-81, he gained further valuable experience in the group of alto master Charles McPherson.
Moving to New York in late 1981 Brian was soon hired by Bill Kirchner, performing and recording with Kirchner’s nonet, then Horace Silver, and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra while simultaneously on the Latin scene with salsa bandleader Angel Canales, Hector LaVoe and Eddie Palmieri. By 1988 he was a part of the final edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers followed by Phil Woods and Benny Golson.
In recent years Lynch has worked with the Buena Vista Social Club, co-led bands and Latin sessions with Conrad Herwig, with Eddie Palmieri won best Latin Jazz Album of the Year Grammy for Simpatico, has immersed himself in the Afro-Cuban culture with “Spheres of Influence” collaborating with the likes of Edsel Gomez, Luis Perdomo, Robby Ameen, Ernesto Simpson, Richie Flores and Pedro Martinez to name a few.
As an educator he is a faculty member at the University of Miami, New York University and the North Netherlands Conservatory, has taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Eastman School of Music, Dartmouth College, University of North Texas and Columbia University among others. Trumpeter Brian Lynch continues to perform, record and tour worldwide.
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John Anthony Pompeo, better known as Johnny Rae or John Rae was born on August 11, 1934 in Saugus, Massachusetts and grew up in music, as his mother played piano in night clubs in the Boston area. His area of musical study in jazz led him to become a drummer and vibraphonist. Graduating from East Boston High School in 1952, he went on to study piano at the New England Conservatory and timpani at Berklee College of Music.
Johnny joined Herb Lee’s R&B band right out of high school, gigged with Slim Gaillard and Milt Buckner, played drums and vibes with Al Vega and Jay Migliori. Upon the recommendation of MJQ’s John Lewis, he teamed up with to play with George Shearing, alongside Toots Thielemans, Al McKibbon on bass and three Latin percussionists that included conguero Armando Peraza. It was during this period that Peraza taught him to play timbales.
He played with Johnny Smith, Ralph Sharon, Cozy Cole and Herbie Mann throughout the Fifties. The next couple of decades were equally commanding of his talents by Cal Tjader, Stan Getz, Gabor Szabo, Charlie Byrd, Earl Hines, Art Van Damme, Anita O’Day and Barney Kessel among many others. Though mainly concentrating in the context modern jazz, he never wandered far from Latin music and the Latin jazz percussion he played.
Though he was on more than three-dozen recording sessions, Johnny only recorded one as a leader, “Opus De Jazz, Volume 2” in 1960 for Savoy. A second release under his name was in actuality him fronting Herbie Mann’s band for contractual reasons.
Since the 1980s Rae has worked in music education, has authored several instruction books and was a disc jockey in San Francisco for many years. He assembled a tribute band to Tjader called Radcliff (Tjader’s middle name) and led the band until his death. Johnny Rae, drummer and vibraphonist passed away in 1993 in San Francisco, California.
Louis “Sabu” Martinez was born on July 14, 1930 in New York City and made his professional debut in 1941 at age 11. He replaced Chano Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in 1948, and began performing with Benny Goodman’s Bebop Orchestra in 1949.
Over the next 15 years, Martinez worked with jazz luminaries Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, J.J. Johnson, Mary Lou Williams, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Lionel Hampton; vocalist Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte as well as Latin favorites Noro Morales, Marcelino Guerra, Tito Rodriguez and the Lecuona Cuban Boys.
A prominent conguero and percussionist in the Cubop movement in the 1950s, Martinez appeared on many important recordings and live performances during that period. Martinez also recorded several Latin jazz albums, now recognized as classics of the genre.
Martinez first recorded with Art Blakey in 1953, and contributed to his Orgy in Rhythm and Holiday for Skins projects from 1957–58. Martinez became a bandleader in 1957, recording his debut album, Palo Congo for Blue Note Records. He followed it up with releases on Vik and Alegre Records.
Martinez moved to Sweden in 1967 and recorded with the Francy Boland-Kenny big band, releasing two albums. Subsequently he led the group Burnt Sugar, which was active into the mid ’70s, but, on January 13, 1979, he died in Sweden at the age of 48.
Raymond Mantilla was born on June 22, 1934 in New York City and his early drumming inspiration came from Afro-Cuban jazz. He played with a number of Latin jazz ensembles from the 1950s including the La Playa Sextet, Xavier Cugat, Lou Perez, Rene Touzet, Miguelito Valdez and Monguito Conjunto.
He played behind Eartha Kitt in 1955 and by 1960 was touring with Herbie Mann and recording with Max Roach. He recorded with Al Cohn, Freddie Hubbard, Buddy Rich and Larry Coryell in the early Sixties and then led his own band in Puerto Rico from ’63 to ’69. This was followed with Ray becoming a founding member of Max Roach’s M’Boom percussion ensemble in 1970.
Mantilla was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 70s and toured the U.S., Europe, and Japan. He then recorded with Gato Barbieri, Joe Farrell, Richie Cole, Don Pullen, Charles Mingus, Walter Bishop, Jr., and Morgana King and toured Cuba with Dizzy Gillespie.
By the end of the decade he once again founded his own ensemble, the Ray Mantilla Space Station, and through the 1980s toured or recorded with Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Burrell, Shirley Scott and Warren Chiasson. In 1991 the noted session player and bandleader put together a new ensemble, the Jazz Tribe and has been recording, performing and touring ever since.
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