Richard Alan Berk was born on May 22, 1939 in San Francisco, California. He studied at the Berklee College of and played in the Boston area early in the 1960s.
In 1962 he moved to New York City and played with Ted Curson and Bill Barron in a quintet until 1964. Following this Dick played with Charles Mingus, Mose Allison, Freddie Hubbard, and Walter Bishop Jr. among others.
A move to Los Angeles late in the decade saw Berk playing with Milt Jackson, George Duke, Cal Tjader, John Hicks, Ray Drummond, Ted Curson, Don Friedman, . Jean-Luc Ponty and Blue Mitchell, to name a few. He went on to establish the Jazz Adoption Agency in the early 1980s, played well into the 2000s; among this group’s alumni are Andy Martin, Mike Fahn, Nick Brignola, John Noagormey, Keith Saunders, Tad Weed and John Patitucci.
He recorded eight albums as a leader and another nine as a sideman. Drummer and bandleader Dick Berk passed away on February 8, 2014 at the age of 74.
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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.
Andrea Brachfeld was born on May 3, 1955 and grew up in a household where it was mandatory to take the piano. She began her study at age six for seven years but at age 10 she discovered she could I found out of class if she took flute. Adding the instrument to her lessons she entered the High School of Music and Art in 1969, majoring in the flute. There she met and played with, Noel Pointer, Nat Adderley Jr., Dave Valentín, as well as Angie Bofill, Kenny Kirkland, Fred Hersch and Rodney Jones among many other musicians. But it was Noel who taught her how to write music down.
She went on to attend the Manhattan School of Music and study with Hubert Laws, Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, and Mike Longo, who helped her develop her own improvisational style. She began her professional career as a musician at age 16, composing music for the quartet she put together. Her breakthrough moment came in performance as the flutist for the popular Latin band Charanga ’76, catapulted her into Salsa history and fame as the first female flutist to play this music in the United States.
Andrea has performed and recorded jazz, Latin jazz, Charanga, funk, country western, and devotional music. She received the Louis Armstrong Award, Chico O’Farrill Lifetime Achievement Award, the Pionero Award, and the Tribute to the Charanga Flutes. She has six CDs out as a leader, another 17 as a side woman and is a member of the Wallace Roney, “Universe” Orchestra playing Wayne Shorter’s long lost music originally written for Miles Davis.
She has presented her flute and composition workshops and has performed with Hubert Laws, Rufus Reid, Winard Harper, Paquito D’Rivera, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Nestor Torres, Wallace Roney, Dave Valentín, Wycliffe Gordon, Hilton Ruiz, Steve Turre and Wayne Wallace. Flutist, piccolo player, composer and educator Andrea Brachfeld continues to perform and record.
Tito Puente was born Ernesto Antonio Puente on April 20, 1923 at Harlem Hospital in New York City and spent the majority of his childhood in Spanish Harlem. As a child his mother sent him to 25-cent piano lessons and by the age of 10, he switched to percussion, drawing influence from jazz drummer Gene Krupa. He later created a song-and-dance duo with his sister Anna in the 1930s, intending to become a dancer, but an ankle tendon injury prevented him pursuing dance as a career. When the drummer in Machito’s band was drafted to the army, Puente subsequently took his place.
After serving three years in the Navy during WW II, Tito used the GI Bill to study music at Juilliard School of Music, taking conducting, orchestration and theory. During the 1950s, Puente was at the height of his popularity, and helped to bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds, like mambo, son, and cha-cha-cha to mainstream audiences. He moved into more diverse sounds, including pop music, bossa nova and others, eventually settling down with a fusion of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz genres that became known as “salsa” (a term that he disliked).
Tito has received the key to the City of New York, the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian and been inducted into the National Congressional Record. He has won five Grammy Awards, and won a Grammy at the first Latin Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Tropical Album for Mambo Birdland. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and has his timbales on display at theSmithsonian.
He has had a post office in Spanish Harlem named after him, an amphitheater in San Juan Puerto Rico, performed at the closing ceremonies for the 1996 Olympics, appeared as himself on the Simpsons episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,
In early 2000, he shot the music documentary Calle 54. After a show in Puerto Rico, percussionist, timbale player and bandleader Tito Puente suffered a massive heart attack and was flown to New York City for surgery to repair a heart valve but complications developed and he died during the night of May 31 – June 1, 2000.
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Herbert Alpert was born on March 31, 1935 and raised in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles, California. His family was Jewish, emigrating from Radomyshl, now present day Ukraine and Romania. His father, a talented mandolin player, his mother taught violin, and his older brother a drummer. He began trumpet lessons at the age of eight and played at dances as a teenager. Acquiring an early wire recorder in high school, he experimented on this crude equipment.
Following graduation in 1952, he joined the U.S. Army and frequently performed at military ceremonies. After his service in the Army, Alpert tried his hand at acting, but eventually settled on pursuing a career in music. While attending the University of Southern California he became a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band, and appeared in the un-credited role as “Drummer on Mt. Sinai” in the film The Ten Commandments in 1056. In 1962, he had an un-credited part in a scene in the film Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, playing a solo in a dance band.
In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Rob Weerts, co-wrote a number of Top 20 hits including Baby Talk for Jan & Dean and Wonderful World for Sam Cooke. By 1960 he was signed with RCA Records as a vocalist under the name of Dore Alpert.
In 1962 along with Jerry Moss they founded A&M Records and their very first hit was “The Lonely Bull” adapted from the mariachi bands and the cheers of bullfighting spectators. The title song reached No. 6 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and became A&M’s first album with the original release number being #101.
By the end of 1964, with top session players he began touring with the Tijuana Brass. Television specials followed by 1967, as well as two albums, Whipped Cream and Other Delights and Going Places. The single “A Taste Of Honey” won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
The Brass would go on to perform the title tack to the first movie version of Casino Royale in 1967. His music would be used on The Dating Game, bringing him greater exposure. The band would win six Grammy Awards, fifteen of their albums went gold, fourteen platinum, and in 1966 outsold the Beatles.
Alpert’s only No. 1 single during this period, and the first No. 1 hit for his A&M label, was a solo effort of “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Bacharach/David. In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career. In 1979 he had his biggest instrumental hit titled “Rise”. He would go on to work with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith. He performs with Gato Barbieri, Rita Coolidge, Brian Culbertson, and others. With his wife kani Hall (Sergio Mendes fame), they have released the live album Anything Goes. In 2013, he released a new album, Steppin’ Out which won a Grammy.
Herb and Moss received a Grammy Trustees Award, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013, has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and received the “El Premio Billboard” for his contributions to Latin music. Trumpeter, pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger, songwriter, record producer of jazz, Latin and pop music continues to perform, record and tour.