John Hammond Sr. was born into a wealthy family on December 15, 1910 in New York City. Educated at Yale, he had a great love for Black music and as early as 1933, at 22, he was active in the music business, discovering Billie Holiday and getting her into the recording studio, producing Bessie Smith’s final sessions, and becoming a friend of young Benny Goodman. One of swing music’s greatest propagandists, he was responsible for at least partly discovering a remarkable list of musicians through the years making their rise to fame much more swift.
Hammond was a masterful talent scout, producer, promoter, and an early fighter against racism, he produced freewheeling American jazz sessions for the European market, worked with Fletcher Henderson and Benny Carter, and encouraged Goodman to form his first big band. In 1935 he teamed Lady Day with pianist Teddy Wilson for a series of recordings, and the following year he discovered Count Basie’s orchestra while randomly scanning the radio dial. He then flew to Kansas City, encouraged Basie to come East and in 1938 and 1939 he organized the famous “Spirituals to Swing” all-star Carnegie Hall concerts.
After hearing about Charlie Christian in 1939, he flew out to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to listen to the young guitarist and flew him to Los Angeles, California where he had set up an audition for an initially reluctant Goodman. In addition to his work as a promoter and a record producer, most notably for Columbia during 1937-1943, John was a jazz critic.
After World War II military service felt misplaced in the jazz scene of the mid-’40s, never gaining a taste for bebop. However, by the Fifties he produced a superior series of mainstream dates for Vanguard featuring swing era veterans. Hammond worked through the years for Keynote, Majestic, and Mercury, and during 1959-1975 he was again a major force at Columbia, where he helped the careers of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Bruce Springsteen, and Adam Makowicz, among others.
1967 saw him organizing a new “Spirituals to Swing” concert, and in 1977 his autobiography John Hammond on Record was published. Producer, promoter, critic and talent scout John Hammond Sr. passed away on July 10, 1987 in New York City.
George Godfrey Wettling was born on November 28, 1907 in Topeka, Kansas. He was one of the young Chicagoans who fell in love with jazz after hearing King Oliver’s band with Louis Armstrong on second cornet at Lincoln Gardens in the early 1920s. Oliver’s drummer, Baby Dodds, made a particular and lasting impression on him.
Wettling went on to work with the big bands of Artie Shaw, Bunny Berigan, Red Norvo, Paul Whiteman, and Harpo Marx, but he was at his best with bands led by Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, and himself. In these small settings he demonstrated the arts of dynamics and responding to a particular soloist that he had learned from Dodds.
A member of some of Condon’s bands, George was in the company of Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield, Edmond Hall, Peanuts Hucko, Pee Wee Russell, Cutty Cutshall, Gene Schroeder, Ralph Sutton, and Walter Page. By 1957 he was touring England with a Condon band that included Davison, Cutshall, and Schroeder.
Toward the end of his life, he, like his friend clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, took up painting and was influenced by the American cubist Stuart Davis. Jazz, swing and Dixieland drummer George Wettling, active from the 1920s to the 1950s, passed away on June 6, 1968 in New York City.
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Conrad Herwig was born Lee Conrad Herwig III on November 1, 1959 in Lawton, Oklahoma. He graduated from North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, where he performed in the One O’Clock Lab Band, attended Goddard College and Queens College, CUNY.
He began his career in Clark Terry’s band in the early 1980s and has gone on to be a featured member in the Joe Henderson Sextet, Tom Harrell’s Septet and Big Band, and the Joe Lovano Nonet and featured as a soloist on the latter’s Grammy Award winning 52nd Street Themes.
He performs and records with Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta II and Afro-Caribbean Jazz Octet, Michel Camilo’s 3+3, the Mingus Big Band (often serving as musical director, and was an arranger on the 2007 Grammy nominated Live at the Tokyo Blue Note, the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, and Jeff “Tain” Watts Family Reunion Band, among many others.
He has recorded several highly acclaimed projects in the Afro-Caribbean jazz genre, including the Grammy nominated albums the Latin Side of Joe Henderson featuring Joe Lovano for Half Note Records, the Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, Another Kind of Blue: The Latin Side of Miles Davis, and, the Latin Side of John Coltrane. Conrad has worked with Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin, Eddie Palmieri, and Randy Brecker. He has been voted No. 1 Jazz Trombonist three times in the Downbeat Jazz Critics’ Poll and nominated for Trombonist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association on multiple occasions.
He has conducted master classes, seminars and workshops at hundreds of universities and conservatories around the world and has received performance and teaching grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Trombonist Conrad Herwig is a professor of jazz trombone, jazz improvisation and jazz composition and arrangement at Rutgers University, was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Trombone Association and continues to compose, perform and record.
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Hadda Brooks was born Hattie L. Hapgood on October 29, 1916 in Los Angeles, California. Raised in the Boyle Heights area by her parents who had migrated from the South her mother, Goldie Wright, was a doctor and her father, John Hapgood, a deputy sheriff, but it was her grandfather, who introduced her to theater and the operatic voices of Amelita Galli-Curci and Enrico Caruso. In her youth she formally studied classical music with an Italian piano instructor, Florence Bruni, with whom she trained for twenty years.
She attended the University of Chicago, later returned to Los Angeles, becoming to love the subtle comedy of black theater and vaudeville entertainer and singer Bert Williams. She began playing piano professionally in the early 1940s at a tap-dance studio owned by Hollywood choreographer and dancer Willie Covan. For ten dollars a week, she played the popular tunes of the day while Covan worked with such stars as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Shirley Temple.
Preferring ballads to boogie-woogie, Brooks worked up her style by listening to Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis records. Her first recording, the pounding Swingin’ the Boogie, for Jules Bihari’s Modern Records, was a regional hit in 1945, and her most famous song Out of the Blue, the title track to the film of the same name she appeared in on the recommendation of Benny Goodman.
She went on to begin singing with the encouragement Charlie Barnet, and recorded her first vocal recording You Won’t Let Me Go, played the small part of a lounge piano player in films, and was the second Black woman to host her own television show in 1957 with The Hadda Brooks Show after The Hazel Scott Show on DuMont in 1950. She toured Europe, Australia
In the 1970s, she commuted to Europe for performances in nightclubs and festivals, but performed rarely in the United States, living for many years in Australia and Hawaii. Retiring from music for sixteen years, she resurfaced to open Perino’s in Los Angeles and clubs in San Francisco and New York City as well as resuming her recording career. She continued appearing in films throughout the rest of her career, received the Pioneer Award from the Smithsonian and the Los Angeles Music Awards honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Pianist, vocalist and composer Hadda Brooks, who got her name from Jules Bihari, passed away Los Angeles, following open-heart surgery at age 86 on November 21, 2002.
Robin Eubanks was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.on October 25, 1955. Into a musical family. His brothers Kevin and Duane play guitar and trumpet respectively and his uncles are pianist Ray Bryant and bassist Tommy Bryant. After graduating from the University of the Arts, he moved to New York City and first appeared on the jazz scene in the early 1980s. He played with Slide Hampton, Sun Ra, and Stevie Wonder.
Eubanks went on to become a member of the Jazz Messengers with drummer Art Blakey and in then in Elvin Jones’ band. He was a contributor on fellow jazz trombonist Steve Turre’s 2003 release One4J: Paying Homage to J.J. Johnson.
He played for 15 years in double bassist Dave Holland‘s quintet, sextet, octet and big band. J.J. Johnson recommended Robin for the position at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, where he is now a tenured professor of Jazz Trombone and Jazz Composition. He has also taught at New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has been a member in the all-star group the SFJAZZ Collective for the past seven years.
He is one of the pioneers of M-Base, a musical concept he pioneered with other musicians such as Steve Coleman and Greg Osby among others. He has recorded with Geri Allen, Joe Henderson, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Bobby Previte, Hank Roberts, Herb Robertson, Kenny Drew, McCoy Tyner, Barbra Streisand, Abdullah Ibrahim, Andrew Hill and B.B. King, Sadao Watanabe, Grover Washington Jr. and Chip White to name a few.
He has appeared on numerous television shows and specials, is a frequent lecturer, guest soloist and clinician at various colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world and has voted #1 Trombonist by Down Beat magazine.
Slide trombonist, Robin Eubanks, who plays in the mainstream and fusion jazz genres, has released nine albums as a leader, 38 as a sideman and continues to perform and record.
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