Taft Jordan was born on February 15, 1915 in Florence, South Carolina and as a trumpeter was heavily influenced by Louis Armstrong. Early in his career he played with the Washboard Rhythm Kings before joining Chick Webb’s orchestra from 1933 to 1942. He remained with Webb after Ella Fitzgerald became its frontwoman, trading duties with Bobby Stark as the orchestra’s main trumpet soloist.
From 1943 to 1947 Taft played with Duke Ellington, then with Lucille Dixon at the Savannah Club in New York City from 1949 to 1953. After this stint he played less often, though he toured with Benny Goodman in 1958, played on the Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, and worked with the New York Jazz Repertory Company.
In 1935 Jordan recorded four tunes, Night Wind, If the Moon Turns Green, Devil in the Moon, and Louisiana Fairy Tale as a leader, with Ward Silloway on trombone, Johnny Mince on clarinet, tenor saxophonist Elmer Williams, pianist Teddy Wilson, guitarist Bobby Johnson, John Kirby on string bass and drummer Eddie Dougherty. He would go on to lead his own band in 1960 and ‘61, recording LPs for Mercury, Aamco Records, and Moodsville labels, as well as with Ruth Brown on Atlantic Records and Dizzy Gillespie on the Norgran label.
Trumpeter Taft Jordan passed away on December 1, 1981 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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Irving Cottler was born on February 13, 1918 in New York City, New York. Learning to play the drums, at age 14, he falsified his age to acquire a musician’s union card, and honed his chops playing the Catskills resort circuit. After stints with Red Norvo and Mildred Bailey, he toured California behind Claude Thornhill, vowing to ultimately relocate cross-country.
Stints with Larry Clinton, Tommy Dorsey, and Les Brown followed, but in 1947, finally retiring from the road, Irv settled in Los Angeles, California. He became a first-call session drummer renowned for his impeccable timekeeping, he was a sometime member of The Wrecking Crew, recording behind Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and numerous others.
A personal favorite of arranger Nelson Riddle, he was summoned by Riddle in 1953 to play on what would become Frank Sinatra’s first LP for Capitol Records, the now-classic Songs for Young Lovers. Cottler quickly emerged as Sinatra’s drummer of choice and bandleader, remaining with Ol’ Blue Eyes in various studio and tour incarnations for more than 30 years. Crooners Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, and Bobby Darin sought out his services as well, and for the Somerset label he headlined the exotica cult classic Around the World in Percussion.
A staple of film and television, Irv highlighted his career in the medium with a 12-year stint with The Dinah Shore Show’s house band. He authored a book, I’ve Got You Under My Skins, which is a unique publication that features the original drum charts for all of the popular Frank Sinatra tunes on the CD. The charts were reprinted as a book, adding performance hints and in-studio photos.
Drummer and bandleader Irv Cottler, who also recorded with Count Basie, Hoagy Carmichael, Stan Kenton and Barney Kessel, passed away on August 8, 1989 in Rancho Mirage, California.
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Christopher Hollyday January 3, 1970 in New Haven, Connecticut. He started playing alto when he was nine, developed quickly, and was playing in clubs by the time he was 14 years old. That same year he recorded his first album on his own Jazzbeat label. During his childhood years he was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, but a few years later he almost sounded like a clone of Jackie McLean.
In 1988, he took a group into the Village Vanguard, and the following year he toured with Maynard Ferguson’s big band. One of the “Young Lions” at the end of the Eighties, his notoriety rose with his recording of four albums between 1989 and 1992 for the RCA Novus label. On his debut self titled album he enlisted Wallace Roney, Cedar Walton, David Williams and Billy Higgins, bringing in among others John Lockwood, Larry Goldings and Brad Mehldau .
In January 1992 he released his final album And I’ll Sing Once More with John Clark, Mark Feldman, Scott Colley, Kenny Werner, Scott Robinson and Douglas Purviance. After that, his recording career was interrupted abruptly when his record contract was not renewed at RCA Novus.
In 1997 he began a career as an educator, teaching first at the Orange Glen High School in Escondido, California, then switching to the Valley Center High School in Valley Center, California. Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday is currently teaching and working with jazz ensemble classes and the school band and continues to perform.
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Bennie Maupin was born August 29, 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. He started playing tenor saxophone in high school and attended the Detroit Institute for Musical Arts, while playing locally. He moved to New York in 1963, freelancing with many groups, including ones led by Marion Brown and Pharoah Sanders.
Well known for his playing as a part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi sextet and Headhunters band and for performing on Miles Davis’s seminal fusion record, Bitches Brew. Maupin has collaborated with Horace Silver, Roy Haynes, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan and many others. He has also performed on several Meat Beat Manifesto albums.
Noted for having a harmonically-advanced, “out” improvisation style, while having a different sense of melodic direction than other “out” jazz musicians such as Eric Dolphy.
Maupin was also a member of Almanac, a group with bassist Cecil McBee, pianist Mike Nock and drummer Eddie Marshall. He has recorded a half dozen albums as a leader and another three dozen as a sideman with John Beasley, Marion Brown, Mike Clark, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Henderson, Andrew Hill, Darek Oles, Lonnie Smith, McCoy Tyner, Lenny White, Patrick Gleeson and Jim Lang.
Multireedist Bennie Maupin, who plays various saxophones, flute and bass clarinet, failed to catch on as a bandleader, thus maintained a low profile during the past 15 years, until emerging in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Penumbra followed two years later Early Reflections on the Cryptogramophone label, then on Vocalion with Slow Traffic To The Left, Moonscapes. He continues to perform and tour.
Lenny Breau was born Leonard Harold Breau on August 5, 1941 in Auburn, Maine. His francophone parents were professional country and western musicians who started their son playing guitar at the age of eight. At twelve he started a small band with friends and by the age of fourteen he was the lead guitarist for his parents’ band, billed as Lone Pine Junior, playing Merle Travis and Chet Atkins instrumentals and occasionally singing. He made his first professional recordings in Westbrook, Maine at the age of 15 while working as a studio musician. Many of these recordings were released posthumously on Boy Wonder.
In 1957 the family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba,, and their new touring band became the CKY Caravan. It was at one of these shows that he met sixteen year old Randy Bachman and they soon became friends, eventually Lenny began informally teaching the young guitarist. Two years later he left his parents after his father slapped him in the face for using jazz improvisations on stage. He then sought out local jazz musicians and met pianist Bob Erlendson, who began teaching him more of the foundations of jazz.
1962 saw Breau leaving for Toronto and soon created the jazz group Three with singer/actor Don Francks and bassist Eon Henstridge. They performed in Toronto, Ottawa, and New York City, their music was featured in the 1962 National Film Board documentary Toronto Jazz, recorded a live album at the Village Vanguard and appeared on the Jackie Gleason and Joey Bishop shows. Returning to Winnipeg he became a regular session guitarist recording for CBC Radio, CBC Television and contributed to CBC-TV’s Teenbeat, Music Hop, and his own Lenny Breau Show.
An ensuing friendship with Chet Atkins resulted in Lenny’s first two LP issues, Guitar Sounds from Lenny Breau and The Velvet Touch of Lenny Breau. Live! on RCA. Moving around over Canada and the United States he finally settled in Los Angeles, California in 1983. There he spent years performing, teaching, and writing for Guitar Player magazine. Unfortunately he had continual drug problems stemming from the mid-1960s, which he managed to get under control during the last years of his life. However, on August 12, 1984 his body was found in the swimming pool at his apartment complex in Los Angeles and the coroner reported that he had been strangled. Though his wife Jewel was the chief suspect but was never charged with murder and the case is still unsolved.
Several tributes were created in honor of his contributions to guitar playing and jazz. A documentary titled The Genius of Lenny Breau was produced in 1999 by his daughter Emily Hughes that included interviews with Chet Atkins, Ted Greene, Pat Metheny, George Benson, Leonard Cohen, and Bachman. In 2006 the book One Long Tune: The Life and Music of Lenny Breau written by Ron Forbes-Roberts was published by the University of North Texas Press. CBC Radio presented a documentary-soundscape on Lenny Breau entitled On the Trail of Lenny Breau in 2009.
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