Benjamin James Aronov, known as Ben or Benny, was born October 16, 1932 in Gary, Indiana. He played in local jazz and dance ensembles as a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a student at the University of Tulsa from 1951 to 1952, then was conscripted into the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas and played in a military band.
In 1954 he relocated to Los Angeles California and began playing at The Lighthouse, as well as with musicians such as Terry Gibbs, June Christy, and Lena Horne. But by 1961 Ben moved to New York City, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1966.
Following this, he worked with Al Cohn, Benny Goodman, Jim Hall, Morgana King, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, George Mraz, Mark Murphy, the National Jazz Ensemble, Ken Peplowski, Tom Pierson, Zoot Sims, Carol Sloane, and Warren Vache. For 18 years he was the pianist in the Broadway production of Cats from 1982 to 2000.
After leaving Broadway pianist Ben Aronov moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, where he remained until he passed away on May 3, 2015.
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Christopher Stephen Botti was born October 12, 1962 in Portland, Oregon and raised in Corvallis, although he also spent two years of his childhood in Italy. His earliest musical influence was his mother, a classically trained pianist and part-time piano teacher and started playing the trumpet at nine-years-old, and committing to the instrument at age 12 after hearing Miles Davis play My Funny Valentine.
1981 saw Chris selected as a member of McDonald’s All American High School Jazz band which marked his first Carnegie Hall performance. At 17, he enrolled at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon, by convincing his high school to allow him to fulfill his remaining senior year credits there which allowed him to play Portland clubs at night. Mount Hood’s band under Larry McVey, was a proving ground and regular stop for Stan Kenton and Mel Tormé when they were looking for new players.
After graduating from high school, Botti studied at the Indiana University School of Music, received two NEA grants and studied with trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonist George Coleman during two consecutive summer breaks. Leaving Indiana University during his senior year for short touring stints with Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich, in 1985, he moved to New York City to hone his craft as a studio musician.
The Nineties had him in a decade long touring and recording relationship with Paul Simon and where he also performed/recorded with Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Scritti Politti, Roger Daltrey and others. He also met saxophonist Michael Brecker, co-produced a track on the Brecker Brothers’ Out of the Loop titled Evocations, and the album won a 1995 Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.
His solo debut, First Wish,released in 1995 began a succession of recordings on the Verve record label. He became a member of the experimental, jazz fusion-oriented group Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, composed the score and recorded a soundtrack for the 1996 film Caught and closed out the century touring with Sting as a featured soloist that ultimately changed the course of his career.
In 2001 Chris signed with Columbia Records through an introduction by Bobby Colomby, drummer and founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, who also became his producer and manager. As his career advanced another succession of releases proved his jazz/pop crossover appeal, he played Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball weekend honoring her African American heroines, and in 2006, Billy Childs, Gil Goldstein and Heitor Pereira won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? with Sting from Botti’s album To Love Again – The Duets.
He has performed and recorded with Andrea Bocelli, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Tyler, Josh Groban, Katharine McPhee, John Mayer, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Burt Bacharach, Gladys Knight, Jill Scott and Renee Olstead, among others. Trumpeter Chris Botti has hosted a radio show for several years where smooth meets cool jazz as he continues to perform, record, produce, compose and tour.
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Joe Mudele also Joe Muddel was born on September 30, 1920 in Downham in the south-east of London, England. His father died in 1931 following the consequences of a war and after leaving school at the age of 14, he worked as a singer in a cinema and soon played in local bands. He served in the RAF during the Second World War where he had lessons with James Merritt, contrabassist at the Philharmonia Orchestra.
1946 saw Mudele beginning to work as a professional musician, initially as a member of the Tito Burns Sextet. He met Ronnie Scott and John Dankworth and with them he belonged to the group of musicians who held the first bebop sessions as Club Eleven. To listen to Charlie Parker he attended the Festival International 1949 de Jazz and had the opportunity to play two numbers with Parker and his drummer Max Roach.
At the beginning of the 1950s, Mudele was a member of the Club Eleven Johnny Dankworth Seven but he soon left for family reasons to work the Coconut Grove nightclub in London’s West End. He toured with musicians like Hoagy Carmichael, Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland and Billy Eckstine. In 1951, he formed his own band with saxophonist Joe Harriott.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Alan Dean, Ralph Sharon, Larry Adler, Humphrey Lyttelton, Tommy Whittle, the Melody Maker All Stars in 1952 and 1955, and George Chisholm and Sid Phillips. In the 1960s, he recorded with Johnnie Spence and Alan Branscombe while his last recordings under his own name were made with pianist Robin Aspland and Geoff Gascoyne on drums.
Between 1948 and 2010 he performed on radio and television with Mantovani, Cilla Black, Yehudi Menuhin, Stéphane Grappelli, and the Big Ben Banjo Band, and the Sing Something Simple radio program. He also played regularly at the Bexley Jazz Club.
He recorded some 52 jazz recording sessions, however, outside the jazz he also played on recordings with Johnny Mercer, Barry Gray, John Williams and the Cliff Adams Singers. Bassist Joe Mudele, one of the pioneers of bebop in England, passed away on March 7, 2014.
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Lorraine Geller was born Lorraine Winifred Walsh on September 11, 1928, in Portland, Oregon. She started out with the all-female big band, Sweethearts of Rhythm, a successor to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
In 1950 she met alto saxophonist Herb Geller, who was then playing with Claude Thornhill, and married him the following year. Together they moved to Los Angeles, California where they played with many musicians of the West Coast jazz scene, such as Shorty Rogers, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Red Mitchell to name a few. Lorraine also played on sessions with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
In 1957 she accompanied Kay Starr and performed at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. She recorded with Miles Davis and Chet Baker with the Lighthouse All Stars, Maynard Ferguson, Leroy Vinnegar and Conte Candoli. Sadly, pianist Lorraine Geller, who only recorded one album as a leader, passed away suddenly of heart failure on October 13, 1958 in Los Angeles at the age of 30.
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Putte Wickman was born Hans Olof Wickman on September 10, 1924 in Falun, Sweden and grew up in Borlänge, Sweden, where his parents hoped he would become a lawyer. He nagged them to allow him to go to high school in Stockholm. Arriving in the capital at 15 not knowing what jazz was, and not having access to a piano his mother gave him a clarinet and by then he had started to hang out with those with jazz records.
With Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman as his role models by 1944, he had already turned to music full-time. He was taken on as band leader at Stockholm’s Nalen and in 1945 the newly founded Swedish newspaper Expressen described him as the country’s foremost clarinet player.
For eleven years Putte led his own band at Nalen and during the 1960s he ran the big band at Gröna Lund, and at Puttes, the club he part-owned, at Hornstull in Stockholm. He gave church performances and concerts yearly and stayed active until shortly before his death. In 1994, Wickman received the Illis Quorum gold medal, the highest award that can be conferred upon an individual Swedish citizen by the Government of Sweden.
Clarinetist Putte Wickman, who considered himself self-taught having never taken a classes on the instrument and a member of the Royal Swedish Musical Academy, passed away on 14 February 2006 in Grycksbo, Sweden.
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