Johnny O’Neal was born October 10, 1956 in Detroit, Michigan and his playing was influenced by pianists Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum. In 1974, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama and worked as a musician, never needing a day job to make ends meet. There he worked with locals Jerry Grundhofer, Dave Amaral, Cleveland Eaton, and Ray Reach.
Moving to New York City in 1981 to perform with Clark Terry, he also landed a regular job at the Blue Note, accompanying among numerous others, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Nancy Wilson, Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell. From 1982 to 1983 Johnny was a member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985.
During the Nineties he lived in Atlanta, Georgia and performed prolifically at Churchill Grounds and Just Jazz, before settling in Canada for a few years. He has recorded with Art Blakey, Russell Malone, Magic City Jazz Orchestra, SuperJazz Big Band and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars, among others.
On the recommendation of Oscar Peterson, O’Neal portrayed Art Tatum in the 2004 movie Ray, recreating Tatum’s sound on the song Yesterdays. He has been profiled in the 2006 DVD Tight, was featured in Lush Life: Celebrating Billy Strayhorn, performing with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and received a standing ovation.
Neo-bop pianist, vibist and vocalist Johnny O’Neal, whose playing ranges from the technically virtuosic to the tenderest of ballad interpretations, was a 1997 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and continues his career performing, recording and touring.
Tim Warfield, Jr. was born in York, Pennsylvania, began studying the alto saxophone at age nine. He switched to tenor saxophone during his first year at William Penn Sr. High School and participated in various musical ensembles. He won many jazz soloist awards including coming in second out of forty competitors at the Montreal Festival of Music in Canada. After high school, Warfield attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. After two years of matriculation he left to lead and co-lead several groups in the Central Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Washington area.
In 1990 he was chosen to be a member of trumpeter Marlon Jordan in his quintet. The following year he was selected to record Tough Young Tenors on the Island/Antilles label, joined George Wein’s Jazz Futures, Also in 1991, Warfield placed third at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. From 1994 to 1999, he was a member of bassist Christian McBride’s group, and then began a six-year collaboration with Nicholas Payton.
Warfield has recorded eight albums on the Criss Cross label as a beginning with his debut release of A Cool Blue, selected as one of the top ten recordings of the year in a 1995New York Times critic’s poll. as was his 1998 recording Gentle Warrior (featuring Cyrus Chestnut, Tarus Mateen, Clarence Penn, Terell Stafford, and Nicholas Payton.
Tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield is currently serving as a board member and Chair of the Music Committee for the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz as well as an artist-in-residence at Messiah College. He continues to record, tour and perform in the hard bop, Neo-Bop,, post bop and straight-ahead jazz genres.
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Herlin Riley was born February 15, 1957 in New Orleans, Louisiana into a musical family and first began playing the drums at the age of three. He studied trumpet throughout high school and for two years of college, but his interest in the instrument waned and he began to focus again on drums.
From 1984 to 1987, Riley was a member of Ahmad Jamal’s group. He then joined Wynton Marsalis in 1988, and toured and performed with the outfit until the group disbanded in 1994. He also performed music by Duke Ellington on the first Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra U.S. tour in 1992.
He has made recordings with Marcus Roberts, Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr., George Benson, Bennie Wallace and Mark Whitfield. In addition, Herman has released two albums as a leader, and has played in theatrical performances, including One Mo’ Time and Satchmo: America’s Musical Legend. In 2010 he was honored with the Ascona Jazz Award from the Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Whirlin’ Herman Riley, as he is affectionately known, is a regularly featured musician at Jazz at Lincoln Center, is a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and played a large part in developing the drum parts for Wynton Marsalis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields. He is a lecturer in percussion for the jazz studies program at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University. The neo-bop drummer continues to perform, record and tour.
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