Joe Farrell was born Joseph Carl Firrantello on December 16, 1937 in Chicago Heights, Illinois and learned to play saxophone and flute. During the Sixties he played with The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and recorded with Charles Mingus, Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard, Players Association, and Elvin Jones.
In the 80s Joe released two albums with the group Fuse One, played sax and oboe on pop recordings by Hall & Oates, played with Airto and Flora Purim, his final recordings making their “Three-Way Mirror” project. He is best known for his series of albums as a leader for the CTI record label and for being an original member of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever.
Kanye West, Method Man, Redman and Common have sampled Farrell’s music “Upon This Rock”, without approval that subsequently resulted in a lawsuit by his daughter.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist and flautist Joe Farrell died of bone cancer on January 10, 1986 in Los Angeles, California at age 48.
Barry Doyle Harris was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1929 and learned to play piano as a child. Mainly influenced by Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, his playing style is similar to Bud Powell.
Moving to New York City in 1960, Harris played with Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Dexter Gordon and Max Roach. During the 1970s, Harris lived with Monk and his family at the Weehawken, New Jersey home of the jazz patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. He performed piano duets with Tommy Flanagan in the 1989 Clint Eastwood documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser and in 2000, he was profiled in the film Barry Harris – Spirit of Bebop.
As an educator Barry established the Jazz Cultural Theater teaching group music and piano lessons and hosting performances. Since 1991 he has collaborated with Toronto-based pianist and teacher Howard Rees in creating a series of videos and workbooks documenting his unique harmonic and improvisational systems and teaching process.
Barry Harris continues to perform and teach worldwide and holds weekly music workshop sessions in New York City for vocalists, students of piano and other instruments when not on the road.
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Leo Wright was born on December 14, 1933 in Wichita Falls, Texas and studied saxophone under the tutelage of his father. His first recording was made in 1958 with vibist Dave Pike and the next year played the Newport Festival with bassist Charles Mingus’ group. He followed this joining Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1959, remaining until 1962.
In addition to his sideman work, Wright established himself as a leader in the early ’60s, leading New York-based bands that included the likes of Ron Carter, Junior Mance, Charlie Persip and Kenny Burrell, among others. In 1960 he signed with Atlantic Records and recorded “Blues Shout” with Mance, Persip, Art Davis and Richard Williams.
After leaving Gillespie’s band, Leo went on to play and record with Lalo Schifrin, Jack McDuff, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Johnny Coles, Gloria Coleman and Jimmy Witherspoon. Moving to Europe he spent time working with George Gruntz, Carmell Jones and Lee Konitz in the group Alto Summit. Eventually he moved to Berlin playing in a studio band and freelancing.
Back in New York by 1978, Wright co-led a studio session Red Garland for Muse Records and then retired from music around 1979. He re-emerged in the mid-’80s and was playing gigs in Paris by 1986, working with Grachan Moncur, Kenny Drew Sr. and Nat Adderley. In the years before his death Leo would perform and record with his wife Elly Wright, making his final recording with her titled “Listen To My lea”.
Leo Wright, bop alto saxophonist and one of the finest flutists jazz has known, passed away on January 4, 1991 in Vienna, Austria.
Jackie Davis was born on December 13, 1920 in Jacksonville, Florida. He first learned to play by spending hours poking at his grandmother’s piano. By the age of eight, he was playing with a local dance band. By the age of eleven, he’d earned enough from playing to buy his own piano, and music enabled him to pay his way through Florida A&M College, graduating in 1943.
After serving time in the Army, he worked as a pianist, usually as an accompanist for singers such as Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Daniels. Although he was attracted to the organ, he was intimidated at the prospect of playing jazz on it, particularly when his idol at the time was the lightning-fast Art Tatum. However, the Hammond Organ Company began selling electric organs in the late 40s, and in 1951 he bought his first organ. He appeared at Club Harlem in Philadelphia, and a two-week gig turned into nearly five months. Jackie became the first musician to popularize jazz on the Hammond organ, years before Jimmy Smith’s name became synonymous with organ jazz.
Davis signed with RCA to record a couple of 45s but no album so he went to Trend Records in Los Angeles and released a 10” album. He joined Louis Jordan’s outfit and learned stage presentation and in 1956 signed with Capitol Records, became their leading performer on the organ at a time when relatively few mainstream labels were willing to put a black musician on the cover of an album and released a total of nine albums. He went on to sign with Warner but that proved to be the end of his recording career.
Over the next thirty years of his career he performed in clubs from Vegas to Atlantic City, jazz festivals and restaurants, produced Ella Fitzgerald records, and was hired by Norman Granz for her Lady Time session, and was a regular fixture at a Hilton Head, South Carolina club. He worked with the likes of Paul Quinichette, Junior Mance, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Clark Terry, Ray Brown, Keter Betts, Max Roach and many others.
In 1992 Hurricane Andrew wiped out his home in Florida causing a financial and physical strain on his health and he suffered a series of strokes. He attempted to perform but his health didn’t hold up and on November 15, 1999 pianist and organist Jackie Davis passed away in his hometown of Jacksonville.
Michael Carvin was born December 12, 1944 in Houston, Texas. He began his drumming education at age six with his father, a top drummer in the city. By 12 he began playing professionally and won the first of five consecutive Texas rudimental championships.
By the Sixties he joined Earl Grant’s big band, then served a tour of duty during the Vietnam incursion. After his discharge he joined Freddie Hubbard in 1973, moved to New York and became a formidable drummer on the jazz scene. Carvin has worked with Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, McCoy Tyner, Abbey Lincoln, Johnny Hartman, Jimmy Smith, Alice Coltrane, Hampton Hawes, Mickey Bass, Charles Davis and Jackie McLean among numerous others.
In addition to being a sought after sideman Michael led his own groups and recording sessions for Muse and Steeplechase for more than three decades and has recorded over 250 albums over the course of his career. A prolific contributor to the contemporary jazz scene with outstanding technique and sensitive accompanying skills he has been a staff drummer at Motown Records and has performed extensively as a studio musician and in television.
As an educator he is a world-class clinician and teacher, attracting students from all over the U.S., Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and India to study at the Michael Carvin School of Drumming in New York, graduating the likes of Victor Jones, Ralph Peterson Jr., Woody Shaw III, Babatunde Lea and Nasheet Waits.
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