Jaki (John) Byard was born on June 15, 1922 in Worcester, Massachusetts and began playing professionally at age 15. Adept not only on the piano, he played trumpet and saxophone among other instruments. After serving in WWII he toured with Earl Bostic in the late 40s, based himself in Boston and had his recording debut with Charlie Mariano in 1951.
Known for his eclectic style, Byard added everything from ragtime to free jazz in his delivery. Through the fifties and into the sixties he was a member of Herb Pomeroy’s band followed by a stint with Maynard Ferguson.
Moving to New York, Byard recorded extensively with Charles Mingus from 1962 to 1964 and in 1970, touring Europe with him in 1964. He also made important recordings as a sideman with Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin and Sam Rivers.
As a leader, he recorded a string of albums for the Prestige label during the 1960s and fronted an occasional big band, the Apollo Stompers. He taught at the New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Hartt School of Music, and the New School for Social Research.
Jaki Byard was shot dead on February 11, 1999 in New York City. The circumstances surrounding his death have not been determined. Phil Woods described him as “one of the most compelling and versatile pianists in jazz”.
Kenny Drew, Jr. was born on June 14, 1958 in New York City is the son of jazz pianist Kenny Drew. His initial study was in classical music with his mother and grandmother. In his teens he gigged in clubs became interested in jazz and pop, but initially worked in funk bands. Kenny attended Iona College in New Rochelle, NY for a spell from 1977 to 1978. There, he became pianist for the Iona College Singers, an entertainment troop promoting the College’s name and goodwill among local high schools, retirement homes and the like in the Northeast region of the USA.
Later he went into jazz piano and in 1990 Kenny won the Great American Jazz Piano competition at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in Florida. He has continued to perform jazz, but has also performed some chamber music. He made his recording debut with Charnett Moffet, worked with Stanley Jordan and OTB, and recorded with Eddie Gomez, Sadao Watanabe and the Mingus Big Band.
Although his style has some similarities to his father’s, but is different enough to generally avoid comparison. Drew is considered the more eclectic of the two and his music is known for its hard-swinging bluesy sound and large, two-handed rooty chords contrasting with fast runs. His style is said to be similar to that of his father and Oscar Peterson. He currently has some 17 albums under his name as a leader and continues to perform.
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Frank Strozier was born on June 13, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee. He played with other hometown musicians in his youth and continued even after his move to Chicago in 1954 including Harold Mabern, Booker Little and George Coleman.
A renowned hard bop alto saxophonist who never got the recognition he deserved he did lead recording sessions for Vee-Jay Records and recorded with the MJT+3 from 1959-1960. After moving to New York, Frank was briefly with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1963, between the tenures of Hank Mobley and George Coleman. During this period he also gigged with Roy Haynes.
Strozier relocated to Los Angeles working with Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and most notably with the Don Ellis big band where he executed a memorable solo on “K.C. Blues” on the “Autumn” album. Returned to New York in 1971 he worked with the Jazz Contemporaries, the New York Jazz Repertory Company, Horace Parlan and Woody Shaw among others,.
Frustrated with lack of work, Frank would reappear from time to time as a piano player but with little results.
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Marcus Belgrave was born June 12, 1936 in Chester, Pennsylvania and was tutored on trumpet by Clifford Brown when he was 17. Belgrave toured with Ray Charles from 1954-59 and later played with Charles Mingus and Max Roach.
In 1963 Marcus moved to Detroit and established himself as an educator and studio musician. He has recorded with Motown and Blue Note Record labels, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and a host of other luminaries in jazz.
His reputation as a clinician and instructor has led Marcus to cultivate young jazz talent over the years like Regina Carter, Rodney Whitaker, Kenny Garrett, James Carter, Geri Allen, Bob Hurst, Carlos McKinney and Karriem Riggins.
In 2006 he lent his expertise to the Young Musicians Program (YMP) summer program at the University of California Berkeley helping out student with coaching and private lessons. Belgrave is a frequent faculty member at Stanford Jazz Workshop and is currently visiting professor of jazz trumpet at the Oberlin Conservatory.
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Hazel Dorothy Scott was born on June 11, 1920 in Port of Spain, Trinidad but was raised in New York City from age four. Performing extensively as a child pianist, she trained at Julliard and appeared in the 1942 production of Priorities and performed numerous times at Carnegie Hall.
A jazz and classical pianist and singer, Scott was known for improvising on classical themes and also played boogie-woogie, blues, and ballads. She was the first woman of color to have her own television series “The Hazel Scott Show” that premiered on the Dumont Television Network on July 3, 1950. However, due to her public opposition to McCarthyism and racial segregation the show was canceled in 1950 when she was accused of being a Communist sympathizer; the final broadcast was September 29, 1950.
The talented Hazel went on to have a brief motion picture career included films Something To Shout About, I Dood It, Broadway Rhythm, The Heat’s On and Rhapsody In Blue. Her album Relaxed Piano Moods on the Debut Record label with Charles Mingus and Max Roach is the album critics hold in high regard.
She married U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Jr., a union that lasted from 1945 to 1956 and produced one child, Adam III. Pianist and vocalist Hazel Scott passed away of pancreatic cancer in New York City on October 2, 1981. She was 61 years old.