Kazumi Watanabe (渡辺香津美) was born on October 14, 1953 in Tokyo, Japan. He learned to play the guitar at the age of 12 from Sadanori Nakamure at the Yamaha Music School in Tokyo. He released his debut album as a leader at the age of 18 in 1971. By 1979, he had put together a jazz rock band with some of Japan’s leading studio musicians, and recorded the album Kylyn. The same year, he toured with the pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The 1980s saw him touring as guest soloist with different groups – Steps, the Brecker Brothers, and Word of Mouth, led by Jaco Pastorius. Watanabe created the jazz-rock/jazz-fusion band Mobo in 1983 with saxophonist Mitsuru Sawamura, pianist Ichiko Hashimoto, Gregg Lee on guitar, Shuichi Murakami on drums, and Kiyohiko Senba.
During the eighties Kazumi also released the jazz-rock albums To Chi Ka (1980), Mobo Club (1983) Mobo Splash(1985), and Spice of Life (1987). A DVD was issued from the tour which featured drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Jeff Berlin, who also played on the record.
In the 1990s Kazumi assembled an all-Japanese line-up called Resonance Vox with Vagabonde Suzuki on bass, Rikiya Higashihara on drums and Tomohiro Yahiro on percussion, releasing several adventurous fusion albums. Over his career he has released four dozen albums as a leader, four DVDs of live performances and has worked with numerous musicians such as Lee Ritenour, Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Bill Bruford, Sly and Robbie, Wayne Shorter, Patrick Moraz, Marcus Miller, Richard Bona, and Peter Erskine.
Since 1996, he has been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College and has been chosen Best Jazzman 24 years in a row by Swing Journal magazine’s annual poll. Jazz fusion guitarist Kazumi Watanabe continues to perform, record, tour and teach.
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Frank Colón was born October 13, 1951 of Puerto Rican descent in Washington, D.C. but moved to Puerto Rico with his parents at the age of five. His musical instruction began at age eleven, beginning with classical piano lessons, under the guidance of Angelina Figueroa and Rafael Figueroa, both members of Puerto Rico’s most prestigious classical music family.
Colón kept up his piano studies throughout his teenage years, trying his hand at pop guitar, electric bass, and trap drums, as well as being very active in municipal and collegiate sports, martial arts, and amateur theater. Throughout this period in his life he worked with various local pop music groups throughout the island of Puerto Rico.
Moving back to Washington, D.C. in 1970 he attended college at American University, where Frank majored in Political Science. During this time, his musical orientation changed from melodic instruments to percussion and upon completion of his university requirements, he turned full-time to his music.
In 1976, Colón moved to New York City, on a call to work with his friend and mentor, the legendary drum master, Julito Collazo. Through Julito’s guidance, he became proficient at playing the Batá drums, sacred to the Orisha in the Santería religion.He has played Brazilian percussion since the time he lived in Washington, D.C.
Frank was performed and recorded with The Manhattan Transfer, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report, Mary J. Blige, Harry Belafonte, Gato Barbieri, Chet Baker, Pat Metheny, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Gilberto Gil, Larry Coryell, Jimmy Smith, Milton Nascimento, Tania Maria, Ernie Watts, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin, Jon Lucien, João Bosco, Michael Wolff, Billy Taylor, Gal Costa, Dianne Reeves, Michel Camilo, Nestor Torres, Felix Cavalieri, Airto, and George Benson, among numerous others..
Percussionist Frank Colón has released two albums as a leader and continues to perform, record and tour.
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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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Teddy Weatherford was born on October 11, 1903 in Pocahontas, Virginia and was raised in neighboring Bluefield, West Virginia where he learned to play the piano. But it was while living in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1915 through 1920, that he learned to play jazz piano.
Moving to Chicago, Illinois he worked with the bands of Erskine Tate through the 1920s and with such jazz notables as Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds and impressed the young Earl Hines. Restless to experience the world, Weatherford then traveled, first to Amsterdam and then around Asia playing professionally. In the early 1930s, he led a band at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay, now Mumbai, India. He joined Crickett Smith’s band in Jakarta, Indonesia and took over leadership of Smith’s band in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in 1937.
During World War II, Teddy led a band in Calcutta, where he made radio broadcasts for the U. S. Armed Forces Radio Service. Performers with in his band included Bridget Althea Moe, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roy Butler and Gery Scott.
Pianist and bandleader Teddy Weatherford, who was also an accomplished stride pianist, passed away of cholera in Calcutta, aged 41, on April 25, 1945.
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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.