King Pleasure was born Clarence Beeks on March 24, 1922 in Oakdale, Tennessee. He moved to New York City in the mid-1940s and while working as a bartender, he became a fan of bebop music. He first achieved popularity by singing the Eddie Jefferson penned vocalese classic Mood’s Mood For Love, based on a 1949 James Moody saxophone solo to “I’m In The Mood For Love”. On a night in late 1951 at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater, he won the competition and where Clarence Beeks became King Pleasure that night in Harlem.
Pleasure’s 1952 recording, featured vocalist Blossom Dearie, was his first after signing a contract with Prestige Records and is considered a jazz classic. He and Betty Carter also recorded a famous vocalese version of “Red Top”, a jazz classic penned by Kansas City’s Ben Kynard and recorded by Gene Ammons and others. Other notable recordings include “Parker’s Mood”, the year before Charlie Parker died in 1955, and Ammons’s “Hittin’ The Jug”, retitled as “Swan Blues” in 1962.
He would record with the Modern jazz Quartet, sans Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Lucky Thompson, with backup vocals by Eddie Jefferson and Jon Hendricks along with The Three Riffs. In Los Angeles in 1960 he was recording with Teddy Edwards and Harold Land. But by this time his popularity was waning and he faded into obscurity. However, his early work influenced Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Bob Dorough, Mark Murphy, Al Jarreau, The Manhattan Transfer and others.
Jazz vocalist King Pleasure, an early master of vocalese, where a singer sings words to a famous instrumental solo passed away on March 21, 1982, three days before his 60th birthday.
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Tsuyoshi Yamamoto was born on March 23, 1948 in Niigata, Japan. He started to play the piano when he was in primary school. In junior high school, he played the trumpet. His interest in jazz began when he first heard Art Blakey’s tunes in the French movie, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”. It inspired him to return to the piano, to perfect his technique.
Yamamoto was largely self-taught as a pianist, although he did have piano lessons as a child. He attended Nihon University and as a student there, he played professionally, first as an accompanist to pop singer Micky Curtis and the Samurais touring Europe in 1967.
In 1973 Tsuyoshi formed his own band while polishing his piano skills and gleaning influence from Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland and Randy Weston. The next year, he became house pianist at Misty, a Tokyo jazz club and recorded his debut as leader.
He played major international festivals in the late 1970s. While living in New York for a year he performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Sam Jones, Billy Higgins, Sonny Stitt and Elvin Jones (his favorite drummer) among others. He has recorded fourteen albums as a leader and sideman and continues to perform and record.
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto has a very melodic technique and phrasing with a use of block chords in ballads. The composer and pianist continues to perform and record.
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Jan Lundgren was born on March 22, 1966 in Olofstrom, Sweden and raised in Ronneby in the south of the country. He began learning the piano at the age of five and moved to Malmo in 1986 to study at the Academy of Music. He graduated in 1990, later becoming a lecturer at the Academy.
His group, the Jan Lundgren Trio broke through in 1997 with the album Swedish Standards, winning Orkesterjournalen’s Golden Record prize in the same year. In 2007, he became the first Scandinavian jazz pianist to be named an International Steinway Artist.
Since the early ‘90s, Jan has worked with a variety of Sweden’s leading artists both in the studio and/or at concerts such as Povel Ramel, Putte Wickman, Bengan Janson, Jason Diakité, Peter Asplund and Monica Zetterlund to name a few. He has also worked with Johnny Griffin, Mark Murphy, Herb Geller, Joe LaBarbera, Scott Hamilton, Andy Martin, Bill Perkins, Peter Washington, Billy Drummond, Deborah Brown, Lee Konitz, and Stacey Kent among numerous others.
Lundgren has recorded some 40 discs as a leader, under his own name since 1994 on labels including ACT, Fresh Sound, Marshmallow, Sittel, Four Leaf Clover, Volenza, Alfa, Gemini and Bee Jazz. As a sideman, Lundgren has been involved in dozens of other recordings across a broad range of labels.
In 2010, together with Thomas Lantz, Jan founded the annual Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, for which he is Artistic Director. YSJF, has hosted Quincy Jones, Hugh Masekela, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hiromi, Pat Martino, Youn Sun Nah, Benny Golson, Enrico Pieranunzi, Tomasz Stanko, Kenny Barron, Elina Duni, Fabrizio Bosso, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bobo Stenson, Nils Landgren, Benny Green and Eliane Elias, Charles Lloyd, John Scofied, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dianne Schuur, Joshua Redman, Enrico Rava and Roy Hargrove. Pianist Jan Lundgren continues to perform, record and tour.
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My Buddy was composed by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by Gus Kahn and was published in 1922. It was used in the Gus Kahn film biography “I’ll See You In My Dreams” in 1951 and became a Variety Hit Parade of a Half Century selection. The song also appeared in the non-musical film Buddy in 1997. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a 1951 musical film starring Doris Day and Danny Thomas, directed by Michael Curtiz.
The Story: Gus Kahn (Thomas) is the prolific tunesmith, whose fortunes take an upswing in 1908 when he meets and falls in love with Grace LeBoy (Day). Kahn’s career ascends to spectacular heights via such hits as Pretty Baby, My Buddy, Toot Toot Tootsie and Makin’ Whoopee only to go into eclipse when he loses his savings in the 1929 stock-market crash.
Harold Ashby was born on March 21, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri. He began playing alto and clarinet as a teenager but gave up music while he was in the US Navy from 1943 to 1945. On return to his native Kansas City in 1946, he was soon playing again and backed the singer Walter Brown, making his first recording with Brown in 1949. He spent most of the Fifties in Chicago playing in blues bands before moving to New York in 1957 to work in the bands of Milt Larkin and Mercer Ellington.
He then found the fringes of Duke Ellington’s band and accepted as a friend and colleague by Ellington’s sidemen, he recorded with Webster (1958), Hodges (1960), Gonsalves (1961) and Lawrence Brown in 1965. Once he joined the band permanently he became a regular in all the small groups that came from the band to record. He was given more prominent roles as the band played across Europe and the Far East and won many fans across the world.
After Ellington’s death, Ashby worked with Sy Oliver in 1976 and made brief tours with Benny Goodman in 1977 and 1982. He toured there with the Ellington Alumni in 1978 and returned the following year with the Kansas City pianist Jay McShann Making another European tour paired him with the pianist Junior Mance, and he was also one of the stars of the 1985 Nice Festival.
He recorded often under his own name in the late Eighties and early Nineties, but illness curtailed his activities and he confined his work to the New York area. Ashby made an exception for one of his last appearances at the 2001 Duke Ellington Conference in Ottawa when Ashby played one of Ellington’s compositions written to feature him, “Chinoiserie”. Happily he was able to regain his top form, but it was his final appearance before an audience of any size. Tenor saxophonist Harold Ashby passed away in New York City on June 13, 2003.
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