Deanna Witkowski was born on March 20, 1972 in New Hampshire, Ohio but was raised in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. She began her musical journey playing classical flute and piano long before discovering jazz. While studying at Wheaton College, Illinois, she turned to jazz, first as a saxophonist, then as pianist and composer. Jazz so captured her interest that she abandoned later studies at DePaul University, Chicago, to become a full time musician. Subsequently, she studied with Hilario Duran and Chucho Valdés, experiences that developed an interest in Afro Cuban music. In Chicago in the mid-90s she accompanied singer Linda Tate and was involved in the LaSalle Street Church’s annual jazz service.
Forming her first quintet in 1994 Deanna performed with them until a four month trip to Africa found her thousands of miles away teaching piano in Kenya. Two years later she returned to the States landing in Chicago, Illinois and recording a demo with her grant money. During this period she studied with several Cuban jazz musicians and the next year, she moved to New York City and became the music director at All Angels Episcopal Church, crafting jazz/gospel masses.
In 2000 released independently the Having to Ask album and began studying with Brazilian drummer Vanderlei Pereira. Leaving the church to follow her own musical path she continued writing and performing sacred music in her spare time, but she composed a piece for a jazz choir and reactivated her quintet.
In 2002 she won the annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida. She backed vocalist Lizz Wright, leading her supporting band on tour in the USA and on a visit to Europe, played a duo with pianist Fred Hersch at New York’s Jazz Gallery, and with multi-instrumentalist James Finn, playing on his Great Spirit.
In the early to years of the new millennium, members of her regular trio have been bass players Jonathan Paul and Dave Ambrosio, and drummers Tom Hipskind and Vince Cherico. She has also taught extensively, including spells at colleges in Germany and Kenya. Post bop pianist Deanna Witkowski continues to compose, perform and record combining jazz, Latin folk, and modern classical composition.
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Gene Taylor was born Calvin Eugene Taylor on March 19, 1929 in Toledo, Ohio. Beginning his career in Detroit, Michigan he worked with Horace Silver from 1958 until 1963, then joined the Blue Mitchell Quintet, with whom he recorded and performed until 1965.
From 1966 until 1968, he toured and recorded with Nina Simone, including a Taylor composition she recorded titled Why? (The King of Love is Dead), written following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He then began teaching music in New York City public schools.
Working with Judy Collins from 1968 until 1976, Gene made numerous television appearances accompanying Simone and Collins. He went on to record with Junior Cook, Barry Harris, Coleman Hawkins, Junior Mance, Eddie Jefferson, Eric Kloss and Duke Pearson.
Double-bassist and songwriter Gene Taylor never led a recording session before passing away on December 22, 2001 in Sarasota, Florida where he had been living since 1990.
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Etienne Bouyer was born on March 18, 1982 in Saint-Denis on the island of Reunion and took violin lessons from age four to 11, opting to play the saxophone. In 1995 he played tenor saxophone in the big band of the Conservatoire d’Antibes and joined the Nice CNR in 1997, where he studied classical saxophone and contemporary music.
1999 saw Etienne gaining admittance to the Baccalauréat Général in Paris, France to study in the American School of Modern Music. For the next five years he studied saxophone, harmony, arrangement and composition, writing for big band and string quartet. Leading an active professional life while studying, he plays in numerous bands and orchestras of all styles including big band, salsa, gypsy and co-founded La Brocante, recording and performing in concert in France and Morocco.
In 2004 he joined the Didier Lockwood Music Center and where he studied with a host of musicians like André Villéger, Pierrick Pedron and Stéphane Guillaume among others. During this period Bouyer met many other musicians with whom he works regularly, taking part in the electro-jazz project Blözar and forming his quartet, the Etienne Bouyer Group with Pierre Antoine, Martin Berauer and Alexis Sébileau.
Following graduation he began teaching, studying privately in New York City with Dave Liebman and Sam Newsome, taking a week-long master class with Charlie Haden and began working with the Belgian violinist Cécile Broché, that led to recordings. He returned to Europe to study in Paris and Brussels, taking master classes with Bob Mintzer, François Jeanneau and creating the Collective Of Active Composing. Etienne has been a member of the Yuval Amihai Ensemble that won the Jazz Festival Tremplin in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.He has performed with Avishai Cohen, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Bojan Z, Kyle Eastwood and Manu Katché.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Etienne Bouyer teaches at the Conservatory of Music and Dance of Châtenay-Malabry and the Conservatoire with Regional Radiation of Amiens Métropole. He currently Is the coordinator of the Jazz & Current Music Department at the Amiens Metropole Regional Conservatory and continues to perform, record and compose.
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Nicole Henry was born on March 17th in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in a musical family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She pursued the arts from a young age, singing in school and church, and studying cello and ballet, ultimately graduating from the University of Miami. Her musical inspirations were Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan.
Launching her career as an entertainer was successful both as singer and actress. Early on Nicole appeared in commercial acting roles and voiceover assignments. Her passion for singing was recognized when the Miami New Times named her Best Solo Musician 2002.
In 2004, Henry released her debut recording, The Nearness of You, on Banister Records. Though she reached #1 in Japan with Teach Me Tonight and was named HMV Japan’s Best Vocal Jazz Album of 2005, her sophomore project didn’t arrive until four years later. The Very Thought Of You reached #7 on Billboard’s jazz chart. Followed by her 2009 Teach Me Tonight, 2011’s Embraceable and a live recording in Japan Set For The Season in 2012.
In 2013 Nicole released So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live with new renditions of Seventies hits and has since released a single and an EP. She has had the honor to perform the National Anthem at several sporting event, solo for the candlelight service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan and took home the Soul Train award for Best Traditional Jazz Performance. Vocalist Nicole Henry continues to perform, record and tour.
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Junior Raglin was born Alvin Raglin on March 16, 1917 in Omaha, Nebraska. He started out on guitar but had picked up bass by the mid-1930s. He played with Eugene Coy from 1938 to 1941 in Oregon, and then joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, when Ellington returned to using two basses, then replaced Jimmy Blanton after his departure from the orchestra. He remained with Duke from 1941 to 1945.
After leaving Ellington, Raglin led his own quartet, and also played with Dave Rivera, Ella Fitzgerald, and Al Hibbler. He returned to play with Ellington again briefly in 1946 and 1955. Falling ill in the late 1940s, he quit performing;
Double-bassist Junior Raglin, who performed mainly during the swing era and never recorded as a leader, passed away on November 10, 1955 at age 38.
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