Charles McPherson was born on July 24, 1939 in Joplin, Missouri but grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a teenager he played with Barry Harris, played the Detroit scene through the Fifties and in 1959 moved to New York City. Along with his Detroit partner Lonnie Hillyer joined Charles Mingus in 1960, a relationship that lasted until 1972.
The alto saxophonist, had a short-lived quintet with Hillyer in ’66, and then broke out on his own after leaving Mingus to become a full-time leader. A move to San Diego in 1978 became home while recording for such labels as Prestige, Mainstream, Xanadu, Discovery and Arabesque during his prolific career.
McPherson, a Charlie Parker disciple, who brought his own lyricism to the bebop idiom, was commissioned to help record ensemble renditions of pieces from Charlie Parker used on the 1988 “Bird” film soundtrack. To date he has 25 albums as a leader to his credit and another sixteen as a sideman working with the likes of Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Drew, Charles Tolliver, Clint Eastwood, Art Farmer and Sam Jones. The saxophonist has remained a stable figure in modern mainstream jazz.
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Janis Siegel was born July 23, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York. She first recorded in 1965 with a group called Young Generation for Red Bird records. By ’72 when the original Manhattan Transfer disbanded, founder Tim Hauser revamped adding Siegel and went on to international fame singing jazz, jazz-fusion, pop, R&B and doo-wop.
Her first solo album, “Experiment in White”, was released in 1981 followed by her sophomore project “At Home” that garnered a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Female Jazz Vocalist. Siegel’s ongoing tenure with the Manhattan Transfer has won her 10 Grammy Awards and inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
In 1985, Siegel joined Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin and Dianne Reeves in the group called Sing, Sing, Sing; has recorded eleven albums as a solo artist working with such jazz luminaries as Russell Malone, Joey DeFrancesco, Hank Crawford, Matt Wilson Victor Lewis and Michael Brecker among others. She has recorded twenty-eight albums as a member of The Manhattan Transfer.
Vocalist Janis Siegel is currently a member of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, while simultaneously performing with The Manhattan Transfer and continuing a solo career.
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Herman “Junior” Cook was born on July 22, 1934 in Pensacola, Florida. After playing with Dizzy Gillespie in 1958, Cook gained some fame for his longtime membership in the Horace Silver Quintet until 1964. He went on to play with band mate Blue Mitchell until ’69.
Through his association with Mitchell he would play alongside Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, George Coleman, Louis Hayes, Bill Hardman, McCoy Tyner, Bertha Hope and Horace Silver to name a few. In addition to many appearances as a sideman in which he contributed his talents on more than three-dozen sessions, Cook recorded as a leader for Jazzland, Affinity, Catalyst, Muse, and Steeplechase.
As an educator, he taught at Berklee School of Music during the 1970s and by the early 1990s he was playing with Clifford Jordan and also leading his own group. Junior Cook, the tenor saxophonist who played in the hard bop style, died in his New York City apartment on February 3, 1992.
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Plas John Johnson Jr. was born on July 21, 1931 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Along with his pianist brother Ray, he first recorded as the Johnson Brothers in New Orleans in the late 1940s. He then toured with R&B singer Charles Brown and after military service moved to Los Angeles and began session recordings as a full-time musician. There he backed artists such as B. B. King and Johnny Otis as well as scores of other R&B performers.
An early supporter was Maxwell Davis, who hired him to take over his own parts so that he could concentrate on producing sessions for the Modern record label. Recruited by Capitol Records in the mid-1950s, Johnson also played on innumerable records by Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and others.
For the next twenty years Plas remained a leading session player averaging two sessions a day and playing everything from movie soundtracks to rock and roll singles, by such artists as Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee, the Beach Boys and a number of instrumental groups.
By 1963, Johnson soloed for the television series The Odd Couple’s theme, recorded Ella Fitzgerald’s Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer Songbooks; and worked with Motown playing with the likes of Marvin Gaye and The Supremes.
In 1970, Johnson joined the studio band of the Merv Griffin Show while playing with a number of jazz and swing bands of the period. The soul-jazz and hard bop tenor saxophonist is probably most widely known for his solo on Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”. He continues to record and perform, particularly at jazz festivals.
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