Ira Sullivan was born May 1, 1931 in Washington, D.C. and was taught trumpet by his father, saxophone by his mother and played both in the 1950s Chicago, Illinois with Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Wardell Gray and Roy Eldridge, garnering a reputation as a fearsome bebop soloist. After playing briefly with Art Blakey in 1956, he mastered alto and baritone saxophone before moving south to Florida and out of the spotlight in the early Sixties.
Sullivan was reluctant to travel which limited his opportunities to play with musicians of the first rank, but he continued to play in the Miami area, often in schools and churches. Hanging out with local younger players Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, led to teaching and to broadening of his own musical roots to include the lessons of John Coltrane’s music and elements of jazz rock.
Adding flute and soprano saxophone to his armoury, Ira moved to New York City and in 1980 formed a quintet with legendary bop trumpeter Red Rodney where they worked on new material and fostered young talent to produce some fresh and stimulating music. He and his longtime friend and collaborator jazz pianist and vibraphonist Stu Katz, co-led a multi-night performance with at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago.
Ira has performed and/or recorded with Red Rodney, Erin McDougald, Rob Block, Art Blakey, Frank Catalano, Kelly Sill, Charles Heath, Eddie Harris, Roland Kirk, Marc Berner, Lin Halliday, J. R. Monterose, Rita Reys and Billy Taylor and numerous others.
Trumpeter, flugelhornist, flautist, saxophonist, and composer Ira Sullivan has recorded as a leader and currently teaches at the Young Musicians Camp each summer at the University of Miami and remains an active musician on the jazz scene.
Andrew Simpkins was born on April 29, 1932 in Richmond, Indiana and first became known as a member of the group The Three Sounds, with which he performed from 1956 to 1968. After departing he joined George Shearing until 1974, and from 1979 to 1989 toured with Sarah Vaughan.
In the Seventies he settled in Los Angeles, California and became respected as a top-quality bassist and widely known as a solid and reliable studio musician.He performed with singers Carmen McRae and Anita O’Day, instrumentalists Gerald Wiggins, Monty Alexander, Buddy DeFranco, Don Menza, and Stéphane Grappelli, and many others.
He recorded three albums as a leader and also played acoustic bass on the 1997 Cover Album recording with Pat Boone titled In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. Throughout his career not only did he record prolifically with The Three Sounds, he recorded with Kenny Burrell, Victor Feldman, Lalo Schifrin and Joe Williams.
Bassist Andy Simpkins passed away of stomach cancer on June 2, 1999 in Los Angeles.
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Edwin Calvin Newborn (was born on born April 27, 1933 in Whiteville, Tennessee and is the brother of pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. with whom he recorded between 1953 and 1958. They formed an R&B band, with their father Phineas Newborn Sr. on drums and Tuff Green on bass, trumpeter Willie Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Ben Branch. The group was the house band at the Plantation Inn Club in West Memphis, Arkansas, from 1947 until 1951 and recorded as B. B. King’s band on his first recordings in 1949, and also the Sun Records sessions in 1950.
Calvin gave guitars lessons to Howlin’ Wolf and was friends with Elvis Presley, who frequented his gig at the Plantation Inn Club two nights a week. Presley also used to eat at the Newborns’ house and browse their music store for gospel records. The group left West Memphis in 1951 to tour with Jackie Brenston as the Delta Cats in support of the record Rocket 88. It was considered by many to be the first rock and roll record ever recorded, and was the first Billboard number one record for Chess Records.
Following his R&B period he transitioned into jazz and played with Earl Hines starting in 1959. The early Sixties saw him touring with Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Forrest, Wild Bill Davis, Al Grey, Freddie Roach, Booker Little, George Coleman. Frank Strozier, and Louis Smith. Newborn also worked with Ray Charles, Count Basie, Hank Crawford, Sun Ra, Lou Donaldson, Bobby Hutcherson and David “Fathead” Newman among others. His 1980 album Centerpiece hit No. 35 on the U.S. Billboard jazz albums chart, but much of his earlier material was not reissued on CD until 2005.
Since the 1970s he remained mostly in Memphis, Tennessee, where he played regularly in local clubs well into the 1990s. Guitarist Calvin Newborn currently resides in Jacksonville, FL and continues to perform throughout Northeast Florida.
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Frank Strazzeri was born April 24, 1930 in Rochester, New York and began his musical journey on tenor saxophone and clarinet at age 12, switching to piano soon after. He attended the Eastman School of Music, then, in 1952, took a job as a house pianist in a Rochester nightclub. While there he accompanied visiting musicians such as Roy Eldridge and Billie Holiday.
Relocating to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1954, he performed with Sharkey Bonano and Al Hirt in a Dixieland jazz setting, though his main focus since has been bebop. He played with Charlie Ventura in 1957-58 and Woody Herman in 1959 before moving to Los Angeles, California in 1960. There he worked extensively as a studio musician on the West Coast jazz scene, and toured with Joe Williams, Maynard Ferguson, Les Brown and Elvis Presle, playing with the latter for the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert.
Pianist Frank Strazzeri copiously recorded as a leader and played with Terry Gibbs, Herb Ellis, the Lighthouse All-Stars, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Cal Tjader, Louie Bellson, Curtis Amy, Red Mitchell, Bill Perkins, Harold Land and Chet Baker. in addition to recording copiously as a leader. He passed away at the age of 84 on May 9, 2014.
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Ulf Karl Erik Wakenius was born April 16, 1958 in Halmstad, Sweden and raised in Gothenburg. In the 1980s he played with Peter Almqvist in Guitars Unlimited during the intermission for 600 million viewers of the Swedish International Finale of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1985. He went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that same year and began recording the first of three records with Sivuca, Aquarela Do Brazil, followed by Rendez-Vous in Rio in 1986 and Let’s Vamos in 1987.
During the Eighties Ulf collaborated with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen also started this decade, and during the mid to late Nineties they recorded Those Who Were and This Is All I Ask. He led the U.W. Group, releasing Venture with Jack DeJohnette on drums, Bill Evans and Bob Berg on saxophones, trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Niels Lan Doky, Chris Minh Doky and Lars Danielsson on bass. In 1994 he recorded New York Meeting with Niels Lan Doky, Ira Coleman and Billy Hart.
He would go on to work with Lars Jansson, Lars Danielsson, Raymond Karlsson, Gösta Rundqvist, Yasuhito Mori, Jukkis Uotila, Carsten Dahl, Morten Lund, Lars Danielsson, Haakon Graf, John Scofield, Dennis Chambers, Gary Grainger, Oscar Peterson, Michel Legrand, Ray Brown, Pat Metheny Jon Larsen, Stian Mevik, Jimmy Rosenberg Lisa Nilsson, Cæcilie Norby, Viktoria Tolstoy, Esbjörn Svensson and Youn Sun Nah among others.
Guitarist Ulf Wakenius,a member of of Oscar Peterson’s last quartet from 1997 and a member of the Ray Brown trio, continues to lead his own band and record.
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