Dodo Marmarosa was born Michael Marmarosa on December 12, 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received the uncomplimentary nickname Dodo as a child because of his large head, short body, and bird-like nose. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 9, receiving classical music lessons, but was influenced by the jazz playing of Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, and others after fellow pianist Erroll Garner, four years his elder, introduced him to their music. Attending Peabody High School, he practiced a lot, until his left and right hands were equally strong.
Beginning his professional career in 1941 by joining the Johnny “Scat” Davis orchestra at the age of 15, he followed this stint with Gene Krupa around the end of 1942. After Krupa’s orchestra broke up he played in Ted Fio Rito’s band then moved to Charlie Barnet’s big band. He recorded debut was with Barnet in 1943 with “The Moose”, on which the 17-year-old pianist played, combining bebop and Count Basie-style minimalism. Marmarosa recorded some trio tracks with Krupa and DeFranco in 1944. He then worked with Tommy Dorsey and appeared in the MGM film Thrill of a Romance. After Dorsey he joined Artie Shaw’s big and small bands.
From the early 1940s Dodo had searched for and experimented with advanced progressive forms of jazz and became attracted to bebop after meeting and jamming with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In 1945 Marmarosa moved to Los Angeles, California and played piano on Parker’s first recordings for Dial Records. For the next two years he recorded extensively as a sideman in both bebop and swing contexts with Wardell Gray, Lionel Hampton, Mel Tormé, Willie Smith, Lester Young, and, became the house pianist for Atomic Records, Slim Gaillard and Barney Kessel.
Making his first recordings as leader in 1946, with trio tracks that included Ray Brown on bass and Jackie Mills on drums, and in a quartet with adding saxophonist Lucky Thompson, he also recorded his only vocal track, I’ve Got News for You, in the same year. He would go on to lead the first pizzicato jazz cello sessions for Dial with Harry Babasin on cello and Jackie Mills on drums.
The Fifties were not particularly productive, suffering from psychological problems and his family getting him no help, his behavior became erratic with him disappearing for weeks at a time. He recorded an Argo Records trio session in 1962 released as Dodo’s Back!, and made his final studio recordings that same year with saxophonist Gene Ammons and another with trumpeter Bill Hardman. His last public performance was contributed to his diabetes somewhere between the late Sixties to early to mid Seventies, leading to his permanent retirement.
Living in obscurity for the rest of his life, pianist, composer and arranger Dodo Marmarosa, who played in the bebop, modern, progressive and swing genres, passed away of a heart attack on September 17, 2002, in a veterans’ hospital in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
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Egberto Amin Gismonti was born December 5, 1947 in Carmo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil into a musical family. His mother was from Sicily and his father was from Beirut, Lebanon. At the age of six, he started learning the piano at Conservatório Brasileiro de Música. After 15 years of studying the classical repertoire, he went to Paris to delve into modern music under Nadia Boulanger and composer Jean Barraqué encouraged him to write the collective Brazilian experience into his music.
An autodidact guitarist, Egberto returned to Brazil and designed guitars with more than six strings, expanding the possibilities of the instrument. Approaching the fretboard as if it were a keyboard, he gives the impression that there is more than a single guitar player.
His musical career spans five decades of composing, recording and performing with his Brazilian group Academia de Danças, that included Mauro Senise on saxophone and flutes, Zeca Assumpção on bass and Nenê Realcino Lima Filho on drums and percussion. He also performs in a duo setting with percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, and a trio configuration with the late bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. Dança das Cabecas, the first ECM record, was nominated by Stereo Review for Album of the Year and was awarded the 1977 Großer Deutscher Schallplattenpreis.
He has recorded more than three dozen albums as a leader, produced and arranged Vasconcelos Saudades album and guested on others. Composer, guitarist and pianist Egberto Gismonti continues to perform, compose and record.
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Arnie Lawrence ,was born Arnold Lawrence Finkelstein on July 10, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied clarinet in his youth before switching to saxophone and from the age of 12 he was playing in clubs in the Catskills, and by age 17 was performing at Birdland, at one point working a double bill with John Coltrane.
He played with Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Maynard Ferguson, Clark Terry and Duke Pearson but did not make his first recordings until 1966, playing on Chico Hamilton’s The Dealer. Working for several years with Hamilton and becoming a soloist on The Tonight Show from 1967 to 1972, Arnie made his first records as a leader in 1968.
In the early 1970s Lawrence played with Willie Bobo, then joined Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1974. He did a world tour with Liza Minnelli in 1978–79, and released a few more records under his own name before touring with Louie Bellson and Elvin Jones in the early 1980s. He composed a symphony he titled Red, White and Blues, which was premiered by an orchestra in Williamsburg, Virginia. It featured himself, Dizzy Gillespie and Julius Hemphill all soloing in the performance.
Putting on his educator hat he taught from the middle of the 1970s, working as an artist in residence in Kentucky and Kansas. By 1986 he had stopped recording and touring and founded the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Among the program’s students were Roy Hargrove, Brad Mehldau, Larry Goldings, John Popper, Peter Bernstein and Spike Wilner of Smalls Jazz Club. Moving to Israel in 1997, where he founded the International Center for Creative Music, an education facility open to both Jewish and Arab students. He played regularly in Israel and owned his own nightclub called Arnie’s Jazz Underground.
Suffered from lung and liver cancer late in life, alto saxophonist Arnie Lawrence passed away on April 22, 2005, in Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, as both claim the city as their capital.
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Mike Zwerin was born May 18, 1930 in New York on May 18, 1930. He studied at the High School of Music and Art and began leading bands in his teens, employing several up-and-coming musicians. At the age of 18, while on summer break from the University of Miami, he was the trombonist in Miles Davis’s nonet at the Royal Roost club in New York. This band was recorded performing the live sessions in 1948 and its music the following year culminated in the album that became immortalized as Birth of the Cool.
He abandoned his musical life for much of the 1950s but after a spell in France he returned to New York in 1958 and played the trombone in several big bands. However, in 1960 after his father’s death, he returned to the world of business and he took over as president of his dad’s company, the Capitol Steel Corporation. Over the next four years Mike kept a hand in jazz, working in John Lewis’s big band Orchestra USA, with whom he recorded and directed a small group. He also worked briefly with pianist Earl Hines but by the mid-1960s he withdrew from the business.
Zwerin moved to London in 1969 and then, in 1972, to Paris, which would be his home for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he kept his hand in as a trombonist throughout the 1980s, working with his fellow expatriate Hal Singer and with the guitarist Christian Escoudé. In 1988 he toured with the Big Band Charles Mingus, played briefly with t Swiss bandleader George Gruntz and played with the French fusion band Telephone.
As a music critic and columnist he wrote for the Village Voice, Down Beat, Rolling Stone, Penthouse, the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg News. He authored several books about his own life in the world of jazz, most notably The Silent Sound of Needles, about his struggles with drug addiction, Close Enough for Jazz and The Parisian Jazz Chronicles: An Improvisational Memoir, but his most ambitious book may be La Tristesse de Saint Louis: Swing Under the Nazis that included the story of the Kille Dillers and the Ghetto Swingers, two bands that played in concentration camps, and how jazz survived across Europe though banned by the Nazis and labeled degenerate music.
Throughout his career trombonist and bass trumpeter Mike Zwerin would perform and record with Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, John Lewis, Archie Shepp, Claude Thornhill and Bill Russo, arrange, direct and produce an album of Kurt Weill songs with the Sextet of Orchestra U.S.A., before passing away after a long illness on April 2, 2010 in Paris, France at the age of 79.
Woody Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman on May 16, 1913 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced him at an early age. As a child he worked as a Vaudeville singer and tap-dancer, then started to play the clarinet and saxophone by age 12.
1936 saw him joining the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were Lonesome Me and My Heart’s at Ease. He also performed with the Harry Sosnick Orchestra, Gus Arnheim and Isham Jones, the latter writing numerous popular songes including It Had To Be You. When Jones retired Woody acquired the orchestra, which became known for its orchestrations of the blues. They first recorded for the Decca label as a cover band, eventually getting their first hit with Woodchopper’s Ball in 1939.He went on to have hits with The Golden Wedding and Blue Prelude.
As bebop was gradually replacing swing Herman commissioned Dizzy Gillespie as an arranger and he provided him three arrangements of Woody‘n You, Swing Shift and Down Under in 1942, heralding a change in the music. By 1945 Herman was with Columbia Records, recording the First Herd, the very successful Laura, the theme song to the 1944 movie of the same name. That group became famous for its progressive jazz that was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. By the end of 1946 the big band era was over and he disbanded his only financially profitable group.
In 1947, Herman organized the Second Herd that remained together until 1987. This band was also known as The Four Brothers Band derived from the song and featured three tenor and one baritone saxophone of Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward and Stan Getz. In the band was also Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, Lou Levy, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs and Shelly Manne and they had hits with Early Autumn and The Goof and I.
Herman would go on to perform in movies with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, record for RCA, Capitol, MGM and Verve record labels, put together his Third Herd and variations of the New Thundering Herd and by the Seventies was touring and working more in jazz education by offering workshops and taking on younger sidemen.
The 1980s saw Herman’s return to straight-ahead jazz, dropping some of the newer rock and fusion approaches he had used the previous decade. He continued to perform with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes that were owed because of his business manager’s bookkeeping in the 1960s. Herman owed the IRS millions of dollars and was in danger of eviction from his home. He eventually passed leadership duties to reed section leader Frank Tiberi.
Clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer and big band leader Woody Herman was awarded two Grammys for Best Big Band Jazz Album for Encore and Giant Steps, The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, had won Down Beat, Esquire and Metronome polls. He was the feature of a documentary film titled Woody Herman: Blue Flame- Portrait of a Jazz Legend, and was a featured half-time performer at Super Bowl VII. He passed away on October 29, 1987.