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.
Palle Mikkelborg was born on March 6, 1941 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Self-taught on trumpet in his youth, he started playing professionally in 1960 and in 1963 joined the Danish Radio Jazz Group, leading it from 1967-1972.
Performing at the Newport Jazz Festival with a quintet helped solidify Palle as a dominant figure on the Danish and international progressive jazz scenes. He has recorded as a leader for Debut, Metronome, Sonet, Storyville, and ECM.
Releasing several solo records, Mikkelborg has also recorded with various co-founded groups, as well as performing sideman duties or arranger on numerous international records.
His most notable international collaborations include the Gil Evans Big Band, the George Russell Big Band, George Gruntz’s Concert Jazz Band, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dexter Gordon, Karin Krog, Gary Peacock, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Terje Rypdal, Thomas Clausen, Jan Garbarek and many others. With Miles Davis, he composed a suite and produced the 1989 album release Aura.
In 2001 he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize. Avant-garde and post-bop trumpeter, composer, arranger and producer Palle Mikkelborg has continued to perform, record and tour.
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Bill Ware III was born William Anthony Ware III on January 28, 1959 in East Orange, New Jersey. He played bass and piano early in his career at Harlem’s Jazzmobile, prior to choosing vibraphone as his main instrument. After spending several years playing Latin jazz he formed his own Latin Jazz group, AM Sleep.
In 1987 Ware joined saxophonist Roy Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes’ Jazz Passengers as a regular memberand by 1990 had put together a group of sidemen as the Club Bird All-Stars, who accompanied him on a tour of Japan. Stretching out to other genres he played with Groove Collective and Steely Dan during the first half Nineties.
Later in the decade Bill teamed up with fellow former Jazz Passengers, Brad Jones and E. J. Rodriguez forming the ensemble Vibes. His 2001 tribute to Duke Ellington was recorded with guitarist Marc Ribot, and Deborah Harry on his 2002 effort Four.
During the mid-2000s, he recorded several projects blending jazz with Western Classical music as well as composing five film scores with Nathanson. He recorded fourteen solo projects as a leader for AM Sleep, Knitting Factory, Cathexis, Wollenware, Random Chance and Pony Canyon record labels. Vibraphonist Bill Ware continues to compose, perform and record.
Bobby Broom was born Robert Broom Jr. on January 18, 1961 in New York City and began studying the guitar at age 12, taking lessons in the American Folk music style. A year later, he studied with jazz guitarist Jimmy Carter in Harlem where he took weekly lessons for the next two years.
His interest in jazz began in earnest at age 15 and as a result he began his research, study and practice of the jazz art. Broom attended the Laguardia High School of Performing Arts where he played in the jazz ensemble. He received an award for Outstanding Jazz Improvisation during his senior year.
Broom began his career while still in high school, performing at New York clubs with Charlie Parker’s pianists, Al Haig and Walter Bishop Jr. By 1977 he was playing with Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd at Carnegie Hall. He went to Berklee School of Music in 1978, then returned to New York the next year in order to pursue his career while attending Long Island University.
At this time he began working in New York as guitarist for Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Dave Grusin, Hugh Masekela and Tom Browne and landed his own recording contract with GRP Records. He earned three DownBeat Critics Poll nods from 2012 to 2014 as one of the world’s foremost jazz guitarists.
He has performed with Max Roach, Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Garrett, Miles Davis, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland, Dr. ohn, Ron Carter, Dianne Reeves, Eon Blake, Eric Alexander, Ron Carter and Ramsey Lewis among others. He has recorded as a leader with The Deep Blue Organ Trio, The Bobby Broom Organi-Sation and his trio with Kobie Watkins and Makaya McCraven..
In the mid 1980s Broom relocated and as an educator, Broom began his work in 1982 for Jackie McLean, Director of African American Music at Studies for the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. Over the years he has also been a lecturer/instructor at the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago Musical Colege-Roosevelt University, DePaul University and North Park University. He currently instructs and coaches Chicago area high school students for the Ravinia Festival Organization’s community outreach — Jazz Scholar Program, as well as the Thelonious Monk Institute.
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Stanley Newcomb Kenton was born on December 15, 1911 in Wichita, Kansas and was raised in Colorado, then in California. Conceived out of wedlock, his parents told everyone he was born on February 19, 1912 and believing this as fact well into adulthood, he recorded an album Birthday in Britain in 1973 and his grave marker even reflects this erroneous date.
Kenton learned piano as a child, influenced by Earl Hines, attending Bell High School, graduating in 1930 and while still a teenager toured with various bands. He played in the 1930s in the dance bands of Vido Musso and Gus Arnheim, but his natural inclination was as a bandleader.
In June 1941 he formed his own band, which developed into one of the best-known West Coast ensembles of the 1940s. It was later named Artistry in Rhythm after his theme song. In the mid-1940s, Kenton’s band and style became known as “The Wall of Sound”, a tag later used by Phil Spector.
Much more important in the early days as an arranger, Stan was an inspiration for his loyal sidemen in his first band such as Howard Rumsey and Chico Alvarez. Influenced by Jimmie Lunceford and his high note trumpeters and thick-toned tenors, the orchestra struggled after its initial success. Record sales were low and even being Bob Hope’s backup band was not a pleasant experience.
By 1942 Kenton was in New York City, the band was catching on with an endorsement by Fred Astaire on the Roseland Ballroom marquee. He had Art Pepper, Stan Getz, Boots Mussulli and Anita O’Day as part of the ensemble. Lyricist Joe Greene put words to the songs And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine and Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin. Stan would bring in Pete Rugulo as his chief arranger along with Bob Cooper and June Christy. The band’s popularity increased with Christy hits Tampico and Across The Alley From The Alamo, and recorded the popular tune Laura, the song from the film.
Calling his music “progressive jazz,” Kenton sought to lead a concert orchestra as opposed to a dance band at a time when most big bands were starting to break up. Over the years he would employ Kai Winding, Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, Al Porcino, Jack Costanzo, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Laurindo Almeida, Maynard Ferguson, Gerry Mulligan, Marty Paich, Bill Holman, Mel Lewis, Pete and Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins, Stan Levey, Lucky Thompson, Jack Sheldon, Frank Rosolino, Sam Noto, Carl Saunders, Lee Konitz, Chris Connor and the list goes on.
Kenton won Grammy awards in 1962 and 1963 for his Kenton’s West Side Story and Adventures In Jazz, respectively. He had several Top 40 hits, founded his own label, “The Creative World of Stan Kenton”, recording several live concerts. As an educator he encouraged big band music in high schools and colleges, instructing what he called progressive jazz, making available his charts to the bands. He donated his entire library to the music department of the University of North Texas and the Stan Kenton Jazz Recital hall is named in his honor.
Entering Midway Hospital on August 17, 1979 after suffering a stroke, pianist, arranger, composer, bandleader and educator Stan Kenton, who recorded over seven-dozen albums with an innovative and often controversial jazz orchestra, passed away on August 25, 1979.
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