Yōsuke Yamashita was born February 26, 1942 in Tokyo, Japan. He first began to play piano professionally at the age of 17 in 1959 and attended the Kunitachi College of Music from 1962 to 1967. It was during his college matriculation that he released his first recording in 1963, becoming a pioneer of avant-garde and free jazz.
In 1969, Yosuke formed the Yosuke Yamashita Trio, which has been through various incarnations, each introducing and highlighting the skill of the new member. In the 1980s, Yosuke formed the “New York Trio” with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff.
In 1994 he was invited to perform at the 50th anniversary concert of the Verve jazz label at Carnegie Hall. Yamashita then moved into film scoring in 1998, scoring “The Girl Of The Silence”, Dr. Akagi”, “Inflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands” and the Shohei Imamura film “Kanzo Sensei”, earning him the “Minister of Education Award,” amongst others.
As an educator he has been a visiting professor of music at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music, Nagoya University of Arts and the Kunitachi College of Music in addition to published work on improvisation and music. He has been nominated for the Japanese Academy Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
Yōsuke Yamashita, jazz pianist, composer, essayist and writer has been praised by critics for his unique piano style and in 2003 he was conferred the Imperial Medal of Honor by the Japanese government for his contributions to the arts and academia. He continues to perform and record.
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Jeff Clayton was born February 16, 1954 in Venice, California. He studied oboe at California State University. He then undertook a tour on the R&B circuit with Stevie Wonder, following with recording with Gladys Knight, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle and Madonna.
With his brother John, in 1977 his focus turned towards jazz and the two founded The Clayton Brothers, and later formed the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with Jeff Hamilton.
Over the course of his career Jeff has worked with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Ethan Smith and Lena Horne and was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra under the leadership of Thad Jones.
From 1989 to 1991 Clayton was a member of the Phillip Morris Superband and also toured with Gene Harris, Dianne Reeves, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and Ray Charles.
Of his twelve recording catalogue to date, in December 2009 Brother To Brother by The Clayton Brothers received a Grammy nomination in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group category. Saxophonist Jeff Clayton continues to perform, record and tour.
Onzy Matthews was born in Fort Worth, Texas on January 15, 1936, grew up in Dallas until he was 14, when his mother pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles for a better job. He graduated from high school at 16 and had already decided he wanted to sing. Nearly every day he walked to a nearby park, where he could play piano for hours in the recreation building.
Augmenting his early gospel roots with healthy doses of smooth California jazz and big band music, Matthews taught himself to accompany his singing on piano until he realized he needed arrangements.
He attended Westlake College of Music, studied ear training and harmony, started singing with a dance band and learning about arranging. After several years of performing, attending concerts and asking questions he had 21 original songs arranged for big band.
His musical career sprang from eight bars of music. As an aspiring singer, pianist and composer in 1963, a young Mr. Matthews gave his first professional arrangement to Les Brown for a tryout with the Band of Renown. Out of the arrangement came 8 bars that sounded good to Onzy and Les Brown advised him to take those 8 bars and start from there. Doing so he went on to become one of the most sought-after arrangers in jazz and pop music. It was later through Dexter Gordon that these first twenty-one were played by the best musicians in Hollywood that turned into a regular Wednesday night jam session. The word spread and he started getting courted by record labels to work with their artists.
Onzy’s first major arranging job was on Lou Rawls’ album Black & Blue, followed by his debut as a leader in 1964 on “Blues With A Touch Of Elegance” for Capitol. About a year later, with his career in full swing, he held a guest spot on a New York radio show hosted by mercer Ellington who introduced him to his dad, friendship was struck and four years later became collaborators, filling the void from Billy Strayhorn’s death.
Matthews tailors the arrangements according to the empathy of the artist by listening to the artist and arranging to bring out things in them they weren’t aware of. This was his magic. After Ellington death in ’74, he moved to Seattle, formed a big band for three years moved between Texas and New York and finally moved to Paris in ’79, put together another big band, played with Miles Davis and finally moved back to Dallas in 1994.
Onzy D. Matthews, whose 35-year career had him working with some of jazz’s most notables, was discovered in his Dallas apartment passed away at his typewriter by jazz singer Jeanette Brantley and her husband Hans Wango on November 15, 1997. He was 67.
Grady Tate was born January 14, 1932 in Durham, North Carolina who began singing at age four, drums at five. However music was not in his immediate future as he earned a degree from North Carolina Central University with a degree in English literature/drama, a minor in psychology and taught English and speech in Washington, DC. Fortunately for the jazz world his desire to pursue an acting career lead him to New York City and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and once in New York his reputation as an outstanding musician resulted in work with Quincy Jones.
Grady Tate’s drumming helped to define a particular hard bop, soul jazz and organ trio sound during the mid 1960′s and beyond. His slick, layered and intense sound is instantly recognizable for its understated style in which he integrates his trademark subtle nuances with sharp, crisp “on top of the beat” timing (in comparison to playing slightly before, or slightly after the beat). The Grady Tate sound can be heard prominently on the many classic Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery albums recorded on the Verve label in the 1960s.
He has been a member of the New York Jazz Quartet, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for six years, and his most widely heard vocal performances are the songs “I Got Six”, “Naughty Number Nine”, and “Fireworks” from Multiplication Rock and America Rock part of the Schoolhouse Rock series.
Grady Tate’s popularity as choice sideman of accomplished musicians is due to his remarkable intuitiveness and ability to make any style of music swing tastefully, and his interpretation of many different genres of music, in which he creates his own unique style of jazz led him to work with a host of talent, the short list including Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith, Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Lena Horne, Astrud Gilberto, Ella Fitzgerald, Cal Tjader, Bill Evans and Stan Getz.
Grady Tate, baritone vocalist and drummer has been on the faculty of Howard University since 1989.
Hank Crawford was born Bennie Ross Crawford, Jr. on December 21, 1934 in Memphis, Tennessee. He began formal piano studies at age nine and was soon playing for his church choir. His father had brought an alto saxophone home from the service and when Crawford entered Manassas High School, he took it up in order to join the band, hanging out with George Coleman, Booker Little, Harold Mabern and Frank Strozier. At eighteen he appeared on an early 1952 Memphis recording for B. B. King playing alongside Ben Branch and Ike Turner.
In 1958 Crawford attended Tennessee State University, majored in music studying theory and composition, played alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians and led his own rock ‘n’ roll quartet, “Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings”. It was during this period that he met Ray Charles and got his nickname “Hank” because he looked and sounded like local legendary saxophonist Hank O’Day.
Charles hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist but he switched to alto in ’59 and became musical director until ’63 when he left to form his own septet, having already established himself with several albums on Atlantic Records, recording a dozen albums between 1960 and 1970. He also arranged for Etta James, Lou Rawls and others, although much of his career has been in R&B. However, in the Seventies, Hank had several successes on the jazz and pop charts.
In 1983 a move to Milestone Records gave him the opportunity to become a premier arranger, soloist, and composer, writing for small bands—that include guitarist Melvin Sparks, Dr. John and organist Jimmy McGriff, the later with whom he toured extensively and co-led dates for Milestone’s “Soul Survivor”, Steppin’ Up”, “On The Blue Side” and Road Tested”. The new century found Crawford pursuing a more mainstream jazz sound with the “World of Hank Crawford”, covering Ellington and Tadd Dameron compositions.
Hank Crawford, alto and baritone saxophonist in the hard bop, R&B, jazz-funk and soul jazz genres, credits Charlie Parker, Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges as early influences. His piercing full-bodied signature sanctified church sound, easily recognizable, will live on through his music since his passing on January 29, 2009 at 74.