Rodney Franklin was born on September 16, 1958 in Berkeley, California and at the age of six he took jazz piano lessons at Washington Elementary School. He was taught by Dr Herb Wong who was a jazz journalist, disc jockey and music teacher.
Influenced by McCoy Tyner, George Duke, Chick Corea and Lonnie Liston Smith he would develop his own sound. Franklin worked with John Handy in San Francisco, California as well as Bill Summers, Freddie Hubbard and Marlena Shaw. He recorded his debut album in 1978 In The Center on the CBS label at age of 20.
1980 saw the release of the album You’ll Never Know which garnered some major chart success and additional six albums were albums were recorded for CBS during the Eighties and worked with bassist Stanley Clarke. Though Rodney gained some notoriety in the United States he was much more popular in the United Kingdom.
Moving to the BMG record label in 1988 he recorded Diamond Inside Of You, introducing vocals by Jennifer Holliday, who would go on to find fame on Broadway in Dreamgirls. By the Nineties he produced and released one album on the Nova label, however, pianist Rodney Franklin continues to composer and work in various music genres in and out of jazz.
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Leroy “Hog” Cooper was born on August 31, 1928 in Dallas, Texas and started his career touring with Ernie Fields’ territory band from 1948 to 1951. With his childhood friend David “Fathead” Newman, the two played together in 1954 in the saxophone section backing Lowell Fulson on his first single Reconsider Baby for Chess Records.
In 1957, Newman recommended Cooper to Ray Charles who joined the band the same summer as bassist Edgar Willis, both musicians staying on with Charles for some twenty years. He also played, recorded or toured with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, The Righteous Brothers, Dr. John, Del Shannon, Joe Cocker and Bobby Short..
Leroy recorded not only with Ray Charles but also with Newman, Hank Crawford, Curtis Amy, Kenny Neal, Noble “Thin Man” Watts and Nat Adderley. Moving to Orlando, Florida baritone saxophonist Leroy Cooper performed locally in Orlando till he passed away on January 15, 2009 with the Smokin’ Torpedoes & Josh Miller Blues Band.
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Pat Martino was born Pat Azzara in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 25, 1944 and began playing professionally at the age of 15 after moving to New York City. He resided with Les Paul for a while before moving into a suite in the President Hotel on 48th Street. He started playing jazz clubs like Smalls Paradise and would play at Smalls for six months of the year and then in the summer play at Club Harlem in Atlantic City.
Early in his career Martino played and recorded with Lloyd Price, Willis Jackson, Eric Kloss, Charles Earland, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Trudy Pitts, Jimmy Smith, Gene Ludwig, Bobby Pierce and Joey DeFrancesco.
He has been awarded Guitar Player of the Year in Down Beat Reader’s Poll in 2004, NARAS Songs from the Heart Award, been nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Live at Yoshi’s, and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo on ‘All Blues‘ and has received Philadelphia Alliance Walk of Fame Award and National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences “2nd Annual Heroes Award among others.
The list of jazz musicians he has performed and recorded as a sideman with are John Handy, Jimmy Heath, Charles McPherson, Sonny Stitt, The Philadelphia Experiment as well as released three-dozen albums as a leader. Guitarist and composer Pat Martino, noted for his mathematical approach to the instrument and plays in the post-bop, fusion, mainstream and soul jazz idioms, continues to perform and tour.
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Georges Arvanitas was born on June 13, 1931 in Marseille, France, to Arvanite Greek immigrants from Constantinople, Turkey. At age four he began studying piano and initially trained as a classical pianist. Influenced by Bud Powell and Bill Evans he switched to jazz in his teens.
At 18 he was called up for military duty and finding himself stationed in Versailles and his proximity to Paris, he was exposed to the city’s thriving postwar jazz culture. Soon he was moonlighting at clubs alongside American musicians such as Don Byas and Mezz Mezzrow. After completing his service, Arvanitas relocated permanently to Paris where he led the house band at the Club St. Germain before he graduated to the city’s premier jazz venue, the legendary Blue Note. There he played with Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker. As his notoriety grew, he became a leader and with bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Art Taylor recorded 3 A.M. in 1963. The trio would go on to win the Prix Django Reinhardt and the Prix Jazz Hot for the album.
Georges spent half of 1965 in New York City collaborating with saxophonist Yusef Lateef and trumpeter Ted Curzon on The Blue Thing and the New Thing for Blue Note. A year later he returned stateside on tour with trombonist Slide Hampton’s big band. A respected session player earning the nickname Georges Une Prise (One-take George) for his reliable efficiency and mastery and worked closely with Michel Legrand.
Best remembered for a series of LPs he cut with bassist Jacky Samson and drummer Charles Saudrais, the trio endured from 1965 to 1993. He was received the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres award in 1985. Unfortunately his failing health forced him to retire from music in 2003 and two year later pianist and organist Georges Arvanitas passed away in Paris on September 25, 2005.
Ray Crawford was born on February 7, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During the war years from 1941-1943 he played tenor saxophone and clarinet with Fletcher Henderson but tuberculosis forced him to give them up.
Switching to guitar he became an important part of Ahmad Jamal’s early groups from 1949 to 1955. Ray’s ability to make his guitar sound like bongos by hitting it was soon adopted by Herb Ellis. He went on to record with Gil Evans from 1959 to 1960, then played off and on with Jimmy Smith from 1958 into the Eighties.
In the Sixties he settled in Los Angeles, California. He led fairly obscure records for Candid in 1961 that were not released until the 1980s, and also recorded for Dobre and United National record labels in the Seventies. Guitarist Ray Crawford, who played mainly in the hard bop and soul jazz genres, passed away on December 30, 1997 in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
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