Fumio Karashima was born on March 9, 1948 in Oita, Japan and began playing the piano at the age of three. He attended Kyushu University where his father was a music teacher.
He moved to New York City in 1973, staying for one year before returning to Japan. Back home, in 1975 he joined drummer George Ohtsuka’s band. In 1980 Fumio joined Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine, a relationship that lasted for five years, and included four tours of Europe and the United States.
Switching his playing direction to being principally a solo pianist, however, he also led a quintet from 1988 to 1991. During the 1990s he frequently toured internationally. Pianist Fumio Karashima passed away from cancer at age 68 on February 24, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.
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Jan Garbarek was born March 4, 1947 in Mysen, Norway and grew up in Oslo, the only child of a former Polish prisoner of war and a Norwegian farmer’s daughter. He began his recording career in the late 1960s featured on recordings by jazz composer George Russell. Initially influenced by Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, by 1973 he left avant-garde jazz, and gained wider recognition working with pianist Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, recording on six Jarrett albums between 1974 and 1979.
As a composer, he draws from Scandinavian folk melodies and his Ayler influence, as well as being a pioneer of ambient jazz composition, exhibited on his Dis album with guitarist Ralph Towner. Jan has ventured into new-age music, set a collection of Olav H. Hauge poems to music, solo saxophone complemented a full mixed choir and incorporated synthesizers and elements of world music.
Garbarek has recorded more than two-dozen albums as a leader and another 45 to date as a sideman with Karin Krog, Terje Rypdal, George Russell, Art Lande, Ralph Towner, Bill Connors, David Darling, Keith Jarrett, Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden, Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, Manu Katché, Eleni Karaindrou, Kim Kashkashian, Marilyn Mazur, Gary Peacock, L. Shankar, Paul Giger, Giya Kancheli, Miroslav Vitous, Eberhard Weber and Kenny Wheeler
His album Officium, a collaboration with early music vocal performers the Hilliard Ensemble, became one of ECM’s biggest-selling albums of all time. Saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who received a Grammy nomination in 2005 for his album In Praise of Dreams, He is also active in classical and world music and continues to perform, record and tour.
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James Richard Skidmore was born on February 8, 1916 in Manor Park, London, England. After teaching himself to play tenor saxophone when he was 20, he played with Harry Parry and George Shearing, becoming especially active in the years immediately following World War II. He attracted attention as a member of the Vic Lewis Jazzmen and in the Fifties played and recorded with Kenny Baker and Humphrey Lyttelton, forming part of the latter’s non-traditionalist saxophone line-up alongside Tony Coe and Joe Temperley.
During the 60s and 70s he continued to perform in clubs but the frequency of his playing diminished. A combination of changing musical times and his own casual approach to his music adversely affected the success his talent deserved. In the mid-80s he still played in the London area and apparently took the jazz world a little more seriously than he had in the past. He celebrated his 80th birthday by appearing alongside his tenor saxophonist son Alan, who had gained the lion’s share of public attention from the mid-60s on..
Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Skidmore passed away on August 22, 1998 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England.
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George Bouchard was born Feb. 4, 1944 in Buffalo, New York and was the eldest of three children. His father worked in a factory and the family lived for much of his childhood in an apartment above the family delicatessen. He took saxophone lessons from the owner of a music store but was mostly self-taught, drawing inspiration from famous musicians like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
When he was 19, on the night after President Kennedy was assassinated, he found solace watching a jazz band play at a nightclub near his Buffalo home and decided he wanted a career in music. He earned a degree in economics from the University at Buffalo and a master’s in music from Memphis State University. He served in the Navy from 1966 to ’69.
As an educator he spent more than thirty years as a professor teaching music at Nassau Community College and 40 years of teaching during the summers at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshops at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He released four compact discs as a leader, received numerous awards for excellence in music education and for advancing the arts on Long Island, wrote a widely used instructional book called Intermediate Jazz Improvisation, and performed regularly with his group, The George Bouchard Band.
Soprano saxophonist and composer George Bouchard passed away from cancer on August 12, 2015 in Westbury, New York at age 71.
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Joe Mondragon was born on February 2, 1920 in Antonito, Colorado. An autodidact on bass, he began working professionally in Los Angeles, California before serving in the Army during World War II. After his discharge he joined Woody Herman’s First Herd in 1946.
Over the next two decades, Mondragon became one of the more popular studio bassists for jazz recording on the West Coast, appearing on albums by June Christy, Buddy Rich, Buddy DeFranco, Marty Paich, Claude Williamson, Bob Cooper, Harry Sweets Edison, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper, and recording the Duke Ellington Songbook with Ella Fitzgerald in 1956. He also played on soundtracks for films such as The Wild One and Pete Kelly’s Blues.
Though Joe never recorded as a leader, he did however, record 45 albums as a sideman with Georgie Auld, Chet Baker, Louis Bellson, Buddy Bregman, Hoagy Carmichael, Herb Ellis, Jimmy Giuffre, Woody Herman, Harry James, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Henry Mancini, Shelly Manne, Carmen McRae, Jack Montrose, Gerry Mulligan, Oliver Nelson, Art Pepper, Shorty Rogers, Pete Rugolo, Lalo Schifrin, Bud Shank and others.
Bassist Joe Mondragon passed away in July 1987 in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico.
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