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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Bob Maize was born on January 15, 1945 in San Diego, California. He played piano from age seven and switched to bass at 13 and began playing professionally. After moving to San Francisco, California in 1963, he worked in the house bands of many jazz clubs in the city, including Soulville and Bop City.
He played with Sonny Stitt, Philly Joe Jones, Vince Guaraldi, Mose Allison, Herb Ellis, Monty Alexander, Anita O’Day, Emily Remler, and Jon Hendricks. He also did a stint in a rock band as a bass guitarist.
A move to Los Angeles, California in the 1970s saw him working with Scott Hamilton, Dave McKenna, and Tal Farlow. Following this, Maize worked with Horace Silver in 1983-84, recorded with Eiji Kitamura on the Concord label, for whom he recorded regularly as a sideman, and toured Japan with Sarah Vaughan in 1985. He continued to play as a sideman in West Coast clubs into the new millennium.
Double bassist Bob Maize, never led a recording session and passed away on November 20, 2004 in Los Angeles.
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Malcolm Earl Waldron was born on August 16, 1925 in New York City to West Indian immigrants, his father was a mechanical engineer., however they moved out of the city to Jamaica, Long Island when he was four. His parents discouraged his initial interest in jazz, but he was able to maintain it by listening to swing on the radio. He started classical piano lessons around age seven but by 16 he became inspired to play jazz on tenor saxophone after hearing Coleman Hawkins’ 1939 recording of Body and Soul, but unable to afford a tenor he settle for an alto saxophone. He played alto for local bands that performed for dances, bar mitzvahs, Spanish weddings, frequently taking over the pianist’s role when other musicians took their solos.
In 1943 Waldron being called up by the Army was based at West Point, allowing him to listen to the greats of jazz in clubs on 52nd Street. After two years of service he returned as a student to Queens College where he studied under composer Karol Rathaus, making his final decision to switch from saxophone to piano. After college he worked for a short time in rhythm and blues bands, including with Big Nick Nicholas.
In 1950 Mal went on to work with Ike Quebec in New York, made his recording debut with the saxophonist in 1952 and played at Café Society Downtown on Mondays for six or seven months. Over the next couple of years he worked frequently with Charles Mingus, recording on several Mingus albums, including Pithecanthropus Erectus, a key development in the movement towards freer collective improvisation in jazz. He would go on to work with Lucky Millinder and Lucky Thompson, form his own band Idrees Sulieman, Gigi Gryce, Julian Euell, and Arthur Edgehill. This group recorded Waldron’s debut release as a leader, Mal-1, in 1956.
Waldron was Billie Holiday’s regular accompanist from 1957 until her death in 1959, and Introduced by Jackie McLean, he became the house pianist for Prestige Records. Other leaders he worked under at Prestige included Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane and Phil Woods. His most famous, Soul Eyes, written for Coltrane, became a widely recorded jazz standard. A prolific composer he has estimated composing more than 400 pieces of music during his time with Prestige.
He went on to perform with Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, Eric Dolphy and Booker Little, and wrote for is own band, scores for modern ballet, and film scores with his score for The Cool World becoming one of the first attempts to stress improvisation rather than composition in a jazz-based film score. In 1963 Waldron having a major breakdown caused by a heroin overdose causing him to lose the ability to remember his name or play the piano, requiring shock treatments and a spinal tap to bring him back. He had to relearn his skills, in part by listening to his own records. Recovery was a slow process, taking over two years till all his faculties fully returned.
From the mid-1960s on, Waldron lived in Paris, Rome, Bologna and Cologne, before moving permanently to Munich. He scored full-length and short films, for television and Amiri Baraka’s theater production The Slave & Dutchman, and played with Ben Webster and Kenny Clarke. He toured and recorded throughout Europe and Japan, stopping in the U.S. playing solo piano but also with Joe Henderson, Herbie Lewis, Freddie Waits, Charlie Rouse, Calvin Hill and Horacee Arnold and Cameron Brown.
The ‘90s saw Mal recording several albums with vocalist Jeanne Lee. Two of his final recordings were duets with saxophonists David Murray and Archie Shepp. Diagnosed with cancer in 2002 he continued to perform until his death on December 2nd of that year in a hospital in Brussels, due to complications resulting from the cancer. He was 77.
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