Melton S. Mustafa was born on November 23, 1947 in Miami, Florida, the younger brother of Jesse Jones, Jr. He started playing the trumpet in junior high school and as a teenager played in a five-piece R&B/calypso band led by his brother. As a young adult in the Sixties, he studied at Berklee College of Music and Mississippi Valley State College before graduating from Florida A&M with a degree in music education.
During this period he started played behind Sam and Dave, Betty Wright, Lattimore, the Marvelettes and Joe Simon. His love for jazz never waning, his visibility on the Miami jazz scene increased when Melton joined hard bopper multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. By the 80s he was playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra led by mercer Ellington, Jaco Pastorius, James Williams, Bobby Watson and John Hicks and Mingus Dynasty among others.
Mustafa joined the Count Basie Orchestra in 1984 and stayed for eight years. In 1992 he formed his own big band and a couple years later signed with Contemporary/Fantasy releasing his debut album Boiling Point. He followed up with his sophomore project St. Louis Blues in 1997. Never far from jazz standards and ballads his quintet recorded his latest CD titled The Softer Side, Scenes from Miami Vol. 1 featuring Duffy Jackson on drums, Dennis Marks on bass and Jim Gasior on piano.
He produces his Annual Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival at the university that has welcomed Jon Faddis, Abraham Laboriel, Benny Golson, Dr. Nathan Davis, Dr. Grover Washington Jr., Dr. James Moody, Idris Muhammad, George Cables, Wallace Roney, Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Jimmy Owens, Billy Cobham, Herbie Mann, Dr. Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Curtis Fuller, Nestor Torres, Winard Harper, Najee, Randy Brecker, and others.
As an educator he is the Director of Jazz Studies at Florida Memorial University, teaching Music Theory, Jazz Composition and other jazz related courses. The hard bop, post bop, soul and swing trumpeter, composer, arranger and producer and educator Melton Mustafa continues to perform, record and tour.
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Seldon Powell was born on November 15, 1928 in Lawrenceville, Virginia. A classically trained saxophonist and flautist who studied at Juilliard in New York City, he went on to work briefly with Tab Smith in 1949 before joining and recording with Lucky Millinder the following year. For the next two years he would spend in the military and upon discharge became a studio musician.
A solid musician with the ability to move between genres from big band to hard bop to soul jazz and R&B, over a forty year career he would record four albums as a leader between 1956 and 1973 and another 60 album sessions as a sideman with Clark Terry, Johnny Hammond Smith, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Neal Hefti, Billy Ver Planck, Sy Oliver,, Erskine Hawkins, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Gato Barbieri, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan,Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, roland Hana, Osie Johnson, Freddie Green, Gus Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Friedrich Gulda, Art Farmer, Cal Tjader, Billy Taylor, Ernie Wilkins, Panama Francis, Teri Thornton, Jimmy Forrest, Charlie Byrd, Oliver Nelson and the list goes on.
He recorded for Epic, Roost, Savoy, RCA, United Artists, Lion, Riverside, EmArcy, Golden Crest, Candid, ABC, New Jazz, Impulse, Solid State, Verve, 20th Century, Atlantic, and Sesac record labels. Tenor saxophonist and flautist who concentrated in the swing, progressive and soul jazz, big band and rhythm & blues genres passed away on January 25, 1997 in Hempstead, New York.
Lou Blackburn was born on November 12, 1922 in Rankin, Pennsylvania. Performing mainly in the swing genre, his adaptability lent his trombone to pursue several other genres including the West Coast jazz, soul jazz and mainstream mediums.
During the 1950s Lou played swing with Lionel Hampton and also with Charlie Ventura. In the early 1960s he began performing with Duke Ellington’s big band and with musicians like trumpeter Cat Anderson, Horace Tapscott, Melvin Moore, Red Callender and Bobby Bryant. He performed sideman duties on the album Mingus at Monterey with Charles Mingus. During this period he did some crossover work with The Beach Boys and The Turtles. He was also a part of the recording session for the film The Manchurian Candidate
Blackburn recorded as a leader in 1963, Jazz Frontier and Two Note Samba for Imperial Records and both have been reissued by Blue Note as a compilation The Complete Imperial Sessions. He also recorded Perception, Brass Bag, Jean-Bleu and Ode To Taras. As a sideman he worked with June Christy, Gil Fuller and The Three Sounds recording for Capitol, Pacific Jazz and Blue Note record labels. Trombonist Lou
His decision to live abroad moved him to Germany where he toured very successfully out of Germany and Switzerland with his ethno jazz band Mombasa that had strong African content and players. He also put together an ensemble called the Lou Blackburn International Quartet that had a more progressive feel. Trombonist Lou Blackburn passed away on June 7, 1990 in Berlin, Germany.
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Dizzy Gillespie was born John Birks Gillespie on October 21, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children of James and Lottie Gillespie. His father, a local bandleader, made instruments available to the children. He started playing the piano at the age of four and taught himself how to play the trombone as well as the trumpet by the age of twelve. From the night he heard his idol, Roy Eldridge, play on the radio, he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician. Receiving a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, he attended for two years before accompanying his family when they moved to Philadelphia.
Gillespie’s first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, after which he joined the respective orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill, essentially replacing Roy Eldridge as first trumpet in 1937 and making his first recording as part of the band on King Porter Stomp. He would move on to play with Cab Calloway, alongside Cozy Cole, Milt Hinton and Jonah Jones until an altercation with Calloway got him fired. During his period he started writing big band music for bandleaders like Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey while freelancing with a few bands – most notably Ella Fitzgerald’s orchestra, comprised of members of the late Chick Webb’s band, in 1942. Avoiding service in World War II, he joined the Earl Hines band followed by a stint with Billy Eckstine’s big band, got reunited with Charlie Parker and finally left to play with a small combo of quintet size.
A forerunner of the evolution of bebop along with Parker, Monk, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Oscar Pettiford, Dizzy helped shape a new vocabulary of musical phrases. They jammed at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House with compositions like Groovin’ High, Woody ‘n’ You, Salt Peanuts and A Night In Tunisia that also introduced Afro-Cuban rhythms.
As an educator Gillespie taught or influenced many of the young musicians on 52nd Street including Miles Davis, Max Roach, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Chuck Mangione and even balladeer Johnny Hartman about the new style of jazz, but after ambivalent or hostile reception in Billy Berg’s Los Angeles club, he decided to lead his own big band, though unsuccessful at his first attempt in 1945. He went on to work with Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Lalo Schifrin, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke, James Moody, J.J. Johnson and Yusef Lateef, whole appearing as a soloist for Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic.
In 1948 Dizzy lost his ability to hit the B-flat above high C due to an automobile hitting the bicycle he was riding. He won the case, but the jury awarded him only $1000, in view of his high earnings up to that point. Not to be sidelined, he went on tour for the State Department earning himself the title Ambassador of Jazz. His new big band would tour the U.S. and record a live album at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival and featured pianist Mary Lou Williams.
Dizzy immersed himself in the Afro-Cuban movement and hired Chano Pozo and Mario Bauza to play in his bands on 52nd Street, the Palladium and the Apollo Theater. He co-wrote with Pozo the songs Manteca and Tin Tin Deo, commissioned George Russell’s Cubano Be, Cubano Bop, and discovered Arturo Sandoval while on a music researching trip to Cuba.
As his tone gradually faded in the last years in life his performances often focused more on his protégés, such as, Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis, all the while keeping his good-humored comedic routines a part of his live act. Dizzy would go on to give 300 performances in 27 countries, appeared in 100 U.S. cities in 31 states and the District of Columbia, headline three television specials, performed with two symphonies, and recorded four albums.
Gillespie put himself on the ballot as a write-in candidate of the 1964 Presidential election, published his autobiography, To Be or Not To Bop, was a vocal fixture in many of the John & Faith Hubley’s animated films, such as The Hole, The Hat and Voyage to Next. He led the United Nation Orchestra, toured with Flora Purim and David Sanchez in his band, received Grammy nominations, guested on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and The Cosby Show and had a cameo on Stevie Wonder’s hit Do I Do and Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block.
Inducted into the Down Beat Magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame, Dizzy was also honored by being crowned a traditional chief in Nigeria, received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France, and was named Regent Professor by the university of California, received fourteen honorary doctorates, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Polar Music Prize, a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, the Kennedy Center Honors Award, and the Ameican Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Duke Ellington Award for 50 years of achievement. Composer, performer, bandleader and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie passed away of pancreatic cancer on January 6, 1993 in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 75. In 2014, Gillespie was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
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Jelly Roll Morton was born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe on October 20, 1890 into a common-law creole of color family in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. He started playing music as a child, showing early talent. After his parents separated, his mother married a man named Mouton and anglicizing it changed it to Morton.
At the age of fourteen, Morton began working as a piano player in a Storyville brothel, then known as a sporting house. In that atmosphere he often sang smutty lyrics and it was there he took the nickname “Jelly Roll”, which was African American slang for female genitalia. While working there, he was living with his religious, church-going great-grandmother; he had her convinced that he worked as a night watchman in a barrel factory. After Morton’s grandmother found out that he was playing jazz in a local brothel, she kicked him out of her house. However, Tony Jackson, also a pianist at brothels and an accomplished guitar player, was a major influence on his music.
Around 1904, Jelly Roll started touring in the American South, working with minstrel show, gambling and composing. He moved to Chicago in 1910 and New York City the following year where future stride greats James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith caught his act, years before the blues were widely played in the North. His works Jelly Roll Blues, composed in 1915, has arguably become the first jazz song ever published. New Orleans Blues, Frog-I-More Rag, Animus Dance and King Porter Stomp followed as they were composed during this period. In 1917, he followed bandleader William Manuel Johnson Johnson’s sister Anita Gonzalez to California, where his tango The Crave, made a sensation in Hollywood. Returned to Chicago in 1923 to claim authorship of his recently published rag, “The Wolverines”, which had become a hit as “Wolverine Blues” in the Windy City. He released the first of his commercial recordings, first as piano rolls, then on record, both as a piano soloist and with various jazz bands.
In 1926, Morton succeeded in getting a contract to record for the largest and most prestigious company in the United States, Victor. This gave him a chance to bring a well-rehearsed band to play his arrangements. These recordings by Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers are regarded as classics of 1920s jazz. They featured Kid Ory, Omer Simeon, George Mitchell, Johnny St. Cyr, Barney Bigard, Johnny Dodds, Baby Dodds and Andrew Hilaire. And the group became one of the first acts to be booked on tour by MCA. Moving to New York City in 1928 he continued to compose and record for Victor with the aforementioned in addition to George Baquet, Albert Nicholas, Wilton Crawley, Russell Procope, Lorenzo Tio, Artie Shaw, Bubber Miley, Johnny Dunn, Henry “Red” Allen, Sidney Bechet,, Paul Barnes and Bud Freeman, Pops Foster, Paul Barbarin, Cozy Cole and Zutty Singleton.
During the Great Depression Morton lost his contract with Victor, struggled financially and took a job with a traveling burlesque show for steady income. In 1935, his 30-year-old composition King Porter Stomp arranged by Fletcher Henderson became Benny Goodman’s first hit and swing standard but Jelly Roll received no royalties from its recordings.
A move to Washington, DC saw him becoming the manager, piano player, master of ceremonies, bouncer and bartender of a bar located at 1211 U Street in the NW Black section of town called Shaw. Unable to make it a success due to the owner’s bad business decisions and being stabbed by a friend of the owner, Morton’s wife demanded they leave DC. Before his departure folklorist Alan Lomax invited him to record music and interviews at the Library of Congress, which ended after eight hours, though Lomax conducted longer interviews but only to notes without recording.
When Morton was stabbed and wounded, a nearby whites-only hospital refused to treat him, as the city had racially segregated facilities. Transported to a black hospital farther away it was several hours before being attended to and his recovery suffered, often he became short of breath. Worsening asthma sent him to a New York hospital for three months at one point and although he continued to suffer from respiratory problems when visiting Los Angeles, California with manuscripts of new tunes and arrangements, planning to form a new band and restart his career, pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton passed away on July 10, 1941, after an eleven-day stay in Los Angeles County General Hospital. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Hall of Fame and is a charter member of the Gennett Records Walk of Fame.
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