Karel Krautgartner was born on July 20, 1922 in Mikulov, Moravia and began to play piano at the age of eight. In 1935, after moving to Brno, he found interest mainly in the radio broadcasting and especially in jazz. He began to study clarinet privately with Stanislav Krtička, acquiring necessary skills and inherited a fanatic passion for clarinet construction and its components.
In 1936 Krautgartner founded the student orchestra Quick Band and six years later signed his first professional contract as a saxophonist in the Gustav Brom Orchestra in the hotel Passage in Brno. In 1943 he gradually created Dixie Club and started to arrange in the Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller styles. During 1945 – 1955, the core of the Dixie Club moved gradually to Prague and became a part of Karel Vlach orchestra. Karel became leader of the saxophone section and started to contributing his own compositions.
1956 saw him founding the Karel Krautgartner Quintet along with Karel Velebný. The group played in various line-ups modern jazz, swing, dixieland and accompanied popular singers. From 1958 to 1960 he performed with the All star band, an orchestra playing in west-coast style, and dixieland with Studio 5. Between 1960 and 1968 he became the head of the Taneční Orchestr Československého Rozhlasu (Dance Orchestra of Czechoslovakia Radio), renamed to Karel Krautgartner Orchestra in 1967.
Following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he emigrated to Vienna, Austria in 1968 and became the chief conductor of the 0RF Bigband. Later he moved to Cologne, Germany. Clarinetist, saxophonist, arranger, composer, conductor and teacher Karel Krautgartner passed away on September 20, 1982 in Germany.
Louis Thomas Jordan was born on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas where his father was a music teacher and bandleader for the Brinkley Brass Band and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Losing his mother young, he studied music under his father, starting out on the clarinet, then piano and ultimately landed on the saxophone as his primary instrument. In his youth he played in his father’s bands instead of doing farm work when school closed. During his early career period he played the piano professionally, but alto saxophone became his main instrument. However, he would become even better known as a songwriter, entertainer and vocalist.
He briefly attended and majored in music at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, but after a period with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and with other local bands like Bob Alexander’s Harmony Kings, he went to Philadelphia and then New York. By 1932, Jordan was performing with the Clarence Williams band, and when he was in Philadelphia he played clarinet in the Charlie Gaines band.
1936 saw him joining the Savoy Ballroom orchestra, led by the drummer Chick Webb. A vital stepping-stone in his career, Louis introduced songs as he began singing lead, and often singing duets with up and comer Ella Fitzgerald. They would later reprise their partnership on several records, by which time both were major stars. In 1938, Webb fired Jordan for trying to persuade Fitzgerald and others to join his new band.
He became famous as one of the leading practitioners, innovators and popularizers of jump blues, a swinging, up-tempo, dance-oriented hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie. Jordan’s band also pioneered the use of the electronic organ.
Jordan was a talented singer with great comedic flair, and he fronted his own band for more than twenty years. He duetted with some of the biggest solo singing stars of his time, including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. An actor and a major black film personality, he appeared in dozens of “soundies” or promotional film clips, made numerous cameos in mainstream features and short films, and starred in two musical feature films made especially for him.
With his dynamic Tympany Five bands, Jordan mapped out the main parameters of the classic R&B, urban blues and early rock-and-roll genres with a series of highly influential 78-rpm discs released by Decca Records. These recordings presaged many of the styles of black popular music of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and exerted a strong influence on many leading performers in these genres.
Known as The King of the Jukebox for his crossover popularity with both black and white audiences of the swing era, Louis was a prolific songwriter who wrote or co-wrote many songs that stayed in the top of the Billboard charts and that were influential classics of 20th-century popular music.
Pioneering alto saxophonist, pianist, clarinetist, singer, actor, songwriter and bandleader Louis Jordan, one of the most successful black recording artists of the 20th century, passed away on February 4, 1975 at age 66 in Los Angeles, California.
Bill Trujillo was born on July 7, 1930 in Los Angeles, California and started clarinet lessons at the age of four, then switched to tenor saxophone after seeing Lester Young perform with Count Basie in Los Angeles. His mother, a dance teacher at the famous Palomar Ballroom, regularly took him and his older brother to hear big bands when they were in residence at the Palomar, the Paramount, and other popular LA show places.
Learning to read music before he could read words and after Lincoln High School, where his friend and classmate was Lennie Niehaus played, Trujillo started his long professional career at the age of 16 with the West Coast based Glenn Henry Band. The band also boasted a young trombone player named Jimmy Knepper. During the ’40s, Bill played with Alvino Rey and other West Coast groups. In 1953, he joined Woody Herman with whom he remained until the following year when Bill Russo beckoned he joined the quintet but then playing in Chicago. Eventually finding the Windy City too cold, he returned to L.A. where he played in the orchestras of Charlie Barnet and Jerry Gray, and gigged with small groups.
At the behest of his longtime friend Lennie Niehaus, Trujillo joined Stan Kenton band in 1958, however, road trips often lasting a year or more put too much of a strain on his young family. Moving to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1960 he played with Nat Brandywynne and he has been there ever since. He became a mainstay in show orchestras at the Tropicana, Flamingo, Thunderbird and the Dunes playing behind Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and many other. After a labor dispute in 1989 dried up this source of work, he returned to playing in big bands and small groups throughout the country.
In 1999 he led his debut album It’s Tru followed by his 2006 It’s Still Tru with Carl Fontana on the TNC label. As an educator, saxophonist Bill Trujillo teaches clarinet, flute, and all saxophones while continuing to perform in Las Vegas.
Ronnell Bright was born July 3, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. Wanting to be a classical pianist, at age nine he won a prize and played with the Chicago Youth Piano Symphony Orchestra. He went on to study at the Juilliard School, completing his studies in the early 1950s. His first encounter with jazz was in a United States Navy band. After his discharge he went back home and worked and recorded with bassist Johnny Pate and it was in the mid 1950s that he became the pianist for singer Carmen McRae.
1955 saw Bright moving to New York City where he performed and recorded with Rolf Kühn, and with Buddy Tate on the Swingville Sessions. Two years later he joined the Dizzy Gillespie big band and formed his own trio with Richard Davis and drummer Art Morgan. From 1958 he was pianist and music director of the orchestra for Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Gloria Lynne. In 1964, he became Nancy Wilson’s arranger, pianist and musical director and moved to Los Angeles, California.
Working mainly in the Hollywood studios, in 1972 Ronnell became a member of the Supersax formation for two years, taught at high school for a year and worked as a composer with lyricist Johnny Mercer. He also composed songs performed by Sarah Vaughan, Cal Tjader, Horace Silver and Blue Mitchell and was involved in recordings by Coleman Hawkins, Anita O’Day, Shirley Scott and Frank Wess.
By the beginning of the 1990s he settled in Denver, Colorado and gave himself the title of “Doctor of Divinity” and with his wife Reverend Dianne Bright, he produced jazz programs for their own church community, the Harmony Church, where local musicians often performed as guests of the Harmony Orchestra.
Pianist, arranger and composer Ronnell Bright who recorded four albums as a leader grooved to modern jazz and swing, now at 87 continues to play and produce occasionally.
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Lem Davis was born Lemuel A. Davis on June 22, 1914 in Tampa, Florida. His career began in the 1940s during the small jazz combo era with pianist Nat Jaffe. He became best known for playing with the Coleman Hawkins Septet as well as Eddie Heywood and Rex Stewart and a variety of jazz groups.
After recording with jazz vocalist Billie Holiday as a member of Heywood’s band in 1944, Davis went on to record with John Kirby, Joe Thomas, and Eddie Safranski. Although he reached his apex in the 1940s, Davis continued to perform in the New York area during the 1950s , leading his own band featuring Emmett Berry on trumpet, trombonist Vic Dickerson and pianist Dodo Marmarosa.
By 1953 Lem appeared soloing on Buck Clayton’s Huckle-buck recording. He continued to play in New York City throughout the 1950s, but as bebop surpassed swing in popularity, he recorded little thereafter.
Unable to make the transition from swing to bebop, he faded into obscurity. Swing and jazz alto saxophonist Lem Davis passed away on January 16, 1970 in New York City.
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