Eddie Shu was born Edward Shulman on March18, 1918 in New York City and learned violin and guitar as a child before picking up the saxophone as a teenager. He began his professional career in 1935 in Brooklyn and for the seven years leading up to his service in the U.S. Army, he performed in vaudeville and night clubs as a ventriloquist and played harmonica with the Cappy Barra harmonica Band.
While serving in the Army from 1942 to 1945 with Stan Harper, the two were assigned to a special unit to entertain the troops. He also played in various bans including with Maurice Evans in the Pacific. After the war and through the 1950s Eddie performed with Tadd Dameron, George Shearing, Johnny Bothwell, Buddy Rich, Les Elgart, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, Chubby Jackson, and Gene Krupa.
By the 1960s Shu moved to Florida, playing locally as well as with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars, Lionel Hampton and Gene Krupa once again. He was a member of the vocal jazz group Rare Silk in 1980. During this period, he performed with this group in and around Boulder, Colorado and also performed a 6-week Department of Defense tour. He would record his final date on the Island Jazz Label “Shu-Swings” With The Joe Delaney Trio, playing tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet, trumpet and also revisit’s his 1954 78 single “Ruby” on chromatic harmonica.
Eddie Shu died on July 4, 1986 in St. Petersburg, Florida while living in Tampa. The swing and jazz multi-instrumentalist also had a high proficiency on the accordion and was a popular comedic ventriloquist.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk was born Ronald Theodore Kirk on August 7, 1935 in Coumbus, Ohio and grew up in the neighborhood called Flytown. He felt compelled by a dream to transpose two letters in his first name to make Roland. He became blind at an early age as a result of poor medical treatment. In 1970 he added “Rahsaan” to his name after hearing it in a dream.
Rahsaan preferred to lead his own bands and rarely did he perform as a sideman, although he did record lead flute and solo on Soul Bossa Nova with arranger Quincy Jones in 1964, as well as drummer Roy Haynes and had notable stints with bassist Charles Mingus. His playing was generally rooted in soul jazz or hard bop but his knowledge of jazz gave him the ability to draw from ragtime to swing to free jazz. In additional to classical influences he borrowed elements from composers like Smokey Robinson and Burt Bacharach, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.
His main instrument was the tenor saxophone and two obscure saxophones: the stritch, a straight alto sax lacking the instrument’s characteristic upturned bell and a manzello, a modified saxello soprano sax, with a larger, upturned bell. Kirk modified these instruments himself to accommodate his simultaneous playing technique. He also played flute, clarinet, harmonica, English horn, recorder and trumpet, as well as incorporating an interesting array of common items such as garden hose, alarm clocks and sirens.
At times Rahsaan would play a number of these horns at once, harmonizing with himself, or sustain a note for lengthy durations by using circular breathing or play the rare, seldom heard nose flute. Many of Kirk’s instruments were exotic or homemade, but even while playing two or three saxophones at once the music was intricate, powerful jazz with a strong feel for the blues. Politically outspoken, he would often talk about issues of the day in between songs at his concerts, such as Black history and the civil rights movement and lacing them with satire and humor. According to comedian Jay Leno, when he toured with him as his opening act, Kirk would introduce him by saying, “I want to introduce a young brother who knows the black experience and knows all about the white devils… Please welcome Jay Leno!”
In 1975, Kirk suffered a major stroke that led to partial paralysis of one side of his body. However, he continued to perform and record, modifying his instruments to enable him to play with one arm. He died from a second stroke on December 5, 1977 after performing in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana University Student Union in Bloomington, Indiana.
His influence went well beyond jazz to include such rock musicians as Jimi Hendrix, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Eric Burdon and War, T.K. Kirk, Hope Clayburn, Jonny Greenwood and Ramon Lopez, all who idolized or paid tribute to, and David Jackson, George Braith and Dick Heckstall-Smith who took to playing multiple saxophones, and Steve Turre, Courtney Pine who utilizing his circular breathing during play. He left to us nearly four-dozen albums as a leader and another eleven with aforementioned Jones, Mingus and Haynes, and Tubby Hayes, Tommy Peltier, Jaki Byard and Les McCann.
Reedman Dexter Payne was born on July 5, 1951 in Denver, Colorado. The clarinet was his first instrument and went on to master the alto and baritone saxophones adding them to his arsenal. His early influences were Artie Shaw, Buddy DeFranco, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan,Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges and Lester Young.
A very lyrical and melodic player, Dexter plays swing, bop, cool jazz, and Brazilian jazz as well as other forms of music including Latin. In 2000 he played with Brazilian musician Thiago de Mello, recorded the album Inspiration in 2003, with Brazilian guitarist Antonio Mello,
He followed with his sophomore release in 2005 release Another Feeling with producer Arnaldo De Souteiro on his Jazz Station label. He recorded again in 3006 and 2007 which de Mello produced and released Our Time to Remember. Clarinetist and saxophonist Dexter Payne continues to perform, record and tour.
Willie Jones III was born on June 8, 1968 in Los Angeles, California. His initial exposure to music came from his father Willie Jones II, an accomplished jazz pianist. With his guidance and inspiration the young drummer began studying with acclaimed drummers and music instructors. By the time he was in his teens her was performing with numerous distinguished musicians. He completed his training at California Institute of the Arts under the tutelage of Albert “Tootie” Heath.
As a co-founder of the group Black Note, he took the West Coast bop movement and gave it a hard swing, propelling them into first place in the John Coltrane young Artist Competition in 1991. He would go on to become a semifinalist the following year at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Drum Competition, and eventually the group released four albums. He has played, toured, and/or recorded with Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Arturo Sandoval, Roy Hargrove, Peter Zak, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, Herbie Hancock, Eric Reed, Kurt Elling and Wynton Marsalis Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Jazz musicians appreciate his exceptional speed and control together with his use of a wide range of textures that characterize most of his playing. He is a master of many styles and moves quickly and easily between bebop, big band, avant-garde, Latin jazz grooves, hard bop and swing.
He has released several albums under his own name as a leader and on his indie label, WJ3 Records. His music has been sampled, however, he has filed a lawsuit in 2014 against California rapper Kendrick Lamar for allegedly sampling “The Thorn” illegally in Lamar’s song Rigamortis. Drummer Willie Jones III continues to perform, record and tour both as a leader and sideman.
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Dave McKenna was born on May 30, 1930 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Starting out at the age of 15, he played with Boots Mussulli in 1947, Charlie Ventura in 1949 and the Woody Herman Orchestra from 1050-1951. He then spent two years in the military brfore rejoining Ventura in 1953.
McKenna worked with a variety of top swing and Dixieland musicians including Gene Krupa, Joe Venuti, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Bob Wilbur, Eddie Condon and Bobby Hackett. By 1967 he was pursuing a solo career in the NE United States and played with Louis Armstrong at the 1970 Newport Jazz Festival.
Known as a wonderful accompanist, Dave recorded with singers Rosemary Clooney, Teddi King and Donna Byrne in addition to recording a PBS special with Tony Bennett. Gaining recognition in his own right during the Seventies he chose to play locally rather than travel extensively. His preference was clubs and hotels over getting center stage in major venues. A decade-long run at Boston’s grand Copley Plaza Hotel ended his successful engagement in 1991 when the Plaza was sold.
He was fond of staying close to the melody, was a loyal Boston Red Sox fan, often listening to games on his transistor radio while performing, would walk to Fenway from the Plaza, and had a musical style relied on two key elements relating to his choices of tunes and set selection, and the method of playing that has come to be known as “three-handed swing”.
McKenna had clarity, taste, beauty, and swing in his playing and was dubbed “The Bell Ringer” for the clear, bell-like sound he evoked from the instrument. He had an extensive recording career from 1958 to 2002, recording for ABC-Paramount, Epic, Bethlehem, Realm, Chiaroscuro and Concord record labels.
Pianist Dave McKenna retired around the turn of the millennium due to increasing mobility problems brought on by his long battle with diabetes and passed away on October 18, 2008 from lung cancer.
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