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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Miles Dewey Davis III was born May 26, 1926 in Alton, Illinois into an affluent family, father a dentist and his mother a blues pianist. They owned a substantial ranch in the Delta region of Pine Bluffs, Arkansas. When he was one years old the family moved to East St. Louis and it was between there and Pine Bluffs that his appreciation for music came out of the Black church.
His musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a trumpet and arranged lessons with local musician Elwood Buchanan. He learned to play with out vibrato which gave him his clear signature tone. By age 16, Davis was a member of the music society and, when not at school, playing professionally first at the local Elks Club. At 17, he spent a year playing in Eddie Randle’s band, the Blue Devils and during this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band, then passing through town. His mother insisted that he finish his final year of high school and he graduated from East St. Louis Lincoln High School in 1944.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited East St. Louis with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in tow. Miles was brought in on third trumpet for a couple of weeks because the regular player, Buddy Anderson, was out sick. Even after this experience, once Eckstine’s band left town, Davis’ parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
However, In the fall of 1944, following graduation from high school, Davis moved to New York City to study at the Juilliard School of Music. His arrival marked a new chapter and he spent his first weeks attempting to contact Charlie Parker, against all advice even from Coleman Hawkins. Finally locating his idol, he became one of the cadre of musicians who held nightly jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s, both Harlem nightclubs. He was among future leaders of bebop Fats Navarro, Freddie Webster, J. J. Johnson as well as the established Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke.
Dropping out of Juilliard after asking permission from his father, Miles began playing professionally, performing in several 52nd Street bands led by Coleman Hawkins, and Eddie Lockjaw Davis. By 1945, he entered a recording studio for the first time, under the leadership of Herbie Field. This was the beginning of his many sideman recordings until 1946 when he recorded as a leader with the Miles Davis Sextet plus Earl Coleman and Ann Hathaway. Though a member of the groundbreaking Charlie Parker Quintet, he can be heard accompanying singers. He would play with Max Roach, Al Haig, Sir Charles Thompson, Duke Jordan, Curley Russell, Tommy Potter and Leonard Gaskin. This gave him numerous recording sessions and the beginning of what would become his cool jazz style.
After Parker’s breakdown and committal to Camarillo State Mental Hospital while on tour in Los Angeles, Davis, found himself stranded. He roomed and collaborated for some time with Charles Mingus, got a job with Billy Eckstine and eventually got back to New York. He would freelance and sideman in some of the most important combos on the New York jazz scene.
By 1948 Davis grew close to Canadian composer and arranger Gil Evans and his basement apartment had become the meeting place for several young musicians and composers such as Davis, Roach, John Lewis and Gerry Mulligan who were unhappy with the bebop scene. Together they created the tuba band sound that included French horn and tuba in the nonet line-up. The objective was to achieve a sound similar to the human voice, through carefully arranged compositions and by emphasizing a relaxed, melodic approach to the improvisations.
A contract and recording sessions between 1949-1950 with Capitol Records brought about the release of Birth Of The Cool in 1956, which gave its name to the cool jazz movement. Though met with resistance, years later it was co-opted by white musicians like Mulligan and Dave Brubeck and the critics who hailed it as a success.]
By the first half of the 1950s Davis was on tour in Paris with Tadd Dameron, Kenny Clarke and James Moody, and living the life of a black musician abroad. He was involved with French actress and singer Juliette Greco for a time and then returned to the States to be underappreciated by the critics and a liaison with the mother of his two children unraveled. This is when his heroin addiction began, with subsequent arrests. But iwas during this period that he became acquainted with Ahmad Jamal’s music and his elegant approach and use of space influenced him deeply and he definitely severed all ties to bebop.
Through the decade he would record for Prestige, work with Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, began using the Harmon mute creating a signature sound and phrasing. The most important Prestige recordings of this period were Dig, Blue Haze, Bag’s Groove, Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants and Walkin’. This placed him in the center of the hard bop movement. It also hailed his period of withdrawal, being distant, cold, contempt for critics, and his quick temper.
His first great quintet included John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. This group brought forth such titles as Relaxin’, Steamin’, Workin’ and Cookin’ all with The Miles Davis Quintet. From 1957 to 1963 Davis recorded a series of albums with Gil Evans playing often trumpet and flugelhorn on Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and Quiet Nights. In 1959 with Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb he recorded his magnus opus Kind Of Blue.
Through the Sixties he recoded with a number of musicians, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Sam Rivers. But it was Hancock, Williams, Carter and Wayne Shorter that became the nucleus of his second great quintets.
He would work with Chick Corea and Dave Holland, enter into his electric period playing with Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moriera, Bennie Maupin and recorded the landmark Bitches Brew. He would create the Cellar Door Band before retiring in 1975. By 1979, he overcame his cocaine addiction and regained his enthusiasm for music and put together new smaller combos playing up until his death.
Miles Davis is regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in the history of music. He has received numerous Grammy Awards, and according to the RIAA, the album is the best-selling jazz album of all time, having been certified as quadruple platinum (4 million copies sold. In 2009, the US House of Representatives voted 409–0 to pass a resolution honoring the album as a national treasure. On September 28, 1991 he passed away in Santa Monica, California.
Lloyd Trotman was born on May 25, 1923 in Boston, Massachusetts. He began playing the club scene on 52nd Street in New York in 1945, playing with the likes of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. One of his earliest recording sessions was on Duke Ellington’s 1950 album Great Times Piano Duets with Billy Strayhorn and Oscar Pettiford.
He worked with, traveled with, and recorded with many jazz artists including Johnny Hodges, Woody Herman, Bud Powell, Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Scott, Billie Holiday, Lucky Millinder, Boyd Raeburn and Blanche Calloway. He was a member of the Apollo house band during the late 40’s and early 1950s.
During the 1950s Lloyd worked as a session musician at Atlantic, RCA Victor, Mercury, Okeh, Vik, Cadence, Brunswick and many other recording studios alongside producers and arrangers such as Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Leiber and Stoller, Jesse Stone, Sammy Lowe, Leroy Kirkland and Archie Bleyer. He played behind Sam “The Man” Taylor, King Curtis, Panama Francis, Mickey Baker, Ernie Hayes, Al Caiola among others and was a member of Alan Freed’s Rock & Roll Orchestra at the Brooklyn Paramount and Fox Theaters during the late 1950s.
He continued to play many weekend nightclub dates into the early 1980’s and after retiring from the music business, he became a loan officer at Islip National Bank. Jazz bassist Lloyd Trotman, who backed numerous jazz, Dixieland, R&B, and rock and roll artists in the 1940’s, 1950s and 1960s, passed away at the aged 84, on October 3, 2007 on Long Island, New York.
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Al Porcino was born on May 14, 1925 in New York City. He began playing trumpet professionally in 1943 in many of the big bands over the next two decades including those of George Auld, Louis Prima, Jerry Wald, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa and Chubby Jackson.
Porcino played with Woody Herman in 1946, 1949-1950, and again in 1954. He also did two stints with Stan Kenton in 1947-48 and 1954-55. By the 1950s, he was playing with Pete Rugolo, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Elliot Lawrence and Charlie Barnet.
In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles and started working in the studios. Al played in the Terry Gibbs Dream Band for three years starting in 1959. Throughout the Sixties he often played in orchestras backing vocalists, performed on two soundtracks The Cincinnati Kid and Music from Mission Impossible with Lalo Schifrin, played with Buddy Rich, Gil Fuller, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and again with Woody Herman in 1972.
Al formed his own big band and recorded behind Mel Torme in addition to their own work. During the Seventies he moved to Germany playing on Al Cohn’s final recordings in 1987 and led big bands there until his death in Munich on December 31, 2013.
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