Ahmad Alaadeen was born in Kansas City, on July 24, 1934 and grew up listening to all styles of music not limited to the Philharmonic, Lester Young, T-Bone Walker and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He began playing the saxophone when he was in sixth grade, in time mastering flute, clarinet and oboe. He studied at R.T. Coles High School under the tutelage of Leo H. Davis, a well respected music instructor reported to have taught Charlie Parker.
Alaadeen debuted as a professional with Davis’ concert band playing e-flat horn when he was 14 and his first major job was playing baritone sax with pianist-bandleader Jay McShann. In later years he would rejoin McShann on tenor. He studied at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, St. Mary’s University and DePaul University. Serving in the military during 1957-59, being the jazz saxophonist and principal oboist with the 4th Army Band, after his discharge he spent time in Chicago, playing in a program led by pianist-composer Richard Abrams that was the beginning of the AACM – the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians that included members Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors.
Returning to Kansas City, Ahmad continued to play, teach and lead the Deans of Swing in the 1990s, and the ensemble was picked in 1996 as Musician Magazine’s Best Unsigned Band. He started the ASR label to document his music, was awarded the Kansas City’s Jazz Heritage Award, the Missouri Humanities Council’s Community Heritage Award, the Missouri Arts Award and Kansas City’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Saxophonist, composer and educator Ahmad Alaadeen, whose swing and hard bop style passed away of cancer on August 15, 2010 at the age of 76.
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Will Bradley was born Wilbur Schwichtenberg on July 12, 1912 in Newton, New Jersey. He became one of the premier trombonists on the New York swing scene, and he often participated in jam sessions broadcast on The CBS Saturday Night Swing Club. In 1939 he and drummer Ray McKinley formed a big band with pianist Freddie Slack that became well known for boogie-woogie, with hit records Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar and Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat and Down the Road a Piece. The latter song was recorded with Bradley, Ray McKinley, Doc Goldberg, Freddie Slack, with guest vocals by songwriter Don Raye.
He was one of the first band-leaders in the 1940s to appear in Soundies, three-minute musical films made for coin-operated movie jukeboxes. Their wide distribution gave the band valuable exposure with drummer Ray McKinley doing most of the vocals. After McKinley left to form his own band, Bradley joined the United States Air Force, where he played in the Glenn Miller Air Force Band and he disbanded his group due to the problems of wartime. He would go on to record with Ruth Brown and Charlie Parker and he became a studio musician, playing for many years in the The Tonight Show Band during the Johnny Carson era.
He was the band-leader for the Summer Silver Theater on CBS radio in 1941, with Ed Sullivan as the show’s host. Trombonist and bandleader Will Bradley, known for swing, sweet dance music and boogie-woogie songs, passed away on July 15, 1989, three days after his 77th birthday.
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Eli Robinson was born on June 23, 1911 in Greenville, Georgia. After working in Cincinnati in bands led by Speed Webb and Zack White, he worked as well with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.
Robinson made his first recordings in 1935 with Blanche Calloway. In 1936 he moved to New York City where he played with Teddy Hill, and Willie Bryant. After working briefly with Roy Eldridge in Chicago in 1939, he joined Count Basie from 1941 to 1947.
During the 1950s and 60s, he worked with Lucky Millinder and Buddy Tate. Trombonist and arranger Eli Robinson passed away on December 24, 1972.
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Shorty Baker was born Harold Baker on May 26, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri and began playing drums, but switched to trumpet during his teens.
He started his career on riverboats with Fate Marable, then with Erskine Tate before playing with Don Redman in the mid-1930s. He went on to work with Teddy Wilson and Andy Kirk before joining Duke Ellington. Shorty married Kirk’s pianist Mary Lou Williams and though the two separated shortly thereafter, they never officially divorced.
Baker worked on and off in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra from 1942 to 1962 alongside Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Taft Jordan, Willie Cook and Cat Anderson among others. He also worked with Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Hodges’ group in the early Fifties during the period when Hodges was not a member of Ellington’s orchestra. During the latter years of his career he worked with Bud Freeman and Doc Cheatham.
Trumpeter Shorty Baker passed away on November 8, 1966 in New York City.
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Horace Heidt was on May 21, 1901 in Alameda, California, He went on to attend the University of California Berkeley as a guard on the football team. But a broken back dashed those dreams and he turned his attention to music, forming The Californians with some classmates.
From 1932 to 1953, he became one of the more popular radio bandleaders beginning on NBC’s Blue Network with Shell Oil’s Ship of Joy and Answers by the Dancers and Horace Heidt’s Alemite Brigadiers. He broadcasted from CBS from 1937-1939.
Horace would employ singer Matt Dennis and singing comedian Art Carney. His recordings were highly successful with Gone With The Wind and Ti-Pi-Tin going to No. 1 and The Man With The Mandolin hitting No. 2 on the charts. His 1941 song, The Hut-Sut Song is heard in the movie A Christmas Story.
He returned to NBC to perform on Pot o’ Gold radio show from 1939-194, portraying himself in the film of the same name starring James Stewart and Paulette Goddard. From 1940 to 1944 he did Tums Treasure Chest, followed by 1943–45 shows on the Blue Network. Lucky Strike sponsored The American Way on CBS in 1953.
On December 7, 1947, NBC launched The Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program and accordionist Dick Cortino the first winner of the $5,000 prize, soon had his own show. Heidt’s talent search catapulted such performers as Carney, Frankie Carle, the King Sisters, Alvino Rey, Gordon McRae, Frank DeVol, Johnny Standley and Al Hirt. When the program expanded from radio to television in 1950, it was one of the first talent shows.
Horace Heidt passed away on December 1, 1986 in Los Angeles, California. For his contribution to radio and television he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
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