Meredith Jane Monk was born November 20, 1942 in New York City and her mother was a professional singer in the popular and classical genres. Known primarily known for her avant-garde vocal innovations with a wide range of extended techniques, she first developed them during her solo performances prior to forming her own ensemble.
By the end of 1961 she was solo dancing on Off Broadway in the Actor’s Playhouse production of Scrooge, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1964 and four years later founded The House, a company dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to performance. 1978 saw her forming Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble to explore new and wider vocal textures and forms, which often were contrasted with minimal instrumental textures.
Monk began a long-standing relationship with the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as with the ECM record label that released her debut album in 1981. She has written and directed two films, Ellis Island and Book of Days, composed an opera called Atlas, has written pieces for instrumental ensembles and symphony orchestras, and composed Stringsongs for string quartet, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. She has worked with Björk, Terry Riley, DJ Spooky, Ursula Oppens, Bruce Brubaker, John Zorn, Alarm Will Sound, Bang On A Can All-Stars and the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.
Meredith has received a MacArthur Fellowship, the Creative Capital Award, honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Boston Conservatory.She received the Demetrio Stratos International Award for musical experimentation in Italy and U.S. President Barack Obama presented Monk with a National Medal of Arts, the highest honor in the United States specifically given for achievement in the arts.
Avant-garde vocalist, composer, performer, director, filmmaker and choreographer continues to record extensively and create multi-disciplinary works combining music, theatre and dance.
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Matthew-Aaron Dusk was born November 19, 1978 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and from an early age he wanted to become a performer. At seven he was accepted into St. Michael’s Choir School, and remained for eleven years. Originally performing opera and classical music until hearing Tony Bennett, Bob Fenton, and Sarah Vaughan records at the age of 17, when he decided to change his musical style and direction.
In 1998 Matt won the top spot in the Canadian National Exhibition Rising Star Competition, however he was on a path to take over the family business, and the same year attended York University to study economics. After his first year he changed his major for BFA in music studying jazz theory with John Gittins, jazz vocal with Bob Fenton, and masterclasses with Oscar Peterson. Awarded the university’s Oscar Peterson Scholarship he graduated with honors.
Dusk recorded four independent CDs before securing a major record deal with Decca Records. In 2004 he became the in-house entertainer at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada throughout the filming of the reality TV show The Casino. His 2004 debut album Two Shots went gold in Canada, the title song was The Casino’s theme song and was written by Bono and The Edge. Matt’s second project was a holiday EP titled Peace On Earth the following year. Since 2006 he has recorded a sophomore album Back In Town at Ca[ito; Records with a 58 piece orchestra, has worked with Patrick Williams and Sammy Nestico and Al Schmitt. And was the first male artist ever to reach #1 on the Japanese charts.
He has gone on to record several more albums, score the soundtrack for Call Me Fitz television show, record a live DVD concert special for PBS with a 17 piece big band. His fifth album My Funny Valentine: The Chet Baker Songbook features an eighty piece orchestra with Arturo Sandoval, Guido Basso, Emilie-Claire Barlow and Ryan Ahlwardt.
Vocalist Matt Dusk has been certified gold twice for his albums Two Shots and Good News, and once platinum for his Baker project, and has recorded a duet project with Edyta Górniak, and continues to perform, record and tour.
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John Herndon Mercer was born November 18, 1909 into a prominent family Savannah, Georgia. He became known to the world simply as Johnny and liking music as a small child was exposed this parents singing, minstrels, vaudeville shows. Growing up with Black playmates and servants he gained further exposure to Black music listening to the fishermen and vendors, Black church music. Having no formal musical training he was singing in a choir by six and by eleven years old had memorized almost all of the songs he had heard and became curious about who wrote them.
Mercer’s talent was in creating the words and singing, he listened to Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong, and with his natural sense of rhythm easily learned to dance from Arthur Murray. He attended Woodberry Forest boys prep school where he was a member of the literary and poetry societies, and the hop committee that booked musical entertainment on campus. He became the stamp of approval on all orchestra and new productions and quickly learned the powerful effect songs had on girls.
Though headed for Princeton University as a legacy, his hopes were dashed with the Great Depression but eventually escaped Savannah and moved to New York in 1928, when he was 19. Jazz and blues, were booming in Harlem and Broadway was bursting with musicals and revues from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. He got small acting parts, wrote lyrics, met Eddie Cantor who encouraged him and finally got a song, composed by Everett Miller, into the Garrick Gaieties in 1930. His first song was recorded by Joe Venuti and his New Yorkers.
At 20 he began hanging out with other songwriters to learn the trade, traveled to California on a lyric writing assignment for the musical Paris in the Spring, met Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong returned to New York and got a job as staff lyricist for Miller Music for a $25-a-week draw. He would go on to win a vocal position with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, then make his vocal recording debut with Frank Trumbauer’s Orchestra, and o apprentice with Yip Harburg on the score for Americana. But it was his chance pairing with Indiana-born Hoagy Carmichael that his fortunes improved dramatically with Lazybones, which became a hit one week after its first radio broadcast, and each receiving a large royalty check of $1250.
Mercer became a member of ASCAP and a recognized “brother” in the Tin Pan Alley fraternity alongside Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter among others. As the demand for the stand alone song diminished he set his sights on Hollywood and landed a job with RKO and claiming his first big Hollywood song I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande was performed by Crosby in the film Rhythm on the Range in 1936. The demand for him as a lyricist took off and his second hit that year was Goody Goody followed by a move to Warner Brothers studio in 1937.
He would go on to write hits like Jeepers Creepers, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Day In, Day Out, Fools Rush In, One for My Baby (and One More for the Road), That Old Black Magic and Come Rain or Come Shine, Skylark, In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening, as well as lyrics for the established instrumental hits Laura, Midnight Sun, Satin Doll and Autumn Leaves among others.
By the mid-1940s enjoyed a reputation as one of the premier Hollywood lyricists. With the advent of rock and roll in the 1950s and the transition of jazz into “bebop” Mercer’s natural audience and venues for his songs dwindled. He continued to write a string of hits for some MGM films, made occasional television appearances, teamed up with Henry Mancini and wrote the wrote the lyrics to Moon River, Days of Wine and Roses and Charade. He would go on to write I Wanna Be Around and Summer Wind and the lyrics for I Remember You which was the most direct expression of his feelings for the affair he had in 1941 with then 19-year old Judy Garland.
Over the course of his career Johnny would team up with Richard Whiting, Harry Warren and Johnny Mandel, have his lyrics recorded as part of Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbook series, received eighteen Oscar nominations, winning four for Best Song, founded Capitol Records, and helped establish the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Diagnosed was an inoperable brain tumor, lyricist Johnny Mercer passed away on June 25, 1976 in Bel Air, California. Posthumously, the Songwriters Hall of Fame established the Johnny Mercer Award, he was honored with a postage stamp, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, given tribute in the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a statue was unveiled in Ellis Square in Savannah, and The Johnny Mercer Collections, including his papers and memorabilia, are preserved in the library of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.
Marion Montgomery was born Marian Maud Runnells on November 17, 1934 in Natchez, Mississippi. She began her career in Atlanta, Georgia working clubs before moving on to Chicago, Illinois where singer Peggy Lee heard her on an audition tape and suggested she should be signed by Capitol Records. From the early to mid-1960 she released three albums for the label. During this early part of her career, she became Marian Montgomery, having previously gone by the nickname of Pepe, and eventually changing her name to Marion.
In 1965, she came to Britain to play a season with John Dankworth and met and married English pianist and musical director Laurie Holloway, thus beginning a long and productive association in which they both became very well known to British audiences. In the Seventies she became the resident singer on the British chat show hosted by Michael Parkinson.
By the 1980s she collaborated a series of concerts and albums with composer and conductor Richard Rodney Bennett. Her recording of the song Maybe the Morning was used by Radio Luxembourg to close out each evening broadcast, and when the station closed its doors.
Her final studio recording was That Lady from Natchez, released in 1999 and continued to perform including a sold-out three weeks at London’s Pizza on the Park two months before her death. Never categorizing herself purely as a jazz singer, rather simply as a singer of various styles who left the world a catalogue of two-dozen albums, vocalist Marion Montgomery passed away on July 22, 2002 in Bray, Berkshire, England after a ten-year battle with lung cancer.
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Audrey Morris was born in Chicago. Illinois on November 12, 1928 and developed her piano and vocal skills growing up in the Windy City. She got her start in the music business in the early to mid-’50s during which time she recorded her first two albums. Her debut album Bistro Ballads was released in 1954 followed up by her sophomore project The Voice of Audrey Morris two years later in 1956.
Opting to work her hometown Audrey’s delicate piano and forceful voice played to any intimate Chicago club or bistro crowd well into the wee hours of the morning. Her reputation grew for bucking the current taste for bawdy chanteuses and she cultivated a repertoire of obscure, understated material.
Not much was heard from Morris throughout the 1960s and ’70s, but she returned in the Eighties, this time with her own record label, Fancy Faire. She began releasing albums once more from 1984’s to 1997 that included Afterthoughts, Film Noir, Look at Me Now and Round About.
During her career she worked with bassist Johnny Pate, drummer Charles Walton, conductor, arranger and pianist Marty Paich, trumpeter Stu Williamson and guitarist Bill Pitman. Audrey has been touted as one of the great female saloon singers, ranked alongside Chris Connor and Jeri Sothern.
Pianist and vocalist Audrey Morris continued to perform well into the new millennium and has indelibly left her mark on that Windy City by the lake.