Louie Bellson was born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni on July 6, 1924 in Rock Falls, Illinois. He started playing drums at three years of age and at 15 pioneered the double-bass drum set-up. By 17 he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest and graduated from high school in 1939.
1943 saw Bellson performing with Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee in the film “The Powers Girl” followed two more by the decade’s end. Between 1943 and 1952, he performed with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Duke Ellington, for whom he composed “Skin Deep” and “The Hawk Talks”. In 1952 he married Pearl Bailey, leaving Ellington to be her musical director, a union that lasted 38 years until her death in 1990.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Louie performed with Jazz At The Philharmonic or J.A.T.P., Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, again with Duke Ellington and Harry James, as well as appearing on several Ella Fitzgerald studio albums.
Equally adept as a big band or small group drummer, Bellson recorded extensively and led his own big and small bands, occasionally maintaining separate bands on each coast. His sidemen have included Blue Mitchell, Don Menza, Larry Novak, John Heard, Clark Terry, Pete and Conte Candoli and Snooky Young.
Louie Bellson, composer, arranger, bandleader and jazz educator passed away from Parkinson’ s disease on February 14, 2009.
John Blake, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1947 and began studying violin in that city’s public school system and at the Settlement Music School. Graduating from West Virginia University, his postgraduate work was at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Montreux, Switzerland prior to receiving a grant to study studied East Indian music.
Classically trained, Blake first gained recognition on early-’70s recordings he made with Archie Shepp and in the mid-70s became established with a global audience during three years recording and touring as a member of Grover Washington, Jr.’s popular “crossover” jazz band. He then spent five years working extensively as a member of various ensembles led by pianist McCoy.
John is a four-time winner of the Down Beat Critics’ Poll Violinist Deserving Wider Recognition category he was also one of the top two jazz violinists in the 49th, 50th, and 51st Down Beat Readers’ Poll. He has performed and/or recorded with are the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Turtle Island String Quartet, Quartet Indigo, the Steve Turre Sextet, the Billy Taylor Trio, Avery Sharpe, Cecil McBee, Jay Hoggard and James Newton.
In addition to being a prominent violinist leading his own quartet, sideman and session player, John is an accomplished composer, arranger and producer as well as an author, educator and lecturer who presents hundreds of workshops annually to musicians at all levels. Violinist John Blake continues to perform, record and tour and lecture.
Tom Harrell was born on June 16, 1946 in Urbana, Illinois but by 5 was growing up in San Francisco. He started playing trumpet at eight and within five years, started playing gigs with local bands. Graduating from Stanford University with a music composition degree, he joined Stan Kenton’s orchestra, touring and recording with them throughout 1969.
After leaving Kenton, the post-bop trumpeter played with Woody Herman, Azteca, Horace Silver, the Sam Jones-Tom Harrell Big Band, the Lee Konitz Nonet, George Russell and the Mel Lewis Orchestra. Through the ‘80s he became a pivotal member of the Phil Woods Quintet making seven albums with the group.
Harrell is also plays flugelhorn and is a composer and arranger who has collaborated and recorded albums with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Ronnie Cuber, Bob Brookmeyer, Lionel Hampton, Bob Berg, Bobby Shew, Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Art Farmer, Charles McPherson and Kathleen Battle among others.
Since 1989 Harrell has led his own groups, usually quintets but has expanded ensembles such as chamber orchestra with strings and big bands. He has appeared at virtually every major jazz club and festival venues, and recorded under his own name for such record labels as RCA, Contemporary, Pinnacle, Blackhawk, Criss Cross, Steeplechase, Chesky and HighNote Records.
The Grammy-nominated artist has arranged and composed for Carlos Santana, Arturo O’Farrill, Metropole Orchestra and other big bands as well as his compositions being recorded by Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Tom Scott, Chris Potter, Steve Kuhn and Hank Jones to name a few. In recent years he has formed and recorded with piano-less sextet “Colors Of A Dream” and piano-less quartet TRIP.
Despite his well-documented schizophrenia, Tom Harrell has successfully coped with the illness through medication and has become an influential figure in the jazz world. Throughout his career he has won numerous awards and grants, including multiple Trumpeter of the Year awards from Down Beat magazine, SESAC Jazz Award, BMI Composers Award, and Prix Oscar du Jazz. He has amassed a recorded discography of over 260 albums and continues to actively compose, record and tour extensively around the world.
Julian Joseph was born May 11, 1966 in London, England. As a jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger and broadcaster he has worked solo, in his all-star big band, trio, quartet, forum project band or electric band.
Joseph’s style combines a respect for the modern developments in jazz piano with its history and works in both contemporary and traditional situations with his music. He is also active in jazz education helping to form the jazz syllabus for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in Great Britain.
Starting with his first album The Language of Truth in 1991, Julian has a total of seven albums to date, one single, and a soundtrack to his credit, and a baker’s dozen as a sideman. He has focused on live performance such as, at the London Jazz Festival, also broadcasting as he hosts several radio shows on BBC Radio 3, including Jazz Line-up and the celebrated Jazz Legends as well as composing and teaching.
He has also made two jazz television series for Meridian, a jazz series for Sky TV’s Artsworld Channel and the documentary A Festival of Jazz Piano for the BBC in Wales directed by Celia Lowenstein. He continues to perform and record.
Mike Melvoin was born on May 10, 1937 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and began playing piano at age three. He studied English at Dartmouth College but after graduating decided to pursue a career in music.
In 1961 he moved to Los Angeles and began playing with Frank Rosolino, Leroy Vinnegar, Gerald Wilson, Paul Horn, Terry Gibbs, Joe Williams, Peggy Lee, Tom Waits and others.
He worked extensively as a studio musician, in addition to playing Los Angeles clubs, accompanying singer Bill Henderson and playing with Herb Ellis and Plas Johnson on concord Jazz releases. As a composer he lent his scoring talents to the Partridge Family, Fame and MacGyver.
Pianist, composer and arranger Mike Melvoin served as chairman and president of The Recording Academy, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo from his album It’s Always You, played between the jazz, rock and pop genres. A prolific studio musician he associated with among numerous others Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, The Jackson 5, The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, John Lennon, and The Wrecking Crew, passed away at the age of 74 in Burbank, California on February 22, 2012.