Clare Fischer was born October 22, 1928 in Durand, Michigan and started general music study in grade school with violin and piano as his first instruments. By age 7 he was picking out four-part harmony on the piano and by 12 was composing classical music and creating instrumental arrangements for dance bands.
In high school he added cello, clarinet and saxophone to his arsenal of instruments and studied music theory, harmony and orchestration privately. He started his own band at 15, writing all the arrangements, went on to college studying music composition and theory as a piano major. After graduation and a stint in the Army as the arranger for the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, N.Y., he returned to Michigan State and received his Masters in 1955.
He went on to arrange for the vocal quartet Hi-Lo’s that would later become a major influence on Herbie Hancock, would record under his own name in 1962 for Pacific Jazz, play with Bud Shank, Joe Pass and Cal Tjader among others, arrange for Sergio Mendes and Willy Ruff, began playing organ and composed his most famous compositions, Pensativa and Morning.
By the mid-‘70s Fischer was pioneering the electric keyboard, reconnected with Tjader started his group Salsa Picante, won a Grammy for his album 2+2 and Free Fall, forayed into R&B doing orchestral sweeteners, worked with Rufus with Chaka Khan, The Jacksons, Earl Klugh, The Debarges, Shot-gun and Atlantic Starr and pop artists such as Paul McCartney, Prince, Celine Dion and Robert Palmer, picking up numerous gold records.
From the Eighties on Clare has been commissioned to score symphonic work using Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn themes, working with Branford Marsalis, the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra, arranged for Spike Lee’s Girl 6, has conducted clinics and master classes at numerous universities, and continued to record in small group and orchestral settings until his death in Los Angeles, California on January 26, 2012 at age 82..
Ernie Fields was born Ernest Lawrence Fields on August 28, 1904 in Nacogdoches, Texas, though raised in Taft, Oklahoma. He attended Tuskegee Institute before moving to Tulsa. From the late 1920s, he led the Royal Entertainers, and eventually began touring more widely from Kansas City, Kansas to Dallas, Texas, and recording. Fields’ band became the first African-American band to play at Tulsa’s landmark Cain’s Ballroom.
A 1939 invite to New York by John Hammond to record for Vocalion. He began touring nationally, never became a star but continued to work steadily, recording for smaller labels, and gradually transforming his sound through a smaller band and a repertoire shift from big band and swing to R&B. During WWII he entertained troops both at home and abroad.
Continuing to straddle these styles into the 1950s, Ernie played swing standards such as “Tuxedo Junction” and “Begin The Beguine” in a rocking R&B style. In the late 1950s he moved to Los Angeles, California and joined the Rendezvous Records and ran the house band In 1959 this band had an international hit with an R&B version of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” that reached #4 on the Billboard chart, selling over a million copies. He would go on to record instrumentals under a variety of names including B. Bumble and the Stingers, The Marketts and The Routers.
After Rendezvous Records folded in late 1963, trombonist, pianist, arranger and bandleader Ernie Fields retired and returned to Tulsa. He died on May 11, 1997, at the age of 92.
Born August 26, 1943, Dorival Tostes Caymmi, the son of famous Brazilian musicians Dorival Caymmi and Stella Maris. He began playing piano at age eight, studied music theory at the Conservatorio Lorenzo Fernandez and in 1959 made his professional debut accompanying his sister, Nana.
In 1960 Dori became a member of Groupo dos Sete, writing music for plays aired on Brazilian television. He co-directed and played viola in the play Opinião, an important transitional work between the styles of bossa nova and MPB and directed the play Arena Conta Zumbi. For a time he produced Edu Lobo, Eumir Deodato and Nara Leao, co-wrote the prize winning song “Saveiros” with Nelson Matta, a collaboration that lasted many years and produced some of Brazil’s biggest hits.
Caymmi played and toured with Paul Winter, arranged and directed albums by Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil, and was involved with the tropicalia movement of the late 1960s, but did not record in this style himself due to his distaste for Euro-American pop music. He wrote scores for numerous films and television shows in the 1970s and 1980s, moved to Los Angeles, California in 1989 and has since played or recorded with Dionne Warwick, Toots Thielemans, Marilyn Scott, Oscar Castro-Neves, Eliane Elias, Richard Silveira and Edu Lobo; was a collaborator celebrating Tom Jobim at Carnegie Hall and arranged the music for Spike Lee’s film, Clockers.
Dori Caymmi has been nominated for Latin Grammys several times and is a two-time Grammy Award winner for Best Latin Song and Best Latin Samba Recording. The Brazilian singer, guitarist, songwriter, arranger, and producer has an extensive discography dating back to 1964 and he continues to perform and record.
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.