Ahmed Abdul-Malik was born Jonathan Tim, Jr. on January 30, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. Taking violin lessons from his father, by age seven he was attending the Vardi School of Music and Art to continue his violin training. Over time he took up the piano, cello, bass, and tuba. He continued studying with local bassist Franklin Skeete before joining the High School of Music & Art in Harlem, where his skills on violin and viola earned him a spot in the All-City Orchestra.
In the mid-1970s, Abdul-Malik was a substitute teacher at Junior High School 281, in Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn as well as the strings instructor at Junior High School 117 in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant under the supervision of Andrew Liotta. While seeking a teaching certification, in addition to study under Liotta in orchestration and composition, Abdul-Malik also taught Sudanese in the junior high school language department. In the late 1970s he taught individual students private instruction in jazz improvisation at New York University.
Abdul-Malik is noted for integrating Middle Eastern and North African music styles in his jazz music. He recorded six albums as a leader with Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, James Richardson and Benny Golson. He also held down the sideman duties as the bassist performing and recording nineteen albums with Art Blakey, Randy Weston, Thelonious Monk, Earl Hines, John Coltrane, Walt Dickerson, Jutta Hipp, Odetta, Herbie Mann and Dave Pike among others.
As an oud player he was engaged as a musical ambassador by the United States Department of State to tour South America, and he also performed at an African jazz festival in Morocco. On October 2, 1993 double bassist and oud player Ahmed Abdul-Malik passed away at the age of 66.
Bill Ware III was born William Anthony Ware III on January 28, 1959 in East Orange, New Jersey. He played bass and piano early in his career at Harlem’s Jazzmobile, prior to choosing vibraphone as his main instrument. After spending several years playing Latin jazz he formed his own Latin Jazz group, AM Sleep.
In 1987 Ware joined saxophonist Roy Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes’ Jazz Passengers as a regular memberand by 1990 had put together a group of sidemen as the Club Bird All-Stars, who accompanied him on a tour of Japan. Stretching out to other genres he played with Groove Collective and Steely Dan during the first half Nineties.
Later in the decade Bill teamed up with fellow former Jazz Passengers, Brad Jones and E. J. Rodriguez forming the ensemble Vibes. His 2001 tribute to Duke Ellington was recorded with guitarist Marc Ribot, and Deborah Harry on his 2002 effort Four.
During the mid-2000s, he recorded several projects blending jazz with Western Classical music as well as composing five film scores with Nathanson. He recorded fourteen solo projects as a leader for AM Sleep, Knitting Factory, Cathexis, Wollenware, Random Chance and Pony Canyon record labels. Vibraphonist Bill Ware continues to compose, perform and record.
Israel Crosby was January 19, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois and was best known as the double-bassist in the Ahmad Jamal Trio from 1957 to 1962, but recorded eighteen albums with him from 1951 to 1967.
A close contemporary of Jimmy Blanton, Israel has been considered less as a pioneer, but rather for his interactive playing in Jamal’s trio and that of George Shearing. His playing exhibited how easily and fluently he displayed a modern approach to jazz double bass.
He is credited with taking the first recorded bass solo at age 16 on his 1935 recording of “Blues of Israel” with drummer Gene Krupa on the Prestige label. Beyond Jamal, Shearing and Krupa, Crosby performed and recorded with Albert Ammons, Charlie Christian, Vic Dickerson, Roy Eldridge, Herb Ellis, Edmond Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, Horace Henderson, Sam Jones, Meade Lux Lewis, Jess Stacy and Earl Washington.
A consummate sideman, bassist Israel Crosby passed away on August 11, 1962 of a heart attack just two months after joining the Shearing Quintet.
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Eldee Young was born January 7, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. He started playing upright bass at the age of 13, helped by his eldest brother who played guitar.
In 1955 Eldee joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio and after a decade together recording more than twenty albums, split along with band mate Isaac “Red” Holt to form the Young-Holt Trio. They would change their name to the Young-Holt Unlimited in 1968. After they dissolved six years and ten records later, he continued playing, mainly with small groups in Chicago.
He also played with pianist Jeremy Monteiro for more than 20 years, appeared on recording sessions with James Moody, Eden Atwood and Lorez Alexander, among others.
Double bassist and cellist Eldee Young, who performed mainly in the cool jazz, post bop and R&B mediums passed away of a heart attack in Bangkok, Thailand on February 12, 2007.
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John Kirby was born John Kirk in Winchester, Virginia on December 31, 1908. His mother gave him up for adoption and was raised by Reverend Washington and Nancy Johnson. He was a student at the Winchester Colored School and started trombone lessons around nine years old under the guidance of Professor Powell Gibson. As a kid and that he learned to play music just as it was written and his formal education ended around 1923.
Kirby arrived in Baltimore around 1927 and met trombonist Jimmy Harrison, saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and composer Duke Ellington. It was Harrison who persuaded him to switch from trombone to tuba. He played tuba with Bill Brown and His Brownies, pianist Charlie Sheets and then with John C. Smith’s Society Band. He joined Fletcher Henderson in 1929, recorded tuba on a number of sessions, but switched to double-bass when tuba fell out of favor as jazz bands’ primary bass instrument.
In the early 1930s, John took bass lessons from legendary bassists Pops Foster and Wellman Braud, left Henderson to play with Chick Webb, then joined Lucky Millinder and briefly led a quartet in 1935, but was more often than not a sideman in other groups. He performed behind Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson on their first recording date.
By 1936, Kirby was a successful sideman on the New York City jazz scene, secured a gig at the Onyx Club leading Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Billy Kyle, Russell Procope and O’Neill Spencer, becoming one of the more significant small groups in the big band era. They recorded the Shaver’s classic Undecided, with Maxine Sullivan most often performing the vocal duties for the group.
Along with his orchestra, John had a 30-minute radio program, Flow Gently, Sweet Rhythm, also known as The John Kirby Show on CBS from April 1940 – January 1941. The program also featured Sullivan and the Golden Gate Quartet and they have been cited as the first black artists to host a jazz-oriented series.
He tended toward a lighter, classically influenced style of jazz often referred to as chamber jazz. He was very prolific and extremely popular from 1938-1941 but lost most of his group to World War II. Through the war years he was able to attract Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, Clyde Hart, Budd Johnson and Zutty Singleton to his small groups and club dates. As Kirby’s career declined, he drank heavily and was beset by diabetes.
After the war, Kirby got the surviving sextet members back together, with vocalist Sarah Vaughan but the reunion did not last. A concert at Carnegie Hall in December 1950, with Bailey plus drummer Sid Catlett, attracted only a small audience, crushing his spirit and badly damaging what little was left of his career. Double-bassist, trombonist and tubist John Kirby passed away on June 14, 1952 in Hollywood, California at age 43.