Stafford James was born April 24, 1946 in Evanston, Illinois. As a young man he enlisted in the Air Force and after his discharge he studied at the University of Chicago. In 1969 he moved to New York City and studied at the Mannes College for Music. Here he met Pharoah Sanders, with whom he played his first jazz concerts in New York. He played with Monty Alexander, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Albert Ayler.
James did the first road tour of the Broadway show Hair through Canada, met Melba Moore in 1971 and played the David Frost Revue with her, and went on to Rashied Ali, Roy Ayers, Al Haig, Barry Harris, Andrew Hill, Andrew Cyrille and Chico Hamilton.
In 1973 Stafford toured Europe for the first time with Gary Bartz, then became a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. At the same time he met Woody Shaw, began a lifelong friendship with Betty Carter and started teaching at the United Nations International School in NYC. He recorded his debut album as a leader in 1975 with Enrico Rava, Dave Burrell and Beaver Harris. A year later he founded a quintet and toured Europe.
He met Dexter Gordon while on tour with Al Cohn and recorded Homecoming with him upon his return to the United States. He continued to tour through the 1980s, arranged compositions by Ellington, and composed sonatas. By the end of the decade and into the next James moved to Paris, collaborated with Pharoah, Barney Wilens and Lavelle, formed the Stafford James Project, played with his trio and continued to compose for large ensembles.
His list of collaborations, recording sessions and tours is extensive and in recent years he has recorded The Stafford James String Ensemble, taught master classes at the university level, had a two-hour program on his life and compositions, founded the Top Hat Music Society, performed with Max Roach’s percussion ensemble M’Boom and continue his tradition of performance, composing, recording and touring around the world.
More Posts: bass
James Edward Rowser was born on April 18, 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a professional jazz bassist he played with Philly Joe Jones from 1954, with Dinah Washington in 1956-57 and from 1957 to 1959 with Maynard Ferguson, as well as Red Garland.
By 1963 he was touring Mexico with Benny Goodman and followed with a stint in 1964 accompanying Friedrich Guida in South America. He would go onto play out the decade with Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Les McCann, with whom he recorded frequently.
The consummate sideman, bassist Jimmy Rowser can list 97 recording sessions to his name. He has played or recorded with Ray Bryant, Yusef Lateef, Junior Mance, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Illinois Jacquet, Hilton ruiz, Eddie Harris, Cannonball Adderley, Herb Ellis, Sonny Criss, Ben Riley and Albert “Tootie” Heath.
More Posts: bass
Hassan A. Shakur, born J.J. Wiggins on April 15, 1956 in Los Angeles, California, is the son of pianist Gerald Wiggins. He learned to play bass standing on a chair at age four and with his father as a guide developed a high sensitivity and wide range of expression in jazz.
By age twelve he became the bassist for the Craig Hundley Trio, appearing on television shows, such as, the Today show, Johnny Carson, Jonathan Winters, Ted Mack Amateur Hour and the Della Reese show. The Trio recorded an album for World Pacific Records. At eighteen, he joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington and to this day continues to perform with the Orchestra.
Shakur has performed with not only his father but Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Billy Eckstein, Al Grey, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, Pearl Bailey, Louie Bellson, Herb Ellis and many others. He was bassist for the Broadway show “Me and Bessie” with Linda Hopkins, “Black and Blue” with Ruth Brown and Linda Hopkins, and the Duke Ellington shows “Sophisticated Ladies” and “Queenie Pie”.
Hassan is a longtime member of the Bill Easley Quartet, recording several albums, and also performs regularly with Monty Alexander on tours in the United States, Europe and Japan. He is a favorite on the cruise lines and has played Montreux, Kool, North Sea Nice, Concord, Hollywood Bowl and Saratoga jazz festivals.
He is adept at playing several instruments but Hassan Shakur’s remarkable technique, flexibility and talent for creating improvisational styles on the bass that are uniquely identifiable with him as a musician.
More Posts: bass
Victor Bailey was born on March 27, 1960 in Philadelphia, New Jersey. He attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music after being disqualified from naval service due to asthma.
Bailey has been extremely active on the jazz scene recording seven albums as a leader. However, he has been more prolific as a sideman recording and touring with the likes of jazz legends and musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Miriam Makeba, Larry Coryell, Lenny White, Kenny Garrett, Roy Haynes, Kenny Kirkland, Sadao Watanabe, Hamiet Bluiet, Kevin Eubanks, Bobby Broom and Steps Ahead among numerous others.
Victor has also worked with Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Sting, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Tom Brown, Najee, Olu Dara and Patrice Rushen. He has a Victor Bailey Signature acoustic bass released by Fender, as well as the Victor Bailey Jazz Bass (Artist Series), available in 4, 5-string, fretted and fretless versions. Jazz bassist Victor Bailey, best known for his contributions to Weather Report during their final years from 1982 to 1986, continues to perform, record and tour.
More Posts: bass
Brian Torff was born on March 16, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. He began his professional career in 1974 when bassist Milt Hinton offered him the opportunity of touring with Cleo Laine. During the late 70’s, he recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland, and toured Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong with the jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. He played in pianist Erroll Garner’s last group and worked in the big bands of Oliver Nelson, and The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra.
In 1979, Brian joined pianist George Shearing in a duo setting and for 3.5 years they toured throughout the U.S., Europe, Brazil, and South Africa. They received worldwide acclaim and were played The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, had their own PBS special from the Cafe Carlyle in New York City and performed for President Reagan at the White House.
Torff has composed works for four albums as a leader, with George Shearing and Larry Coryell, has composed scores for the Boston Pops, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and has appeared as conductor, composer, and clinician for numerous high school and college jazz festivals. He penned the book In Love With Voices: A Jazz Memoir chronicles his early musical roots and provides portraits of musicians he has worked with, including Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, Erroll Garner, Benny Goodman, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Stephane Grappelli, and George Shearing.
He is a professor of music and the director of the music program at Fairfield University in Connecticut, makes frequent appearances at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, and lead the Fairfield University Jazz Ensemble along with guest jazz artists. Brian leads his own trio, and is the musical director for the Django Reinhardt New York Festival, has played Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Birdland and Carnegie Hall. He has with Mark O’Connor, Dave Grusin, Regina Carter, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. He continues to perform at jazz festivals and workshops around the United States.
More Posts: bass