Bill Lee was born William James Edwards Lee III on July 23, 1928 in Snow Hill, Alabama the son of Alberta Grace Edwards, a concert pianist, and Arnold Wadsworth Lee, a musician. A bassist by profession, he is also a composer, arranger and conductor.
Bill scored his son’s first four movies, and was also the musical director and performer Sonny Darling in She’s Gotta Have It, the bassist in the Phyllis Hyman Quartet and the music conductor of the Natural Spiritual Orchestra for School Daze and Do The Right Thing, and appeared as Father of the Bride and also the music director for Mo’ Better Blues.
Lee was arrested in 1991 during a police drug sweep for heroin possession, fell out with his son, Spike Lee, over the arrest and subsequent interracial marriage to second wife that took place shortly after his first wife Jacquelyn, Spike’s mother, passed away from cancer. Bad blood continued as Spike made Jungle Fever that set a negative light on White/Black romantic relationships.
Along with Stuart Scharf he was the music arranger for the stage play A Hand is on the Gate. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Harry Belafonte television specials, has composed operas, stage music for the Apollo Theatre and has recorded with The Brass Company, Stanley Cowell, Richard Davis, Clifford Jordan, Harold Mabern, Pat Martino, Johnny Griffin, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Odetta, Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot and Peter, Paul and Mary among others. Double bassist and bass guitarist Bill Lee continues to compose, arrange and conduct.
Lloyd Trotman was born on May 25, 1923 in Boston, Massachusetts. He began playing the club scene on 52nd Street in New York in 1945, playing with the likes of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday. One of his earliest recording sessions was on Duke Ellington’s 1950 album Great Times Piano Duets with Billy Strayhorn and Oscar Pettiford.
He worked with, traveled with, and recorded with many jazz artists including Johnny Hodges, Woody Herman, Bud Powell, Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Scott, Billie Holiday, Lucky Millinder, Boyd Raeburn and Blanche Calloway. He was a member of the Apollo house band during the late 40’s and early 1950s.
During the 1950s Lloyd worked as a session musician at Atlantic, RCA Victor, Mercury, Okeh, Vik, Cadence, Brunswick and many other recording studios alongside producers and arrangers such as Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Leiber and Stoller, Jesse Stone, Sammy Lowe, Leroy Kirkland and Archie Bleyer. He played behind Sam “The Man” Taylor, King Curtis, Panama Francis, Mickey Baker, Ernie Hayes, Al Caiola among others and was a member of Alan Freed’s Rock & Roll Orchestra at the Brooklyn Paramount and Fox Theaters during the late 1950s.
He continued to play many weekend nightclub dates into the early 1980’s and after retiring from the music business, he became a loan officer at Islip National Bank. Jazz bassist Lloyd Trotman, who backed numerous jazz, Dixieland, R&B, and rock and roll artists in the 1940’s, 1950s and 1960s, passed away at the aged 84, on October 3, 2007 on Long Island, New York.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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