David Nathaniel Baker Jr. was born on December 21, 1931 in Indianapolis, Indiana and took up the trombone attending Crispus Attucks High School. He went on to matriculate through Indiana University, earning his Bachelor and Master degrees in Music, having studied with J. J. Johnson, János Starker, and George Russell.
His first teaching position was at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri in 1955, a historic black institution, but Baker had to resign his position under threats of violence after he had eloped to Chicago, Illinois to marry white opera singer Eugenia (“Jeanne”) Marie Jones. Thriving in the Indianapolis jazz scene of the time, he was as a mentor of sorts to Indianapolis-born trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Forced to abandon the trombone due to a jaw injury that left him unable to play, he subsequently learned to play cello.
The shift to cello largely ended his performing career but began his life as a composer and pedagogue. Among the first and most important people to begin to codify the then largely aural tradition of jazz he wrote several seminal books on jazz, including Jazz Improvisation in 1988. Baker taught in the Jazz Studies Department at Indiana University and made the school a highly regarded destination for students of jazz. His students included Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Jim Beard, Chris Botti, Jeff Hamilton, and Jamey Aebersold.
Baker’s compositions range from Third Stream to traditional to symphonic works. He composed some 2000 compositions, has been commissioned by over 500 individuals and ensembles, nominated for a Pulitzer and a Grammy award, honored three times by Down Beat magazine, and was the third inductee to their jazz Education Hall of Fame, as well as several other jazz awards.
Trombonist, cellist, composer and pedagogue David Baker, who performed with his second wife Lida, a flautist, since the Nineties and has more than 65 recordings, 70 books, and 400 articles to his credit, passed away on March 26, 2016, at age 84 at his Bloomington, Indiana home.
Lars Danielsson was born on September 5, 1958 in Smålandsstenar, Sweden and was educated at the music conservatory in Gothenburg and studied double bass, electric bass and cello. In 1985, he formed a quartet with saxophonist Dave Liebman, pianist Bobo Stenson and drummer Jon Christensen, producing several albums. He also worked with big bands.
He played and recorded with, among others, John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Mike Stern, Billy Hart, Charles Lloyd, Terri Lyne Carrington, Leszek Możdżer, Joey Calderazzo, Gino Vannelli and Dave Kikoski.
Since 1980, he has released eight solo albums with the Lars Danielssons Quartet. In these albums, Alex Acuña, John Abercrombie, Bill Evans, Kenny Wheeler, Rick Margitza and Niels Lan Doky were featured.
As a producer he has been responsible for productions with Cæcilie Norby and the Danish radio orchestra among others. Bassist, cellist, composer and record producer Lars Danielsson continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
Akua Dixon was born July 14th and raised in New York City, growing up in a family suffused with music, starting with her early experience singing in the Baptist church. She began playing cello in the fourth grade and soon was playing with her sister, the late violinist Gayle Dixon. By junior high they were playing little gigs and in high school she started freelancing.
After graduating from the High School of the Performing Arts, Dixon studied at the Manhattan School of Music and post graduation she joined the pit band at the Apollo Theater as an essential proving ground. There she backed such artists as Rev. James Cleveland, Barry White, James Brown and Dionne Warwick, but after Sammy Davis Jr. insisted the Westbury Music Fair include Black musicians in the orchestra she broke into Broadway pit bands and worked shows the likes of Charles Aznavour, Liza Minnelli (Liza with a Z), La Cage Aux Folles, Cats, Doonesbury, Dream Girls, and many others.
Finding a home with the Symphony of the New World, she experienced the Ellingtonian epiphany that led her to her study and immersion into jazz, spirituals and the secret s of improvising. In the Seventies she joined Noel Pointer’s String Reunion, served as director of new music and supplied the group with a steady stream of compositions and arrangements. At the same time, Akua launched her own string quartet, Quartette Indigo, which made its big league debut at the Village Gate with her sister Gayle Dixon, Maxine Roach, and John Blake Jr.
Throughout her career Dixon has worked and collaborated with Archie Shepp, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Woody Shaw, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Leroy Jenkins, Charles Burnham, Abdul Wadud, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Buster Williams, Carmen McRae, Dizzy Gillespie, Abbey Lincoln, Tom Harrell, and her former husband Steve Turre, She was a founding member of the Max Roach Double Quartet where she learned to phrase bebop. She’s conducted for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, lectured at the Smithsonian Institution, and composed an opera commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, The Opera of Marie Laveau that premiered at Henry Street New Federal Theatre in New York City.
As an educator she has spent much of her time teaching at various institutions and conducting dozens of performances through the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series. Cellist, arranger, composer, vocalist and educator Akua Dixon stays busy composing new music for her string group, the Moving On Quartet and other ensembles in addition to performing and recording.
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Abdul Wadud was born Ronald DeVaughn on April 30, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn, he took up the cello and concentrated solely on the instrument from the age of nine, and never decided to double on bass.
Abdul studied at Youngstown State and Oberlin in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He played in the Black Unity Trio at Oberlin, met Julius Hemphill and the two subsequently worked together well through the Eighties. He has performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in the ’70s, earned his master’s degree in 1972, and then in 1976 played with Arthur Blythe for the first time and has maintain a working relationship.
He also worked and recorded with Frank Lowe, George Lewis, Oliver Lake, Sam Rivers, Cecil Taylor, David Murray, Chico Freeman, Anthony Davis and James Newton. Along with Newton and Davis they performed as a trio and were also a part of the octet Episteme from 1982 to 1984. Abdul recorded and in a duo with Jenkins for Red in the ’70s and as a leader for Bishara and Gramavision in the ’70s and ’80s. He has been a member of the Black Swan Quartet, Human Arts Ensemble, Julius Hemphill Quartet and Muhal Richard Abrams Orchestra.
Cellist Abdul Wadud’s plucking and bowed solos have been featured in jazz and symphonic/classical settings, he is easily considered the finest cellist to emerge from the ’60s and ’70s generation, playing in both jazz and classical settings as he continues to perform, record and tour.
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Raymond Matthews Brown was born on October 13, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and started piano lessons at age eight. By high school he noticed a proliferation of pianists, unable to afford his first choice of trombone, took the upright bass vacancy in the high school jazz orchestra.
Influenced early by bassist Jimmy Blanton, the young Brown started making a name for himself around Pittsburgh playing with Jimmy Hinlsey and Snookum Russell. After graduating from high school he bought a one-way ticket to New York, met up with hank Jones, met Dizzy Gillespie who hired him on the spot and started working alongside Art Tatum and Charlie Parker.
During his five-year tenure with Gillespie he met and married Ella Fitzgerald, then worked with Jazz At The Philharmonic, recorded with Blossom Dearie on her first five albums between ‘57 and ‘59, joined Oscar Peterson in 1951 becoming a mainstay for the next 15 years.
In 1966 Ray moved to Los Angeles where he was in high demand by several television show orchestras, worked with Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. Becoming a manager and promoter as well as a performer, Brown managed the Modern Jazz Quartet and a young Quincy Jones, produced shows at the Hollywood Bowl, wrote jazz bass instruction books and developed a jazz cello.
Over the course of his career he has recorded prolifically with a luminary list of musicians, was award a Grammy for his composition Gravy Waltz, reunited with the legendary Oscar Peterson Trio and subsequent albums earned no less than four Grammys. He continued to tour and perform up until the time of his death. Double bassist Ray Brown passed away in his sleep on July 2, 2002 after having played a round of golf in Indianapolis, Indiana. The following year he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.