Kenny Davern was born John Kenneth Davern on January 7, 1935 in Huntington, Long Island, New York of Austrian-Irish ancestry. After hearing Pee Wee Russell the first time, he was convinced that he wanted to be a jazz musician and at the age of 16 he joined the musician’s union, first as a baritone saxophone player. In 1954 he joined Jack Teagarden’s band, and after only a few days with the band he made his first jazz recordings.
He would later work with bands led by Phil Napoleon and Pee Wee Erwin before joining the Dukes of Dixieland in 1962. The late 1960s found him free-lancing with, among others, Red Allen, Ralph Sutton, Yank Lawson and his lifelong friend Dick Wellstood.
Davern had taken up the soprano saxophone, and when a spontaneous coupling with fellow reedman Bob Wilber at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party turned out be a huge success, one of the most important jazz groups of the 1970s, Soprano Summit, was born. The two co-led the group switching between the clarinet and various saxophones, and over the next five years Soprano Summit enjoyed a very successful string of record dates and concerts. When the group disbanded in 1979, he devoted himself to solely playing clarinet, preferring trio formats with piano and drums.
He revived his collaboration with Bob Wilber in 1991 and the new group was called Summit Reunion. Leading quartets since the 1990s, Kenny preferred the guitar to the piano in his rhythm section, employing guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden and James Chirillo. He appeared numerous times at the Colorado Springs Invitational Jazz Party; in 1997 he was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame at Rutgers University, and in 2001 he received an honorary doctorate of music at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
Mainly playing in traditional jazz and swing settings, he ventured into the free-jazz genre collaborating in 1978 with avant-garde players Steve Lacy, Steve Swallow and Paul Motian that produced the album titled Unexpected. He also held an ardour and knowledge of classical music. Clarinetist Kenny Davern passed away of a heart attack at his Sandia Park, New Mexico home on December 12, 2006.
Jerry Coker was born on November 28, 1932 in South Bend, Indiana and picked up the clarinet and tenor saxophone long before going to study at Indiana University.
At the beginning of the 1950s he played tenor saxophone in the Fred Dale Big Band, but in 1953 he interrupted his studies to become a member of the Woody Herman Orchestra. During this time he also played in the Nat Pierce / Dick Collins Nonet and was a part of the formation of The Herdsman with Cy Touff and Ralph Burns in 1954. Jerry followed this musical relationship with joining the septet of Mel Lewis two years later and then with other musicians in the West Coast Jazz movement.
Coker also worked as a freelance musician and led his own bands in the second half of the 1950s. His first recordings made under his own name were recorded in Bloomington, Indiana, San Francisco, California and Paris, France.
The early 1960s saw his return to his studies and by the middle of the decade a return to Indiana University as a lecturer and active in the jazz field. With his educator hat on he headed the Duke Jazz Ensemble at Duke University from 1976 – 77 and later taught at the University of Miami, North Texas State University and the University of Tennessee .
He has written several books on improvisation, jazz keyboard and jazz history. Clarinetist, saxophonist, lecturer and author Jerry Coker continues to perform, record, tour and educate.
Donald Byron was born November 8, 1958 in The Bronx in New York City. His mother was a pianist and his father played bass in calypso bands. As well as listening to jazz recordings by Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and others, he was exposed to other styles through trips to the ballet and symphony concerts.
He studied clarinet with Joe Allard and studied music at the New England Conservatory in Boston with George Russell. While in Boston, Byron performed and recorded with the Klezmer Conservatory Band, founded by NEC faculty member Hankus Netsky.
A gifted performer on clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone, but on many of his albums he subordinates his own playing to the exploration of a particular style. Don is representative of a new generation of conservatory-trained jazz musicians who explore and record in a rich array of styles. His debut album in 1992, Tuskegee Experiments, bring classical avant garde and jazz improvisation together, while his albums like Ivey Divey are a more straight-ahead exploration of the traditional jazz, for which he has been nominated for a Grammy Award for his bass clarinet solo on I Want To Be Happy.
A practicing jazz historian and educator Byron recreates in spirit forgotten moments in the history of popular music with albums like Plays the Music of Mickey Katz and Bug Music. He has held professorships at Metropolitan State University of Denver, The University at Albany and MIT teaching composition, improvisation, music history, clarinet, and saxophone.
In 2001, Byron performed for the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album Red Hot + Indigo tribute to Duke Ellington, was named a 2007 USA Prudential Fellow and won a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has won the Rome Prize Fellowship and his Seven Etudes for solo piano made him a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Musical Composition.
Byron is a member of the Black Rock Coalition, has recorded with Allen Toussaint, Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, Bill Frisell, Joe Henry, Hamiet Bluiett, Craig Harris, Mandy Patinkin, Ralph Peterson, Reggie Workman, David Murray, Steve Coleman, Bobby Previs, Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Cassandra Wilson, Uri Caine and many others.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Don Byron, who play primarily clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophones, continues to perform, tour, record and educate, while venturing outside his jazz roots and into klezmer music, German lieder, cartoon jazz, hard rock/metal and rap.
Alvin Batiste was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 7, 1932 and learned to play the clarinet. He was the first Black student to be invited to play with the New Orleans Philharmonic on Mozart’s Concerto. His childhood friend was fellow musician Ed Blackwell and in 1956, he spent time in Los Angeles, California working with Ornette Coleman.
Batiste released five albums as a leader with his debut, Musique D’Afrique Nouvell Orleans, hitting the streets in 1984. His final album, Marsalis Music Honors Series: Alvin Batiste, was a tribute produced by Branford Marsalis and also features Russell Malone and Herlin Riley.
Alvin worked as a sideman with Cannonball Adderley, Henry Butler, Billy Cobham, Marlon Jordan, the Clarinet Summit with John Carter, David Murray and Jimmy Hamilton, Mark Whitfield, Wynton Marsalis on the latter’s Crescent City Christmas Card. Though he could have risen to the top as a performer, he chose a life of teaching and mentoring.
As an educator he taught at his own jazz institute at Southern University in Baton Rouge. In addition, several well-known musicians studied under him such as Branford Marsalis, Randy Jackson of American Idol, Donald Harrison, Henry Butler, Charlie Singleton of Cameo, Ronald Myers and Woodie Douglas of Spirit.
He went on to host the radio show Jazz Sessions on WBRH, has held workshops and clinics around the globe as well as performing in concert in West Africa, Europe and the United States. Clarinetist, composer, arranger and educator Alvin Batiste, who performed in the avant-garde genre of jazz, passed away on May 6, 2007.
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Noël Chiboust was born on October 14, 1909 in Thorigny-sur-Marne , Département Seine-et-Marne, France. He began his career as a violinist with Ray Ventura and during the early Thirties played trumpet in the Michel Warlop Orchestra. By 1936 he was involved in the concert series la semaine à Paris, by the Hot Club de France. At this time in his career he also joined the André Ekyan Orchestra until 1938, then played in the Swing Band of Philippe Brun followed by an early 1940s stint with Alix Combelle.
Around the mid 1930s he recorded with Django Reinhardt , Stéphane Grappelli , Bill Coleman and Coleman Hawkins, joined Eddie Brunner in 1938 at Cabaret Bagatelle. The late 1930s saw him giving up the trumpet and joining the tenor saxophone and clarinet sections when he joined the Marcel Bianchi Orchestra.
From 1940 he recorded under his own name for the French label Swing releasing a few 78s. Starting in 1944 he performed with an orchestral cast including Hubert Rostaing, and with Jack Diéval and Lucien Simoen at Club Schubert. From 1947 to 1950 he had an engagement at Cabaret le Drap d’Or.
He turned his attention to popular music as well as the rock and roll to and by 1959 released several EPs and singles for Polydor Records with songs like Telstar, Dynamite Charleston and Yes Sir That’s My Baby.
Trumpeter, tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, composer and band leader in the field the swing and popular music era Noël Chiboust passed away on January 17, 1994.