Jerry Blake was born Jacinto Chabania on January 23, 1908 in Gary, Indiana and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He began his musical education playing violin before switching to reeds.
In 1924 he toured with the Sells-Fioto Circus Band but was left stranded in Chicago. Making the best of the situation, he joined Al Wynn’s band, then played with Bobby Lee and Charlie Turner. He then toured Europe in 1928-29 as a member of Sam Wooding’s ensemble.
Back in the States in the 1930s Jerry played in the US with Chick Webb,Zack Whyte and Don Redman, then was off to Europe again with Willie Lewis from 1934 to 1935. After his return home he spent time performing with Claude Hopkins, Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway, acting as the latter’s musical director during his 1938-42 stint.
In the early 1940s Blake played with Count Basie, Earl Hines, Lionel Hampton and Redman again. Sometime around 1943 he had a mental breakdown and never played again for the rest of his life, most of which he spent in institutions. Alto saxophonist and clarinetist Jerry Blake, who never recorded as a leader, passed away on December 31, 1961.
Danny Polo was born on December 22, 1901 in Toluca, Illinois. His father was also a clarinetist and he learned to play from a young age, working in marching bands from age eight. During his youth Polo played with Claude Thornhill as a duo.
In the 1920s, Polo played with Elmer Schoebel, Merritt Brunies, Arnold Johnson,, Ben Bernie, Jean Goldkette and Paul Ash. 1927 saw him in Europe with Dave Tough, playing with several Continental bandleaders including Ben Firman, Lud Gluskin, George Carhart, Ben Berlin and Arthur Briggs. From 1930-1935 he played with Ambrose & His Orchestra, then returned to the U.S. in December of that year.
In 1938, Danny returned to Britain to play with Ambrose again, and worked with Ray Ventura in Paris in 1939. Late that year he moved back to the States for good and spent the early Forties working with Joe Sullivan, Jack Teagarden, worked on the Bing Crosby film Birth of the Blues and with Claude Thornhill again.
The clarinetist led his own Midwestern territory band, Danny Polo and His Jive Five, for a time, then returned to play with Thornhill once more in 1947. He recorded two sessions as a leader with His Swing Stars, which include Alix Combelle, both in Europe, in 1938-39. He also played in several experimental sessions with Miles Davis around 1947-48. While performing with Thornhill, Danny Polo became ill, and passed away rather suddenly on July 11, 1949 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Dr. Michael White was born on November 29, 1954 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a classically trained clarinetist who began his jazz musical career as a teenager playing for Doc Paulin’s Brass Band in New Orleans. He was a member of an incarnation of the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band.
Kid Sheik Colar, discovered him after hearing him onstage performing in Jackson Square in the French Quarter. He began working with the musician regularly following the encounter. A staunch jazz traditionalist, he can be heard on Wynton Marsalis’s 1989 album The Majesty of the Blues. Wynton also appears on White’s 1990 album titled “Crescent City Serenade”, along with Wendell Brunious and Walter Payton.
Michael has led several bands in the New Orleans area, and has accompanied various artists on other recording projects. Since 1979 he has played in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band. During the 1980s he led a band called The New Orleans Hot Seven.
In 1981, White founded The Original Liberty Jazz Band with the express intent of preserving the musical heritage of New Orleans. They perform an end-of-year concert at the Village Vanguard every year since the early 1990s, and in 2006 with former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton in attendance they performed at Tulane University commencement.
Putting on his education cap Michael is also a college professor who formerly taught Spanish, now teaches African-American Music at Xavier University, holds the Rosa and Charles Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities of New Orleans Music and Culture. As a continuing component of his performances he also serves as guest director at several Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts relating to traditional New Orleans jazz.
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Jack McVea was born in Los Angeles, California on November 5, 1914. His first instrument was a banjo, learning from his father Satchel, who was a noted banjoist. After playing jazz in Los Angeles for several years, he joined Lionel Hampton’s orchestra in 1940. From 1944 on he mostly worked as a leader, but impressively performed as a sideman in those years was at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in 1944.
McVea was leader of the Black & White Records studio band and was responsible for coming up with the musical riff for the words Open the Door, Richard and Ralph Bass got him to record it in 1946. It became immensely popular, entering the national charts the following year, and was recorded by many other artists.
From 1966 till his retirement in 1992 he led a group that played Dixieland jazz in New Orleans Square at Disneyland, called The Royal Street Bachelors. When formed, the trio consisted of McVea on clarinet, Herman Mitchell on banjo, and Ernie McLean on guitar and banjo.
In 1945 he played tenor saxophone in a recording session for Slim Gaillard alongside Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also known for his playing on T-Bone Walker’s Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad, and has performed and recorded with B. B. King.
Tenor and baritone saxophonist Jack McVea, who also played clarinet in the swing, blues and rhythm and blues genres, passed away on December 27, 2000. He was 86.
Gary Bartz was born on September 26, 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland. E graduated from the Baltimore City College High School and Juilliard School and got his break playing saxophone into the music industry in his father’s club with Art Blakey, making his debut recording on Blakey’s 1965 Soul Finger album.
Bartz joined the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop from 1962-1964 where he worked with Eric Dolphy and McCoy Tyner. This was followed with stints with Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach in the mid-Sixties. By ’68 he was a part of McCoy’s Expression band.
Gary has played with Jackie McLean, and with Miles Davis on his Live-Evil project. He formed the group Ntu Troop, and has combined soul, funk, African music, hard bop and avant-garde jazz. He has recorded more than 40 solo albums and over 200 as a guest artist with the likes of the Rance Allen Group, Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Norman Connors, Antonio Hart, Phyllis Hyman, Barney McAll, Alphonse Mouzon, Grachan Moncur III, Rare Silk, Pharoah Sanders and Woody Shaw amongst others.
Post-bop alto saxophonist Gary Bartz who also plays soprano saxophone and clarinet has won a Grammy Award in 2005 for his playing on McCoy Tyner’s Illuminations and currently teaches at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio when not touring and recording.