John Wallace Carter was born on September 24, 1929 in Fort Worth, Texas and attended I.M. Terrell High School. He played music with schoolmates Ornette Coleman and Charles Moffett in the 1940s.
From 1961, he was based mainly on the West Coast, where he met Bobby Bradford in 1965 and went on to work together on a number of projects, most notably the New Jazz Art Ensemble. He also played with Hampton Hawes and Harold Land. In the Seventies he became well known for his extraordinary solo concerts.
At New Jazz Festival Moers 1979 he and the German clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann performed for three days. This catapulted him to garnering wide recognition from around the world. He and Jörgensmann met again in 1984. The program of the Berlin Jazz Fest was built around the clarinet and after Carter’s solo performance, he and Jörgensmann also played together.
Between 1982 and 1990 Carter composed and recorded Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music, five albums focused on African Americans and their history. The complete set was acclaimed by jazz critics as containing some of the best releases of the 1980s.
A clarinet quartet with Perry Robinson, Jörgensmann and Eckard Koltermann was planned for 1991, but Carter did not recover from a nonmalignant tumor. Later that same year he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
He recorded fourteen albums as a leader on the Black Saint, Flying Dutchman, Revelation, Dark Tree, Emanem, and Gramavision record labels. As a sideman he recorded with Horace Tapscott, Vinny Golia, and the Clarinet Summit. Clarinetist, saxophonist and flutist John Carter passed away on March 31, 1991.
Shep Fields was born Saul Feldman in Brooklyn, New York on September 12, 1910, He played the clarinet and tenor saxophone in bands during college. In 1931 he played at the Roseland Ballroom and by 1933 he led a band that played at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel. In 1934 he replaced the Jack Denny Orchestra at the Hotel Pierre in New York City. He left the Hotel Pierre to join a roadshow with the dancers,Veloz and Yolanda. In 1936 his performance at Chicago’s Palmer House was broadcast on the radio.
The sound of his wife was blowing bubbles into her soda became his trademark that opened each of his shows. Holding a contest in Chicago for fans to suggest a new name for the band and with “rippling” suggested in more than one entry, Fields came up with “Rippling Rhythm.”
By 1936 he received a recording contract with Bluebird Records and had hits Cathedral in the Pines, Did I Remember? and Thanks for the Memory. In 1937 Fields replaced Paul Whiteman in his time slot with a radio show called The Rippling Rhythm Revue with Bob Hope as the announcer. In 1938, Fields and Hope were featured in his first feature-length motion picture, The Big Broadcast of 1938.
In 1941 Fields revamped the band into an all-reeds group, with no brass section. “Shep Fields and His New Music,” featuring band vocalist Ken Curtis. He reverted to Rippling Rhythm in 1947.
He disbanded the group in 1963, moved to Houston, Texas and became a disc jockey, later worked at Creative Management Associates with his brother Freddie. Shep Fields, who made a mark during the Big Band era, passed away on February 23, 1981 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from a heart attack.
Bennie Maupin was born August 29, 1940 in Detroit, Michigan. He started playing tenor saxophone in high school and attended the Detroit Institute for Musical Arts, while playing locally. He moved to New York in 1963, freelancing with many groups, including ones led by Marion Brown and Pharoah Sanders.
Well known for his playing as a part of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi sextet and Headhunters band and for performing on Miles Davis’s seminal fusion record, Bitches Brew. Maupin has collaborated with Horace Silver, Roy Haynes, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan and many others. He has also performed on several Meat Beat Manifesto albums.
Noted for having a harmonically-advanced, “out” improvisation style, while having a different sense of melodic direction than other “out” jazz musicians such as Eric Dolphy.
Maupin was also a member of Almanac, a group with bassist Cecil McBee, pianist Mike Nock and drummer Eddie Marshall. He has recorded a half dozen albums as a leader and another three dozen as a sideman with John Beasley, Marion Brown, Mike Clark, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Henderson, Andrew Hill, Darek Oles, Lonnie Smith, McCoy Tyner, Lenny White, Patrick Gleeson and Jim Lang.
Multireedist Bennie Maupin, who plays various saxophones, flute and bass clarinet, failed to catch on as a bandleader, thus maintained a low profile during the past 15 years, until emerging in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Penumbra followed two years later Early Reflections on the Cryptogramophone label, then on Vocalion with Slow Traffic To The Left, Moonscapes. He continues to perform and tour.
Howard Lewis Johnson was born August 7, 1941 in Montgomery, Alabama. In the 1960s he worked with Charles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Archie Shepp, and Hank Mobley on the album A Slice of the Top.
He began a long association with Gil Evans in 1966, arranger of a horn section that backed Taj Mahal on Mahal’s 1971 live album, The Real Thing, which featured three other tubists/multi-instrumentalists, Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley and Earl McIntyre. Howard played with The Band on their Rock of Ages live album, The Last Waltz and into the late 2000s with The Band drummer, Levon Helm’s Band. During the 1970s, he was the band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band; he can be seen in several musical numbers, including playing bass saxophone in the King Tut sketch.
He has also led three tuba bands, collaborated with Tomasz Stanko, Substructure, Tuba Libre and GRAVITY, perhaps his best-known band. In 1981 he performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio.
He had a minor role in the 1983 film, Eddie and the Cruisers as Wendell’s replacement and also appeared in episodes of Matlock and Hill Street Blues. Johnson famously accompanied James Taylor in a performance of Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street in 1983, and also on tin whistle when Taylor sings to Oscar The Grouch.
Tubist, baritone saxophonist, arranger, conductor and bandleader Howard Johnson, who also plays bass clarinet, trumpet and other reed instruments, continues to perform, record and tour.
Happy Caldwell was born Albert W. Caldwell on July 25, 1903 in Chicago, Illinois. He began on clarinet at age 16, playing in the Eighth Illinois Regimental Band and soon after in an Army band. He studied to be a pharmacist but eventually gave up his medicinal studies for jazz.
He worked with Bernie Young early in the 1920s in Chicago, where he recorded for the first time in 1923 and began doubling on tenor saxophone. In the middle of the 1920s he played with Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds, Bobby Brown’s Syncopaters, Elmer Snowden, Billy Fowler, Thomas Morris, Willie Gant, and Cliff Jackson. By 1929 he had recorded with Louis Armstrong.
The 1930s saw him playing with Vernon Andrade, Tiny Bradshaw, and Louis Metcalfe, and leading his own band, the Happy Pals. He played at Minton’s in New York City for a short time before moving to Philadelphia, where he played with Eugene Slappy and Charlie Gaines. Returning to New York he put together a new ensemble in the Forties and continued to work in small settings for several decades. In the 1970s he played with Jimmy Rushing, including on international tours. Never leading his own sessions, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Happy Caldwell, sometimes misspelled as Cauldwell, passed away on December 29, 1978 in New York City at age 75.