Joseph Alison Harris was born on December 23, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and took lessons at an early age from Pittsburgh native Bill Hammond, an acclaimed master of traditional rudimental drumming. The training gave him the ability to sit in with a band or orchestra and quickly sight-read almost any style of music. While still in his teens he hit the road playing in big-band ensembles for a globe-trotting career as one of the most versatile jazz drummers of his time, one of the last survivors of the golden era of bebop.
A former Pittsburgh band mate, bassist Ray Brown who had joined Dizzy Gillespie’s pioneering bebop band, arranged for Joe to audition for the drum chair, leading to be a member of the group. Fired for demanding overtime pay for a rehearsal, they later reconciled.
Remaining in high demand throughout his career, he married, lived and played in Sweden for five years during the Fifties, welcoming the contrast from the racial prejudices of the United States. Harris toured Europe with a band led by Quincy Jones, joined a state-run band at Radio Free Berlin and accompanied Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday and many other greats.
He spent his last decades at his Manchester home, teaching jazz history and drums for years at the University of Pittsburgh, tapered back his performing schedule and mentored younger jazz musicians. Drummer and educator Joe Harris passed away on January 27, 2016 at age of 89.
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Teddy Hill was was born on December 7, 1909 in Birmingham, Alabama. After moving to New York City, he had early gigs with the Whitman Sisters, George Howe and Luis Russell’s orchestra in the Twenties. He later put together his own band in 1934, which found steady work over the NBC radio network.
Over several years it featured such major young musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, Bill Dillard, Dicky Wells, Russell Procope, Howard E. Johnson, Chu Berry, Sam Allen, John Smith, Richard Fullbright, Bill Beason, Shad Collins, Bill Dillard, Frank Newton, Kenneth Hollon, Cecil Scott, Beatrice Douglas and Robert Carroll.
They played at the Savoy Ballroom regularly, and toured England and France in the summer of 1937. In 1935, he recorded a four song session for the American Record Corporation. In 1936, he recorded two sessions for Vocalion, then signed with Bluebird the following year and recorded 18 songs over three sessions.
After leaving the band business, Hill began managing Minton’s Playhouse in 1940, which became a Harlem hub for the bebop style, featuring such major musicians as Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke. Leaving Minton’s in 1969, long after its musical significance had waned, he then became the manager of Baron’s Lounge.
Married twice, Teddy had two daughters, Gwendolyn and Beatrice, one by each wife. Beatrice would later emerge as the successful actress and singer known by her stage name, Melba Moore.
Drummer, clarinetist, soprano and tenor saxophonist Teddy Hill, who was also a big band leader and the manager of Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, passed away on May 19, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio.
George Godfrey Wettling was born on November 28, 1907 in Topeka, Kansas. He was one of the young Chicagoans who fell in love with jazz after hearing King Oliver’s band with Louis Armstrong on second cornet at Lincoln Gardens in the early 1920s. Oliver’s drummer, Baby Dodds, made a particular and lasting impression on him.
Wettling went on to work with the big bands of Artie Shaw, Bunny Berigan, Red Norvo, Paul Whiteman, and Harpo Marx, but he was at his best with bands led by Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, and himself. In these small settings he demonstrated the arts of dynamics and responding to a particular soloist that he had learned from Dodds.
A member of some of Condon’s bands, George was in the company of Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield, Edmond Hall, Peanuts Hucko, Pee Wee Russell, Cutty Cutshall, Gene Schroeder, Ralph Sutton, and Walter Page. By 1957 he was touring England with a Condon band that included Davison, Cutshall, and Schroeder.
Toward the end of his life, he, like his friend clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, took up painting and was influenced by the American cubist Stuart Davis. Jazz, swing and Dixieland drummer George Wettling, active from the 1920s to the 1950s, passed away on June 6, 1968 in New York City.
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Ernie Farrow was born on November 13, 1928 in Huntington, West Virginia and is the half-brother to Alice Coltrane. It is said that he was responsible for introducing her to jazz. He had his own bands throughout high school and emerged in the professional jazz scene in the first half of the ’50s, working with a series of demanding bandleaders including Terry Gibbs and Stan Getz.
Farrow’s relationship with Yusef Lateef began around 1956, performing alongside Hugh Lawson and drummer Louis Hayes and recording a dozen albums with him from 1957 to 1964. Over the course of his short career he also worked with Barry Harris and John Williams among others.
A few years later he began leading his own group, based out of Detroit and was a strong influence on his younger piano-playing sister. In the ’60s he was featured on bass in a terrific classic jazz piano trio fronted by Red Garland.
Best known as a bassist, he however, started on piano before adding bass and drums. Multi-instrumentalist Ernie Farrow, who played piano, double bass, and drums, passed away on July 14, 1969.
Bill Elgart or Billy Elgart was born on November 9, 1942 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. A student of Alan Dawson, he studied at the Berklee College of Music. By the 1960s he was playing with Carla Bley, Paul Bley, Marion Brown, Sam Rivers, Lowell Davidson, Mark Levinson, Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai, Jack Walrath and Glenn Ferris. In 1968 he made his recording debut on Mr. Joy, with Paul Bley and Gary Peacock.
Moving to Europe in 1976, Bill settled first in Salzburg, Austria and later in Ulm, Germany. He played with Karl Berger, Dave Holland, Ed Schuller and Wayne Darling over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. He was a member of the group Zollsound 4 with Carlo Mombelli, Lee Konitz, and Thomas Zoller. He played in the Sundial Trio with Peter O’Mara from 1982 to 1990, and in 1991 he worked with Caoma alongside Ed Schuller, Sigi Finkel and Tomasz Stanko. He and Stanko also played with Vlatko Kucan in the 1990s.
Elgart worked on the Annemarie Roelofs Projekt, alongside Berger, Frank Möbus, Vitold Rek, and Ingrid Sertso. He has performed as a sideman on recordings by Leszek Zadlo, Manfred Bründl, Kenny Wheeler, Carlo Mombelli, Charlie Mariano, Arrigo Cappelletti, Franco D’Andrea, Wolfgang Lackerschmid, Claudio Fasoli, Sigi Finkel and Paolino Dalla Porta. He has also worked with Tim Berne, Barre Phillips, Eddie Gómez, Conny Bauer, Sheila Jordan, David Friedman and Matthias Schubert. Drummer Bill Elgart continues to perform and record.
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