Ben Riley was born July 17, 1933 in Savannah, Georgia and his family moved to New York City when he was three years old. In high school he played drums in the school band, and after graduation he joined the Army, where he was a paratrooper, and also played with the Army band. After his discharge in 1954 he returned to New York City where he began playing jazz professionally in 1956. It was with Johnny Griffin he made his recording debut in 1961.
Ben played with such musicians as Randy Weston, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Rollins, Woody Herman, Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Ray Bryant, Stan Getz and Billy Taylor.. But it was four years playing, recording and touring with Thelonious Monk that established his name and helped direct his career to success.
During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet and the hard bop drummer has recorded three albums as a leader. Riley has recorded no less than another three dozen albums as a sideman working with the above-mentioned musicians as well as Alice Coltrane, Woody Herman, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Bennie Green, Michael Franks, Andrew Hill, Sam Jones, Junior Mance, Roseanna Vitro, Horace Tapscott, Jim Hall, Abdullah Ibrahim and as a member of the group Sphere.
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Leon “Ndugu” Chancler was born on July 1, 1952 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He began playing drums when he was thirteen years old and while in high school he played with Willie Bobo and the Harold Johnson Sextet.
Graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in music education he had already performed with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, and recorded with Miles Davis, Fre ddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, among many others.
Chancler often works as a studio percussionist, his playing ranging from jazz to blues to pop, including Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, as well as Hampton Hawes, Harold Land, Azar Lawrence, Julian Priester, Lalo Schifrin, Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Donna Summer, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Carlos Santana, Hubert Laws, The Crusaders, Frank Sinatra, Weather Report, Lionel Richie, George Benson, The Temptations, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, Thelonious Monk, John Lee Hooker, Eddie Harris, and numerous others.
As an educator in 2006 he became an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California and teaches at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California for three weeks every summer. He is a member of Percussive Arts Society, has been named as one of the top 25 Drummers in the world, is a composer and the sole proprietor of his own publishing company. Drummer, percussionist, studio musician, composer and producer Ndugu Chancler continues to perform, record and tour.
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Donald Dean was born on June 21, 1937. ) He attended the University of Kansas, studying drums and Music Therapy, and playing snare drums in the marching band. He also played tympani, marimba, bells and snare drum in the university’s Symphony Orchestra. While matriculating, he played in a quartet with Nathan Davis on reeds, Elaine Brown Davis on piano, and trumpeter Carmel Jones.
His most famous recording was with Les McCann, Leroy Vinegar and Eddie Harris on the soul jazz album Swiss Movement, recorded live on June 21, 1969 at The Montreux Jazz Festival. He would go on to record a total of eight albums with McCann including Second Movement and Layers. Dean appeared as a jazz musician in the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx movie Collateral, has worked with Kenny Dorham, Jimmy Smith, George Gilliam, Carmel Jones and harold Land to name a few.
The Los Angeles Jazz Institute houses The Donald Dean Collection that includes reel to reel tapes of Sunday sessions at The Lighthouse that he recorded between 1952 and 1955. The collection also features over 700,000 photographic prints and negatives documenting both the southern and northern California scene from the mid 1960s through the late 1990s.
He has recorded on the Atlantic, Verve, Fresh Sound and Posi-Tone record labels, releasing two albums as a leader or co-leader. Drummer Donald Dean continues to perform at the age of 79 leading his own quartets and quintets.
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Ray McKinley was born on June 18, 1910 in Fort Worth, Texas. He got his start at age 9 working with local bands in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. Leaving home when he was 15, he played with Milt Shaw’s Detroiters and the Smith Ballew and Duncan-Marin bands. It was with the Smith Ballew band in 1929 that McKinley met Glenn Miller. The two formed a friendship that lasted from 1929 until Miller’s death in 1944. McKinley and Miller joined the Dorsey Brothers in 1934.
The Dorsey brothers split in 1935 and Ray remained with Jimmy Dorsey until 1939, when he joined Will Bradley, becoming co-leader. His biggest hit with Bradley, as a singer, was Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar, which he recorded in 1940 and got a partial songwriting credit. Known also as Eight Beat Mack, taken from the lyrics to Down the Road a Piece, he recorded the song a trio with Will Bradley and Freddie Slack.
Splitting with Bradley in 1942, McKinley formed his own band and recorded for Capitol Records. The band was short-lived and he joined Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band, which he co-led with arranger Jerry Gray after Miller’s disappearance in December 1944. Upon discharge he formed a modern big band that featuring original material by legendary arranger Eddie Sauter and vocals by the leader. However, with business declining, by 1950 that band was history and his interest turned towards becoming a part-time leader and radio and TV personality.
In 1956, capitalizing on the popularity of The Glenn Miller Story movie with James Stewart, McKinley was chosen to be the leader of the revived Glenn Miller band, which he led until 1966. He co-hosted, with former Air Force band vocalist Johnny Desmond, a 13-week CBS-TV summer replacement series with the band called Glenn Miller Time in 1961. He also wrote the lyrics to the 1945 wartime song My Guy’s Come Back with music by Mel Powell and recorded by Benny Goodman with vocals by Liza Morrow on Columbia Records. His final recording session was in 1977 for Chiaroscuro Records. Drummer, singer, and bandleader Ray McKinley passed away on May 7, 1995.
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Kenneth Clare was born on June 8, 1929 in Leytonstone, London, England and played with Oscar Rabin on English radio in his early 20s. Following this, he played with Jack Parnell and then with Johnny Dankworth for an extended period in the 1950s and early 1960s. In the latter decade he played with Ted Heath and Ronnie Stephenson as well as playing in the studios as a member of Sounds Orchestral.
Clare played drums for the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band in 1963 to 1966 when Clarke was unavailable. But from 1967 through 1971, when the band folded, he was a regular paired with Clarke in what became a two-drummer band for performances, concerts, and at least 15 recordings issued by various labels.
He accompanied singers including Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Cleo Laine. On December 5, 1971 he performed in concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall with fellow drummers Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. Drummer Kenny Clare, who also did extensive work for radio, television, film, and commercials, passed away December 21, 1984.
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