Born Arthur James Singleton on May 14, 1898 in Bunkie, Louisiana, Zutty” Singleton was raised in New Orleans. By the time he was seventeen he was working professionally with Steve Lewis in 1915. He served with the Navy during World War I and after returning to New Orleans he worked with Papa Celestin, Big Eye Louis Nelson, John Robichaux and Fate Marable.
Leaving for St. Lois, Missouri, he played in Charlie Creath’s band before moving on to Chicago, Illinois. There he played with Doc Cooke, Dave Peyton, Jimmy Noone as well as theater bands. He joined Louis Armstrong’s band with Earl Hines and between 1928-1929 performed on the landmark recordings Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. He then moved to New York City with Armstrong.
During the next decade he would play with Armstrong and also Bubber Miley, Tommy Ladnier, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and Otto Hardwick. He also played in the band that backed Bill Robinson. In 1934, Singleton returned to Chicago but by 1937 was back in New York playing with Mezz Mezzrow and Sidney Bechet.
1943 saw Zutty moving to Los Angeles, where he led his own band, played for motion pictures, and in 1944 was featured on Orson Welles’s CBS radio series, The Orson Welles Almanac. He later worked with Slim Gaillard, Wingy Manone, Eddie Condon, Nappy Lamare, Art Hodes, Oran “Hot Lips” Page and Max Kaminsky.
Between 1943 and 1950 he appeared in the films Stormy Weather, New Orleans and Young Man With A Horn. Retiring after suffering a stroke in 1970, drummer Zutty Singleton passed away in New York City on July 14, 1975, aged 77.
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Sonny Payne was born on May 4, 1926 in New York City. His father was Wild Bill Davis’ drummer Chris Columbus. After early study with Vic Berton, in 1944 he started playing professionally around New York with the Dud and Paul Bascomb band, Hot Lips Page, Earl Bostic, Tiny Grimes and Lucille Dixon through the decade.
From 1950 to 1953, Payne played with Erskine Hawkins’ big band and led his own band for two years, but in late 1954 he made his most significant move, joining Count Basie’s band for more than ten years of constant touring and recording. He recorded Counting Five In Sweden with Joe Newman in 1958 on the Metronome label..
Leaving Basie in 1965, he again led his own trio and toured with Illinois Jacquet in 1976. He went Frank Sinatra’s personal drummer for all of the singer’s appearances with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1965 and 1966, and he later rejoined Basie as the regular drummer from 1973–1974. Most of the rest of his career, however, was spent in the Harry James band, which he joined in 1966, and with whom he was working when he passed away of pneumonia at the age of 52 on January 29, 1979 in Los Angeles, California. Harry James paid all of his medical bills and subsequent funeral costs.
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Dave Tough, born April 26, 1907 in Oak Park, Illinois was sometimes Davie or Davey Tough. His decision to become a drummer was not supported by his family or community, so he ventured from his upper-middle class world to the evolving jazz scene of Chicago’s Southside, breaking both cultural and musical boundaries.
Dave worked Bud Freeman, Woody Herman, Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, Red Norvo, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and Benny Goodman. Appearing as the poet-drummer character Dick Rough in the Autobiographical Novel of Kenneth Rexroth, he played at Chicago’s legendary Green Mask,
In the later 1920s, Tough floated between Nice and Paris doing freelance work, touring and recording throughout Europe mostly on the Tri-Ergon label in the early Thirties. During this overseas period he worked loosely with George Carhart and while in Paris he had extensive sessions with Mezz Mezzrow.
Though without official record,he spent portions of 1942-44 in the Navy playing behind Shaw’s Naval Band. He only led one album, a small-sided release by the Jamboree label. Although he had varied successes, one being with the Artie Shaw band, Dave also had difficulties with alcoholism and illness that caused him to lose a number of prominent jobs.
Although he was not known as a bebop drummer, he was a fan and admired the drumming of Max Roach. He was not a flashy, crowd-pleasing drummer like Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich, he was widely admired by other musicians for his taste and subtle rhythmic drive. Dixieland and swing drummer Dave Tough, described as the most important of the drummers of the Chicago circle in the 1930s and 1940s, passed away from a cerebral trauma after falling down on a Newark, New Jersey street on December 9, 1948 at age 41. He was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 2000.
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Slick Jones came into the world on April 13, 1907. He was born Wilmore Jones in Roanoke, Virginia and worked with Fletcher Henderson from 1934 to 1936, then recorded and toured with Fats Waller from 1936 to 1941.
Following his time with Waller, he played with Stuff Smith, Eddie South, Claude Hopkins, Hazel Scott, and Don Byas. In the 1950s Jones worked with Sidney Bechet, Wilbur DePris and Doc Cheatham.
He record with Gene Sedric, Don Redman, Lionel Hampton and Una Mae Carlisle. He worked with Eddie Durham and Eddie Barefield in the 1960s. Though he never recorded as a leader, drummer Slick Jones remained active almost up until his death on November 2, 1969.
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Arthur S. Taylor, Jr. was born in New York City on April 6, 1929 and as a teenager he joined a local Harlem band that featured Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean and Kenny Drew. By the late Forties and into the Fifties he was playing in the bands of Howard McGee, Coleman Hawkins, Buddy DeFranco, Bud Powell, George Wallington, Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce and Donald Byrd.
After leaving Byrd he formed his own group, Taylor’s Wailers but between 1957 and 1963 he toured with Byrd, recorded with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, performed with Thelonious Monk and was a member of the original Kenny Dorham Quartet of 1957.
In 1963 he moved to Europe, where he lived mainly in France and Belgium for 20 years, playing with local groups and jazz musicians Johnny Griffin, John Bodwin, and Woody Shaw while he was in Paris. He returned to the States to help his ailing mother and continued freelancing. In 1993 Art organized a second band called Taylor’s Wailers.
He recorded five albums as a leader and 116 albums as a sideman with some of the most influential jazz musicians of the day – Gene Ammons, Dorothy Ashby, Benny Bailey, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Sonny Clark, James Clay, Jimmy Cleveland, Arnett Cobb, Pepper Adams, Walter Davis Jr., Red Garland, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Continuum, Matthew Gee, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, Slide Hampton, Bennie Green, Tiny Grimes, Elmo Hope, Frank Foster, Erne Henry, Milt Jackson, Thad Jones, Clifford Jordan, Duke Jordan, Ken McIntrye, Lee Morgan, Oliver Nelson, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver, Dizzy Reece, Jimmy Smith, Mal Waldron, Julian Priester, Charlie Rouse, Kai Winding, J.J. Johnson, Toots Thielemans, Randy Weston, Sonny Stitt, Jack McDuff, Stanley Turrentine, and the list goes on and on.
Art Taylor helped define the sound of modern jazz drumming and authored Notes and Tones, a book based on his interviews with other musicians. He passed away in Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital on February 6, 1995.
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