Guillermo Serpas was born on August 1, 1969 in San Salvador, El Salvador and grew up in an environment of rich musical tradition of legendary singers and masterful guitarists of the popular folklore. A gifted musician he was inspired him to learn the highly versatile and lyrical classical guitar. By his early teens he was studying with Maestro Candido Morales.
In 1983, the family moved to Calgary, Alberta bringing the young artist new artistic experiences to embrace. He immersed himself in the music genres of blues, jazz and rock. Guillermo soon joined several local bands and experimented with these different styles, while keeping his focus on classical guitar. He went on to acquire formal studies at the University of Calgary, graduating with a Bachelors Degree in music in 1996.
With his deep Latin roots ever present in his music Serpas has infused rhythmic elements of jazz, salsa, bolero, samba, blues and rock in his performing. Always present is the exotic percussion from his Latin American folklore creating a unique mosaic of sound. He released his debut recording Mi Sol y MI Luna in 2006 with his sophomore project following in 2011 titled Guitarra Bohemia. Guitarist Guillermo Serpas continues to perform, record and tour.
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Dick McDonough was born on July 30,1904. As a child learning and perfecting his technique on the banjo, by 1927 at age 23 he was playing and recording Chasin’ A Buck and Feelin’ No Pain with Red Nichols. Soon after he joined Paul Whiteman’s outfit and later exchanged the banjo for guitar.
As a guitarist Dick did extensive work as a session musician in the 1930s playing with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, The Boswell Sisters, Joe Venuti, Benny Goodman, Miff Mole, Adrian Rollini, Red Norvo, Jack Teagarden, Johnny Mercer, Billie Holiday, Pee Wee Russell Frank Trumbauer, Glenn Miller and Gene Gifford among others too numerous to list.
McDonough teamed with Carl Kress to record as a guitar duet in the mid-1930s as well. He played in the Jam Session at Victor with Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Bunny Berigan and George Wettling. His more notable compositions included Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jibe, recorded by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra with Johnny Mercer on vocals; Stage Fright with Carl Kress, Chicken a la Swing and Danzon.
An influential guitarist and composer, the recording of his version of Fats Waller’s Honeysuckle Rose has to be considered the first “guitar solo” rendition of a jazz standard still preserved. It is a known fact that New Orleans’ guitarist Snoozer Quinn did the same in the 1920’s before everybody else, but those recordings were never issued and, until now, are considered totally lost.
The ‘guitar unaccompanied solo’ tradition followed with among others, Carl Kress, Oscar Aleman, Django Reinhardt, George Van Eps, Al Viola and in the Seventies Joe Pass brought it to a new level. But had it not been for Dick McDonough with his acoustic L5 giving to guitar a new dimension in 1934, this tradition would not have been created. Dick McDonough was unfortunately also an alcoholic and subsequently succumbed to the illness at the age of 33 on May 25, 1938.
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Bill Lee was born William James Edwards Lee III on July 23, 1928 in Snow Hill, Alabama the son of Alberta Grace Edwards, a concert pianist, and Arnold Wadsworth Lee, a musician. A bassist by profession, he is also a composer, arranger and conductor.
Bill scored his son’s first four movies, and was also the musical director and performer Sonny Darling in She’s Gotta Have It, the bassist in the Phyllis Hyman Quartet and the music conductor of the Natural Spiritual Orchestra for School Daze and Do The Right Thing, and appeared as Father of the Bride and also the music director for Mo’ Better Blues.
Lee was arrested in 1991 during a police drug sweep for heroin possession, fell out with his son, Spike Lee, over the arrest and subsequent interracial marriage to second wife that took place shortly after his first wife Jacquelyn, Spike’s mother, passed away from cancer. Bad blood continued as Spike made Jungle Fever that set a negative light on White/Black romantic relationships.
Along with Stuart Scharf he was the music arranger for the stage play A Hand is on the Gate. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Harry Belafonte television specials, has composed operas, stage music for the Apollo Theatre and has recorded with The Brass Company, Stanley Cowell, Richard Davis, Clifford Jordan, Harold Mabern, Pat Martino, Johnny Griffin, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Odetta, Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot and Peter, Paul and Mary among others. Double bassist and bass guitarist Bill Lee continues to compose, arrange and conduct.
Jimmy Bruno was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1953 to a father who played guitar and a mother who was a gifted singer. He began playing guitar at the age of 7, playing eight to ten hours a day. He studied jazz improvisation with Philly bassist Al Stauffer and to develop technique, taught himself to play the rigorous and exacting classical violin etudes of Wohlfahrt and Paganini. Although he briefly considered leveraging his perfect SAT scores into medical school, a summer guitar gig in Wildwood, New Jersey changed the direction of his life. He began his professional career at the age of 19, touring with Buddy Rich.
Jimmy went on to play guitar in orchestras for Anthony Newley, Doc Severinsen, Lena Horne, and many more music icons. A move to Los Angeles, California saw him as a session musician for many years working with Tommy Tedesco. By his mid-thirties he was ready to pursue jazz and he moved back East. Back in his hometown he played small clubs and venues during the 1980s, met Concord Records founder Carl Jefferson and landed a multi-CD deal that has elicited 13 critically acclaimed sessions.
Bruno has shared the stage with Joe Beck, Bobby Watson, Jack Wilkins, Tal Farlow, Howard Alden, Christian McBride, Kurt Elling and many more. Among his many credits, Bruno is the only guitarist to have ever led Fank Sinatra’s band. He counts Johnny Smith, Hank Garland, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, Howard Roberts, Jim Hall and Pat Martino among his influences.
As an educator, in 2007, Jimmy and Affiliated Artists opened the Jimmy Bruno Guitar Institute (JBGI) bringing his method and approach to jazz improvisation to eager guitar students around the world. In 2011 Jimmy opened up Jimmy Bruno’s Guitar Workshop, a website that allows students to learn directly from him through video lessons. He continues to perform and record as well.
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Vince Guaraldi was born Vincent Anthony Dellaglio on July 17, 1928 in San Francisco, California. Growing up in the North Beach area, taking the name of his stepfather Tony Guaraldi after being adopted and being around his maternal uncle was a musician, singer and whistle all became an important influence on his blossoming musical career. He attended Lincoln High School, went on to San Francisco State University and then enlisted and served as an Army cook during the Korean War.
His first recording was a self-titled LP recorded in 1953 with the Cal Tjader Trio and released early the following year. By 1955, Guaraldi had his own trio with Eddie Duran and and Dean Reilly. Reuniting with Tjader in 1956 he became an integral part of two bands that the vibraphonist assembled, the first band played mainly straight jazz with Al Torre on drums and Eugene Wright on bass and Luis Kant playing congas and bongos. The second band included Al McKibbon, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bob, Paul Horn and Jose “Chombo” Silva. He made a big splash with his performance with Tjader at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival.
Vince left the group early in 1959 to pursue his own projects full-time. He probably would have remained a well-respected but minor jazz figure had he not written an original number to fill out his covers of Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luis Bonfá tunes on his 1962 album, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. His label, Fantasy Records released the single Samba de Orpheus with his original Cast Your Fate To The Wind on the B-side trying to catch the building bossa nova wave. As providence would have radio DJs began flipping it over and playing the B-side and the gentle, likeable tune stood out from everything else on the airwaves and became a grassroots hit and won the Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition.
Guaraldi would go on to record with Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, began experimenting with electric piano and then composed a series of Latin influenced waltz tempos and jazz standards for the Eucharist chorus at the San Francisco Grace Cathedral. Through contact with Peanuts television producer Lee Mendelson, he was commissioned to score the upcoming Christmas special and played what would become Linus and Lucy over the phone two weeks later. The Vince Guaraldi Trio with drummer Jerry Granelli and bassist Fred Marshall recorded the soundtrack and he would go on to compose scores for seventeen Peanuts television specials, plus the feature film A Boy Called Charlie Brown.
Pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi passed away at age 47 on February 6, 1976. The evening before, he had dined at Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson’s home and was reportedly not feeling well, complaining of indigestion-like chest discomfort that his doctor had told him was nothing to worry about. The following evening, after concluding the first set at Butterfield’s Nightclub in Menlo Park, California with his interpretation of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, Guaraldi and drummer Jim Zimmerman returned to the room they were staying in that weekend at the adjacent Red Cottage Inn, to relax before the next set. Walking across the room he just collapsed. That was it. The cause of death has been variously described as a heart attack or an aortic aneurysm. He had just finished recording the soundtrack for It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon. He left us a modest catalogue of some 32 albums as a leader or co-leader, 14 notable appearances as a sideman and another eleven showcasing or featuring his music.