Joe Deniz was born José William Deniz on September 10, 1913 in Butetown, Cardiff, Wales to a Black American mother and a Cape Verdean father. He learned the ukulele first, before upgrading to the fuller fretboard and along with his two brothers they all made their mark on the UK jazz dance scene. He started playing on the docks in Butetown, now known as Tiger Bay, where he played impromptu calypsos for the sailors for small change. As his skill increased so he would join other vagrant musicians traveling through the ethnic centers of Cardiff, playing engagements at houses in exchange for drinks. Eventually a nucleus of black musicians came together with Victor Parker, George Glossop and Don Johnson, finding work in Soho clubs.
After a brief sojourn to his home town, Deniz returned as drummer at the Nest, an after hours London club visited by Afro-Caribbean musicians and where he met Fats Waller and his idol, Django Reinhardt. He went on to join Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson’s Black Orchestra as his guitarist, remaining until 1941 when Johnson was killed in a Café De Paris bombing. He was injured at the time and had lifelong discomfort in his leg from shrapnel. He found session work with many top-flight band leaders, as well as violinist Stéphane Grappelli. His personal fame also rose via solos with Harry Parry’s Radio Rhythm Club Sextet.
Turning away from jazz, he joined his brothers in the Latin-styled Hermanos Deniz, before joining the West End run of Ipi Tombi, a South African musical which featured his duets with his brother Frank. He retired from music in 1980, contenting himself with his memories, passion for DIY and running a successful business. Guitarist and drummer Joe Deniz, never recorded as a leader but as a member of the Hermanos Deniz group, passed away April 24, 1994.
Lauderic Rex Caton was born on August 31, 1910 in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, the fourth son and last among the eight children of Robert Caton, who was of Saint Lucian descent, and Margaret Caton. An autodidact on guitar, he was also proficient on saxophone, double bass, and banjo, and began playing professionally at the age of 17.
After spending time in Guadeloupe and Martinique, he moved to Europe in 1938, playing in Paris with Martinican musician Oscar Alemán. He then moved to Brussels and played with Ram Ramirez, Jean Omer, Harry Pohl, and Jamaican Joe Smith. While in Antwerp, Caton played with Gus Clark and Tommy Brookins.
Influenced by Lonnie Johnson and Charlie Christian, he began amplifying his guitar in 1940. Lauderic played in England with Don Marino Barreto and during his tenure met and befriended saxophonist Louis Stephenson, who became a frequent collaborator. He led a house band at Jig’s Club working with Cyril Blake, Johnny Claes, Bertie King, Harry Parry, Dick Katz, and Coleridge Goode. By the 1940s he played with Ray Ellington and Ray Nance, playing under the pseudonym Lawrence Rix for legal reasons.
Guitarist Lauderic Caton went on to teach and build custom amplifiers. He passed away in London, England on February 19, 1999 at age 88 and was interred in Port Of Spain, Trinidad.
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Ron Escheté was born in Houma, Louisiana on August 19, 1948 and after receiving his first guitar at the age of 14, he joined a quartet and was working clubs in Louisiana before he had even graduated from high school. Attending Loyola University he majored in classical guitar and minored in flute, studying with classical guitarist Paul Guma. Shortly after leaving Loyola he toured with Buddy Greco, setting his sites on the Los Angeles, California music scene.
In 1970 Ron moved to California, working and recording with vibist Dave Pike. By 1975 he joined pianist Gene Harris and quickly establish his reputation as a premier accompanist. However, it was in 1988 that he stepped into the spotlight as a leader during a gig in San Diego. That pivotal moment would lead to a contract with Concord Records and the release of his debut solo recording A Closer Look in 1994. Since then he has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.
As an educator Escheté has dedicated nearly twenty-five years teaching music at many colleges and universities, not limited to North Texas State University, Utah State University, Loyola University, Louisiana State University at New Orleans, California State Universities at Long Beach and Fullerton, and Musicianís Institute in Hollywood. He has authored three books: Melodic Chord Phrases, The Jazz Guitar Soloist and a book of Howard Roberts solos titled Super Solos.
Over the decades the consummate sideman has worked and recorded some 30 albums with among others Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Diana Krall, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Buddy Greco, Mort Lindsey, Dave Pike, Dewey Erney, Mort Weiss, Gene Harris, and Ray Brown. Guitarist Ron Escheté continues to perform, record and tour.
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Arvin Charles Garrison was born on August 17, 1922 in Toledo, Ohio and taught himself ukulele at age nine and played guitar for dances and local functions from age twelve.
In 1941 Arv was leading his own band at a hotel in Albany, New York, then with Don Seat put together a trio that played on both the East and West coasts of the United States until 1948. After 1946 it was called the Vivien Garry Trio, after his wife and bassist.
Garrison recorded on Dial Records with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was actively at the forefront of the early New York City bebop scene in the 1940s. Jazz critic Leonard Feather interviewed him extensively about his time spent playing with Parker. In the 1950s he returned to his hometown of Toledo and played locally.
Some of his recordings can be heard on a few anthologies, such as, the Onyx 1974 release Central Avenue Breakdown, Vol. 1 shared with Teddy Edwards and Dodo Marmarosa and includes 6 of the 8 tracks that Arv and wife Vivien Garry’s quartet recorded for Sarco Records in 1945; Swing To Bop Guitar: Guitars In Flight 1939-1947 on the Hep label that includes Arv’s famous Five Guitars In Flight recorded for Black & White Records in 1946 with Earle Spencer’s Orchestra; and The Complete Dial Modern Jazz Sessions on Mosaic Records.
Guitarist Arv Garrison passed away on July 30, 1960 from drowning during an epileptic seizure.
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Nat Towles was born on August 10, 1905 in New Orleans, Louisiana the son of string bassist Phil “Charlie” Towles. Starting his musical career as a guitarist and violinist at the age of 11, he switched to the bass at the age of 13. Performing in New Orleans through his teenage years with Gus Metcalf’s Melody Jazz Band, he eventually played with a number of bands, including those of Buddie Petit, Henry “Red” Allen, Jack Carey, and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra.
In 1923 he formed The Nat Towles’ Creole Harmony Kings and this jazz band became one of the prominent territory bands in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. By 1925 he was playing bass for Fate Marable, and the following year reformed his own band. 1934 saw him organizing a band of young musicians studying music at Wiley College in Austin, Texas.
Nat worked a club circuit in Dallas during this period, reportedly for a gangster who owned 26 nightclubs throughout the city. During this period T-Bone Walker and Buddy Tate worked for him. During the 1930s he transformed his band into The Nat Towles Dance Orchestra, signed with the National Orchestra Service, and focused on swing music through the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1934 Towles took up residence in North Omaha, Nebraska, where his band was stationed for the next 25 years. With this outfit he dueled with Lloyd Hunter for dominance over the much-contested Near North Side in North Omaha, where he was held over at the Dreamland Ballroom for several weeks. In 1936 and 1937 his band held residence at Omaha’s Krug Park.
In 1943 he also held a three-month stint at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago, and later that year took up residency again with Billy Mitchell in tow in Omaha’s Dreamland Ballroom. He went on to play extensively throughout New York City, playing with trombonist Buster Cooper, saxophonists Red Holloway, Buster Bennett and Preston Love.
As their bandleader, Towles is credited with influencing a variety of musicians including Sir Charles Thompson and Neal Hefti, as well as superior saxophonists Jimmy Heath, Oliver Nelson and Paul Quinichette. As an educator he influenced many younger musicians such as pianist Duke Groner and trombonist Buddy McLewis, aka Joe McLewis.
Continuing to lead bands throughout the 1950s, in 1959 he retired to California and opened a bar. Bassist, guitarist and violinist Nat Towles, who feared the limelight would steal away his best players thus never sought national recognition and leaving no known recordings, passed away in January of 1963 in Berkeley, California of a heart attack.
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