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Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Ken Gregory was born on April 26, 1950 in Atlanta, Georgia and began playing trumpet at age nine, playing in the Northside Highlander Concert Band for three years beginning in 1960. After four years of private training, during his time in high school he sat 1st chair trumpet in the concert band from 1963 to 1968. He went on to work as conductor and lead trumpeter for the Six Flags Over Georgia orchestra until 1971, then learned to play guitar, electric bass and keyboards.

Gregory started playing the nightclub circuit in 1971 for the next nine years. By the Eighties as performance venues transitioned from clubs to private parties, he partnered with an electronics technician and moved into the professional studio business.

As a composer he has been commissioned to write for Warner Bros. Films, CNN, the Weather Channel, numerous radio and television advertisers, songwriters and lyricists. He has added trombone to his arsenal of instruments and has been recorded on thousands of studio sessions and has engineered audio and MIDI programming.

He performs original compositions with his band Solid State and has been featured on some of Atlanta’s best radio stations, on PBS Television’s Jazz Atlanta, and has performed at the Montreux Jazz, Atlanta Jazz and Inman Park festivals. Trumpeter and engineer Ken Gregory continues to be active in the professional music and record business in Atlanta.

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Johnny St. Cyr was born on April 17, 1890 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  St. He led several bands in the Crescent City beginning around 1905 and performed on the riverboats with Fate Marable. He played for several leading New Orleans bands including A.J. Piron, the Superior, Olympia and Tuxedo bands before moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1923 with King Oliver.

He is most commonly remembered as a member of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven bands. He also played and recorded with Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. St. Cyr also performed with Don Cook’s Dreamland Orchestra. He composed the popular standard Oriental Strut, noted for its adventurous chord sequence.

In 1930 Johnny returned to New Orleans to make a living as a plasterer while still playing with local bands led by Paul Barbarin or Alphonse Picou. In 1955 he moved to Los Angeles, California and returned to music full time. From 1961 until his death in 1966, he was the bandleader of the Young Men from New Orleans that featured Barney Bigard, performers at Disneyland.

Banjoist and guitarist Johnny St. Cyr passed away on June 17, 1966 in Los Angeles, California.

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Ulf Karl Erik Wakenius was born April 16, 1958 in Halmstad, Sweden and raised in Gothenburg. In the 1980s he played with Peter Almqvist in Guitars Unlimited during the intermission for 600 million viewers of the Swedish International Finale of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1985. He went to  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that same year and began recording the first of three records with Sivuca, Aquarela Do Brazil, followed by Rendez-Vous in Rio in 1986 and Let’s Vamos in 1987.

During the Eighties Ulf collaborated with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen also started this decade, and during the mid to late Nineties they recorded Those Who Were and This Is All I AskHe led the U.W. Group, releasing Venture with Jack DeJohnette on drums, Bill Evans and Bob Berg on saxophones, trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Niels Lan Doky, Chris Minh Doky and Lars Danielsson on bass. In 1994 he recorded New York Meeting with Niels Lan Doky, Ira Coleman and Billy Hart.

He would go on to work with  Lars Jansson, Lars Danielsson, Raymond Karlsson, Gösta Rundqvist, Yasuhito Mori, Jukkis Uotila, Carsten Dahl, Morten Lund, Lars Danielsson, Haakon Graf, John Scofield, Dennis Chambers, Gary Grainger, Oscar Peterson, Michel Legrand, Ray Brown,  Pat Metheny Jon Larsen, Stian Mevik, Jimmy Rosenberg Lisa Nilsson, Cæcilie Norby, Viktoria Tolstoy, Esbjörn Svensson and Youn Sun Nah among others.

Guitarist Ulf Wakenius,a member of of Oscar Peterson’s last quartet from 1997 and a member of the Ray Brown trio, continues to lead his own band and record.

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George Freeman was born on April 10, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois. By mid-1947, the guitarist was a member of the sextet led by Johnny Griffin and Joe Morris. He supported touring musicians such as Lester Young and Charlie Parker, recording with the latter on the Savoy Records label.

The mid-1950s,saw George beginning a long association with organist Richard “Groove” Holmes, recording as a sideman and song contributor on Holmes’ World Pacific and Prestige.

After touring with Gene Ammons and Shirley Scott,

Freeman decided against any more road work and based himself in his home city. He often collaborated with his brothers, tenor saxophonists Chico and Von Freeman throughout their careers.

His debut solo album, Birth Sign in 1969 featured saxophonist Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre and organist Sonny Burke. He has worked with Ben Webster, Shirley Scott, Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss, Buddy Rich, Charles Earland, Jimmy McGriff, Les McCann, Eldee Young, Harold Mabern, Kenny Barron, Bob Cranshaw, Buddy Williams, Kurt Elling, Red Holloway, Corey Wilkes, and the Deep Blue Organ Trio. Guitarist George Freeman continues to perform and record.

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Alexander Gafa was born on April 9, 1941 in New York City and worked as a student in the city from 1964 to 1969, playing guitar with Kai Winding and Sam Donahue . During the late Sixties he was a part of the New York Playboy Club playing with Winding, Earl May and Al Foster.

From 1969 to 1970, he was musical director and accompanist for Carmen McRae and performed as a member of the Sammy Davis Jr. orchestra in 1970 and 1971. During this decade he also did some live dates with Sarah Vaughan, one of which aired on PBS.

In 1971 Al played with Dizzy Gillespie and joined his group and toured with him for a period. Under his own name, he recorded the album Leblon Beach in 1976 for Pablo Records. He has recorded as well with Susannah McCorkle, Paul Simon, The Monkees, Alex Leonard, Duke Pearson, Johnny Hartman, Joe Albany and Sonny Stitt.

Before the fall of the World Trade Centers, he and bassist Dr. Lyn Christie would play in a duo configuration in the restaurant on the top floor. He is also part of Tom Lord’s 34 recording sessions from 1934 to 2011 of acoustic and electric guitar, and banjo. Guitarist Al Gafa currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where he performs occasionally.

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