Oscar Castro-Neves was born one of triplets on May 15, 1940 in Rio de Janiero. Discovering his interest in music at an early age, by six he was playing the little viola and the cavaquinho and forming a band with his brothers. He found his musical interest in the synthesis of European classical influenced altered chords with the bittersweet samba-cancao.
He would learn from Johnny Alf who was deeply influenced by jazz, as would all musicians who chose the path to bossa nova. However it wasn’t until the 60s that it would catch on and in 1962 he was part of the historic Carnegie Hall Bossa Nova Festival.
Soon after he befriended Paul Winter and recorded his debut Oscar! on Paul’s label Living Music. That recording led to other sessions as a leader and performances with the likes of Vinicius de Moraes, Dorival Caymmi, and Quarteto em Cy. In 1966 he recorded with Tom Jobim on his Apresenta album before joining Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 and recording Fool On The Hill. Having recorded three albums, he had already gained immediate fame blending commercially Brazilian, jazz and American pop.
As an arranger he has worked for Quincy Jones, Flora Purim, Laurindo Almeida, Joao Gilberto, played with Yo Yo Ma, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Toots Thielemans, Stevie Wonder, John Klemmer and Stan Getz and been involved in projects with Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker.
Guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves continues to record, compose, arrange, score movies and television, perform and tour worldwide.
Jimmy Ponder was born May 10, 1946 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and picked up his brother’s guitar at age 11. Teaching himself by ear and practicing an average six hours a day, he began learning the music of Bo Diddley. Learning quickly he played his first professional gig at age 11 and was performing in Pittsburgh clubs by age 13. He won citywide talent shows and while in junior high, sang in a “Doo-Wop” group and later played guitar in an R&B bands.
At age 16 Ponder set his sights on being a jazz guitarist. He began playing jazz in Pittsburgh with Sam Pearson’s avant-garde group Sam P. and the Players. He also performed with the Bobby Jones Trio and the Jimmy McGriff Trio. After graduating from South Hills High School he joined the Charles Earland Trio and going on the road for three years to begin his long jazz career.
In the 70s Jimmy moved first to Philadelphia and then New York, recording extensively as a leader recording twenty-one albums and over 80 sessions as a sideman playing with the likes of Lou Donaldson, Shirley Scott, Houston Person, Donald Byrd, John Patton, Stanley Turrentine, Etta Jones, Sonny Stitt and Jimmy McGriff.
In 1978 while recording for Muse Records, Jimmy’s “All Things Beautiful” hit #38 on the Billboard Jazz Albums and his 2000 Ain’t Misbehavin’ went to #16. He also recorded with Cadet, ABC, Highnote, Milestone and LRC Records. He considers Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell his major influences incorporating Montgomery’s approach of playing octaves with the thumb into his unique bluesy sound has influenced other guitarists. His playing is described as aggressive rhythm-and-blues figurations with swift and lucid chromatic bop lines.
Guitarist Jimmy Ponder returned to Pittsburgh in 1990 where he led a trio with drummer Roger Humphries. He became at artist-in-residence at Duquesne University and continues to record and work in jazz venues around the country.
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Paul Motian was born Stephen Paul Motian on March 25, 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but was raised in Providence, Rhode Island. After playing guitar during his childhood, he started the drums at twelve, which led to his eventual touring New England with a swing band, followed by enlisting in the Navy during the Korean War.
A professional drummer since 1954, Motian came to prominence in the late 50’s in the Bill Evans band from 1959 to 1964. He briefly played with Thelonious Monk, then in the sixties played with Paul Bley, Keith Jarrett, Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Joe Castro and Arlo Guthrie, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden and Don Cherry. As his career progressed Paul went on to play with many great jazz musicians.
From the seventies on Motian became an important composer and bandleader and by the early 80’s was leading a trio featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonists Joe Lovano. The trio invited occasional guest appearances from the likes of Lee Konitz, Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Geri Allen and others.
Paul continued to have an affinity for his first instrument, the guitar, leading the Electric Bebop Band featuring two and sometimes three electric guitars, while his other groups were absent of piano most times, working in an array of contexts. He played an important role in freeing the drummer from the strict duty of timekeeping. Drummer, percussionist and composer Paul Motian passed away on November 22, 2011 at the age of 80 in Manhattan, New York.
Carol Kaye was born March 24, 1935 in Everett, Washington to professional musicians Clyde and Dot Smith. Growing up in poverty near the Port of Los Angeles, she began teaching guitar professionally in 1949 at age 14. Throughout the fifties Kaye played bebop in L. A. clubs with Bob Neal, Jack Sheldon who backed Lenny Bruce, Teddy Edwards and Billy Higgins.
One of the most prolific and widely heard bass players of her time she played many of Phil Spector’s sessions, Brian Wilson productions, Richie Valens, Simon and Garfunkel, Quincy Jones and Dave Grusin. Her television credits are a who’s who with shows like M*A*S*H, Get Smart, Kojak, It Takes A thief, The Love Boat, Hogan’s Heroes, Mannix, The Cosby Show, Wonder Woman, Mission Impossible and so on and so on.
An educator, Carol wrote beginning in 1969, How To Play The Electric Bass, the first of many bass tutoring books and DVD Courses. By the late 70’s she retired from playing due to arthritis but later returned to session work, teaching both bass and guitar to the likes of John Clayton, and performing, giving seminars and interviews.
A noted session player she carved out a lucrative career beginning with backing the likes of Sam Cooke in 1957 and working with leading producers like Michel Legrand, Lalo Schifrin, Hugh Montenegro, John Williams and Steven Spielberg. She is estimated to have played on 10,000 recording sessions over a career spanning 55 years.
George Benson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1943 and raised in the Hill District. A child prodigy at the age of 7, he first played the ukulele in a corner drug store and received a few dollars for his efforts. At age 8, he was playing guitar in an unlicensed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights that was soon closed down by the police. By the time he was 10, George was in New York recording his first single record with RCA-Victor in New York, called “She Makes Me Mad”.
He attended Connelly High School and although he left before graduation, he learned how to play straight-ahead instrumental jazz during a relationship performing for several years with organist Jack McDuff. At the age of 21, he recorded his first album as leader, “The New Boss Guitar” featuring McDuff, followed by “It’s Uptown with the George Benson Quartet” and “The George Benson Cookbook”.
During the ‘60s he was recording with Miles Davis for Columbia’s “Miles In The Sky”, moved on to Verve for a period and then signed with Creed Taylor producing such albums as “White Rabbit” and “The Other Side of Abbey Road” among others.
Benson released “Breezin” in 1976 and it went triple platinum topping Billboard’s 200. Tuning to vocal chops, the guitarist added a crossover audience adding smooth jazz to his repertoire of genres that include R&B, pop and jazz. The multi-Grammy award winner, he has recorded over two hundred albums and singles as a leader, sideman and collaborator; and has performed with the likes of Jaki Byard, Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson, Hank Crawford, Don Sebesky, Stanley Turrentine, Hubert Laws, Lee Morgan, Red Holloway, J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding, Freddie Hubbard, Deodato, Aretha Franklin, Freddy Cole, and Sadao Watanabe among numerous others.
In 2009 the National Endowment of the Arts honored George Benson with the distinction of being a Jazz Master and he continues to record, perform and tour worldwide.