Dick McPartland was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 18, 1905, the older brother of Jimmy McPartland. His father was a music teacher and a baseball player butt family problems caused the siblings to be partly raised in orphanages. He was an early member of the Austin High School Gang that helped establish Chicago-style jazz in the 1920s.
McPartland started out on the violin and then switched to the banjo and guitar. He played primarily in Chicago during the 1920s including with Red McKenzie, replacing Eddie Lang. He recorded with Irving Mills in 1928 and Jack Teagarden in ’29.
Dick’s rhythm guitar can be heard on sessions led by his brother Jimmy in 1936 and 1939. Unfortunately an early heart attack forced his retirement from full-time music by his early 30s. He later became a cab driver and only appeared at an occasional concert, including in 1955 when he played his final gig. He never led his own record date and on November 30, 1957, guitarist Dick McPartland passed away at the age of 52.
Kendra Shank was born on April 23, 1958 in Woodland, California and was acting in plays at age 5, picked up the guitar at 13, and at 19 began her music career playing in Parisian subways and sidewalk cafés. After several years on the west coast folk and pop music circuit, a Billie Holiday recording inspired her to pursue jazz.
In 1989 Shank began studying with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, while keeping dual residency in Paris, France where she gigged in jazz clubs. Her jazz career blossomed quickly and in 1991 Bob Dorough hired her as vocalist-guitarist-percussionist for his west coast tour. She soon caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn, who invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York and co-produced her critically acclaimed debut release Afterglow in 1994 featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Kendra relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded Wish and Reflections for Jazz Focus Records, the latter debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band. She followed these in 2007 with her groundbreaking A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, and then with Mosaic in which she married her folk and jazz improvising talents.
Shank has been the Downbeat magazine’s top female vocalist for 1999, 2006 and 2007, has been featured on National Public Radio’s JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.
Vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Kendra Shank continues express her talents through performance recording and touring.
Mundell Lowe was born April 21, 1922 in Laurel, Mississippi and in the Thirties he played country music and Dixieland jazz. He later played with big bands and orchestras, and on television, and in the 1960s he composed music for films and television in New York City Los Angeles.
Mundell has performed and/or recorded with with a Who’s Who list not limited to Billie Holiday, Bobby Darin, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Helen Humes, Charles Mingus, Stan Getz, Doc Severinsen, Kai Winding and Sarah Vaughan. He also worked with Carmen McRae, Benny Carter, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Barry Manilow, Andre Previn, Ray Brown, Kiri Te Kanawa, Tete Montoliu, Harry Belfonte and numerous others.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s Lowe was also a well-respected teacher at Dick Grove Music Workshop, later the Grove School of Music, in Studio City, California, teaching guitar as well as film scoring.
Lowe was responsible for introducing the pianist Bill Evans to producer Orrin Keepnews resulting in Evan’s first recordings as a leader. He is a regular featured performer at the annual W.C. Handy Music Festival and a member of the W.C. Handy Jazz All-Stars. He was inducted into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame, was conferred an honorary Doctorate of Arts from Millsap College and proclaimed Mundell Lowe Day as July 18 by his home town of Laurel. The guitarist continues to teach, perform and record.
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Greg Ruggiero was born on April 11, 1977 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and and studied the guitar as a youth. Then at the age of twenty-seven he decided to make his jazz mark in the clubs of New York City and moved to Brooklyn in 2004. It was just three years later that he released his debut record as a leader “Balance” on the jazz label Fresh Sound New Talent.
As a sideman he has recorded with Luisa Sobral, Mark Turner, Nasheet Waits, Greg Osby, Matt Brewer, Logan Richardson, Nick Halley and Gavin Fallow and has several projects that are still in production. Greg has the honor of featured artist at the Canjazz Festival in Galicia, Spain; taught workshops, recorded two records, and performed in concert.
As an educator he sits on the New School University Applied Music faculty, has taught at the Academy of Creative Education in Los Angeles, California, and has been a guest artist and clinician at the Crossties Jazz Festival hosted by Delta State University in Greenville, Mississippi along with Mulgrew Miller.
Ruggiero was a part of the Jazz of Enchantment radio program and educational series as one of the top 20 Jazz artists associated with his home state of New Mexico, along with Frank Morgan, Bobby Shew, Rob Wilkerson and Matt Brewer. Greg has performed with Matt Brewer, Logan Richardson, and many others.
Of late, Greg has renewed his passion for the jazz standard repertoire leading his trio or quartet. Taking license from the classic vocal performances of Billy Holiday, Nat Cole, Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few, his passion has led the guitarist to release his sophomore project “My Little One”, a collection of original music set to lyrics.
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Jeff Barone was born on April 2, 1970 in Syracuse, New York and after hearing a Joe Pass recording received his first guitar at age eight. By age 16 he was playing in local jazz clubs and invited to play with touring bands coming to his hometown. During this period he also performed with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra as well as vocalist Al Martino.
Jeff went on to matriculate through Ithaca College studying classical guitar and percussion. His next stop was the Manhattan School of Music leaving with a Masters in jazz performance. While in New York he worked small clubs with Evelyn Blakey, was part of the Harlem organ scene, and did a stint with Reuben Wilson.
Teaming with guitarist Jack Wilkins, who was instrumental in getting Barone gigs with the Vanguard and the Mingus Epitaph Orchestras, they co-produced Crazy Talk, his first album, with a mix of standards and originals. His next project would be Open Up. He would go on to work with Tom Harrell, Warren Chiasson, Joe Magnarelli, Eddie Montiero and Bobby Caldwell’s Big Band.
He is the guitarist and assistant conductor for the Big Apple Circus in New York City, has subbed on Broadway shows such as Wicked, Seussical and The Dead, and was recently included in Scott Yanow’s book The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide. Guitarist Jeff Barone continues to perform, record and tour in between his other duties.
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