Eddie Harris was born on October 20, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois to a Cuban father and New Orleans mother. He studied music at DuSable High School, then Roosevelt University becoming proficient on piano, vibraphone and tenor saxophone and playing professionally with Gene Ammons.
After graduating and a stint in the 7th Army Band playing alongside Leo Wright, Don Ellis and Cedar Walton, he worked in New York City prior to his Chicago return. He signed with Vee Jay Records and released his debut “Exodus To Jazz” and his jazz arrangement of the theme to Exodus was so heavily played on radio, it became the first jazz record ever to be certified gold.
Throughout his career he recorded for Columbia and Atlantic Records, ventured into electric piano and Varitone saxophone mixing jazz with funk on albums like “The Electrifying Eddie Harris” and crossing into rhythm and blues markets. By 1969 he would perform with Les McCann at Montreux with an unrehearsed band that produced the seminal work Swiss Movement that became one of the best selling jazz albums ever.
In the early to mid ‘70s Harris experimented with altering instruments like his reed trumpet with a sax mouthpiece, saxobone with a trombone mouthpiece and guitorgan, a guitar/organ combination. He also forayed into singing blues, played with jazz-rock, and comic R&B consisting of mostly stand-up comedy all of which ultimately declined his popularity.
He would work with Horace Silver in the ‘80s, record regularly well into the 1990s, tour and perform in Europe and return to hard bop. His move to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s allowed him the opportunity to provide much of the music for The Bill Cosby Show.
Eddie Harris, tenor saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist and composer of “Freedom Jazz Dance” popularized by Miles Davis in the Sixties and also the tune “Listen Here”, passed away from bone cancer and kidney disease at the age of 62 on November 5, 1996.
Melvin Rhyne was born on October 12, 1936 in Indianapolis, Indiana and started playing the piano shortly thereafter. By the time he turned 19 he was playing piano with then-unknown tenor saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk but quickly switched to the Hammond B3 organ. His skills as a pianist fluidly translated to the organ fluently and he soon became a sideman for B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.
Melvin’s big break came in 1959 when he joined fellow Indianapolis jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery’s newly formed trio. Playing with Montgomery for five years, he recorded four sessions with the trio: Guitar on the Go, Round Midnight, Boss Guitar, and Portrait of Wes.
After the Montgomery years, Rhyne moved to Wisconsin and largely kept to himself for the next two decades. However, in 1991 Rhyne returned to the jazz scene in full force, playing on Herb Ellis’ album Roll Call, with Brian Lynch on At the Main Event, and his own comeback The Legend. Rhyne continued to be prolific in the years to come, releasing eight more solo albums for the Criss Cross jazz label.
In 2008 Rhyne teamed up with Rob Dixon forming the Dixon-Rhyne Project, a boundary-pushing jazz quartet and released Reinvention for Owl Studios in 2008. Melvin continues to perform live and record with his trio consisting of drummer Kenny Washington and guitarist Peter Bernstein. On March 5, 2013 hard bop organist, bandleader and composer Melvin Rhyne passed away in his hometown of Indianapolis at age 76.
Jack Wilson was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 3, 1936 but grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana from the age of seven. From 1949-54, he studied piano with Carl Atkinson at the Fort Wayne College of Music where he was introduced to the music of George Shearing.
Wilson later picked up the tenor saxophone and played in the Central High School band. He began performing locally leading small combos. By his fifteenth birthday, he had become the youngest member ever to join the Fort Wayne Musicians Union, Local 58. At 17, James Moody hired him to play a two-week stint as a substitute pianist.
After graduating from Central High, Jack spent a year-and-a-half at Indiana University, where he met Freddie Hubbard and Slide Hampton. Then touring with a rock ‘n roll band, he wound up in Columbus, Ohio and connecting with then unknown Nancy Wilson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
After a year in Columbus, he moved to Atlantic City and led the house band at the Cotton Club, adding organ to his musical arsenal. At the Club he met Dinah Washington and worked with her from 1957-58.
A return to Chicago, Wilson was playing with Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris and Al Hibbler and holding down the gig at the Persian Lounge. Drafted into the Army, he went to Fort Stewart, GA. and became the first Black music director for the Third Army Area, playing tenor saxophone in the army band.
In 1961, jack received an honorable medical discharge due to diabetes, returned to Dinah Washington’s band for a year and encouraged by Buddy Collette moved to Los Angeles, California. It was here he worked with Gerald Wilson, Lou Donaldson, Herbie Mann, Johnny Griffin, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan, Lou Rawls, Eartha Kitt, Julie London, as well as Sonny & Cher. He composed and recorded the title track for Earl Anderza’s debut album Outa Sight!
Wilson recorded his debut as a leader for Atlantic Records with The Jack Wilson Quartet featuring Roy Ayers followed by a sophomore project, then three for the label’s subsidiary Vault Records and three albums for Blue Note including the classic Easterly Winds in 1967. From there he focused on work with vocalist Esther Phillips, went back to the studio for Discovery Records, and returned to be a sideman with Lorez Alexandria, Tutti Camarata and Eddie Harris.
His final recording session simply titled In New York, took place on June 4, 1993 and featured legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb. Composer and pianist Jack Wilson died on October 5, 2007 due to complications from his life with diabetes.
George Gruntz was born in Basel, Switzerland on June 24, 1932. The young pianist won prizes at Zurich Jazz Festivals and in 1958 was pianist with the International Youth Band at the Newport Jazz Festival. While there he accompanied, among others Louis Armstrong and in an instant became famous.
George went on to work with jazz musicians Phil Woods, Roland Kirk, Don Cherry, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin and Mel Lewis to name a few. From 1972 to 1994 he served as artistic director for the JazzFest Berlin, composed his first opera, founded the Piano Conclave and the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and moderated the TV music series “All You Need Is Love”.
An accomplished arranger and composer, having been commissioned by many orchestra and symphonies, he is also an organist, harpsichordist and keyboardist with more that three dozen albums to his credit. He continued to compose, arrange, record and perform until his death on January 10, 2013.
Keith Jarrett was born on May 8, 1945, in Allentown, Pennsylvania and had significant early exposure to music. He possessed absolute pitch and displayed prodigious musical talents as a young child. He began piano lessons just before his third birthday, and at age five he appeared on a TV talent program and by seven had given his first classical piano recital. During his teens he began leaning towards jazz, turned down classical training in Paris and attended Berklee College of Music
He started his career with Art Blakey and after his tenure as a Jazz Messenger moving on to play with Charles Lloyd and Miles Davis. Since the early 70s he has enjoyed a great deal of success in jazz, jazz-fusion, and classical music; as a group leader and a solo performer. His improvisations draw not only from the traditions of jazz but from other genres as well, especially Western classical music, gospel, blues, blues and ethnic folk music.
Jarrett has received the Polar Music Prize, the Leonie Sonning Music Prize, was inducted into the Down Beat Down Beat Hall of Fame, played with Jack DeJohnette, Charles Lloyd, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Airto Moreira, Palle Danielson and Jan Garbarek among others.
Jarrett’s compositions and the strong musical identities of the group members gave this ensemble a very distinctive sound. The quartet’s music is an amalgam of free jazz, straight-ahead post-bop, gospel music, and exotic, Middle-Eastern-sounding improvisations. He has played as a soloist, trio, returned also to classical music, incorporates vocalizations of grunts, squeals and tuneless singing. He continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
In 2003, Jarrett received the Polar Music Prize, the first (and to this day only) recipient not to share the prize with a co-recipient, and in 2004 he received the Leonie Sonning Music Prize. In 2008, he was inducted into the Down Beat hall of Fame in the magazine’s 73rd Annual Readers’ Poll. He continues to tour and record.