Henry Threadgill was born February 15, 1944, in Chicago, Illinois and first performed as a percussionist in his high school marching band before taking up the baritone saxophone and later a large portion of the woodwind instruments. He soon settled upon the alto saxophone and flute as his main instruments.
He was one of the original members of the legendary AACM – Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago, working under the guidance of Muhal Richard Abrams before leaving to tour with a gospel band. In 1967, he enlisted in the Army, playing with a rock band in Vietnam through 1968. Discharged in 1969 he returned to Chicago, formed a trio that eventually became “Air”, one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed avant-garde jazz groups of the 1970s and 1980s.
Threadgill had moved to New York City and began pursuing his own musical visions, exploring musical genres in innovative ways with his first nonet X-75. In the early Eighties, Threadgill created the Henry Threadgill Sextet, his first critically acclaimed ensemble as a leader, with two drummers as a single unit. He has recorded three albums under X-75 for About Time Records, reformed his sextet and released three albums on the Novus label.
Since the 90s Threadgill has continued to compose, create, perform and record music with various group configurations such as “Very Very Circus” and “Zooid” utilizing electric guitars, French horn, Latin percussion, accordion, cello and tuba.
Edmund Leonard Thigpen was born on December 28, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois but was raised in Los Angeles, California where he attended the same high school, Thomas Jefferson, as fellow jazz greats Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Chico Hamilton. He majored in sociology at Los Angeles City College, left for East St. Louis to pursue music while living with his father, also a drummer, who played with Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy.
Ed first worked professionally in New York City with the Cootie Williams orchestra in 1951 at the Savoy Ballroom, during this decade he played with musicians such as Dinah Washington, Gil Melle, Oscar Pettiford, Eddie Vinson, Paul Quinichette, Charlie Rouse, Lennie Tristano, Jutta Hipp, Johnny Hodges, Dorothy Ashby, Bud Powell and Billy Taylor.
In 1959 he replaced guitarist Herb Ellis in the Oscar Peterson Trio in Toronto, Canada, recorded with Teddy Edwards-Howard McGhee in 1961, led his own 1966 session “Out of the Storm” for Verve, and went on tour with Ella Fitzgerald for five years beginning in 1967.
A move to Copenhagen in 1974 saw Thigpen collaborating with several other American expatriate jazz musicians who over the past two decades had settled in the city such as Kenny Drew, Ernie Wilkins, Thad Jones, along with native Danes Mads Vinding, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson, Alex Riel and Sven Asmussen. He also worked with visiting musicians Clark Terry, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Milt Jackson and Monty Alexander.
Ed Thigpen, a drummer with over 50 albums to his credit as a leader and sideman, passed away peacefully after a brief period in Copenhagen’s Hvidovre Hospital on January 13, 2010 at the age of 80.
Poncho Sanchez was born October 30, 1951 in Laredo, Texas, the youngest of eleven children, but was reared in Norwalk, California. Exposed to and influenced by Afro-Cuban music (mambo, son, cha-cha, rumba, guaracha, salsa) and bebop jazz, he originally started as a guitarist. Discovering his talent for singing during an R&B band audition, he become the group’s lead vocalist. He later taught himself the flute, drums and timbales before finally deciding to pursue conga playing in high school.
In 1975, Sanchez’s idol, vibraphonist Cal Tjader invited him to perform one set with his band. Seeing the young man’s talent, Tjader hired Sanchez for a week before officially making him a full member of the ensemble. Sanchez played a crucial role as conguero for several years until Tjader’s death in 1982.
Before his death, Tjader suggested to Carl Jefferson, Concord Records founder, to sign Sanchez and his soon-to-be-formed group under the Concord Picante label. Tjader’s wishes were honored, and the first two records were composed and arranged by long-time Tjader collaborator Clare Fischer. Poncho produced 19 albums for the label and garnered a Grammy for his “Latin Soul” album.
He has played with Mongo Santamaria, Hugh Masekela and a host of jazz and Latin musicians and vocalists to numerous to name along with the iconic funk band Tower of Power on his “Do It” project. Poncho Sanchez is respected as one of the top percussionists of our time and continues to perform worldwide.
Airto Moreira was born in Itaiopolis, Brazil on August 5, 1941 into a family of folk healers but was raised in Curitiba and Sao Paulo. Showing an extraordinary talent for music at a young age, he became a professional musician at age 13, and his first landmark recording was “Quarteto Novo” with Hermeto Pascoal in 1967. Shortly after, he followed his wife Flora Purim to the U. S., settling in New York City.
Airto began playing regularly with jazz musicians in the city beginning with the bassist Walter Booker and through him began playing with Joe Zawinul, who in turn introduced him to Miles Davis. At this time Miles was mounting the seminal fusion recording Bitches Brew to which Airto became a part of.
After two years with Miles, Airto joined Miles alumni Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous forming Weather Report and recording their self-titled debut album. He left Weather Report and joined Chick Corea’s new band Return To Forever, drumming on the debut Return To Forever and Light As A Feather, commonly regarded as fusion classics.
Airto has played with many of the greatest names in jazz including Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, George Benson, Donald Byrd, Paul Desmond, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Astrud Gilberto, Keith Jarrett and George Duke just to name a few. He also has played with symphonic orchestras and as a solo percussionist, and during live performances often includes a samba solo, where he emulates the sound of an entire band using just a single pandeiro.
In addition to jazz concerts and recordings, Airto has composed and contributed music scores to both television and film including Apocalypse Now and Last Tango In Paris. The drummer and percussionist has taught at UCLA and the California Brazil Camp and collaborated with his wife Flora and P.M. Dawn on “Non-Fiction Burning” for the Aids benefit album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization.
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Naná Vasconcelos was born in Recife, Brazil on August 2, 1944. At age 12 he began playing his father’s guitar and joined the city’s marching band. His intense curiosity and inquisitive ear prompted him to listen to music from Brazil’s greatest composer Villa Lobos to Jimi Hendrix. He played with every imaginable musical configuration in Recife from orchestras to street bands until finally moved to Rio where he began performing with Milton Nascimento.
By 1970 Argentinean tenor, Gato Barbieri came through Rio and invited Nana to join his group and everywhere the played Nana created a sensation. After the tours end he settled in Paris where he made his first recording, “Africa Deus”. He returned to Brazil to record Amazonas, began an eight-year collaboration with guitarist Egberto Gismonti, returned to New York and formed the group “Cordona” with Don Cherry and Collin Walcott, while touring and recording with Pat Metheny.
Throughout his career he has worked with everyone from B.B. King to Jean Luc Ponty to the Talking Heads but has never become a studio musician. With over two-dozen albums as a leader, Nana has contributed special energies to another sixteen albums with such musicians as Walter Bishop Jr., Jan Gabarek, Pierre Favre and Danny Gottlieb that go well beyond the usual contributions of a percussionist.
A master all of Brazil’s percussion instruments, specializing in the berimbau and taking it far beyond its traditional uses, he currently leads his own group “Bushdance” and has developed a theatrically staged piece that explores the full, fascinating range of sounds and songs that lie in the heart of his music.
Nana Vasconcelos has performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, “Luz De Candeeiro” to the AIDS benefit compilation album Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon produced by the Red Hot Organization and was awarded the Best Percussionist Of The Year by the Down Beat Critics Poll for seven consecutive years, from 1984 to 1990. He continues to perform, record and tour.
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