Horace Heidt was on May 21, 1901 in Alameda, California, He went on to attend the University of California Berkeley as a guard on the football team. But a broken back dashed those dreams and he turned his attention to music, forming The Californians with some classmates.
From 1932 to 1953, he became one of the more popular radio bandleaders beginning on NBC’s Blue Network with Shell Oil’s Ship of Joy and Answers by the Dancers and Horace Heidt’s Alemite Brigadiers. He broadcasted from CBS from 1937-1939.
Horace would employ singer Matt Dennis and singing comedian Art Carney. His recordings were highly successful with Gone With The Wind and Ti-Pi-Tin going to No. 1 and The Man With The Mandolin hitting No. 2 on the charts. His 1941 song, The Hut-Sut Song is heard in the movie A Christmas Story.
He returned to NBC to perform on Pot o’ Gold radio show from 1939-194, portraying himself in the film of the same name starring James Stewart and Paulette Goddard. From 1940 to 1944 he did Tums Treasure Chest, followed by 1943–45 shows on the Blue Network. Lucky Strike sponsored The American Way on CBS in 1953.
On December 7, 1947, NBC launched The Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Program and accordionist Dick Cortino the first winner of the $5,000 prize, soon had his own show. Heidt’s talent search catapulted such performers as Carney, Frankie Carle, the King Sisters, Alvino Rey, Gordon McRae, Frank DeVol, Johnny Standley and Al Hirt. When the program expanded from radio to television in 1950, it was one of the first talent shows.
Horace Heidt passed away on December 1, 1986 in Los Angeles, California. For his contribution to radio and television he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
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Louis Stanley Hooper was born on May 18, 1894 in North Buxton, Ontario, Canada but was raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan and studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory, playing locally in dance orchestras in the 1910s. Around 1920 he moved to New York City and recorded frequently with Elmer Snowden and Bob Fuller in the middle of the decade. He was known to perform with both of them in Harlem as well as with other ensembles.
Lou served for some time as the house pianist for Ajax Records, accompanying many blues singers on record, including Martha Copeland, Rosa Henderson, Lizzie Miles, Monette Moore and Ethel Waters. He was a participant in the Blackbirds revue of 1928.
In 1932 Hooper returned to Canada, where he played in Mynie Sutton’s dance band, the Canadian Ambassadors. Working locally as a soloist and in ensembles for the next two decades, he was brought back into the limelight by the Montreal Vintage Music Society in 1962.
Lou recorded a two-LP set with Bill Coleman titled UK LIve:Satin Doll, Vol. 1 & 2 in 1967 and released an album as a leader of ragtime piano tunes in 1973 titled Lou Hooper, Piano.
Wearing the educator hat, he taught at the University of Prince Edward Island late in his life and appeared regularly on CBC television in Halifax. Pianist Lou Hooper passed away on September 17, 1977 in Charlestown, Prince Edward Island. His papers, which include unpublished compositions and an autobiography, are now held at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.
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Gil Evans came into this world on May 13, 1912 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as Ian Ernest Gilmore Green. His name was changed to his stepfather’s Evans early in his life. His family moved to Stockton, California where he spent most of his youth.
Between 1941 and 1948, Evans worked as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. His basement apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry became a meeting place for musicians looking to develop new musical styles outside of the dominant bebop style of the day that included the leading bebop performer Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and John Carisi.
In 1948, Gil collaborated with Miles Davis, Mulligan and others to create a nonet utilizing French horns and tubas keeping the big sound with less cost. The Davis-led group was booked for a week at the Royal Roost as an intermission group on the bill with the Count Basie Orchestra. Subsequently, Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers at three sessions in 1949 and 1950 that were reissued on the 1957 Miles Davis LP titled Birth Of The Cool. He was also instrumental in contributing behind the scenes to Davis’ classic quintet albums of the 1960s.
From 1957 onwards Evans recorded albums under his own name. He brought tubist Bill Barber, trumpeter Louis Mucci along with im and featured soloists Lee Konitz, Jimmy Cleveland, Steve Lacy, Johnny Coles and Cannonball Adderley. By 1965 he was arranging the big band tracks on Kenny Burrell’s Guitar Forms album.
Evans’ influence by Latin, Brazilian and Spanish composers Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo as well as German expat Kurt Weill led him to create arrangements that included two basses, using Richard Davis, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Ben Tucker and Milt Hinton on many of his recordings. He was prolific in his recording until he became discouraged by the commercial direction Verve Records was taking with his arrangements for Astrud Gilberto’s Look To The Rainbow, causing him to take a hiatus from music.
During this period he began listening to Jimi Hendrix at the suggestion of his wife. He became interested in scoring the music of the rock guitarist, put together another orchestra in the Seventies and began working with in the free jazz and jazz rock idioms. He eventually released an album of arrangements of Hendrix’s music with John Abercrombie and RyoKawasaki and his ensembles featured electric guitars and basses, like that of Jaco Pastorious, from that date forward.
He would go on to release Where Flamingos Fly in 1981 with Coles, Harry Lookofsky, Richard Davis and Jimmy Knepper, Howard Johnson, Don Preston and Billy Harper. He created his Monday Night Orchestra in 1983 that became a staple for five years at Sweet Basil Jazz Club in Greenwich Village. Members of the band were Lew Soloff, Hiram Bullock, David Sanborn, Mark Eagan and Tom “Bones” Malone and Gil Goldstein among others. He recorded a big band album of The Police songs with Sting collaborating with apprentice arranger Maria Schneider.
Gil won two Grammy awards, has four films to his credit and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1986. He ha a catalogue of eighteen studio albums, 16 live albums, arranged fifteen albums for Miles Davis, Hal McKusick, Helen Merrill, Johnny Mathis, Macy Lutes, Don Elliott, Astrud Gilberto and Kenny Burrell.
Pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader Gil Evans, who played an important part in the development of cool, modal, free and fusion styles of jazz, passed away of peritonitis in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the age of 75 on March 20, 1988.
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Joyce Collins was born on May 5, 1930 in Battle Mountain, Nevada. She began playing piano professionally at the age of 15 while still attending Reno High School. While studying music and teaching at San Francisco State College she played in groups and solo at various jazz clubs, eventually touring with the Frankie Carle band.
By the late 1950s, Collins settled in Los Angeles, California, working there Reno and in Las Vegas she became the first woman to conduct one of the resort’s show bands. During this period she worked in film and television studios, spending 10 years in the band on the Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart shows.
In 1975, she recorded with Bill Henderson garner Grammy nominations for their Street Of Dreams and Tribute To Johnny Mercer albums. Joyce continued to work in films, coached the Bridges brothers for their roles in The Fabulous Baker Boys. She appeared twice on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz radio show.
She performed mostly in solo, duo and trio work but occasionally sat in with big bands, such as that led by Bill Berry. She has recorded with Paul Horn and under her own name releasing her debut album in 1961, followed by her sophomore release Moment To Moment, after a long gap. She was an accomplished composer, arranger and singer with a delicate understanding of the lyricist’s intentions.
As an educator, in 1975 she taught jazz piano at the Dick Grove Music School. She wrote and arranged extensively, including a program, performed live and on radio, tracing the involvement of women in jazz as composers and lyricists. Pianist, singer and educator Joyce Collins passed away on January 3, 2010.
Eddy Louiss was born May 2, 1941 in Paris, France. Throughout his life his primary instrument was the Hammond organ, but as a vocalist, he was a member of Les Double Six of Paris from 1961 through 1963. He would worked with Kenny Clarke, Rene Thomas and Jean-Luc Ponty and was a member of the Stan Getz Quartet with Thomas and Bernard Lubat. This group recorded Getz’s album Dynasty in 1971.
In duet, Eddy recorded with pianist Michel Petrucciani in 1994 and with accordionist Richard Galliano in 2002. His later recordings, for example, Sentimental Feeling and Récit proche combined jazz with rock and world music.
Louiss spent most of his career leading his own group in France, but twice has made particularly notable recordings, both on organ. He played piano with Johnny Griffin in the mid-’60s, and in 1964, he was awarded the Prix Django Reinhardt.
Hammond organist Eddy Louiss, who left the world a catalogue of some twenty recordings as a leader, passed away on June 30, 2015.