Red Richards was born Charles Coleridge Richards on October 19, 1912 in New York City. He began playing classical piano at age ten, and from the age of 16 concentrated on jazz after hearing Fats Waller. His first major professional gig was with Tab Smith at New York’s Savoy Ballroom from 1945 to 1949.
Following his stint with Smith, in the early Fifties Red played with Bob Wilber and Sidney Bechet. He toured Italy and France in 1953 with Mezz Mezzrow’s band alongside Buck Clayton and Big Chief Moore, and also accompanied Frank Sinatra during his time in Italy. He went on to work with Muggsy Spanier on and off from 1953 through the end of the decade, and then with Fletcher Henderson in 1957-58. During 1958 he did some time as a solo performer in Columbus, Ohio, then played with Wild Bill Davison in 1958-59 and again in 1962.
1960 saw Richards formed Saints & Sinners with Vic Dickenson, playing with this ensemble until 1970. He joined drummer Chuck Slate and his band in 1971 and stayed with him most of the year. He recorded an album with Chuck called Bix ‘N All That Jazz and following this he worked with Eddie Condon from 1975 to 1977. In 1977 he played with his own trio through the following year. He played and toured worldwide with Panama Francis’s group, the Savoy Sultans from 1979 through the 1980s and recorded with Bill Coleman in 1980.
Pianist Red Richards continued to tour almost up until the time of his death and passed away on March 12, 1998 in Scarsdale, New York.
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Carli Muñoz was born Carlos C. Muñoz, on October 16, 1948 in Puerto Rico. A self-taught pianist, his music of choice was jazz, European avant-garde and American pop music. Among his early influences were ragtime, early American ballads, boogie woogie and classical music, especially that of Erik Satie and Edgard Varèse.
When Carli turned 16 he headed to New York City with a rock band he co-founded with Jorge Calderon called The Living End, AKA: Space, and for 18 months was the house band at a New York club. He later moved to Los Angeles, California where he worked with Charles Lloyd, George Benson, Wilson Pickett, Jan and Dean, The Association, Chico Hamilton, Wayne Henderson, Les McCann, Peter Cetera and Evie Sands.
From 1970 through 1981, Muñoz toured with the Beach Boys, playing Hammond B3 and piano. Following this period in his career in 1985 he returned to Puerto Rico and stayed out of the spotlight. 1998 saw him opening a restaurant, Carli Cafe Concierto.
His most recent releases include a solo piano project Love Tales, Both Sides Now, with bassist Eddie Gómez, drummer Joe Chambers and flautist Jeremy Steig, Live at Carli’s Vol. 1, Live at Carli’s Vol 2 and Live at Carli’s Vol 3, recorded live at Carli Cafe Concierto, and Maverick with Eddie Gómez, drummer Jack DeJohnette, Don Byron on clarinet and tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, and a tribute album In My Soul, in memory of both Carl and Dennis Wilson.
Pianist Carli Muñoz, sometimes spelled Munoz, continues to perform jazz in his restaurant and often returns to the mainland to perform and record.
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Agenor Garcia was born in Campo Grande, Brazil on October 10, 1967 and received classical training from the age of 12. He eventually moved to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, in 1995 where he started his composition classes with Professor Bohumil Med in the Music Department at the University of Brazil. He also taught lessons at ArtMed, Bohumil Med’s music school and wrote music scores for movies and theatre plays.
Moving to the United States in 2001 Garcia recorded his debut piano trio album Alabastro. During this period he studied jazz under Cliff Korman and by 2003 he received an invitation to participate in the Jazz Walk Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 2004 saw him move to Paris, France, teaching music lessons at the Bill Evans Piano Academy and working as a music director and performing solo. Returning to America, in 2009, he started to work with Steinway & Sons performing contemporary piano concerts across the country. His album “The Music of Agenor Garcia” was recorded live while on the Steinway tour.
Pianist, composer, performer and musical director Agenor Garcia has played numerous jazz festival, has received awards including the Spanish Heritage Award for Best Composition, and in 2014 released his album Symbiosis, blending improvisation with his musical influences. He continues to perform, record, tour and educate.
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Bebo Valdés was born Dionisio Ramón Emilio Valdés Amaro on October 9, 1918 in Quivicán, Cuba. He started his career as a pianist in the nightclubs of Havana during the 1940s, replacing René Hernández as pianist and arranger in Julio Cueva’s band. In 1946 the band recorded Rareza del Siglo, one of his most famous mambos and from 1948 to 1957 he worked as pianist and arranger for the vedette Rita Montaner, who was the lead act in the Tropicana cabaret.
His orchestra, Sabor de Cuba, and that of Armando Valdés, alternated at the Tropicana, backing singers such as Benny Moré and Pío Leyva. Bebo played a role in the adaptation of the mambo into the big band format from the previously performed charangas during the late 1940s and 1950s. He developed a new rhythm to compete with Perez Prado’s mambo, called the batanga. He was also an important figure in the incipient Afro-Cuban jazz scene in Havana, taking part in sessions commissioned by American producer Norman Granz during 1952.
By the late 1950s he was recording with Nat “King” Cole and in 1960, along with Sabor de Cuba’s lead vocalist Rolando Laserie, Bebo defected from Cuba to Mexico. He then lived briefly in the United States before touring Europe, and eventually settled in Stockholm, spreading the techniques of Cuban music and Latin jazz. His career got a late boost in 1994 when he teamed up with saxophone player Paquito D’Rivera to release a CD called Bebo Rides Again. 2000 saw him in the film Calle 54 by Fernando Trueba giving his piano playing a wider audience and in 2003, Valdés and flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, recorded the album Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears).
During his career Bebo won seven Grammy Awards, His last musical production was recorded with his son in 2008, Bebo y Chucho Valdés: Juntos para Siempre (Together Forever). For that recording they won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés, who led two famous big bands, was being treated for Alzheimer’s disease, which he had suffered for several years, when he passed away in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 22, 2013 at age 94.
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Teddy Brannon was born Humphrey Brannon on September 27, 1916 in Moultrie, Georgia. He began learning piano at age nine and played in dance bands in high school while working locally in Newark, New Jersey nightclubs from 1937 – 1942.
Between 1942 to 1945 he was a member of Benny Carter’s ensemble, after which he freelanced on 52nd Street in New York City. The 1950s and 1960s saw Brannon working in the studios with doo wop groups and though he never recorded as a leader, he recorded as a leader with his orchestra in the late Forties and played extensively in the jazz idiom with but not limited to Don Byas, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Bennie Green, Johnny Hodges, Jonah Jones, Don Newcomb and Illinois Jacquet.
An accomplished accompanied he performed and recorded with such singers as Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Billie Holiday, and Babs Gonzales, who was Brannon’s cousin. Pianist Teddy Brannon passed away on February 24, 1989 in Newark, New Jersey.
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