Donald Ray Brown was born on March 28, 1954 in Hernando, Mississippi but was raised in Memphis, Tennessee where he learned to play trumpet and drums in his youth. From 1972 to 1975 he studied at Memphis State University by which time he had made piano his primary instrument.
Donald was inducted into Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1981 to 1982, then took teaching positions at Berklee College of Music from 1983 to 1985. He went on to accept a position at the University of Tennessee in 1988.
Brown has recorded extensively as a leader amassing eighteen albums for Evidence, Muse, Sunnyside Records and since 1996 for the Space Time record label. As a sideman he was a part of the recording sessions for three Art Blakey albums – Killer Joe, Keystone 3 and Feeling Good. Jazz pianist Donald Brown continues to perform, record and tour.
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Tsuyoshi Yamamoto was born on March 23, 1948 in Niigata, Japan. He started to play the piano when he was in primary school. In junior high school, he played the trumpet. His interest in jazz began when he first heard Art Blakey’s tunes in the French movie, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”. It inspired him to return to the piano, to perfect his technique.
Yamamoto was largely self-taught as a pianist, although he did have piano lessons as a child. He attended Nihon University and as a student there, he played professionally, first as an accompanist to pop singer Micky Curtis and the Samurais touring Europe in 1967.
In 1973 Tsuyoshi formed his own band while polishing his piano skills and gleaning influence from Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland and Randy Weston. The next year, he became house pianist at Misty, a Tokyo jazz club and recorded his debut as leader.
He played major international festivals in the late 1970s. While living in New York for a year he performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Sam Jones, Billy Higgins, Sonny Stitt and Elvin Jones (his favorite drummer) among others. He has recorded fourteen albums as a leader and sideman and continues to perform and record.
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto has a very melodic technique and phrasing with a use of block chords in ballads. The composer and pianist continues to perform and record.
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Jan Lundgren was born on March 22, 1966 in Olofstrom, Sweden and raised in Ronneby in the south of the country. He began learning the piano at the age of five and moved to Malmo in 1986 to study at the Academy of Music. He graduated in 1990, later becoming a lecturer at the Academy.
His group, the Jan Lundgren Trio broke through in 1997 with the album Swedish Standards, winning Orkesterjournalen’s Golden Record prize in the same year. In 2007, he became the first Scandinavian jazz pianist to be named an International Steinway Artist.
Since the early ‘90s, Jan has worked with a variety of Sweden’s leading artists both in the studio and/or at concerts such as Povel Ramel, Putte Wickman, Bengan Janson, Jason Diakité, Peter Asplund and Monica Zetterlund to name a few. He has also worked with Johnny Griffin, Mark Murphy, Herb Geller, Joe LaBarbera, Scott Hamilton, Andy Martin, Bill Perkins, Peter Washington, Billy Drummond, Deborah Brown, Lee Konitz, and Stacey Kent among numerous others.
Lundgren has recorded some 40 discs as a leader, under his own name since 1994 on labels including ACT, Fresh Sound, Marshmallow, Sittel, Four Leaf Clover, Volenza, Alfa, Gemini and Bee Jazz. As a sideman, Lundgren has been involved in dozens of other recordings across a broad range of labels.
In 2010, together with Thomas Lantz, Jan founded the annual Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, for which he is Artistic Director. YSJF, has hosted Quincy Jones, Hugh Masekela, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hiromi, Pat Martino, Youn Sun Nah, Benny Golson, Enrico Pieranunzi, Tomasz Stanko, Kenny Barron, Elina Duni, Fabrizio Bosso, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bobo Stenson, Nils Landgren, Benny Green and Eliane Elias, Charles Lloyd, John Scofied, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dianne Schuur, Joshua Redman, Enrico Rava and Roy Hargrove. Pianist Jan Lundgren continues to perform, record and tour.
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Eliane Elias was born on March 19, 1960 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and her musical talents began to show at an early age. She started studying piano at age seven, and by age twelve was transcribing solos from the great jazz masters. Fifteen, saw her teaching piano and improvisation and her performing career began at age seventeen, working with Brazilian singer/songwriter Toquinho and the poet Vinicius de Moraes.
In 1981, she headed for New York and a year later landed a spot in the acclaimed group Steps Ahead. In 1988 she was voted Best New Talent in the Critics Poll of Jazziz magazine, together with Herbie Hancock she was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Jazz Solo Performance” category for her 1995 release, Solos and Duets, received the Downbeat Readers Poll’s “Best Jazz Album” for her recording The Three Americas and has been named in five other categories: Beyond Musician, Best Composer, Jazz Pianist, Female Vocalist, and Musician of the Year.
Elias has recorded with RCA Victor, Bluebird, Denon, Manhattan, Blue Note, EMI, Concord/Picante, ECM and Savoy Jazz spanning over twenty albums to date. She has recorded two albums solely dedicated to the works of the composer, Plays Jobim and Sings Jobim. Her 1998 release, Eliane Elias Sings Jobim, winning Best Vocal Album in Japan and was awarded Best Brazilian Album in the Jazziz Critics Poll. She has been featured in a Calle 54 documentary, received several Grammy nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album, and recorded with Denyce Graves on The Lost Days.
On her first album titled “Amanda” released in 1984 she collaborated with Randy Brecker and shortly thereafter she began her solo career. She has also collaborated with bassist Marc Johnson on the album Swept Away. Pianist, singer, arranger and songwriter Eliane Elias, known for her distinctive blend of her Brazilian roots with voice, jazz and classical music, continues to compose, record, perform and tour.
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Coles on March 17, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama, one of four brothers and a half sister. His brothers Ike and Freddy would follow in his footsteps and pursue careers in music. When he was four years old his family moved to Chicago, Illinois where his father became a Baptist minister and where the young lad learned to play the organ from his mother. His first performance was at age four and he began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning jazz, gospel and Western classical. He went to DuSable High School and studied in the music program under Walter Dyeth.
Sneaking out of the house and to hang around outside the clubs, he listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Noone and Earl Hines, the latter who inspired him. Cole began his performing career in the mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name Nat Cole. His older brother, Eddie, a bass player, joined Cole’s band playing clubs and made their first recording in 1936 under Eddie’s name. They also were regular performers at clubs. He got his nickname, “King”, presumably reinforced by the nursery rhyme “Old King Cole”.
Nat went on to be the pianist in the national tour of Shuffle Along revue about theatre legend Eubie Blake. When it closed in Long Beach, he decided to stay in California. He formed Cole and two other musicians formed the “King Cole Swingsters” that eventual became the King Cole Trio. Their first radio broadcast on NBC’s Blue Network in 1938 led to their Swing Soiree, the Old Gold, Chesterfield Supper Club, Kraft Music Hall and The Orson Welles Almanac.
Cole frequently sang in between instrumental numbers. Noticing that people started to request more vocal numbers, he obliged. There was a customer who requested a certain song one night, but it was a song that Cole did not know, so instead he sang “Sweet Lorraine”. The King Cole Trio signed with the fledgling Capitol Records, known as the “House That Nat Built” in 1943. Revenues from Cole’s record sales fueled much of the label’s success during this period including the construction of the circular building.
Nat would perform in the first Jazz At The Philharmonic, have his revolutionary lineup of piano, guitar, and bass was emulated by many musicians, among them Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Charles Brown and Ray Charles. He played with Lester Young, Red Callender and Lionel Hampton.
Cole’s first mainstream vocal hit was his 1943 recording of one of his compositions, “Straighten Up And Fly Right”, selling over 500,000 copies.
In 1946, the King Cole Trio Time program was on the air, recorded with a string orchestra and his pop stature came with his recording of “The Christmas Song” followed by a string of hits such as Nature Boy, Route 66, Mona Lisa, Too Young and Unforgettable. While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never completely abandoned his jazz roots and in 1956 he recorded an all-jazz album After Midnight. He had one of his last major hits in 1963, two years before his death, with “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer”, which reached #6 on the Pop chart.
He would go on to have a variety show on NBC without national sponsorship despite appearances of Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Frankie Laine, Peggy Lee and Eartha Kitt. He would record Cole Espanol in Havana, Cuba, retool his final Nelson Riddle arranged album Wild Is Love into an Off-Broadway show titled “I’m With You”. Cole performed in many short films, sitcoms, and television shows such as St, Louis Blues, The Blue Gardenia, the Nat King Cole Story and on of his final appearances in Cat Ballou.
Cole was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Alabama Jazz Hall Of Fame, the Down Beat Hall of Fame, the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and has an official U.S. postage stamp in his honor.
Pianist, vocalist, composer and bandleader Nat King Cole, whose baritone voice performed in big band and jazz trio settings passed away on February 15, 1965 of lung cancer. He maintains worldwide popularity.