Eggy Ley was born Derek William Ley on November 4, 1928 in London, England and first played drums and boogie-woogie piano. During his military service in the Royal Air Force he discovered and began playing the soprano saxophone.
In 1952 he played with Mick Collier’s Chicago Rhythm Kings followed by stints with Eric Silk and Stan Sowden. Then he put together his own Trad-Jazz band, which received a long guest appearance at the New Orleans Bar in Hamburg, Germany in 1955. Eggy kept the band going throughout Germany and Scandinavia until 1962, and recorded several records, with Benny Waters and for different labels, of which the Blues for St. Pauli became a hit in Germany.
Playing regularly with his band in London, Ley also produced for Radio Luxembourg and between 1969 and 1983 he produced for the British Forces Broadcasting Service. During the 1970s he co-directed the band Jazz Legend with Hugh Rainey and also recorded together with Cy Laurie.
In 1982, he founded his band Hot Shots, ran the Jazzin’ Around newspaper and toured overseas before emigrating to Canada in the late 1980s. Soprano and alto saxophonist Eggy Ley, considered one of the first British soprano saxophonists in jazz, passed away as a result of a heart attack on December 20, 1995 in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.
Hadda Brooks was born Hattie L. Hapgood on October 29, 1916 in Los Angeles, California. Raised in the Boyle Heights area by her parents who had migrated from the South her mother, Goldie Wright, was a doctor and her father, John Hapgood, a deputy sheriff, but it was her grandfather, who introduced her to theater and the operatic voices of Amelita Galli-Curci and Enrico Caruso. In her youth she formally studied classical music with an Italian piano instructor, Florence Bruni, with whom she trained for twenty years.
She attended the University of Chicago, later returned to Los Angeles, becoming to love the subtle comedy of black theater and vaudeville entertainer and singer Bert Williams. She began playing piano professionally in the early 1940s at a tap-dance studio owned by Hollywood choreographer and dancer Willie Covan. For ten dollars a week, she played the popular tunes of the day while Covan worked with such stars as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Shirley Temple.
Preferring ballads to boogie-woogie, Brooks worked up her style by listening to Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis records. Her first recording, the pounding Swingin’ the Boogie, for Jules Bihari’s Modern Records, was a regional hit in 1945, and her most famous song Out of the Blue, the title track to the film of the same name she appeared in on the recommendation of Benny Goodman.
She went on to begin singing with the encouragement Charlie Barnet, and recorded her first vocal recording You Won’t Let Me Go, played the small part of a lounge piano player in films, and was the second Black woman to host her own television show in 1957 with The Hadda Brooks Show after The Hazel Scott Show on DuMont in 1950. She toured Europe, Australia
In the 1970s, she commuted to Europe for performances in nightclubs and festivals, but performed rarely in the United States, living for many years in Australia and Hawaii. Retiring from music for sixteen years, she resurfaced to open Perino’s in Los Angeles and clubs in San Francisco and New York City as well as resuming her recording career. She continued appearing in films throughout the rest of her career, received the Pioneer Award from the Smithsonian and the Los Angeles Music Awards honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Pianist, vocalist and composer Hadda Brooks, who got her name from Jules Bihari, passed away Los Angeles, following open-heart surgery at age 86 on November 21, 2002.
George Wallington was born Giacinto Figlia on October 27, 1924 in Palermo, Sicily and then moved to New York City with his family in 1925. His father sang opera and introduced his son to classical music, but Wallington listened to jazz after hearing the music of saxophonist Lester Young. Acquiring the name Wallington in high school by the neighborhood kids for his flashy clothes, he left school at the age of 15 to play piano in the city.
From 1943 to 1953 Wallington played with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Marsala, Charlie Parker, Serge Chaloff, Allan Eager, Kai Winding, Terry Gibbs, Brew Moore, Al Cohn, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, and Red Rodney. He recorded as a leader for Savoy and Blue Note in 1950, toured Europe in 1953 with Lionel Hampton’s big band and in 1954-60 he led bands in New York City that contained rising musicians including Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean and Phil Woods. During this period he recorded as leader with these musicians for the Prestige and Atlantic labels.
1960 saw George leaving music and moving to Florida to work in the family air conditioning business. He cited the stress of endless touring as the reason, however, he returned to music in 1984 and recorded three albums. He also performed at the 1985 Kool Jazz Festival in New York.
Pianist and composer George Wallington, whose best-known compositions are Lemon Drop, and Godchild, passed away in Cape Coral, Miami, Florida on February 15, 1993.
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Benjamin James Aronov, known as Ben or Benny, was born October 16, 1932 in Gary, Indiana. He played in local jazz and dance ensembles as a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a student at the University of Tulsa from 1951 to 1952, then was conscripted into the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas and played in a military band.
In 1954 he relocated to Los Angeles California and began playing at The Lighthouse, as well as with musicians such as Terry Gibbs, June Christy, and Lena Horne. But by 1961 Ben moved to New York City, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1966.
Following this, he worked with Al Cohn, Benny Goodman, Jim Hall, Morgana King, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, George Mraz, Mark Murphy, the National Jazz Ensemble, Ken Peplowski, Tom Pierson, Zoot Sims, Carol Sloane, and Warren Vache. For 18 years he was the pianist in the Broadway production of Cats from 1982 to 2000.
After leaving Broadway pianist Ben Aronov moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, where he remained until he passed away on May 3, 2015.
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Herman Chittison was born on October 15, 1908 in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. Known as Ivory in the jazz world he began his career in Zack Whyte’s territory band in Ohio in 1928. In the early Thirties he moved to New York City and found work as an accompanist to Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, and Clarence Williams. It was during these years that he visited Boston for the first time with a traveling show headlined by comic actor Stepin Fetchit.
In late 1933 he went to Europe with the Willie Lewis Orchestra and toured Europe and the following year he recorded with Louis Armstrong in Paris, France. Chittison and trumpeter Bill Coleman left Lewis in 1938 and formed a band that worked extensively in Cairo, Egypt and traveled as far east as India. The two musicians would later lead the Harlem Rhythm Makers.
By 1959 Ivory arrived in Boston for a stay of two years and took up residence as the house pianist at the Red Garter bar in the Lenox Hotel. He then moved to the Mayfair Lounge, in Bay Village. He was one of the earliest and most important ambassadors of American jazz in Europe.
Stride pianist, accompanist and virtuoso Herman Chittison, whose style and technique were very similar to Art Tatum, passed away on March 8, 1967 in Cleveland, Ohio.
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