John Hammond Sr. was born into a wealthy family on December 15, 1910 in New York City. Educated at Yale, he had a great love for Black music and as early as 1933, at 22, he was active in the music business, discovering Billie Holiday and getting her into the recording studio, producing Bessie Smith’s final sessions, and becoming a friend of young Benny Goodman. One of swing music’s greatest propagandists, he was responsible for at least partly discovering a remarkable list of musicians through the years making their rise to fame much more swift.
Hammond was a masterful talent scout, producer, promoter, and an early fighter against racism, he produced freewheeling American jazz sessions for the European market, worked with Fletcher Henderson and Benny Carter, and encouraged Goodman to form his first big band. In 1935 he teamed Lady Day with pianist Teddy Wilson for a series of recordings, and the following year he discovered Count Basie’s orchestra while randomly scanning the radio dial. He then flew to Kansas City, encouraged Basie to come East and in 1938 and 1939 he organized the famous “Spirituals to Swing” all-star Carnegie Hall concerts.
After hearing about Charlie Christian in 1939, he flew out to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to listen to the young guitarist and flew him to Los Angeles, California where he had set up an audition for an initially reluctant Goodman. In addition to his work as a promoter and a record producer, most notably for Columbia during 1937-1943, John was a jazz critic.
After World War II military service felt misplaced in the jazz scene of the mid-’40s, never gaining a taste for bebop. However, by the Fifties he produced a superior series of mainstream dates for Vanguard featuring swing era veterans. Hammond worked through the years for Keynote, Majestic, and Mercury, and during 1959-1975 he was again a major force at Columbia, where he helped the careers of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Bruce Springsteen, and Adam Makowicz, among others.
1967 saw him organizing a new “Spirituals to Swing” concert, and in 1977 his autobiography John Hammond on Record was published. Producer, promoter, critic and talent scout John Hammond Sr. passed away on July 10, 1987 in New York City.
Dan Morgenstern was born October 24, 1929 in Munich, Germany and was raised in Vienna, Austria and Copenhagen, Netherlands before arriving in the United States in 1947. He wrote for Jazz Journal from 1958–1961, then edited several jazz magazines: Metronome in 1961, Jazz from 1962–1963, and Down Beat from 1967-1973.
In 1976, he was named director of Rutgers–Newark’s Institute of Jazz Studies, where he continued the work of Marshall Stearns and made the Institute the world’s largest collection of jazz documents, recordings, and memorabilia.
Over the course of his career, Morgenstern has arranged concerts including the Jazz in the Garden series at the Museum of Modern Art, produced and hosted television and radio programs, taught jazz history at universities and conservatories, and served as a panelist for jazz festivals and awards across the U.S. and Europe.
Widely known as a prolific writer of comprehensive, authoritative liner notes, he has received eight Grammy Awards for Best Album Notes since 1973 for Art Tatum’s God Is in the House, Coleman Hawkins’ The Hawk Flies, Savoy Records Collection The Changing Face of Harlem, Erroll Garner: Master of the Keyboard, Clifford Brown, Brownie: The Complete Emarcy Recordings of Clifford Brown, Louis Armstrong, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Fats Waller, If You Got to Ask, You Ain’t Got It!, and The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions.
He has authored two books that have won ASCAP’s Deems Taylor Award: Jazz People in 1976 and Living with Jazz in 2004. In 2007, he received the A.B. Spellman Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy from the National Endowment for the Arts. Writer, editor, archivist and producer Dan Morgenstern continues his career at 87 years of age.
Arif Mardin was born on March 15, 1932 in Istanbul, Turkey into a family of privilege that included statesmen, diplomats, leaders and business owners of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. He grew up listening to Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller, met jazz critic Cuneyt Sermet, who turned him onto this music and eventually became his mentor. After graduating from Istanbul University in Economics and Commerce, he studied at the London School of Economics. Though never intending to pursue a career in music, influenced by his sister’s music records and jazz, he became an accomplished orchestrator and arranger.
In 1956 fate took him down a different path when he met Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones at a Ankara concert. He sent three demo compositions to his radio friend Tahir Sur who subsequently took these compositions to Jones and Mardin became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Two years later with fiancé Latife, he relocated to Boston. After graduating in 1961, he taught at Berklee for one year and then moved to New York City to try his luck.
His career began at Atlantic Records in 1963 as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegün. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming studio manager, label house producer and arranger. In 1969, Arif became the Vice President and later served as Senior Vice President until 2001. He worked closely on many projects with co-founders Ertegün and Jerry Wexler, as well as noted recording engineer Tom Dowd. The three of them, Dowd, Mardin, and Wexler, became legendary and were responsible for establishing the Atlantic Sound.
He recorded two solo albums in the Seventies, Glass Onion and Journey, the latter wearing the hats of composer, arranger, electric pianist and percussionist. Mardin performed with Randy and Michael Brecker, Joe Farrell, Gary Burton, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham and many others. He composed, arranged, conducted and produced The Prophet in 1974, an interpretation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet voiced by Richard Harris.
Arif produced George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Vince Mendoza, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, but not limited to jazz he also produced, among others, Margie Joseph, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Raul Midón, Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Queen, Jeffrey Osborne, and numerous others. In 1975 he discovered Barry Gibb’s distinctive falsetto that became the Bee Gees trademark.
Over a 40 year career Mardin produced forty gold and platinum albums, 11 Grammy Awards, was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, and was a trustee of Berklee and awarded an honorary doctorate
Pianist, percussionist, producer, arranger, studio manager and vice president Arif Mardin passed away at his home in New York City on June 25, 2006 following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.
Rudolph “Rudy” Van Gelder was born on November 2, 1924 in Jersey City, New Jersey. His interest in microphones and electronics can be traced to a youthful enthusiasm for amateur radio. Named for his uncle who had been the drummer in Ted Lewis’s band in the mid-1930s, he took trumpet lessons and trained as an optometrist at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, in Philadelphia, thinking he could not earn a living as a recording engineer.
From 1943, after graduating, Van Gelder had an optometry practice in Teaneck, New Jersey, and moonlighted recording local musicians in the evenings who wanted 78-rpm recordings of their work. From 1946, Van Gelder recorded in his parents’ house in Hackensack, New Jersey, in which a control room was built adjacent to the living room, which served as the musicians’ performing area. The dry acoustics of this working space were partly responsible for Van Gelder’s inimitable recording aesthetic.
Interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment he acquired everything that could play back audio: speakers, turntables and amplifiers. One of Rudy’s friends, baritone saxophonist Gil Mellé, introduced him to Alfred Lion, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years he was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York City, such as Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige Records. To accommodate each label – Blue Note, Prestige, Savoy, Impulse, Verve he assigned them to different days as Lion was more stringent with the sound of original music, Weinstock had essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history.He also engineered and mastered for the classical label Vox Records in the Fifties.
Van Gelder worked during the day as an optometrist until the summer of 1959, when he moved his operations to a larger studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and became a full-time recording engineer. The new studio’s design was inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright had high ceilings and fine acoustics with “no food or drink and do not touch microphones” policy as he himself always wore gloves when handling equipment.
By 1967 the labels were beginning to utilize other engineers more regularly but Rudy remained active engineering nearly all of Creed Taylor’s CTI Records releases, a series of proto-smooth jazz albums that were financially successful, but not always well received by critics. He was not without his detractors. Despite his prominence in the industry, like Lion who didn’t care for the overuse of reverb, and Charles Mingus refused to work with him because he change the sound of his bass. He remastered the analog Blue Note recordings into 24-bit digital recordings in its RVG Edition series and also remasters of some of the Prestige albums, and was happy to see the LP go by the wayside because it was hard for him to get the sound the way he thought it should be.
He received awards and honors being named a fellow of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), received the society’s most prestigious award, the AES Gold Medal, named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, received the Grammy Trustees Award, and Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder titled Hackensack.
Producer and recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who specialized in jazz and regarded as the most important recording engineer of jazz by some observers, passed away at home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 25, 2016. Among the several thousand jazz sessions he recorded are the acknowledged classics John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’s Walkin’, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Sonny Rollins’s Saxophone Colossus and Horace Silver’s Song for My Father.
Delfeayo Marsalis was born July 28, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana into the musical family in which father and three brothers are musicians. Lying under the piano as a child while his father played, he eventually tried the bass and the drums but by the sixth grade gravitated to the trombone. His early influences were J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn and Tommy Dorsey.
He went on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts high school and was classically trained at the Eastern Music Festival and Tanglewood Institute. He graduated from Berklee School of Music and the University of Louisville with degrees in performance and audio production.
While a gifted trombonist, Delfeayo has recorded only five albums as a leader and is more prolific and better known for his work as a producer of over 100 acoustic jazz recordings. Since the age of 17 he has produced such artists as Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Roberts, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his family members – Ellis, Branford and Wynton.
Along with Tonight Show engineer Patrick Smith, he coined “to obtain more wood sound from the bass recorded without usage of the dreaded bass direct”, a phrase that became the single sentence to define the recorded quality of many acoustic jazz recordings since the late ’80s.
Forming Uptown Music Theatre in 2000, the organization has trained over 300 youth and staged 8 original musicals, all of which are based upon the mission of “community unity.” Marsalis has toured with internationally renowned bandleaders Art Blakey, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Abdullah Ibrahim. In addition he has performed and toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, was a part of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz and is an integral part of Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration DVD.
Delfeayo Marsalis, along with his father and brothers, are group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award. He continues to perform, record, tour and produce.