Teo Macero was born Attilio Joseph Macero on October 30, 1925 in Glen Falls, New York. After serving in the Navy he moved to New York City in 1948, attended the Julliard School of Music, studied composition and graduated from with Bachelor and Master degrees.
In 1953, Macero co-founded Charles Mingus’ Jazz Composers Workshop, and became a major contributor to the New York City avant-garde jazz scene. As a composer, Macero wrote in an atonal style as well as in third Stream, a synthesis of jazz and classical music. He performed live, and recorded several albums with Mingus and the other Workshop members over the next three years, including Jazzical Moods in 1954 and Jazz Composers Workshop the next year.
Macero found greater fame as a producer joining Columbia Records in 1957 producing hundreds of records while at the label, working with dozens of artists including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett and Stan Getz, and was responsible for signing Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Byrd.
Over the course of his twenty-year tenure as a producer at Columbia he produced most of the Miles Davis catalogue including most notably Kind Of Blue and Bitches Brew along with Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, all three of which became three of the most influential jazz albums of all time. Beyond jazz, he produced a number of Broadway original cast recordings including A Chorus Line and Bye Bye Birdie as well as the soundtrack to the film The Graduate.
After his tenure at Columbia, Macero continued as a player and producer on other projects, working with Herbie Hancock, Michel Legrand, Wallace Roney, Shirley MacLaine, Vernon Reid, Robert Palmer and DJ Logic.
He recorded several albums as a leader and as a sideman with Mingus, contributed compositions to other albums, was included as an alternate soundtrack to the 1958 short experimental film Bridges-Go-Round. In the 1970s and 1980s, Macero again released a handful of his own albums, including Time Plus Seven, Impressions of Charles Mingus, and Acoustical Suspension, before founding his own label, Teorecords, in 1999. Subsequently, he released over a dozen albums of original compositions, and continued to produce reissues of Miles Davis and other artists for various record companies.
Teo Macero, saxophonist, composer and producer passed away on February 19, 2008.
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John Haley “Zoot” Sims was born on October 29, 1925 in Inglewood, California to vaudeville parents. Growing up in a performing family he learned to play both drums and clarinet at an early age along with steps taught him by his hoofer father.
Learning to play saxophone he followed in the footsteps of Lester Young, developing into an innovative saxophonist. Always fond of the higher register of the tenor sax, Sims was considered one of the strongest swingers in the field by his peers.
By the ‘50s and into the ‘60s Zoot had a long and successful partnership as co-leader of a quintet with tenor saxophonist Al Cohn, recording under the name of al & Zoot and a favorite at The Half Note club in New York. He added alto and soprano saxophones over the course of his career playing with renowned bands such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich. Zoot also play with Gerry Mulligan and later with Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band.
During this period he recorded a series of albums for Norman Granz on his Pablo Records label and played on a few of Jack Kerouac’s recordings. However, it was early in his career that he acquired his nicknamed “Zoot” while working with the Kenny Baker band in California and was later appropriated for the sax-playing Muppet.
Zoot Sims, tenor and soprano saxophonist passed away in New York City on March 23, 1985.
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Ranee Lee was born October 26, 1942 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She performed as a singer while in high school and after graduation she began her professional career as a dancer, and during the Seventies began playing drums and saxophone with various touring groups in the U.S. and Canada.
Settling in Montreal she turned to the stage starring in Lady Day as Billie Holiday, winning a Dora Mavor Moore Award and singing took over her past musical endeavors. She began recording and released her first album Deep Song in 1989 with bassist Milt Hinton and Oliver Jones followed up with her sophomore project Jazz On Broadway with Red Mitchell.
Over the years with numerous releases Ranee has become one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists and was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2006, the second highest order of merit. Her music appears in the animated short film, Black Soul, and has won a 2010 Juno Award for her album Ranee Lee Lives Upstairs.
An accomplished author, Lee has written children’s books, has performed on stage, television, film and jazz festivals, has sat on the faculty of the University of Laval in Quebec City for seven years and The Schulich School of Music of McGill University. She continues to record, perform and tour.
Jimmy Heath was born James Edward Heath on October 25, 1926 and he originally played alto saxophone until influenced by Charlie Parker’s work with Howard McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie, he switched to tenor.
He shared a short tenure with Miles Davis’s group in 1959, replacing John Coltrane, then also worked with Kenny Dorham and Gil Evans, and composed most of the 1956 Chet Baker/Art Pepper album Playboys. During the 1960s, he frequently worked with Milt Jackson and Art Farmer.
Jimmy recorded a string of impressive albums for Riverside and worked as a freelance sideman and arranger. He has recorded as a leader for Cobblestone, Muse, Xanadu, Landmark, and Verve. By 1975, he and his brothers formed The Heath Brothers with pianist Stanley Cowell.
As an educator, in the 1980s, he joined the faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in the City University of New York. With the rank of Professor, he led the creation of the Jazz Program at Queens College along with teaching at Jazzmobile. He served on the Board of the Louis Armstrong Archives, and the restoration and management of the Louis and Lucille Armstrong Residence in Corona, Queens.
Tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger Jimmy Heath, nicknamed “Little Bird” is the brother of Percy and Albert and the father of James Mtume and is a 2003 recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award and honorary Doctorate in Human Letters.
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William “Sonny” Criss was born on October 23, 1927 in Memphis, Tennessee and at the age of 15 moved to Los Angeles. Developing a concise, bluesy tone he easily fit into the bands he drifted between such as Howard McGhee’s playing alongside Charlie Parker, Johnny Otis and Billy Eckstine.
As his ability continued to increase his first major break came in 1947 with Norman Granz, playing on a number of jam sessions. In 1956 he was signed to Imperial Records, recorded a number of underground classics like “Jazz U.S.A.”, “Go Man” and “Sonny Criss Play Cole Porter” that featured Sonny Clark on piano.
He would go on to record for Muse, Impulse and Prestige record labels, worked with Wynton Kelly, rooted himself in the hard bop tradition recording charts by Horace Tapscott and also several well-acclaimed albums like Sonny’s Dream.
Alto saxophonist Sonny Criss settled in Los Angeles and continued to perform and record but by 1977 had contracted stomach caner. Unable to bear the pain, he committed suicide by gunshot on November 19, 1977. after contracting stomach cancer earlier that year and unable to bear the painful condition he was experiencing.