George Duke was born on January 12, 1946 in San Rafael, California and raised in Marin City. It was at the young age of 4 that he first became interested in the piano when his mother took him to see Duke Ellington in concert. He began his formal piano studies at the age of 7, at his local Baptist church. Attending Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
Initially he played with friends from garages to local clubs, George quickly eased his way into session work, before getting his master’s degree in composition from San Francisco State University. Although starting out playing classical music, his musician cousin Charles Burrell convinced him to switch to jazz and improvise what he wanted to do.
1967 saw Duke venturing into jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, and recorded with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention on a number of albums through the 1970s. He also played with Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler from Zappa’s Overnite Sensation band that he was a part of, along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour. Lynn Davis and Sheila E recorded with him on his late-1970s solo albums Don’t Let Go and Master of the Game.
During the 1980s he collaborated with bassist Stanley Clarke and produced the Clarke/Duke Project that released three albums, he served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on the Miles Davis albums Tutu and Amandla, worked with a number of Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora Purim, and in the 1992 film Leap of Faith featured gospel songs and choir produced by him and choir master Edwin Hawkins.
Duke was musical director for the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in London, temporarily replaced Marcus Miller as musical director of NBC’s late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season, and was a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers. He worked with Jill Scott on her third studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3; and put together a trio with David Sanborn and Marcus Miller for a tour across the United States.
His educator side had him teaching a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt College in Oakland, California. He was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for After Hours in 1999, was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame in 2012, and was honored with a tribute album My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, produced by long-time friend and collaborator Al Jarreau, that received a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album in 2015.
As leader he recorded some four dozen albums and as sideman he worked with such artists as Third World, The Keynotes, Gene Ammons, Billy Cobham, Eddie Henderson, Alphonse Mouzon, Michael Jackson, Deniece Williams, Miles Davis, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Chanté Moore, Joe Sample, Phil Collins, Regina Belle, Teena Marie, Joe Williams, Gerald Wilson and Larisa Dolina among many others.
Keyboard pioneer, vocalist guitarist, trombonist, producer and composer George Duke passed away on August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67. His songs have been sampled by Daft Punk, Kanye West and Ice Cube among numerous others.
Kenny Davern was born John Kenneth Davern on January 7, 1935 in Huntington, Long Island, New York of Austrian-Irish ancestry. After hearing Pee Wee Russell the first time, he was convinced that he wanted to be a jazz musician and at the age of 16 he joined the musician’s union, first as a baritone saxophone player. In 1954 he joined Jack Teagarden’s band, and after only a few days with the band he made his first jazz recordings.
He would later work with bands led by Phil Napoleon and Pee Wee Erwin before joining the Dukes of Dixieland in 1962. The late 1960s found him free-lancing with, among others, Red Allen, Ralph Sutton, Yank Lawson and his lifelong friend Dick Wellstood.
Davern had taken up the soprano saxophone, and when a spontaneous coupling with fellow reedman Bob Wilber at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party turned out be a huge success, one of the most important jazz groups of the 1970s, Soprano Summit, was born. The two co-led the group switching between the clarinet and various saxophones, and over the next five years Soprano Summit enjoyed a very successful string of record dates and concerts. When the group disbanded in 1979, he devoted himself to solely playing clarinet, preferring trio formats with piano and drums.
He revived his collaboration with Bob Wilber in 1991 and the new group was called Summit Reunion. Leading quartets since the 1990s, Kenny preferred the guitar to the piano in his rhythm section, employing guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden and James Chirillo. He appeared numerous times at the Colorado Springs Invitational Jazz Party; in 1997 he was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame at Rutgers University, and in 2001 he received an honorary doctorate of music at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
Mainly playing in traditional jazz and swing settings, he ventured into the free-jazz genre collaborating in 1978 with avant-garde players Steve Lacy, Steve Swallow and Paul Motian that produced the album titled Unexpected. He also held an ardour and knowledge of classical music. Clarinetist Kenny Davern passed away of a heart attack at his Sandia Park, New Mexico home on December 12, 2006.
Christopher Hollyday January 3, 1970 in New Haven, Connecticut. He started playing alto when he was nine, developed quickly, and was playing in clubs by the time he was 14 years old. That same year he recorded his first album on his own Jazzbeat label. During his childhood years he was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker, but a few years later he almost sounded like a clone of Jackie McLean.
In 1988, he took a group into the Village Vanguard, and the following year he toured with Maynard Ferguson’s big band. One of the “Young Lions” at the end of the Eighties, his notoriety rose with his recording of four albums between 1989 and 1992 for the RCA Novus label. On his debut self titled album he enlisted Wallace Roney, Cedar Walton, David Williams and Billy Higgins, bringing in among others John Lockwood, Larry Goldings and Brad Mehldau .
In January 1992 he released his final album And I’ll Sing Once More with John Clark, Mark Feldman, Scott Colley, Kenny Werner, Scott Robinson and Douglas Purviance. After that, his recording career was interrupted abruptly when his record contract was not renewed at RCA Novus.
In 1997 he began a career as an educator, teaching first at the Orange Glen High School in Escondido, California, then switching to the Valley Center High School in Valley Center, California. Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday is currently teaching and working with jazz ensemble classes and the school band and continues to perform.
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Jack Montrose was born December 30, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. After attending university in Los Angeles, California he worked with Jerry Gray, then Art Pepper and did arrangements for Clifford Brown. He became known for cool jazz and/or West coast jazz.
Beginning in the mid-1950s Montrose’s heroin addiction became a liability and by the time he had kicked his habit, his style of jazz was no longer popular. For a while he played in strip joints until relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked in the casinos. He returned to recording in 1977 and in 1986 found some success collaborating with Pete Jolly.
He recorded with Clifford Brown, Bob Gordon, Red Norvo, Ron Stout, Ross Tompkins, Richard Simon, Paul Kreibich, Chet Baker, Elmer Bernstein, Frank Butler, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers and Mel Torme. Tenor saxophonist and arranger Jack Montrose aka West Coast Jack, passed away on February 7, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Ted Nash was born December 28, 1960 in Los Angeles, California. His trombonist father, Dick, and reedman uncle Ted, were both well-known jazz and studio musicians and both exposed and encouraged the young man. He started playing the piano at seven, by 12 the clarinet, and a year later he picked up the alto saxophone. In high school he studied jazz improvisation with vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake and had his first gig when he was This was followed by a week with Lionel Hampton in Hawaii.
Ted went on to win an audition to play lead alto with the Quincy Jones band, and by the time he turned 17 he had toured Europe, appeared on three records, and was performing regularly with the likes of Don Ellis, Louie Bellson and Toshiko Akiyoshi, as well as leading his own quintet. The following year he moved to New York City, recorded Conception, his debut album as a leader for the Concord label and became a regular member of a variety of ensembles. He worked with the Gerry Mulligan Big Band, the National Jazz Ensemble and for ten years would be a part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
An accomplished composer his first composition, Tristemente, was recorded by Louie Bellson, he has been commissioned by the Davos Musik Festival in Switzerland to compose works featuring a string quartet in a jazz setting, and commissioned by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to compose the well-received Portrait in Seven Shades. It is dedicated to the representation of seven different artists, each in their own movement and was nominated for a Grammy in 2010. The artists were Claude Monet, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, and Jackson Pollock.
Composer and alto saxophonist Ted Nash leads an eclectic group called Odeon, and is a member of the Jazz Composers Collective along with Ben Allison, Frank Kimbrough, and Michael Blake.
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