Charlie Barnet was born Charles Daly Barnet on October 26, 1913 in New York City. His parents divorced when he was two and he was raised in well-to-do surroundings by his mother and her grandparents. His grandfather was Charles Frederick Daly, a vice-president for the New York Central Railroad, banker and businessman. He attended various boarding schools, both in the New York and Chicago areas, learning to play piano and saxophone as a child. He was often found leaving school to listen to music and to try to gain work as a musician.
By sixteen, Barnet had done road work with a Jean Goldkette satellite band and was in New York, where he joined Frank Winegar’s Pennsylvania Boys on tenor saxophone. Always restless, by 1931 he had relocated to Hollywood and appeared as a film extra while trying to interest local bandleaders in hot music, which was increasingly unpopular due to the Great Depression. By late 1932 he was 18 and returning east, where he persuaded a contact at CBS’ artist bureau to try him out as an orchestra leader.
Charlie began recording in 1933, during an engagement at New York’s Park Central Hotel, but was not a great success for most of the 1930s. Regularly breaking up his band and changing its style by early 1935 he attempted to premiere swing music at New Orleans’ Hotel Roosevelt. However, Louisiana’s Governor Huey Long, disliking the new sound, had the band run out of town, arranged with Joe Haymes to take several of his now-jobless sidemen, and he went to Havana, Cuba as an escort to well-to-do older women.
1936 saw another swinging Barnet edition featuring the up-and-coming vocal quartet The Modernaires but this too quickly faded from the scene. The height of Barnet’s popularity and his first really permanent band came between 1939 and 1941. It was a period that began with his hit version of the Ray Noble tune Cherokee arranged by Billy May. 1944 saw him with another big hit with Skyliner. During his swing period his orchestra included Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Neal Hefti, Lena Horne, Barney Kessel, Dodo Marmorosa, Oscar Pettiford, Art House, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, Clark Terry and trumpeter Billy May was his arranger before joining Glenn Miller in 1940.
He was one of the first bandleaders to integrate his band; the year is variously given as 1935 or 1937. He was an outspoken admirer of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Ellington recorded the Charlie Barnet composition In a Mizz. In 1939, Basie lent Barnet his charts after Barnets’ had been destroyed in a fire at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. Throughout his career he was an opponent of syrupy arrangements, however, in the Billy May song The Wrong Idea, he lampooned the “sweet” big band sound of the era.
Barnet penned an autobiography The Swinging Years where he noted the orchestra was a notorious party band where drinking and vandalism were not uncommon. He had several hits across America and in Europe during the late 1940s, thanks to the U.S. Armed Forces Network powerful twin 100 kW transmitters stationed in Munich, Germany.
By 1947, he started to switch from swing music to bebop and in 1949 he retired, apparently because he had lost interest in music. He was able to retire when he chose because he was one of the few heirs in a very wealthy family. He occasionally returned from retirement for brief tours but never returned to music full-time. Tenor, alto and soprano saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charlie Barnet passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia on September 4, 1991 in San Diego, California.
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Ernest James Watts was born October 23, 1945 in Norfolk, Virginia. He began playing saxophone at thirteen. After a brief period at West Chester University, he attended Berklee College of Music on a Downbeat scholarship. He toured with Buddy Rich in the mid-1960s, occupying one of the alto saxophone chairs, with Lou Marini sitting the other.
He traveled to Africa on a US State Department tour with Oliver Nelson’s group and played tenor saxophone with The Tonight Show Band under Doc Severinsen for 20 years. During the Seventies he was a featured soloist on many of Marvin Gaye’s Motown albums, as well as on countless other pop and R&B sessions during 25 years as a first-call musician in the studios of Los Angeles, California.
In the mid-1980s Watts decided to rededicate himself to jazz, recording and touring with German guitarist and composer Torsten de Winkel, drummer Steve Smith and keyboardist Tom Coster. He joined bassist Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, played the saxophone on the Grease soundtrack, clarinet on The Color Purple soundtrack and performed on the opening theme song of the popular 80s sitcom Night Court.
Ernie founded Flying Dolphin Records and in early 2008, his Analog Man won the award in the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Jazz Album, worked with vocalist Kurt Elling, won a Grammy in 2010 for Best Jazz Vocal Album. He tours Europe twice a year with his own Ernie Watts Quartet, as well as Asia and summer jazz festivals the world over.
He has toured with the Rolling Stones, played the mystery horn on Frank Zappa’s album The Grand Wazoo, and has performed and recorded with Richard Groove Holmes, Alphonse Mouzon, Billy Alessi, Bobby Alessi, Gene Ammons, Paul Anka, Eric Martin, Willie Bobo, Brass Fever, Kenny Burrell, Lee Ritenour, David Axelrod, Donald Byrd, Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham, Gino Vannelli, Randy Crawford, Kurt Elling, Torsten de Winkel, Hellmut Hattler, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hutcherson, Milt Jackson, J. J. Johnson, Carole King, Charles Kynard, John Mayall, Carmen McRae, Blue Mitchell, Helen Reddy, New Stories, Moacir Santos, Lalo Schifrin, Bud Shank, Gábor Szabó, Gerald Wilson, Ndugu Chancler, Alphonso Johnson, Patrice Rushen, Joe Louis Walker, Barry Goldberg, Paul Jones, Chubby Tavares, T. Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner and Otis Span among others.
Tenor, alto and soprano saxophonist and flautist Ernie Watts has won two Grammy Awards as an instrumentalist and continues to perform, record and tour.
Bert Wilson was born on October 15, 1939 in Evansville, Indiana and contracted polio from a public swimming pool at age 4, and for the rest of his life was in a wheelchair. When he was 10, he heard the music of Charlie Parker in a Chicago hospital school, an experience he often said affected his life far more than the disease.
After graduating from high school Wilson moved to Los Angeles, California where he became interested in the avant-garde “free jazz” of Ornette Coleman. In 1966 he moved to New York, where he lived alone on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator. In New York City and Los Angeles he recorded with fiery alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons, drummers James Zitro and Smiley Winters and trumpeter Barbara Donald.
As an educator some of his students over the years have included the Dave Matthews Band’s Jeff Coffin, Los Angeles ace Ernie Watts, Tower of Power member Lenny Pickett and Latin percussionist Michael Olson. It was Olson in 1979, who along with keyboardist Michael Moore, of the band Obrador, learned that Wilson was living alone and miserable in Woodstock, New York and threw a benefit concert to move him to Olympia, Washington.
From that time forward, Bert was an active participant in the Northwest jazz scene, performing at the Earshot Jazz Festival and other major events, as well as, performing weekly with saxophonist Chuck Stentz at the Water Street Cafe.
On June 6, 2013 tenor saxophonist Bert Wilson, who did things on the saxophone that nobody else could do, passed away of a heart attack at age 73 in Olympia, Washington. He left behind many recordings as a sideman and as a leader of his own band, Rebirth.
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Noël Chiboust was born on October 14, 1909 in Thorigny-sur-Marne , Département Seine-et-Marne, France. He began his career as a violinist with Ray Ventura and during the early Thirties played trumpet in the Michel Warlop Orchestra. By 1936 he was involved in the concert series la semaine à Paris, by the Hot Club de France. At this time in his career he also joined the André Ekyan Orchestra until 1938, then played in the Swing Band of Philippe Brun followed by an early 1940s stint with Alix Combelle.
Around the mid 1930s he recorded with Django Reinhardt , Stéphane Grappelli , Bill Coleman and Coleman Hawkins, joined Eddie Brunner in 1938 at Cabaret Bagatelle. The late 1930s saw him giving up the trumpet and joining the tenor saxophone and clarinet sections when he joined the Marcel Bianchi Orchestra.
From 1940 he recorded under his own name for the French label Swing releasing a few 78s. Starting in 1944 he performed with an orchestral cast including Hubert Rostaing, and with Jack Diéval and Lucien Simoen at Club Schubert. From 1947 to 1950 he had an engagement at Cabaret le Drap d’Or.
He turned his attention to popular music as well as the rock and roll to and by 1959 released several EPs and singles for Polydor Records with songs like Telstar, Dynamite Charleston and Yes Sir That’s My Baby.
Trumpeter, tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, composer and band leader in the field the swing and popular music era Noël Chiboust passed away on January 17, 1994.
Harry Allen was born in Washington, D.C. on October 12, 1966. When he was a small child, his father, a big band drummer, played records for him including recordings of tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, which made a lasting impression. By his high school years he was recognized as an exceptional talent being able to uncannily play tunes such as Body and Soul in the style of legendary tenor players Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Flip Phillips, or Sam Donahue.
While in high school he also added the traditional influences from Scott Hamilton to his repertoire before attending and graduating from Rutgers University in 1988. A master interpreter of standards, he has recorded with Daryl Sherman, Joe Cohn and Jan Lundgren. He is best known for his work with John Colianni, Keith Ingham, John Pizzarelli and Bucky Pizzarelli. The tenor saxophonist has about two dozen albums under his belt and continues to perform , record and tour.
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