Alvin Gilbert Cohn was born on November 24, 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. He was initially known in the 1940s for playing in Woody Herman’s Second Herd as one of the Four Brothers, along with Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff. He contributed arrangements to the band until he left and formed a long association co-leading a quintet with Zoot while also playing with a variety of other musicians.
The partnership that began in 1956 lasted until Sims’ death and yielded one of their best albums on Mercury Records called You ‘n’ Me in 1960 and also backed Jack Kerouac on a few of his recordings. An accomplished arranger, Cohn worked Broadway arranging for such shows as Raisin’ and Sophisticated Ladies, worked with Linda Rondstadt, and appeared with Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden.
Al Cohn, a tenor saxophonist, who had a reputation as a lyrical flowing soloist, passed away in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on February 15, 1988.
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Cecil Scott was born in Springfield, Ohio on November 22, 1905 and played clarinet and tenor saxophone as a teenager with his brother, drummer Lloyd Scott. They played together as co-leaders through the end of the 1920s, holding residencies in Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in New York City at the Savoy Ballroom. Among the members of this ensemble were Dicky Wells, Frankie Newton, Bill Coleman, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges and Chu Berry.
By 1929 Cecil took full music control over the group in 1929, though Lloyd continued to manage the group. However, he was seriously injured in an accident in the early 1930s that temporarily sidelined his career. After recovery, he would play in different groups through the Thirties with Ellsworth Reynolds, Teddy Hill, Clarence Williams and Teddy Wilson accompanying Billie Holiday.
The early 1940s saw Scott playing with Albert Socarras, Red Allen, and Willie “The Lion” Smith prior to reassembling his band that hired at times Hot Lips Page and Art Hodes and towards the end of the decade worked with Slim Gaillard.
In 1950 Cecil disbanded the group, worked with Jimmy McPartland as a sideman, occasionally led groups and continued to play as a sideman up until the time of his death on January 5, 1964 in New York City. The clarinetist, tenor saxophonist and bandleader is credited on some 75 albums.
Jesse Davis was born on November 9, 1965 in New Orleans, Louisiana and showed signs of musical talent at a very young age. When he was eleven, his brother Roger, an accomplished tuba player bought Jesse a saxophone and taught him how to play it. He went on to study with Ellis Marsalis, whose teachings inspired him to become a music student at North-Eastern Illinois University on a full scholarship. He eventually transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey, then to the New School in New York City, enrolling in their Jazz and Contemporary Music Program under the tutelage of Ira Gitler.
After graduating, alto saxophonist Jesse Davis embarked on a productive jazz career and has recorded eight albums on the Concord Jazz label. He has collaborated with such artists as Jack McDuff, Major Holley, Cecil Payne, Jay McShann, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson, Illinois Jacquet Kenny Barron and Roy Hargrove amongst a long list of notables.
Davis has received a “Most Outstanding Musician award” from magazine, won several awards at jazz festivals for outstanding soloist, toured Europe several times fronting his quartet and a member of the Sax Machine and made his debut as an actor in the celebrated Robert Altman movie “Kansas City”.
Jesse was equally influenced by Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt and contributes a flawless technique and a natural feeling for the blues to every one of his performances as he continues to perform, record and tour.
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Harold McNair was born on November 5, 1931 in Kingston, Jamaica and started his instrumental training at the Alpha Boys School. Recording and playing mostly Caribbean music styles in the Bahamas, the first decade of his career he was known as “Little G”. During this time he sang and played both alto and tenor saxophones.
McNair played a calypso singer in the 1958 film Island Women and by 1960 he was in Miami recording his first album as a leader “Bahama Bash”, with a mixture of jazz and calypso numbers. It was around this time that he began playing the flute, which would eventually become his signature instrument. Though he took a few lessons in New York, he was largely self-taught.
Departing for Europe later in 1960 Harold toured with Quincy Jones, worked on film and TV scores in Paris, then settled in London gaining a formidable reputation and leading a regular gig at Ronnie Scott’s nightclub
Drawing the admiration of bassist Charles Mingus, in London to shoot the 1961 motion picture All Night Long, McNair became a member of the rehearsal quartet and appeared on the soundtrack on the now famous Mingus composition “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”.
A brief return to The Bahamas produced his first all jazz album “Up in the Air with Harold McNair”, then back to permanent London residence to release his first UK album of hard swinging standards as a leader, “Affectionate Fink” on Island Records with Ornette Coleman.
He signed with RCA and released his most famous composition “The Hipster” in 1968 that has become a playlist fixture. He continued to perform and record into 1971 working and recording with the likes of Philly Joe Jones, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Blossom Dearie, Ginger Baker’s Air Force big band and John Cameron as both leader and sideman.
Harold McNair, flautist, alto and tenor saxophonist whose unique phrasing on the flute in particular also led to great demand for his services among non-jazz musicians, passed away of lung cancer in Maida Vale, North London on March 7, 1971 at age 39.
Azar Lawrence was born in Los Angeles, November 3, 1953 and started playing drums at the age of three. By five he began formal studies on piano and violin, encouraged by his mother, who was an elementary school music teacher. At 11, while performing with the USC Junior Orchestra, he became enamored with the sound of the alto saxophone and his father, a stalwart supporter of his son’s musical endeavors, promptly bought him a Selmer and his fate was sealed.
Playing in the Dorsey High Jazz Band, Lawrence met Herbert Baker, a piano prodigy who was playing with Freddie Hubbard. It was Baker who first introduced Lawrence to piano master Horace Tapscott, an important mentor who helped shape Lawrence’s musical philosophy and prepared him for the formidable task of playing with Elvin Jones.
Becoming a sideman with McCoy Tyner, replacing John Coltrane, he also worked with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, released his album Bridge to the New Age in 1974 with Jean Carn, Julian Priester, Hadley Caliman and Ndugu Chancler followed by his sophomore project Summer Solstice working with Ron Carter and Albert Dailey.
He has release five albums as a leader and went on to work with Henry Franklin, Gene Harris, Patrice Rushen, Phyllis Hyman, Earth Wind & Fire, Lee Ritenour, Paul Jackson, Stanley Turrentine and Harvey Mason.
However, success has its monkey and Lawrence fell victim to drug abuse and all but disappeared from the jazz scene working only occasionally with Billy Higgins when he could borrow a saxophone. He eventually pulled himself into sobriety and embraced a new period of creativity releasing Mystic Journey in 2010 and the tenor saxophonist continues to perform.
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