Bob Cooper was born on December 6, 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began to study the clarinet in high school and the following year he began working on the tenor saxophone. By 1945 he was joining Stan Kenton’s outfit when he was just 20, and as the new tenor saxophone player played alongside vocalist June Christy on “Tampico” that was to be a Kenton million-selling record. He would marry Christy two years later in Washington, DC.
Coop, as he was affectionately known, stayed with Kenton until he broke up the band in 1951. A naturally swinging jazz musician, Cooper and some other ex- Kenton men were hired to play at the Lighthouse Cafe in Los Angeles by the bassist Howard Rumsey. The Lighthouse became one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world, and the band, Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All Stars made history.
With a steady job he could work from home and he expanded his study of the oboe and English horn. While at the Lighthouse he made many momentous recordings, unique amongst them oboe and flute with Bud Shank, and composing a 12-tone octet for woodwind. Bob would go on to lead record sessions as part of a series of long-playing albums under “Kenton Presents” for Capitol Records.
His writing and playing on the album and its successor, “Shifting Winds” in 1955, were seminal in the creation of what was to become known as West Coast jazz. Imaginative writing and a well lubricated polish characterized the session and Cooper’s singing and stomping tenor style on his arrangement of “Strike Up The Band” boosted the record sales considerably.
Cooper would go on to tour Europe, South Africa and Japan with Christy, work as a studio musician in Hollywood, further develop his writing and compose film scores, join Kenton’s huge Neophonic Orchestra and have his composition ‘Solo For Orchestra’ premiered at one of its concerts. Much in demand for his beloved big-band work, he played regularly in other Los Angeles orchestras led by Shorty Rogers, Terry Gibbs, Bill Holman, Bill Berry, Bob Florence and Frankie Capp / Nat Pierce.
Bob Cooper, the West Coast jazz musician known primarily for playing tenor saxophone was also one of the first to play solos on oboe, passed away on August 5, 1993 in Los Angeles, California. Though maturing into one of the finest but least praised tenor saxophonists, he easily ranked with Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn in his talents. His last studio recording, released the year of his death, was on Karrin Allyson’s album Sweet Home Cookin on which he played tenor saxophone.
Hadley Caliman was born December 1, 1932 in Los Angeles, California. While at Jefferson High School he studied with his fellow classmates trumpeter Art Farmer and saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and was known in the Central Avenue corridor as “Little Dex”. It was here during the 50s and by the 60s where he primarily gigged and the tenor was soon seen playing with Mongo Santamaria, the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Willie Bobo and Don Ellis and was briefly a member of a jazz-rock fusion group led by Ray Draper.
By the Seventies Hadley had moved to San Francisco and was performing and/or recording with Joe Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Carlos Santana, Joe Pass, Hampton Hawes, Bobby Hutcherson, Flora Purim, Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Jon Hendricks, Earl Andreza, Phoebe Snow and Patrice Rushen among others. He later moved to Seattle, Washington where he had been on the faculty of the Cornish College of the Arts and a featured soloist with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra.
Though one can hear Coltrane’s influence in his playing, it never overshadowed the earlier West coast bop or the myriad of musical genres he played that created his modern jazz sound. Tenor saxophonist and flautist Hadley Caliman passed away on September 8, 2010 at age 78 in Seattle, Washington where he had been an active player leading both a quartet and quintet.
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Gigi Gryce was born George General Grice, Jr. on November 28, 1925 in Pensacola, Florida but grew up in Hartford Connecticut. He studied classical composition at the Boston Conservatory, studied with private teachers, then won a Fulbright scholarship and continued his studies in Paris.
His performing career was relatively short in comparison to other musicians of his generation, his work little known, however, several of his compositions have been covered extensively – “Minority,” “Social Call,” and “Nica’s Tempo” are frequently heard in mainstream jazz venues. Gigi’s compositional bent includes harmonic choices similar to those of Benny Golson, Tadd Dameron and Horace Silver in the contemporaneous period. Gryce’s playing, arranging, composing is consonant with the hard bop classic period was generally considered to be 1953-1965.
During the 1950s he achieved some renown for his innovative bebop playing, his primary instrument being the alto saxophone. Among the musicians with whom Gryce performed were Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, D, Howard McGhee, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford, Teddy Charles and Benny Golson. In 1955, Gryce formed the Jazz Lab Quintet, which included trumpeter Donald Byrd.
In the mid-1950s he converted to Islam and adopted the name Basheer Qusim. By the 60s he stopped using the name Gigi Gryce partly due to personal problems that took their toll on his financial and emotional state, withdrawing from performing. During this last period of his life he taught at a series of public schools in Long Island and New York City and the Community Elementary School 53 on 168th Street in the Bronx, the last school renamed the Basheer Qusim School in his honor.
Gigi Gryce, saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist, composer, arranger, educator, and big band leader died of an apparent epileptic seizure on March 14, 1983 in Pensacola, Florida.
Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson was born on November 27, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods. By 14 he was deeply immersed in jazz at the urging of his father, who was a drummer. He played alto saxophone in local clubs from his early teenage years, and studied at the Jazzmobile workshops with Frank Wess, Charles Davis and Frank Foster. He met Branford Marsalis who convinced him to study with clarinetist Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Louisiana.
Anderson began touring with the Wynton Marsalis Septet, collaborating with Marsalis through the middle of the 1990s helping to make some of the most defining music. He continued to sit in the first alto chair with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In 1994, he signed and released his debut album, “Warmdaddy In The Garden of Swing” with Atlantic Records followed by his sophomore release “The Ways of Warmdaddy” and then “Live at the Village Vanguard”.
Over the years he develop his sound combining New Orleans jazz with the sweeping blues style of Cannonball Adderley. He has played with contemporaries Eric Reed, Irvin Mayfield, Steve Kirby, Xavier Davis, Jaz Sawyer and Ben Wolfe among others while maintaining an East Lansing, Michigan restaurant called “Gumbo & Jazz”.
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Coleman Randolph Hawkins was born on November 21, 1904 in St. Joseph, Missouri and named after his mother’s maiden name. He started out playing piano and cello prior to playing saxophone at age nine. By the time he turned 14, he was playing around eastern Kansas while attending Topeka High School and simultaneously studying harmony and composition for two years at Washburn College.
In 1921 Hawkins joined Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds, toured through 1923 and settled in New York City. Hawkins joined Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra doubling on clarinet and bass saxophone and becoming a star soloist. He recorded with band mates Louis Armstrong and Henry “Red” Allen, a number of solo recordings with either piano or a pick-up band of Henderson musicians. In late 1934, he played with Jack Hylton’s band in London, toured Europe as a soloist until 1939 and worked with Django Reinhardt and Benny Carter in 1937 Paris.
Returning to the States he worked Kelly’s Stables, recorded two choruses of Body and Soul, his landmark recording of the Swing Era. Recorded as an afterthought at the session, it is notable in that Coleman ignores almost all of the melody, only the first four bars are stated in a recognizable fashion. In its exploration of harmonic structure it is considered by many to be the next evolutionary step in jazz recording from where Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” in 1928 left off.
Over the course of his long and prolific career Hawkins had an unsuccessful attempt at a big band, led a combo at Kelly’s Stables, played with Thelonious Monk, Oscar Pettiford, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Ben Webster, Max Roach, Howard McGhee, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Roy Eldridge, J.J. Johnson, Fats Navarro and Duke Ellington among others, recorded a session with Dizzy Gillespie that is considered the first bebop recording and toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic. After 1948 Hawkins divided his time between New York and Europe, making numerous freelance recordings. In the 1960s, he appeared regularly at the Village Vanguard.
Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins directly influenced many future bebop musicians such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. In his later years he stopped recording, began drinking heavily and died of pneumonia on May 19, 1969 in New York.