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DICKY WELLS

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Dicky Wells was born William Wells on June 10, 1907 in Centerville, Tennessee but came to fame playing trombone as Dicky or Dickie Wells. He moved to New York City in 1926 and joined the band of Lloyd Scott.

He played two stints with Count Basie between 1938-1945 and 1947-1950. Dickie also played with Cecil Scott, Spike Hughes, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Teddy Hill, Jimmy Rushing, Buck Clayton and Ray Charles.

In his later years, Wells suffered a severe beating that affected his memory, but he recovered and continued to perform. He played frequently at the West End jazz club at 116th and Broadway, most often with a band called “The Countsmen”, led by alto saxophonist Earle Warren, his colleague from Count Basie days. His trademark was a “pepper pot” mute that he made himself.

Jazz trombonist Dickie Wells died on November 12, 1985, in New York City. Shortly after his death, his family donated his trombone to Rutgers University.

 

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A. GREY

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Al Grey was born in Aldie, Virginia on June 6, 1925 but grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. After serving in the Navy during WWII, where he started playing trombone, he joined Benny Carter’s band, later moving to Lionel Hampton’s trombone section. After some solo worked he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in ’56 and a year later was touring Europe with Count Basie.

Trummy Young inspired Al’s early trombone style and he developed a wild, strong and full sound. Solos often consisted of short, pronounced phrases with precisely timed syncopation. He became known for his plunger mute technique, later writing an instructional book title “Plunger Techniques”. When playing with the plunger, however, he would produce the most mellow fill-ins and shape melodic answers to the lead voice.

After 1961 Grey performed only occasionally with the Count and apart from leading his own combos, he collaborated with many jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Melba Liston, J. J. Johnson, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Jack McDuff, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. His trombone skills were also featured on the award-winning soundtrack for The Color Purple.

Al Grey, who passed away on March 24, 2000, greatly contributed to the post-swing era jazz-trombone vocabulary and will be remembered for his charming personality as well as his ability to bond with audiences around the world.

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MILT BERNHART

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Milt Bernhart was born on May 25, 1926 in Valparaiso, Indiana and began his musical career with the tuba. By high school he switched to trombone and by 16 he was working in Boyd Raeburn’s band and later gigged with Teddy Powell.

 After a tour in the Army he worked, off and on, with Stan Kenton for the next ten years. He is perhaps most associated with Kenton, but in 1955 he had his first album as a leader. In 1986 he was elected President of the Big Band Academy of America.

Widely known as a mild-mannered and humorous musician his brief period with Benny Goodman was one area that brought out his ire. Except for the Army’s basic training, Milt indicates working with Goodman was “the bottom” of his first 23 years of life, referring to him as a bore and could not abide Goodman’s public humiliation of tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray or his segregated treatment at a Las Vegas club.

 West coast jazz trombonist Milt Bernhart, who supplied the exciting solo heard in the middle of Sinatra’s popular 1956 recording of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” conducted by Nelson Riddle, passed away on January 22, 2004 in Glendale, California.26-2004

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J. JENNEY BIG

Daily Dose Of Jazz…

Jack Jenney was born Truman Eliot Jenney May 12, 1910 in Mason City, Iowa and started playing in his father’s band from the age of 11. The trombonist’s first professional work began with Austin Wylie in 1928 but he would go on to work with Isham James, Red Norvo, Artie Shaw, Mal Hallett and Waring’s Pennsylvanians.

Jack led his own band for a year in 1939-40, which included Peanuts Hucko, Paul Fredricks and Hugo Winterhalter. Although this band received good reviews it was a financial failure. Best known for instrumental versions of the song Stardust, he won the Down Beat Reader’s Poll for trombone in 1940 and would appear in the 1942 film “Syncopation”.

After his return from being drafted into the United States Navy, trombonist Jack Jenney died of complications related to appendicitis in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 1945.

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B. COOPER BIG

Daily Dose Of jazz…

George “Buster” Cooper was born on April 4, 1929 in St. Petersburg, Florida and took up the trombone. He played in a Texas territory band with Nat Towles in the late 1940s, and gigged with Lionel Hampton in 1953.

During the mid-1950s he played in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in New York City followed by playing with Benny Goodman. By the late 1950s, he and his brother Steve had formed The Cooper Brothers Band but by the early Sixties through the decade Buster was a trombone fixture in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra.

In 1973 he moved to Los Angeles and played in various jazz orchestras there over the next several decades; among them were “The Juggernaut” and “Bill Berry’s L.A. Band”.

Over the course of his career, Buster Cooper, the extroverted trombonist with a witty style that often involved hitting repeated, humorous high notes at the conclusion of a song never recorded as a leader until he paired with trombonist Thurman Green and released E-Bone-ix in 1997. At 85 years, he currently leads the Buster Cooper Trio, playing The Garden Restaurant in his hometown of St. Petersburg.

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