Frank Traynor was born on August 8, 1927 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He formed his first band, the Black Bottom Stompers, in 1949 and in 1951 he joined the Len Barnard Band. That same year he was voted best trombonist in the Make Way for the Bands poll and made his first recordings with this band.
Traynor became a regular feature at Athol’s Abbey, an underground bar and grill on the corner of St Kilda Road and Park Street. In 1963, Traynor recorded an EP with Judith Durham titled, Judy Durham. Frank and his band the Jazz Preachers were also a feature of the Melbourne City Council’s – Free Entertainment in the Parks.
Founding the Melbourne Jazz Club in 1958, and not limiting his entrepreneurial skills to just jazz he also established and ran the Frank Traynor’s Folk and Jazz Club from 1963–75, which played a central role in the Australian folk revival.
Trombonist Frank Traynor led Australia’s longest continuously running jazz band, the Jazz Preachers, from 1956 until he was diagnosed with leukaemia and passed away on February 22, 1985 in Melbourne.
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Herbert Harper was born July 2, 1920 in Salina, Kansas and studied trombone in his youth. He first started playing swing music with Benny Goodman and Charlie Spivak in the 1940s and 1950s. A move to Los Angeles, California saw him working on the West Coast jazz scene and performing with the likes of Stan Kenton, Bill Perkins and Maynard Ferguson, among others.
In 1949, he became a member of the band backing Billie Holiday on her famous Just Jazz radio broadcast for AFRS in Los Angeles. During this period he performed alongside band members trumpeter Neal Hefti, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Herbie Steward pianist Jimmy Rowles bassist Robert “Iggy” Shevak and drummer Roy “Blinky” Garner.
In 1954, he recorded several sessions as a member of Steve White’s Hollywood-based quartet. As a leader he released his inaugural self titled recording in 1954 and followed up with another trio of albums that same year. With two more during the same decade, Herbie would record again as a leader until the Eighties. He would however record profusely as a sideman with Pete Rugolo and Ferguson.
Trombonist Herbie Harper, who concentrated his playing in the West Coast jazz school, passed away on January 21, 2012.
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Tricky Lofton was born Lawrence Lofton on May 28, 1930 in Houston, Texas. Not much is documented about him but he studied trombone with Kid Ory and J. J. Johnson.
He recorded several recordings with Carmell Jones, Ron Jefferson, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Wayne Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Leroy Vinnegar, Frank Strazzeri, Bill Berry’s LA Big Band, Jimmy Cleveland, Les McCann and Ben Webster. He worked with arranger Gerald Wilson and recorded on Pacific Jazz, Fresh Sound Records.
Trombonist Tricky Lofton passed away on December 15, 1993 in San Francisco, California.
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Phil Ranelin was born May 25, 1939 in Indianapolis, Indiana and lived in New York City before moving to Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s. He worked as a session musician on many Motown recordings, including with Stevie Wonder.
In 1971, he and Wendell Harrison formed a group called The Tribe, which was an avant-garde jazz ensemble devoted to black consciousness. Alongside it he co-founded Tribe Records. He released several albums as a leader in the 1970s, and continued with The Tribe project until 1978. Following this, Ranelin worked with Freddie Hubbard, Freddie Redd and the Red Hot Chili Peppers..
Working for the most part locally around Detroit in the following decades, Phil did not find widespread acceptance among jazz aficionados. He did, however, eventually gain the attention of rare groove collectors who became increasingly interested in his work. As a result, Tortoise drummer John McEntire remastered some of his older material and re-released it on Hefty Records. He also recorded on Lifeforce, Wide Hive and Rebirth record labels.
Trombonist Phil Ranelin continues to perform, compose, and record.
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Mike Zwerin was born May 18, 1930 in New York on May 18, 1930. He studied at the High School of Music and Art and began leading bands in his teens, employing several up-and-coming musicians. At the age of 18, while on summer break from the University of Miami, he was the trombonist in Miles Davis’s nonet at the Royal Roost club in New York. This band was recorded performing the live sessions in 1948 and its music the following year culminated in the album that became immortalized as Birth of the Cool.
He abandoned his musical life for much of the 1950s but after a spell in France he returned to New York in 1958 and played the trombone in several big bands. However, in 1960 after his father’s death, he returned to the world of business and he took over as president of his dad’s company, the Capitol Steel Corporation. Over the next four years Mike kept a hand in jazz, working in John Lewis’s big band Orchestra USA, with whom he recorded and directed a small group. He also worked briefly with pianist Earl Hines but by the mid-1960s he withdrew from the business.
Zwerin moved to London in 1969 and then, in 1972, to Paris, which would be his home for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he kept his hand in as a trombonist throughout the 1980s, working with his fellow expatriate Hal Singer and with the guitarist Christian Escoudé. In 1988 he toured with the Big Band Charles Mingus, played briefly with t Swiss bandleader George Gruntz and played with the French fusion band Telephone.
As a music critic and columnist he wrote for the Village Voice, Down Beat, Rolling Stone, Penthouse, the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg News. He authored several books about his own life in the world of jazz, most notably The Silent Sound of Needles, about his struggles with drug addiction, Close Enough for Jazz and The Parisian Jazz Chronicles: An Improvisational Memoir, but his most ambitious book may be La Tristesse de Saint Louis: Swing Under the Nazis that included the story of the Kille Dillers and the Ghetto Swingers, two bands that played in concentration camps, and how jazz survived across Europe though banned by the Nazis and labeled degenerate music.
Throughout his career trombonist and bass trumpeter Mike Zwerin would perform and record with Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, John Lewis, Archie Shepp, Claude Thornhill and Bill Russo, arrange, direct and produce an album of Kurt Weill songs with the Sextet of Orchestra U.S.A., before passing away after a long illness on April 2, 2010 in Paris, France at the age of 79.