Teddy Charles was born Theodore Charles Cohen on April 13, 1928 in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. He began his musical career studying at Julliard School of Music as a percussionist. Later he started recording and making personal appearances as Teddy Cohen with various bands as a vibraphonist, writing, arranging and producing records and in 1951 he changed his last name to Charles.
He was one of many jazz musicians who hung out at an apartment building at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City known as the Jazz Loft rented by photographer and artist David X. Young who in turn sublet an apartment to Charles’ mentor, Hall Overton. Teddy developed into a skillful musician not only on vibraphone but piano and drums as well and was known for his open-minded approach to more advanced sounds as well as his playing.
Known as an innovator, his main body of work was recorded in the 1950s. Teddy also did session work with musicians and singers as varied as Miles Davis, Oscar Pettiford, Roy Eldridge, Slim Gaillard, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Buddy De Franco and Dion. From 1953-55 he was a member of the Jazz Composer’s Workshop along with Charles Mingus and Teo Macero. This collaboration opened his style to the influences of classical music and freer improvising.
An avid seaman, Charles is the Captain of the Skipjack Pilgrim out of Greenport, Long Island, New York where he performs music locally. After spending years at sea, vibraphonist Teddy Charles started performing again until his passing on April 16, 2012 in Riverhead, New York.
Red Norvo was born Kenneth Norville on March 31, 1908 in Beardstown, Illinois. It is said that he sold his pet pony to help pay for his first marimba. He began his career in 1925 in Chicago playing with a band called “The Collegians”, in 1925. He played with many other bands, including an all-marimba band on the vaudeville circuit along with the bands of Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman.
By 1933 he had recorded two sessions for Brunswick under his own name including two of the earliest, most modern pieces of chamber jazz: Bix Beiderbecke’s “In A Mist” and his own “Dance of the Octopus”. For these he put aside the xylophone for the marimba yet outraged the label’s head that tore up his contract and threw him out, though the album remained in print throughout the 30s.
From 1934-35 Red recorded 8 modern swing sides for Columbia followed by 15 sides of Decca and their short-lived Champion label series in 1936. From there he formed a Swing Orchestra and recorded for ARC, Vocalion and Columbia featuring brilliant arrangements by Eddie Sauter and often vocals by Mildred Bailey.
In 1938, Red Norvo and His Orchestra reached number one with their recordings of “Please Be Kind” and “Says My Heart”. He went on to record with Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie in 1945, hit the West Coast in ’47, helped Charles Mingus rise to prominence in his trio, recorded for Savoy, recorded with Sinatra in Australia and released by Blue Note, appeared on the Dinah Shore Chevy Show and appeared in the movie Screaming Mimi as himself.
Red Norvo, helped to establish the xylophone, marimba and vibraphone as a viable jazz instrument continued to record and tour throughout his career until a stroke in the mid-1980s forced him into retirement. He died at a convalescent home on April 6, 1999 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 91.
Stefon Harris was born March 23, 1973 in Albany, New York and started playing the piano at age 6 and learned to read music by the time he began elementary school. By the time he reached 8th grade Stefon played nearly twenty different instruments from string bass to trombone. After seeing the Empire State Youth Orchestra on television, he auditioned for the ensemble and was accepted as the principal percussionist.
A few years later, he earned a full merit scholarship to attend Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where his roommate introduced him to jazz via Charlie Parker records. Smitten by the music, Harris moved to New York City and began gigging on the jazz scene as a vibraphone player while finishing his B.A. and Master’s degrees at the Manhattan School of Music.
Harris has released several critically acclaimed albums, composed numerous works and is one of the foremost young artists in demand today having played with such luminaries as Kenny Barron, Steve Turre, Kurt Elling, Charlie Hunter, Joe Henderson, Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Buster Williams, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. In 2011 he ventured to Havana, Cuba with saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Christian Scott to record their critically acclaimed Ninety Miles. Having performed worldwide, vibraphonist Stefon Harris sits at the forefront of New York music.
Joseph Paul Locke was born on March 18, 1959 in Palo Alto, California but grew up in Rochester, New York. A self-taught improviser, he benefited from his early studies in classical percussion and composition at the Eastman School of Music and played with Mongo Santamaria, Pepper Adams, and Dizzy Gillespie before graduating from high school.
Since moving to New York City in 1981, Locke has performed with Grover Washington, Jr., Kenny Barron, Dianne Reeves, Eddie Daniels, Jerry Gonzales’ Fort Apache Band, Rod Stewart, Beastie Boys, Eddie Henderson, Hiram Bullock, Bob Berg, Ron Carter, Jimmie Scott, Geoffrey Keezer, The Mingus Big Band and Randy Brecker among many others.
Joe has toured extensively throughout the world, both as leader and guest soloist. In 2006, 2008 and 2009 Joe Locke received the “Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year” Award, presented by the Jazz Journalist Association. His ability to play cool and funky, heady and relaxed has had him voted the #1 vibist in Down Beat Magazine’s Critic’s Poll and Brazil’s International Jazz Poll.
Locke has recorded nearly 36 projects as a bandleader, including a tribute to the music of Henry Mancini and since 2012 has released a symphonic album, an orchestra project Wishing On A Star, and Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads, Vol. 1. As a producer and sideman, Joe appears on more than 65 recordings and continues to compose, perform and record.
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Jason Marsalis was born on March 4, 1977 in New Orleans, Louisiana and is the youngest son of pianist Ellis Marsalis. Inheriting the virtuosity and compositional skills associated with the Marsalis family, Jason developed a distinctive, polyrhythmic drumming style. His first professional gig was with his father at the age of twelve, he studied classical percussion at Loyola University in New Orleans, and has worked as a sideman with straight-ahead combos, funk fusion bands, with Casa Samba, a Brazilian percussion ensemble and even a Celtic group.
Jason introduced percussionist Bill Summers to trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and together they co-founded the wildly successful Los Hombres Calientes. Then, at the height of that band’s popularity he left to join up with acclaimed pianist Marcus Roberts.
Most recently, Jason has been playing vibraphone, releasing his first album as a leader on vibes in 2009 titled “Music Update”. Earning 4.5 out of 5 stars in Downbeat Magazine, it showcases Jason playing the vibes with his working quartet as well as several over-dubbed drum ensembles titled the “Disciplines”.
Jason also continues to work as a sideman with among others Marcus Roberts, Ellis and Delfeayo Marsalis, John Ellis, Dr. Michael White and Shannon Powell. Along with his father and brothers, he is a recipient of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award and is featured in the non-fiction film on New Orleans jazz culture, “Tradition Is A Temple”.