Wycliffe Gordon was born May 29, 1967 in Waynesboro, Georgia and was heavily influenced musically by the church music his organist father played at several churches in Burke County as well as being a classical pianist and teacher.
It wasn’t until 1980 that Gordon became particularly inspired in jazz at age thirteen, listening to jazz recordings inherited from his great aunt. The collection included a five-LP jazz anthology produced by Sony-Columbia and was drawn in particular to Louis Armstrong and the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens.
Wycliffe attended, at that age, Sego High School in Augusta, Georgia and played in the band under direction from Don Milford. He graduated from Butler High in 1985, performed in New York City as part of the McDonald High School All-American Band, went on to study music at Florida A&M where he played in the marching band.
His early works as a professional were with Wynton Marsalis but in recent years he expanded beyond swing and experimented with new instruments, notably the indigenous Australian wind instrument, didgeridoo. In 1995, Gordon arranged and orchestrated the third version of the theme song for NPR’s All Things Considered, the widely recognized melody composed in 1971 by Donald Joseph Voegeli.
In 2006 he founded Blues Back Records, his was an independent jazz label and released his Rhythm On My Mind album, a collaboration with bassist Jay Leonhart. His desire for full artistic control was the impetus for creating Blues Back. Blues Back had produced other artists in Wycliffe’s universe who met Gordon’s criteria for originality, however, since 2011 has been inactive.
Jazz trombonist, arranger, composer, bandleader and music educator at the collegiate-conservatory level, Wycliffe Gordon also plays didgeridoo, trumpet, tuba, piano, and sings. To date he has a catalogue of 19 albums as a leader and another eight as a sideman performing with John Allred, Marcus Roberts, Randy Sandke, Maurice Hines, Ron Westray, and Chip White. He continues to perform, tour, record and educate.
Archie Shepp was born on May 24, 1937 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied piano, clarinet and alto saxophone before focusing on the tenor saxophone. He studied drama at Goddard College from 1955-59, eventually turning professional.
Shepp played in a Latin jazz band for a short time before joining the band of avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor. His debut recording as a leader was under his own name, Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet on the Savoy label. The 1962 session included an Ornette Coleman composition was the initial link to the formation of the New York Contemporary Five, which included Don Cherry. Two years later with the admiration of Coltrane he recorded Four For Trane on Impulse Records with trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Reggie Workman and alto John Tchicai.
Archie participated in the sessions for Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in late 1964, but none of the takes were included on the final release but has since been made available on a 2002 reissue. He would cut Ascension with Coltrane in 1965, and his place alongside Coltrane at the forefront of the avant-garde jazz scene was epitomized when the pair split the record New Thing At Newport, the first side a Coltrane set, the second a Shepp set.
During the decade he would develop his political consciousness and Afrocentric orientation, recording albums that reflected. His albums Fire Music and The Magic of Ju-Ju put him at the forefront of the free-form avant-garde movement along with Pharoah Sanders. He continued to experiment into the new decade, at various times with harmonica players and even spoken word poets. Never far from political and social commentary Archie released Attica Blues for the prison riots and The Cry Of My People that spoke to civil rights. He also wrote for theater including The Communist and Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy.
In 1971, Shepp was recruited to the University of Massachusetts Amherst that began a thirty-year career as a professor teaching Revolutionary Concepts in African-American Music and Black Musician in the Theater, also teaching African-American Studies at SUNY in Buffalo, New York.
In the late 1970s and beyond Archie would record blues, ballads, spirituals, tributes to traditional jazz musicians, as well as R&B. He would perform with Sun Ra’s Arkestra, French trumpeter Eric Le Lann, with Michel Herr creating the original score for the film Just Friends. He also appeared on the Red, Hot Organization’s tribute to Fela Kuti titled Red, Hot and Riot.
He has been featured in two documentary films, 1981’s Imagine The Sound, in which he discusses and performs his music and poetry, and Mystery Mr. Ra in which he discusses and performs his music and poetry. Shepp also appears in Mystery, Mr. Ra, a 1984 French documentary about Sun Ra.
In 2004 he founded his own record label, Archieball, together with Monette Berthomier in Paris. Tenor and soprano saxophonist, pianist, vocalist Archie Shepp continues to perform, collaborate and record.
This Time The Dream’s On Me was given to the jazz world when Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer penned what would become a classic standard. Debuting in the 1941 film, Blues In The Night, starring Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Betty Field, Richard Whorf, Wallace Ford and Elia Kazan.
The Story: Jigger Lane forms a band that includes singer Ginger “Character” Powell, wife of the trumpeter Leo Powell, and Nickie Haroyen and Peppi. All of them dedicate themselves to work as a unit and to play ‘blues’ music. The dedication isn’t paying off in money and while riding the rails in a boxcar they meet and befriend a gangster named Del Davis. He offers them a job at a New Jersey roadhouse, where Powell falls in love with Kay Grant, a former real-good friend of Davis. But when Powell learns that Character is about to have a baby, he returns to her. Jigger tries to make Kay the band’s singer and, when this fails, runs off with her. She leaves him with nothing to show for him except a nervous breakdown. Back at the roadhouse, after his recovery, Kay shows up, has a quarrel with Davis, shoots and kills him and plans to take back up with “Jigger”, who knows better but just can’t help himself. While she is waiting in a car for him, along comes cripple Brad Ames, who she put in that condition. He gets in and drives the car over a cliff, leaving no survivors in the two-passenger crash. The band is back together at the end, still using boxcars as their transportation, but happy playing the blues.
Helen O’Connell was born on May 23, 1920 in Lima, Ohio but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. By the time she was 15, she and her older sister, Alice, were singing duets in clubs and hotels and on hometown radio stations. She launched her career as a big-band singer with Larry Funk and his Band of a Thousand Melodies. She was singing with Funk’s band in Greenwich Village when Jimmy Dorsey’s manager discovered her. She joined the Dorsey band in 1939 and achieved her best selling records in the early 1940s with Green Eyes, Amapola, Tangerine and Yours.
By 1953, O’Connell and Bob Eberly were headlining TV’s Top Tunes with Ray Anthony and his orchestra. She became a featured singer on The Russ Morgan Show and had her own 15-minute program, The Helen O’Connell Show, twice a week on NBC.
She retired from show business upon her first marriage in 1943 but returned when her marriage ended in 1951, achieving some chart success and making regular appearances on television. At one point she was interviewing celebrities on her own NBC program Here’s Hollywood, hosted the pageants and sang duets with Bing Crosby, Johnny Mercer and Dean Martin.
She won the Down Beat Readers Poll as best female singer in 1940 and 1941, won the 1940 Metronome magazine poll for best female vocalist and was named as the darling of GIs during World War II.Her 1942 recording of Brazil with the Jimmy Orchestra was a 2009 addition to the Grammy Hall of Fame. On September 9, 1993 vocalist Helen O’Connell succumbed to her battle with Hepatitis C in San Diego, California.
More Posts: vocal
Irving Berlin composed Blue Skies in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. After only 39 performances the song was an instant success, though the show closed. However, in 1927, it became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson performed it in The Jazz Singer.
The Story: The son of a Jewish Cantor must defy the traditions of his religious father in order to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz singer. Cantor Rabinowitz is concerned and upset because his son Jakie shows so little interest in carrying on the family’s traditions and heritage. For five generations, men in the family have been cantors in the synagogue, but Jakie is more interested in jazz and ragtime music. One day, they have such a bitter argument that Jakie leaves home for good. After a few years on his own, now calling himself Jack Robin, he gets an important opportunity through the help of well-known stage performer Mary Dale. But Jakie finds that in order to balance his career, his relationship with Mary, and his memories of his family, he will be forced to make some difficult choices.