José James was born on January 20, 1978 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and combines jazz, soul, drum’n’bass, and spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. Though his main influences are John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, and Billie Holiday, his sound is reminiscent of ’70s jazz-soul icon Terry Callier, and his music feels more like an update of Gil Scott-Heron’s approach, but he makes it distinctly his own.
José attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and in 2008 debuted his first album, The Dreamer, on the Brownswood label. Blackmagic followed in 2010, as well as, For All We Know on the Impulse! Label, the latter becoming the winner of both the Edison Award and L’Académie du Jazz Grand Prix for best Vocal Jazz Album of 2010.
Signing to Blue Note Records in 2012 James issued Trouble, his first single for the label, with his fourth album, No Beginning, No End released the following year. New compositions brought the release of 2014’s While You Were Sleeping, a collection that reflected rock alongside R&B and jazz.
In commemoration of the 100th birthday of his musical mother, Billie Holiday, José recorded nine songs written by or associated with her on Yesterday I Had the Blues. He fronted a band that included pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland.
Vocalist and bandleader José James, who blends modern jazz and hip-hop, continues to perform globally both as a leader and with other groups.
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The song Ruby was composed by Heinz Eric Roemheld as the theme for the 1952 film Ruby Gentry. It subsequently became a jazz and pop standard, both as an instrumental and with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. The film was directed by King Vidor and starred Jennifer Jones as Ruby Corey/Gentry, Charlton Heston played Boake Tackman and Karl Malden held down the role of Jim Gentry. At the time of the film’s release the theme enjoyed much popularity in an orchestration by Les Baxter with harmonica solo by Danny Welton.
The Story: Ruby, a poor backwoods girl living in the small North Carolina town of Braddock, is still in love with Boake Tackman. During high school, Ruby had rebuffed his aggressive advances, and was taken in for a couple of years by kind wealthy businessman and his wife, who protected her and taught her the skills a lady would need. She moves back home when her father needed her help. Boake’s family used to be wealthy, but after generations of profligacy all he has left is the land he has had drained and farmed. He starts a relationship with her but plans to marry a local woman with a rich family. When Ruby hears the news, she marries her former benefactor, Mr. Jim Gentry, whose invalid wife recently died, despite not loving him.
Her background keeps her from being accepted by most of Jim’s peers, most of whom decline to attend their after-wedding party. Insecure, Jim becomes jealous of her relationship with Boake, has a fight, calls her a tramp and she leaves in tears. Apologies ensue and while sailing she admits her lack of loving him, while a loose rope results in Jim being knocked overboard by the boom, leaving Ruby widowed and distraught. Now she becomes the local gold-digger and murderess, the town rebuffs her and she gets harassing phone calls.
Retaliating, Ruby uses Jim’s money to begin a campaign against everyone who slighted her, calling in debts to close down people’s businesses as well as the newspaper that slandered her. Still holding a soft spot for Boake she returns his promissory note but again he rebuffs her kindness as a way to buy him and her out of the swamp. Once again, woman scorned and she floods Boake land, ruins his crop and once calm, apologizes. However, her estranged brother Jewel begins shooting at them, killing Boake and in turn Ruby kills her brother and then laments her decisions that have caused so much pain. Now alone, Ruby becomes the skipper of a fishing boat, forever looked down upon by the townspeople.
Raymond Eberle was born January 19, 1919 in Mechanicville, New York and followed in his elder brother Bob’s footsteps who fronted Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra as a Big Band singer. With no formal training he started singing in his teens and in 1938, when Glenn Miller, looking for a male vocalist asked Bob if he had any siblings at home who could sing, he answered yes, and Ray was hired on the spot.
Ray went on to find success with Miller deeming the songs for the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, such as the jazz standard At Last, to be among his favorites. He also appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox movies, Sun Valley Serenade in 1941. From 1940-43 he did well on Billboard’s College Poll for male vocalist.
Miller ran a tight ship and often fired people after one negative incident. When stuck in traffic one day during a Chicago engagement, Ray was late for a rehearsal and Miller fired him on the spot, and replaced him in 1942 with Skip Nelson. After his departure from Miller, Eberle briefly joined Gene Krupa’s band before launching a solo career. He appeared on numerous television variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, and later joined former Miller bandmate Tex Beneke’s orchestra in 1970 for a national tour, and reformed his own orchestra later in the decade.
He made several Universal films, including Mister Big, making a cameo appearance as himself. Eberle mostly sang ballads. He led his own orchestra called, The Ray Eberle Orchestra as well as the Serenade In Blue Orchestra from 1943 and maintained his band until his death.
Vocalist and bandleader Ray Eberle died of a heart attack in Douglasville, Georgia on August 25, 1979, aged 60.
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Caterina Valente was born on January 14, 1931 in Paris, France into an Italian artist family, her father, a well-known accordion player and her mother, a musical clown. In 1953, she made her first recordings with Kurt Edelhagen and soon afterwards achieved success with songs such as Malagueña, The Breeze and I,] and Dreh dich nicht um with the Werner Müller orchestra. In 1955, she was featured on The Colgate Comedy Hour with Gordon MacRae.
By the mid 1960s Valente was working with Claus Ogerman and recording his arrangements and compositions and sometimes conducted in both Italian and English on the Decca and London labels. She guest appearances on the NBC Kraft Music Hall television program and on the Dean Martin Show, the CBS variety series The Entertainers alongside Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart.
She has recorded some seven dozen albums around the world in the United States, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Columbia, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Germany and South Africa. Caterina has been nominated for a Grammy and won 15 awards in Austria, Italy, the US, Italy, Brazil, France and Germany. She recorded Cole Porter’s I Love Paris, that sold nearly a million copies in 1954, her jazz album A Briglia Sciolta recorded in 1989 was her best selling album worldwide and has been reissued under the titles Fantastica and Platinum Deluxe and in 2001 released her album Girl Talk with harpist Catherine Michel..
Over the years of her career she has recorded or performed with Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Sy Oliver, Buddy Rich and Edmundo Ros.
Vocalist, guitarist, dancer and actress Caterina Valente has yet to retire from show business at the age of 85.
George Duke was born on January 12, 1946 in San Rafael, California and raised in Marin City. It was at the young age of 4 that he first became interested in the piano when his mother took him to see Duke Ellington in concert. He began his formal piano studies at the age of 7, at his local Baptist church. Attending Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in trombone and composition with a minor in contrabass from the San Francisco Conservatory in 1967.
Initially he played with friends from garages to local clubs, George quickly eased his way into session work, before getting his master’s degree in composition from San Francisco State University. Although starting out playing classical music, his musician cousin Charles Burrell convinced him to switch to jazz and improvise what he wanted to do.
1967 saw Duke venturing into jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, and recorded with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention on a number of albums through the 1970s. He also played with Ruth Underwood, Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler from Zappa’s Overnite Sensation band that he was a part of, along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour. Lynn Davis and Sheila E recorded with him on his late-1970s solo albums Don’t Let Go and Master of the Game.
During the 1980s he collaborated with bassist Stanley Clarke and produced the Clarke/Duke Project that released three albums, he served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on the Miles Davis albums Tutu and Amandla, worked with a number of Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora Purim, and in the 1992 film Leap of Faith featured gospel songs and choir produced by him and choir master Edwin Hawkins.
Duke was musical director for the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in London, temporarily replaced Marcus Miller as musical director of NBC’s late-night music performance program Sunday Night during its first season, and was a judge for the second annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists’ careers. He worked with Jill Scott on her third studio album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3; and put together a trio with David Sanborn and Marcus Miller for a tour across the United States.
His educator side had him teaching a course on Jazz And American Culture at Merritt College in Oakland, California. He was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for After Hours in 1999, was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame in 2012, and was honored with a tribute album My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, produced by long-time friend and collaborator Al Jarreau, that received a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album in 2015.
As leader he recorded some four dozen albums and as sideman he worked with such artists as Third World, The Keynotes, Gene Ammons, Billy Cobham, Eddie Henderson, Alphonse Mouzon, Michael Jackson, Deniece Williams, Miles Davis, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Chanté Moore, Joe Sample, Phil Collins, Regina Belle, Teena Marie, Joe Williams, Gerald Wilson and Larisa Dolina among many others.
Keyboard pioneer, vocalist guitarist, trombonist, producer and composer George Duke passed away on August 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California from chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 67. His songs have been sampled by Daft Punk, Kanye West and Ice Cube among numerous others.