Martha Davis was born on December 14, 1917 in Wichita, Kansas, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois. By the mid-1930s, she had met and been influenced by Fats Waller, and performed regularly as a singer and pianist in Chicago clubs. In 1939, she met, and later married, bassist Calvin Ponder, who went on to play in Earl Hines’ band.
In 1948, Davis moved to California, and developed her recording career on Jewel Records in Hollywood with a trio including Ponder, guitarist Ralph Williams and drummer Lee Young. Their cover of Dick Haymes’ pop hit Little White Lies followed by a duet with Louis Jordan, Daddy-O in 1948, reached # 11 and #7, respectively, on the Billboard charts.
Davis and Ponder also began performing together on stage, developing a musical and comedy routine as “Martha Davis & Spouse” which played on their physical characteristics, she was large, he was smaller. The act became hugely popular, touring and having a residency at the Blue Angel in New York City. They appeared together in movies including Smart Politics with Gene Krupa, and in the mid-Fifties, variety films Rhythm & Blues Revue, Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue and Basin Street Revue. Several of their performances were filmed by Snader Telescriptions for video jukeboxes, and they also broadcast on network TV, particularly Garry Moore’s CBS show.
In 1957, after a break of several years, they resumed recording for the ABC Paramount label, with whom they cut two LPs. Singer and pianist Martha Davis passed away from cancer in New York on April 6, 1960 at age 42.
Ernie Carson was born December 4, 1937 in Portland, Oregon. He played trumpet from elementary school, and played with the Castle Jazz Band in the mid-1950s prior to a stint in the U.S. Marines.
Following his discharge Ernie moved to and worked in Los Angeles, California with Dave Wierbach, Jig Adams, Ray Bauduc, Pat Yankee, and Turk Murphy. He led several of his own groups from the 1970s, including the Capital City Jazz Band and a new version of the Castle Jazz Band.
After more than twenty years of playing based in Atlanta, Georgia he moved back to his hometown in 1995. Dixieland jazz revival cornetist, pianist and singer Ernie Carson, who left a small catalogue of music as his legacy, passed away on January 9, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.
Richard Tee was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 24, 1943 where he spent most of his life and lived with his mother in a brownstone apartment building. Graduating from The High School of Music & Art in New York City, he attended the Manhattan School of Music.
Tee went on to lead a jazz ensemble, the Richard Tee Committee and in 1981 he played the piano and Fender Rhodes for Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert In Central Park. Over the course of his prolific career he played with Quincy Jones, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Stanley Turrentine, Rahsaan Roland Kirk,Chuck Mangione, Grover Washington Jr., George Benson, Herbie Mann, Doc Severinsen, Patti Austin, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Barbra Streisand, Lou Rawls, Etta James.
Not limiting himself to jazz and blues, Richard also performed and recorded with Carly Simon, The Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, Peter Allen, George Harrison, Diana Ross, Duane Allman, Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Juice Newton, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Kenny Loggins, David Ruffin, Peter Gabriel, Joe Cocker, Tim Finn, Peabo Bryson, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Phoebe Snow, Leo Sayer and countless others.
He was a founding member of the band Stuff, ed by bassist Gordon Edwards and included guitarist Cornell Dupree, drummer Chris Parker and later adding guitarist Eric Gale and drummer Steve Gadd to the line up. Pianist, studio musician, singer and arranger Richard Tee, better known as a studio and session musician, passed away from prostate cancer on July 21, 1993 in Cold Spring, New York at the age of 49.
Kim Rene Nalley was born November 14, 1971 in San Francisco, California but was raised in New Haven, Connecticut in a musical family that includes jazz drummer and photographer Reggie Jackson and R&B guitarist-vocalist Earl Whitaker. She received piano lessons from her great-grandmother and originally pursued classical voice, studying drama and opera at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven. She went on to study classical music at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
At Holy Cross, Nalley sang with the power rock combo The Limit, which featured Crusader musicians Garrett Scott Flynn, Steve Guerette, Jim Januzzi, Allan Harper and Anthony O’Donnell. Switching to jazz shortly after moving to San Francisco, while attended UC Berkeley, she sang in the Cal Big Band, as well as receiving a See’s Candy’ Scholarship for Outstanding Musicianship.
Kim performed weekly at the Alta Plaza and director Michael Tilson Thomas discovered and recorded her in concert and hired her to sing a program of Gershwin tunes with the San Francisco Symphony. She began performing with the Johnny Nocturne Band for the Rounder/ Bullseye label, went on national and international tours, relocate to Switzerland, but returned to save the club Jazz at Pearl’s from going out of business.
Citing the Little Rascals and Bug Bunny cartoons as her seminal jazz influences, jazz and blues singer, actress, historian and former Jazz at Pearl’s club owner Kim Nalley, known for her powerful 3½ octave range, scatting, r&b, spirituals and folk guitar, continues to perform and record.
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Miles Jaye Davis was born on November 12, 1957 in Yonkers, New York and is known professionally as Miles Jaye. He studied music theory and classical violin for more than a decade at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Saratoga School of Orchestral Studies, Indian Hill and Brooklyn College.
While in the Air Force Jaye played flute, keyboards and bass and launched his singing career while stationed at Clarke Air Force Base in the Philippines. He toured Europe with jazz guitarist Eric Gale and singers Phyllis Hyman and Jon Lucien before taking over as “Cop” in the Village People in the mid 1980s. He stayed with the band for two years before launching his solo career and signing to Teddy Pendergrass’ production company Top Priority Records.
Releasing his debut album, Miles, on Island Records, he continued on the soul course with his music, contributing as musician, songwriter and co-producer on the Pendergrass 1988 hit album, Joy.
In 1991 he formed his own company, Black Tree Records, and recorded and released a string of increasingly jazz-influenced albums. Never straying completely from jazz he has also worked with George Duke, Roy Ayers, Grover Washington, Jr. and Branford Marsalis. Violinist, singer, producer and songwriter Miles Jaye continues to pursue new horizons in jazz.