Carmen Souza was born in Lisbon, Spain on May 20, 1981 of Cape Verdean heritage speaking Creole, the Cape Verde dialect and Portuguese. In her teens she sang professionally in a Lusophone Gospel Choir. Musicians like Luis Morais, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Diana Krall were some of her inspirations. Theo Pas’cal, her producer and mentor and one of the best bass players in Portugal, discovered her talent and introduced her to jazz, fusion and other contemporary sounds that markedly influenced her musical development.
Working with Theo in 2003, two years later Carmen released to critical acclaim her debut album Ess ê nha Cabo Verde that combined Creole, African and Cape Verde rhythms like Batuke, Morna, and Cola djon with her jazz contemporary influences. The album led to her international breakthrough performance at the WOMAD at Reading Festival of the same year.
Her sophomore album Verdade she co-produced and is featured on Wurlitzer and guitar. She returned in 2010 with the impressive Protegid (Protected) that continued to push the limits of what constitutes the Cape Verdean music, world music and jazz. The expressive voice, versatile style of vocalist Carmen Souza continues to perform, record and tour.
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Monette Moore was born May 19, 1902 in Gainesville, Texas but was raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She taught herself piano in her teens and worked as a theater pianist in Kansas City in the early Twenties. In 1923–24 she recorded for Paramount Records in New York City and Chicago, in addition working Dallas and Oklahoma City and eventually settling in New York City.
Monette played with Charlie Johnson’s ensemble at Smalls Paradise and recorded with him in 1927–28. Her output from 1923–27 amounts to 44 tunes, some recorded under the name Susie Smith. Her sidemen included Tommy Ladnier, Jimmy O’Bryan, Jimmy Blythe, Bob Fuller, Rex Stewart, Bubber Miley, Lou Hooper and Elmer Snowden.
In the 1930s, Moore recorded with Fats Waller, filled in for Ethel Waters as an understudy, and in 1937 sang with Zinky Cohn in Chicago. She would perform at her own club, Monette’s Place, in New York City in 1933. Around 1940 she sang in New York with Sidney Bechet and Sammy Price, then moved to Los Angeles in 1942, performing often in nightclubs. She appeared in James P. Johnson’s revue Sugar Hill in 1949 and in numerous films in minor roles.
Monette recorded again from 1945-47, performed with the Young Men of New Orleans at Disneyland in 1961–62. Vocalist and pianist Monette Moore passed away of a heart attack on October 21, 1962 in Garden Grove, California.
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Woody Herman was born Woodrow Charles Thomas Herman on May 16, 1913 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father had a deep love for show business and this influenced him at an early age. As a child he worked as a Vaudeville singer and tap-dancer, then started to play the clarinet and saxophone by age 12.
1936 saw him joining the Tom Gerun band and his first recorded vocals were Lonesome Me and My Heart’s at Ease. He also performed with the Harry Sosnick Orchestra, Gus Arnheim and Isham Jones, the latter writing numerous popular songes including It Had To Be You. When Jones retired Woody acquired the orchestra, which became known for its orchestrations of the blues. They first recorded for the Decca label as a cover band, eventually getting their first hit with Woodchopper’s Ball in 1939.He went on to have hits with The Golden Wedding and Blue Prelude.
As bebop was gradually replacing swing Herman commissioned Dizzy Gillespie as an arranger and he provided him three arrangements of Woody‘n You, Swing Shift and Down Under in 1942, heralding a change in the music. By 1945 Herman was with Columbia Records, recording the First Herd, the very successful Laura, the theme song to the 1944 movie of the same name. That group became famous for its progressive jazz that was heavily influenced by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. By the end of 1946 the big band era was over and he disbanded his only financially profitable group.
In 1947, Herman organized the Second Herd that remained together until 1987. This band was also known as The Four Brothers Band derived from the song and featured three tenor and one baritone saxophone of Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward and Stan Getz. In the band was also Al Cohn, Gene Ammons, Lou Levy, Oscar Pettiford, Terry Gibbs and Shelly Manne and they had hits with Early Autumn and The Goof and I.
Herman would go on to perform in movies with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, record for RCA, Capitol, MGM and Verve record labels, put together his Third Herd and variations of the New Thundering Herd and by the Seventies was touring and working more in jazz education by offering workshops and taking on younger sidemen.
The 1980s saw Herman’s return to straight-ahead jazz, dropping some of the newer rock and fusion approaches he had used the previous decade. He continued to perform with his health in decline, chiefly to pay back taxes that were owed because of his business manager’s bookkeeping in the 1960s. Herman owed the IRS millions of dollars and was in danger of eviction from his home. He eventually passed leadership duties to reed section leader Frank Tiberi.
Clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer and big band leader Woody Herman was awarded two Grammys for Best Big Band Jazz Album for Encore and Giant Steps, The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, had won Down Beat, Esquire and Metronome polls. He was the feature of a documentary film titled Woody Herman: Blue Flame- Portrait of a Jazz Legend, and was a featured half-time performer at Super Bowl VII. He passed away on October 29, 1987.
Venissa Santi was born on May 10, 1978 in Ithaca, New York. As a child she grew up listening to the sounds of Ravel, Celia Cruz and Michael Jackson as well as theatrical productions and jazz. But it was her grandfather, Cuban composer Jacobo Ros Capablanca, who instilled in her a connection to her roots through his compositions and a life-long passion for music. So after completing high school, she moved to Philadelphia, where she enrolled at the University of the Arts and majored in Jazz Vocal Performance.
After graduation, she became actively involved in Philadelphia’s Latin community and music scene and began her career as a vocal instructor with the Asociación de Músicos Latino Americanos, better known as AMLA. Over time she performed with a variety of Latin, jazz and World music groups. It was from the support and encouragement of this community that inspired Venissa to embark on the first of four life changing visits to Cuba, where she conducted research and studied Afro Cuban song, dance and percussion.
It was while under the tutelage of Master Gregorio “El Goyo” Hernandez and master dancers from Yoruba Andabo, Arturo Clave y Guaganco, Afro-Cuba de Matanzas and Irosso Oba, that she reconnected with her relatives in Cuba. Santi began to compose the soundtrack of her life’s journey thus far, resulting in an audacious new sound that defies borders, language and categorization.
In 2008 Venissa won the Pew Fellowship for Folk and Traditional Arts. 2009 saw her signed to Sunnyside Records, releasing Bienvenida, and has been praised by Ruben Blades and pianist Danilo Perez. Vocalist Venissa Santi has released her sophomore project Big Stuff and is currently performing at venues and festivals and preparing new material for her next project.
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Joyce Collins was born on May 5, 1930 in Battle Mountain, Nevada. She began playing piano professionally at the age of 15 while still attending Reno High School. While studying music and teaching at San Francisco State College she played in groups and solo at various jazz clubs, eventually touring with the Frankie Carle band.
By the late 1950s, Collins settled in Los Angeles, California, working there Reno and in Las Vegas she became the first woman to conduct one of the resort’s show bands. During this period she worked in film and television studios, spending 10 years in the band on the Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart shows.
In 1975, she recorded with Bill Henderson garner Grammy nominations for their Street Of Dreams and Tribute To Johnny Mercer albums. Joyce continued to work in films, coached the Bridges brothers for their roles in The Fabulous Baker Boys. She appeared twice on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz radio show.
She performed mostly in solo, duo and trio work but occasionally sat in with big bands, such as that led by Bill Berry. She has recorded with Paul Horn and under her own name releasing her debut album in 1961, followed by her sophomore release Moment To Moment, after a long gap. She was an accomplished composer, arranger and singer with a delicate understanding of the lyricist’s intentions.
As an educator, in 1975 she taught jazz piano at the Dick Grove Music School. She wrote and arranged extensively, including a program, performed live and on radio, tracing the involvement of women in jazz as composers and lyricists. Pianist, singer and educator Joyce Collins passed away on January 3, 2010.