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Jazz Music

Biographies


  • Archie Shepp

    Archie SheppArchie Shepp populates his musical world with themes and stylistic elements provided by the greatest voices of jazz: from Ellington to Monk and Mingus, from Parker to Siver and Taylor. His technical and emotional capacity enables him to integrate the varied elements inherited by the Masters of Tenor from Webster to Coltrane into his own playing but according to his very own combination: the wild raspiness of his attacks, his massive sound sculpted by a vibrato mastered in all ranges, his phrases carried to breathlessness, his abrupt level changes, the intensity of his tempos but also the velvety tenderness woven into a ballad. His play consistently deepens the spirit of the two faces of the original black American music: blues and spirituals. His work with classics and with his own compositions (Bessie Smith’s Black Water Blues or Mama Rose) contributes to maintaining alive the power of strangeness of these two musics in relationship to European music and expresses itself in a unique mix of wounded violence and age-old nostalgia.

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  • Art Van Damme

    Art Van DammAlthough a number of other accordionists ventured into jazz territory after Van Damme broke the trail, he remains the acknowledged master. As one reviewer recently wrote, he dispatches "Right-hand runs with a velocity and lightness of touch that defied the presumed limitations of the instrument," while at the same time, "Consistently emphasizing the lyric contours of a melodic phrase rather than the lightning technical flourishes that led up to it."

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  • Gerry Mulligan

    Gerry MulliganAlthough making his reputation first as an arranger, Mulligan eventually earned widespread kudos for his playing. "As an improviser [Mulligan] was slower to develop," allowed The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "but [he] then established himself as an outstanding baritone saxophonist, with a style that convincingly wed the harmonic and melodic characteristics of his own generation to a more traditional rhythmic discipline." In fact, Mulligan began improvising at age six. His piano teacher, a nun, told his mother not to waste her money on piano lessons, as he would always improvise a written tune.

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  • Lionel Hampton

    Lionel HamptonAs a composer and arranger, Lionel Hampton wrote more than 200 works, including the jazz standards Flying Home, Evil Gal Blues, and Midnight Sun. He also composed the major symphonic work, “King David Suite.”

    As a statesman, he was asked by President Eisenhower to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the United States, and his band made many tours to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East, generating a huge international following. President George Bush appointed him to the Board of the Kennedy Center, and President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of the Arts.

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  • Dave Brubeck

    Dave BrubeckBrubeck’s tendency toward peppering his jazz speech with classical tones is rooted in his childhood. His mother, a classically trained piano teacher, was a believer in prenatal influence. "She practiced all through her pregnancies," Dave Brubeck related, according to Len Lyons in The Great Jazz Pianists: Speaking of Their Lives and Music. "When we were born, we were all put near the piano to listen to her practicing. I heard Chopin, Liszt, Mozart, and Bach from infancy." While his brothers took to classical training, Brubeck rebelled against his mother’s teachings, preferring instead to make up his own songs. "There can be little doubt that his original interest in jazz arose as a protest against the idea of playing notes that were written on paper instead of the notes that were in his head," Rice wrote in the New Yorker. It is noteworthy that Brubeck did not learn to read music until later in life. Because of his acute musical ear, he was able to fool his mother by reproducing any piece after listening to it once or twice.

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  • Keith Jarrett

    Keith Jarrett One of the most significant pianists to emerge since the 1960s, Keith Jarrett maintained a career that went through several phases. He gained international fame for his solo concerts, which found him spontaneously improvising all of the music without any prior planning, but he also led a couple of dynamic quartets/quintets, performed classical music, and later played explorative versions of standards with his longtime trio. Although his tendency to "sing along" with his piano now and then is distracting, Jarrett continued to grow as a powerful improviser after decades of important accomplishments.

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  • Kenny Barron

    Kenny BarronKenny Barron’s career made a big leap in 1962 when, on Moody’s recommendation, Dizzy Gillespie invited him to join his group; he eventually replaced Lalo Schifrin. Barron remained with Gillespie until 1966 and the experience, including touring and recording, helped him build a reputation as a dependable sideman. Years later, in a New York Times interview with writer Peter Watrous in which he reflected on his time in the Gillespie group, Barron declared, "From Dizzy… I gained a real appreciation for be-bop and Latin music."

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  • Charles Mingus

    Charles MingusSome once believed that Mingus's music was too difficult to play without Mingus's leadership. However, many musicians play Mingus compositions today, from the repertory bands Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, and Mingus Orchestra, to the high school students who play the charts and compete in the Charles Mingus High School Competition.

    Gunther Schuller has suggested that Mingus should be ranked among the most important American composers, jazz or otherwise. In 1988, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts made possible the cataloging of Mingus compositions, which were then donated to the Music Division of the New York Public Library for public use. In 1993, The Library of Congress acquired Mingus's collected papers—including scores, sound recordings, correspondence and photos—in what they described as "the most important acquisition of a manuscript collection relating to jazz in the Library's history".

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  • Paul Chambers

    Paul ChambersPaul Chambers was in great demand as a session musician, and played on numerous albums during the period he was active including such landmarks as Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, Coltrane's Giant Steps, and Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth. Many musicians wrote songs dedicated to Chambers. Long-time fellow Davis bandmate, pianist Red Garland, wrote the tune "The P.C. Blues", and Coltrane's song "Mr. P.C." is named after Chambers. Tommy Flanagan wrote "Big Paul", which was performed on the Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane Prestige 1958 LP. Max Roach wrote a drum solo called "Five For Paul", on a 1977 drum solo LP recorded in Japan, and Sonny Rollins wrote "Paul's Pal" for him as well.

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  • Ella Fitzgerald

    Ella FitzgeraldWas Ella Fitzgerald essentially a jazz singer or a pop singer? Jazz purists say that she lacked the emotional depth of Billie Holiday, the imagination of Sarah Vaughan or Anita O'Day, and the blues-based power of Dinah Washington and that she was often facile, glossy, and predictable. The criticisms sprang partly from her "crossover" popularity and ignored her obvious strengths and contributions: Fitzgerald was not only one of the pioneers of scatsinging, but, beyond that, she was an unpretentious singer whose harmonic variations were always unforced and a supreme melodist who never let her ego get in the way of any song she sang.

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