Archive for 'Artist'

Cheryl Lynn

She signed a contact with Columbia after her smashing appearance in the TV special “Gong Show”. Toto were crucial to her first steps in record biz – she sang backing vocals for their hit “Georgy Porgy” and David Paich co-wrote her first hit “Got To Be Real”. She released a series of nine successful albums (1978 -1995), produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Ray Parker Jr., Barry Blue, Luther Vandross, Jesse Johnson, Teddy Riley etc. She has duetted with Luther Vandross for a cover of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “If This World Were Mine”. Other hits include “Shake It Up Tonight”, “In the Night”, “Star Love” and “Encore”. In 2004 she recorded “Sweet Kind of Life” for the soundtrack of the animated film “Shark Tale”. She has also sung backing vocals for Richard Marx, Luther Vandross, Teddy Riley and others.

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Hank Mobley

One of the Blue Note label’s definitive hard bop artists, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley remains somewhat underappreciated for his straightforward, swinging style. Any characterization of Mobley invariably begins with critic Leonard Feather’s assertion that he was the “middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone,” meaning that his tone wasn’t as aggressive and thick as John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, but neither was it as soft and cool as Stan Getz or Lester Young. Instead, Mobley’s in-between, “round” (as he described it) sound was controlled and even, given over to subtlety rather than intense displays of emotion. Even if he lacked the galvanizing, mercurial qualities of the era’s great tenor innovators, Mobley remained consistently solid throughout most of his recording career. His solo lines were full of intricate rhythmic patterns that were delivered with spot-on precision, and he was no slouch harmonically either. As a charter member of Horace Silver’s Jazz Messengers, Mobley helped inaugurate the hard bop movement: jazz that balanced sophistication and soulfulness, complexity and earthy swing, and whose loose structure allowed for extended improvisations. As a solo artist, he began recording for Blue Note in the latter half of the ’50s, and hit his peak in the first half of the ’60s with hard bop cornerstones like Soul Station, No Room for Squares, and A Caddy for Daddy.

Henry “Hank” Mobley was born on July 7, 1930, in Eastman, GA, and grew up mostly in Elizabeth, NJ. Several family members played piano and/or church organ, and Mobley himself learned piano as a child. He switched to the saxophone at age 16, initially modeling his style on players like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Don Byas, and Sonny Stitt. He soon started playing professionally in the area, and built enough of a reputation that trumpeter Clifford Brown recommended him for a job without having heard him play. That job was with Paul Gayten’s Newark-based R&B band, which he joined in 1949, doubling as a composer. He departed in 1951 and joined the house band at a Newark nightclub, where he played with pianist Walter Davis, Jr. and backed some of the era’s top jazz stars. That led to a job with Max Roach, who hired both Mobley and Davis after performing with them; they all recorded together in early 1953, at one of the earliest sessions to feature Roach as a leader. Meanwhile, Mobley continued to gig around his home area, playing with the likes of Milt Jackson, Tadd Dameron, and J.J. Johnson, among others; he also served two weeks in Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1953.

Mobley spent much of 1954 performing and recording with Dizzy Gillespie. He left in September to join pianist Horace Silver’s group, which evolved into a quintet co-led by Art Blakey and dubbed the Jazz Messengers. Their groundbreaking first album for Blue Note, 1955’s Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, was a landmark in the genesis of hard bop, with its sophisticated solos and bright, almost funky rhythms. Mobley led his first session for Blue Note, The Hank Mobley Quartet, in 1955, and recorded for Savoy and Prestige during 1956. In the middle of that year, the original lineup of the Jazz Messengers split, with Blakey keeping the name and Silver forming a new group. Mobley stayed with Silver until 1957, by which time he had begun to record prolifically as a leader for Blue Note, completing eight albums’ worth of material over the next 16 months. Some of his best work, such as Hank Mobley and His All Stars and The Hank Mobley Quintet, was cut with a selection of old Messengers mates. Not all of his sessions were released at the time, but some began to appear as import reissues in the ’80s. Often composing his own material, Mobley was beginning to truly hit his stride with 1958’s Peckin’ Time, when a worsening drug problem resulted in an arrest that took him off the scene for a year.

Upon returning to music in 1959, Mobley oriented himself by rejoining Art Blakey in the Jazz Messengers for a short period. His comeback session as a leader was 1960’s classic Soul Station, near-universally acknowledged as his greatest recorded moment. Mobley cut two more high-quality hard bop albums, Roll Call and Workout, over 1960-1961, as well as some other sessions that went unreleased at the time. In 1961, Mobley caught what looked to be a major break when he was hired to replace John Coltrane in Miles Davis’ quintet. Unfortunately, the association was a stormy one; Mobley came under heavy criticism from the bandleader, and wound up leaving in 1962. He returned to solo recording with 1963’s No Room for Squares, often tabbed as one of his best efforts, before drug and legal problems again put him out of commission during 1964. Energized and focused upon his return, Mobley recorded extensively during 1965, showcasing a slightly harder-edged tone and an acumen for tricky, modal-flavored originals that challenged his sidemen. At the same time, Dippin’ found a funkier soul-jazz sound starting to creep into his work, an approach that reached its apex on the infectious A Caddy for Daddy later that year.

Mobley recorded steadily for Blue Note through the ’60s, offering slight variations on his approach, and continued to appear as a sideman on a generous number of the label’s other releases (especially frequent collaborator Lee Morgan). 1966’s A Slice of the Top found Mobley fronting a slightly larger band arranged by Duke Pearson, though it went unissued until 1979. After cutting the straightforward Third Season in 1967, Mobley embarked on a brief tour of Europe, where he performed with Slide Hampton. He returned to the U.S. to record the straight-ahead Far Away Lands and Hi Voltage that year, and tried his hand at commercially oriented jazz-funk on 1968’s Reach Out. Afterward, he took Hampton’s advice and returned to Europe, where he would remain for the next two years. 1969’s The Flip was recorded in Paris, and Mobley returned to the States to lead his final session for Blue Note, Thinking of Home, in 1970 (it wasn’t released until ten years later). He subsequently co-led a group with pianist Cedar Walton, which recorded the excellent Breakthrough in 1972.

Sadly, that would prove to be Mobley’s last major effort. Health problems forced him to retire in 1975, when he settled in Philadelphia. He was barely able to even play his horn for fear of rupturing a lung; by the dawn of the ’80s, he was essentially an invalid. In 1986, he mustered up the energy to work on a limited basis with Duke Jordan; however, he died of pneumonia not long after, on May 30, 1986. During Mobley’s heyday, most critics tended to compare him unfavorably to Sonny Rollins, or dismiss him for not being the innovator that Coltrane was. However, in the years that followed Mobley’s death, Blue Note hard bop enjoyed a positive reappraisal; with it came a new appreciation for Mobley’s highly developed talents as a composer and soloist, instead of a focus on his shortcomings.

Blue Mitchell

Owner of a direct, lightly swinging, somewhat plain-wrapped tone that fit right in with the Blue Note label’s hard bop ethos of the 1960s, Blue Mitchell tends to be overlooked today perhaps because he never really stood out vividly from the crowd, despite his undeniable talent. After learning the trumpet in high school — where he got his nickname — he started touring in the early ’50s with the R&B bands of Paul Williams, Earl Bostic, and Chuck Willis before returning to Miami and jazz. There, he attracted the attention of Cannonball Adderley, with whom he recorded for Riverside in 1958. That year, he joined the Horace Silver Quintet, with whom he played and recorded until the band’s breakup in March 1964, polishing his hard bop skills. During his Silver days, Mitchell worked with tenor Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, drummer Roy Brooks, and various pianists as a separate unit and continued recording as a leader for Riverside. When Silver disbanded, Mitchell’s spinoff quintet carried on with Al Foster replacing Brooks and a young future star named Chick Corea in the piano chair. This group, with several personnel changes, continued until 1969, recording a string of albums for Blue Note. Probably aware that opportunities for playing straight-ahead jazz were dwindling, Mitchell became a prolific pop and soul session man in the late ’60s, and he toured with Ray Charles from 1969 to 1971 and blues/rock guitarist John Mayall in 1971-1973. Having settled in Los Angeles, he also played big-band dates with Louie Bellson, Bill Holman, and Bill Berry; made a number of funk and pop/jazz LPs in the late ’70s; served as principal soloist for Tony Bennett and Lena Horne; and kept his hand in hard bop by playing with Harold Land in a quintet. He continued to freelance in this multifaceted fashion until his premature death from cancer at age 49.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill was a great and even groundbreaking composer and pianist, yet the relatively circumscribed scale of his innovations might have originally caused him to get lost in the shuffle of the ’60s free jazz revolution. While many of his contemporaries were totally jettisoning the rhythmic and harmonic techniques of bop and hard bop, Hill worked to extend their possibilities; his was a revolution from within. Much of the most compelling ’60s jazz was nearly aleatoric; Hill, on the other hand, exhibited a determined command of his materials, however abstract they might sometimes be. His composed melodies were labyrinthine, and rhythmically and harmonically complex tunes like “New Monastery” from his Point of Departure album exhibit a sophistication born of mastery, not chance or contingency. As a pianist, Hill had a flowing melodicism and an elastic sense of time. Like his composing, Hill’s playing had an ever-present air of spontaneity and was almost completely devoid of cliché.

He began playing the piano at about the age of 13. As a youngster in Chicago, Hill was encouraged by pianist Earl Hines. Jazz composer Bill Russo also took an interest, and introduced Hill to the renowned classical composer Paul Hindemith, with whom Hill studied from 1950-1952. While in his teens, he gigged with prominent jazz musicians passing through the Midwest, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker among them. In 1955, he recorded So in Love with the Sound of Andrew Hill for the Warwick label. He moved to New York in 1961 to work with singer Dinah Washington. After a brief foray to Los Angeles with Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s band in 1962, Hill moved back to New York, where he began his recording career in earnest.

He made several records for Blue Note from 1963-1969, both as leader and sideman. Hill’s Blue Note work featured some of the best and brightest post-bop musicians of the day, including Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams, and Freddie Hubbard. Like many jazz musicians, Hill eventually turned to academia to make a living. He relocated to the West Coast, teaching in public schools and prisons in California. He eventually landed a teaching position at Portland State University, where he established the school’s Summer Jazz Intensive. In addition to his teaching, Hill continued to perform and record in the ’70s and ’80s, making records for the Arista/Freedom and Black Saint/Soul Note labels. In 1989 and 1990, Hill recorded twice more for Blue Note, Eternal Spirit and But Not Farewell.

Hill moved back to the New York area in the ’90s; a series of performances and new recordings helped place him back in the jazz spotlight. Hill formed a new Point of Departure Sextet for the Knitting Factory’s 1998 Texaco Jazz Festival. The band included saxophonists Marty Ehrlich and Greg Tardy, trumpeter Ron Horton, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Billy Drummond. The band went on to play New York club engagements to much acclaim. In 2000, Palmetto Records released Dusk, which was named the best album of 2001 by Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines. It was followed by A Beautiful Day in 2002, Passing Ships in 2003, and Black Fire in 2004, as well as a solid series of Blue Note reissues of his ’60s work that included bonus tracks and new liner notes. His 2006 album, Time Lines, reunited him with both trumpeter Charles Tolliver and the Blue Note label. Hill also participated in a 17-piece big band, and a January 2002 engagement at New York’s Birdland was filmed and recorded by Palmetto for future broadcast. After battling lung cancer for many years, Hill succumbed to the disease on April 20, 2007, leaving behind a stunning legacy of work.

Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson is proof that jazz can sell without watering down the music; it just takes creative marketing. Although his sound and style were virtually unchanged from the mid-’60s, Joe Henderson’s signing with Verve in 1992 was treated as a major news event by the label (even though he had already recorded many memorable sessions for other companies). His Verve recordings had easy-to-market themes (tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis, and Antonio Carlos Jobim) and, as a result, he became a national celebrity and a constant poll winner while still sounding the same as when he was in obscurity in the 1970s.

The general feeling is that it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving jazz musician. After studying at Kentucky State College and Wayne State University, Joe Henderson played locally in Detroit before spending time in the military (1960-1962). He played briefly with Jack McDuff and then gained recognition for his work with Kenny Dorham (1962-1963), a veteran bop trumpeter who championed him and helped Henderson get signed to Blue Note. Henderson appeared on many Blue Note sessions both as a leader and as a sideman, spent 1964-1966 with Horace Silver’s Quintet, and during 1969-1970 was in Herbie Hancock’s band. From the start, he had a very distinctive sound and style which, although influenced a bit by both Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, also contained a lot of brand new phrases and ideas. Henderson had long been able to improvise in both inside and outside settings, from hard bop to freeform. In the 1970s, he recorded frequently for Milestone and lived in San Francisco, but was somewhat taken for granted. The second half of the 1980s found him continuing his freelancing and teaching while recording for Blue Note, but it was when he hooked up with Verve that he suddenly became famous. Virtually all of his recordings are currently in print on CD, including a massive collection of his neglected (but generally rewarding) Milestone dates. On June 30, 2001, Joe Henderson passed away due to heart failure after a long battle with emphysema.

Benny Golson

Benny Golson is a talented composer/arranger whose tenor playing has continued to evolve with time. After attending Howard University (1947-1950) he worked in Philadelphia with Bull Moose Jackson’s R&B band (1951) at a time when it included one of his writing influences, Tadd Dameron on piano. Golson played with Dameron for a period in 1953, followed by stints with Lionel Hampton (1953-1954), and Johnny Hodges and Earl Bostic (1954-1956). He came to prominence while with Dizzy Gillespie’s globetrotting big band (1956-1958), as much for his writing as for his tenor playing (the latter was most influenced by Don Byas and Lucky Thompson). Golson wrote such standards as “I Remember Clifford” (for the late Clifford Brown), “Killer Joe,” “Stablemates,” “Whisper Not,” “Along Came Betty,” and “Blues March” during 1956-1960. His stay with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1958-1959) was significant, and during 1959-1962 he co-led the Jazztet with Art Farmer. From that point on Golson gradually drifted away from jazz and concentrated more on working in the studios and with orchestras including spending a couple of years in Europe (1964-1966). When Golson returned to active playing in 1977, his tone had hardened and sounded much closer to Archie Shepp than to Don Byas. Other than an unfortunate commercial effort for Columbia in 1977, Golson has recorded consistently rewarding albums (many for Japanese labels) since that time including a reunion with Art Farmer and Curtis Fuller in a new Jazztet. Through the years he has recorded as a leader for Contemporary, Riverside, United Artists, New Jazz, Argo, Mercury, and Dreyfus among others. Returning once again to the spirit of the original Jazztet, Golson released New Time, New ‘Tet on Concord Records in 2009.

Website: Benny Golson

Kenny Drew

A talented bop-based pianist (whose son has been one of the brightest pianists of the 1990s), Kenny Drew was somewhat underrated due to his decision to permanently move to Copenhagen in 1964. He made his recording debut in 1949 with Howard McGhee and in the 1950s was featured on sessions with a who’s who of jazz, including Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Milt Jackson, Buddy DeFranco’s quartet, Dinah Washington, and Buddy Rich (1958). Drew led sessions for Blue Note, Norgran, Pacific Jazz, Riverside, and the obscure Judson label during 1953-1960; most of the sessions are available on CD. He moved to Paris in 1961 and relocated to Copenhagen in 1964 where he was co-owner of the Matrix label. He formed a duo with Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson and worked regularly at the Montmartre. Drew recorded many dates for SteepleChase in the 1970s and remained active up until his death.

Paul Chambers

One of the top bassists of 1955-1965, Paul Chambers was among the first in jazz to take creative bowed solos (other than Slam Stewart, who hummed along with his bowing). He grew up in Detroit, where he was part of the fertile local jazz scene. After touring with Paul Quinichette, Chambers went to New York, where he played with the J.J. Johnson-Kai Winding quintet and George Wallington. He spent the bulk of his prime years (1955-1963) as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, participating in virtually all of Davis’ classic recordings of the era. When he left, “Mr. P.C.” (as John Coltrane called him in one of his originals) worked with the Wynton Kelly Trio (1963-1966) and freelanced until his death. Chambers, a consistently inspired accompanist who was an excellent soloist, made many recordings during his brief period, including some with Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd, Bud Powell, and Freddie Hubbard, in addition to a few as a leader

Sonny Clark

Like Fats Navarro and Charlie Parker before him, Sonny Clark’s life was short but it burned with musical intensity. Influenced deeply by Bud Powell, Clark nonetheless developed an intricate and hard-swinging harmonic sensibility that was full of nuance and detail. Regarded as the quintessential hard bop pianist, Clark never got his due before he passed away in 1963 at the age of 31, despite the fact that it can be argued that he never played a bad recording date either as a sideman or as a leader. Known mainly for seven records on the Blue Note label with a host of players including such luminaries as John Coltrane, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Art Taylor, Paul Chambers, Wilbur Ware, Philly Joe Jones, and others, Clark actually made his recording debut with Teddy Charles and Wardell Gray, but left soon after to join Buddy DeFranco. His work with the great clarinetist has been documented in full in a Mosaic set that is now sadly out of print. Clark also backed Dinah Washington, Serge Chaloff, and Sonny Criss before assuming his role as a leader in 1957. Clark’s classic is regarded as Cool Struttin’ but each date he led on Blue Note qualifies as a classic, including his final date, Sonny’s Crib with John Coltrane. And though commercial success always eluded him, he was in demand as a sideman and played dozens of Alfred Lion-produced dates, including Tina Brooks’ Minor Move. Luckily, Clark’s contribution is well documented by Alfred Lion; he has achieved far more critical, musical, and popular acclaim than he ever did in life.

Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown’s death in a car accident at the age of 25 was one of the great tragedies in jazz history. Already ranking with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis as one of the top trumpeters in jazz, Brownie was still improving in 1956. Plus he was a clean liver and was not even driving; the up-and-coming pianist Richie Powell and his wife (who was driving) also perished in the crash.

Clifford Brown accomplished a great deal in the short time he had. He started on trumpet when he was 15, and by 1948 was playing regularly in Philadelphia. Fats Navarro, who was his main influence, encouraged Brown, as did Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. After a year at Maryland State University, he was in a serious car accident in June 1950 that put him out of action for a year. In 1952, Brown made his recording debut with Chris Powell’s Blue Flames (an R&B group). The following year, he spent some time with Tadd Dameron, and from August to December was with Lionel Hampton’s band, touring Europe and leading some recording sessions. In early 1954, he recorded some brilliant solos at Birdland with Art Blakey’s quintet (a band that directly preceded the Jazz Messengers) and by mid-year had formed a quintet with Max Roach. Considered one of the premiere hard bop bands, the group lasted until Brown’s death, featuring Harold Land (and later Sonny Rollins) on tenor and recording several superb sets for Emarcy. Just hours before his death, Brownie appeared at a Philadelphia jam session that was miraculously recorded, and played some of the finest music of his short life.

Clifford Brown had a fat warm tone, a bop-ish style quite reminiscent of the equally ill-fated Fats Navarro, and a mature improvising approach; he was as inventive on melodic ballads as he was on rapid jams. Amazingly enough, a filmed appearance of him playing two songs in 1955 on a Soupy Sales variety show turned up after being lost for 40 years, the only known footage of the great trumpeter. Fortunately, virtually all of his recordings are currently available, including his Prestige dates (in the OJC series), his work for Blue Note and Pacific Jazz (on a four-CD set), and his many Emarcy sessions (reissued on a magnificent ten-disc set). But the one to pick up first is Columbia’s The Beginning and the End, which has Brown’s first and last recordings.

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