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George Duke

August 11, 2013 Leave a comment

imagesGeorge Duke, who began his career as a jazz pianist in the 1960s but made his name by crossing musical boundaries, died last Monday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 67. The name of the instrument with which Mr. Duke is perhaps most closely associated also describes his approach to music: synthesizer. “While he remained a respected figure in the jazz world, over the years he also played keyboards with Frank Zappa and Michael Jackson, sang lead on a Top 20 single and produced pop and rhythm-and-blues hits for others. His work has been sampled by hip-hop and electronic artists, including Daft Punk. ” (New York Times, 8-7)

“Mr. Duke was born on Jan. 12, 1946, in San Rafael, Calif, near San Francisco. He grew up listening to gospel music in the Baptist church his family attended. He graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1967.

Beginning in 1967 Duke experimented further with jazz fusion, playing and recording with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as performing with the Don Ellis Orchestra, and Cannonball Adderley’s band, while he acquainted himself with the avant-garde musician Frank Zappa. Duke appeared on a number of Frank Zappa’s albums through the 1970s.

Duke served as a record producer and composer on two instrumental tracks on Miles Davis albums: “Backyard Ritual” (from Tutu, 1986) and “Cobra” (from Amandla, 1989). He has also worked with a number of notable Brazilian musicians, including singer Milton Nascimento, percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora Purim.” (wikipedia.org)

Critics  said that Duke’s music was not challenging enough, and that he was too eager to court a broad audience. He disagreed.

“I really think it’s possible (and still do) to make good music and be commercial at the same time,” Mr. Duke wrote. “I believe it is the artist’s responsibility to take the music to the people. Art for art’s sake is nice; but if art doesn’t communicate, then its worth is negated. It has not fulfilled its destiny.” (NYTimes)

For further information, look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Duke, and a recent George Duke interview: http://youtu.be/_SMBgh9n6aA.

 

George Duke Trio with Jean-Luc Ponty (1969):

Mulgrew Miller

imagesMulgrew Miller, one of our greatest jazzpianists has left us today. We will never hear his voice, his music, alive again.The cause was a stroke, said his longtime manager, Mark Gurley. Mr. Miller had been hospitalized since Friday. (NYTimes, 05-29).

Mulgrew Miller, one of our greatest jazzpianists has left us today. We will never hear his voice, his music, alive again.The cause was a stroke, said his longtime manager, Mark Gurley. Mr. Miller had been hospitalized since Friday. (NYTimes, 05-29).

Miller began his career with Betty Carter (1980), Woody Shaw (1981-1983), and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1983-1986).

He has released four albums with Derrick Hodge (bass) and Karriem Riggins (drums) (both on the label MAXJAZZ): Live At Yoshi’s Vol. 1 (2004), Live At Yoshi’s Vol. 2 (2005), Live At The Kennedy Center Vol. 1 (2006), and Live At The Kennedy Center Vol. 2 (2007).

On May 20, 2006, Miller was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Performing Arts at Lafayette College’s 171st Commencement Exercises.images (1)

Miller spent the last years of his life in Easton, Pennsylvania. He was the Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University and the Artist in Residence at Lafayette Collegefor 2008-2009. His last working trio consisted of Ivan Taylor on bass and Darrell Green on drums.

In conversation with Mulgrew Miller: http://www.jazz.com/features-and-interviews/2009/4/7/in-conversation-with-mulgrew-miller

 

 

Pat Halcox

February 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Pat HalcoxThe day Donald Byrd left this world, also Pat Halcox died.

Halcox was born in Chelsea, London, and became the trumpet player in the Chris Barber Jazz Band, when the band took that name on 31 May 1954. He was originally offered the spot earlier, but elected to continue his studies as a research chemist, so Ken Colyer was invited to fill the vacancy in 1953, and the band was known as the Ken Colyer Jazz Band, as Colyer had recently returned from New Orleans, and the other members, including Chris Barber, Lonnie Donegan and Monty Sunshine, decided that this New Orleans experience would add credibility.
The band effectively parted company with Colyer after a dispute about the direction it should be going. Halcox took Colyer’s place, in what then became the Chris Barber Jazz Band as we know it, and even though the original six piece band grew to 7, then 8, and eventually to eleven in number, Halcox remained an ever present.
Although primarily the trumpet player, Halcox also had a fine singing voice, and led the band’s various renditions of “Ice Cream”, one of their most popular standards. He also played piano on the Lonnie Donegan recording of “Digging My Potatoes”.
The Pat Halcox Allstars did make a recording of their own during a Chris Barber Band summer break, now re-released on Lake Records as a CD.
Halcox announced his retirement from the Chris Barber Band at the age of 78, effective from July 2008. (wikipedia.org)

The career of the jazz trumpeter Pat Halcox, who has died aged 82, was defined by the exceptional length of his musical partnership with the trombonist Chris Barber. Halcox explained the longevity of this relationship in a 2008 interview:  “Chris always cared so much about what he was doing, and that’s why I stayed with him. I’ve seen the world, made good friends with wonderful musicians, played for huge crowds in fabulous places. I have to thank Chris for all that.” (guardian.co.uk)

Trumpeter Donald Byrd dies at the age of 80

February 8, 2013 1 comment

byrd

The influential jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd died on Monday at the age of 80, his nephew has said.

Alex Bugnon, a jazz pianist, reported his uncle’s death on Thursday, though it has yet to be confirmed.

Bugnon wrote on his own Facebook page: “Donald passed away Monday in Delaware, where he lived. His funeral will be held in Detroit sometime next week. I have no more patience for this unnecessary shroud of secrecy placed over his death by certain members of his immediate family. ” (The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk)

Byrd attended Cass Technical High School. He performed with Lionel Hampton before finishing high school. After playing in a military band during a term in the United States Air Force, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Wayne State Uni

versity and a master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. While still at the Manhattan School, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as replacement for Clifford Brown. In 1955, he recorded with Jackie McLean and Mal Waldron. After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956, he performed with many leading jazz musicians of the day, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and later Herbie Hancock. Byrd’s first regular group was a quintet that he co-led from 1958-61 with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, an ensemble whose hard-driving performances are captured “live” on At the Half Note Cafe. In June 1964, Byrd jammed with jazz legend Eric Dolphy in Paris just two weeks before Dolphy’s death from insulin shock.

Byrd lived in Teaneck, New Jersey until his death on February 4, 2013 at the age of 80. (wikipedia.org)

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