Drums, b.1963, Crowborough, England
Bass, b.1930, Boise, ID
Piano, b.1927 d.1983, Hartford, CT
Albert Edwin Condon,
Guitar, Banjo, b.1905 d.1973, Goodland, IN
Better known as Eddie Condon, (16 November 1905–4 August 1973) was a jazz banjoist, guitarist, and bandleader. A leading figure in the so-called Chicago school of early jazz, he also played piano and sang on occasion.
Condon was born in Goodland, Indiana. After some time playing ukulele, he switched to banjo and was a professional musician by 1921. He was based in Chicago for most of the 1920s, and played with such jazz notables as Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Teschemacher.
In 1928 Condon moved to New York City. He frequently arranged jazz sessions for various record labels, sometimes playing with the artists he brought to the recording studios, including Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. He organised racialy integrated recording sesions when such were still rare with Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Henry ‘Red’ Allen. He played with the band of Red Nichols for a time. Later, from 1938 he had a long association with Milt Gabler’s Commodore Records.
From the late 1930s on he was a regular at the Manhattan jazz club Nick’s. The sophisticated variation on Dixieland music which Condon and his colleagues created there came to be nicknamed “Nicksieland.” By this time, his regular circle of musical associates included Wild Bill Davison, Bobby Hackett, Edmond Hall and Pee Wee Russell.
Condon also did a series of jazz radio broadcasts from New York’s Town Hall during 1944-45 which were nationally popular. These recordings survive, and have been issued on the Jazzology label.
From 1945 through 1967 he ran his own New York jazz club, Eddie Condon’s. In the 1950s Condon recorded a sequence of classic albums for Columbia Records. The musicians involved in these albums – and at Condon’s club – included Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Billy Butterfield (trumpet), Edmond Hall, Peanuts Hucko, Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Gene Schroeder, Dick Carey, Ralph Sutton (piano), Bob Casey, Walter Page, Jack Lesberg, Al Hall (bass), George Wettling, Buzzy Drootin, Cliff Leeman (drums).
Condon toured Britain in 1957 with a band including Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Gene Schroeder and George Wettling. His last tour was in 1964, when he took a band to Australia and Japan. Condon’s men, on that tour, were a roll-call of top mainstream jazz musicians: Buck Clayton (trumpet), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), Dick Carey (piano and alto horn), Jack Lesberg (bass), Cliff Leeman (drums), Jimmy Rushing (vocals). A nice touch was that Billy Banks, a vocalist who had recorded with Condon and Pee Wee Russell in 1932, and had lived in obscurity in Japan for many years, turned up at one of the 1964 concerts: Pee Wee asked him “have you got any more gigs?”.
In 1948 his autobiography We Called It Music was published. The book has many interesting and entertaining anecdotes about musicians Condon worked with. Eddie Condon’s Treasury of Jazz (1956) was a collection of articles by various writers co-edited by Condon and Richard Gehman.
A latter-day collaborator, clarinetist Kenny Davern, described a Condon gig: “It was always a thrill to get a call from Eddie and with a gig involved even more so. I remember eating beforehand with Bernie (Previn; trumpet) and Lou (McGarity; trombone) and everyone being in good spirits. There was a buzz on, we’d all had a taste and there was a great feel to the music” (from the notes to ‘Kenny Davern: A Night With Eddie Condon’, Arbors Jazz CDARCD 19238).
Eddie Condon toured and appeared at jazz festivals through to 1971. He died in New York City.
For more about Eddie go to http://www.redhotjazz.com/condon.html
Ray Conniff born Joseph Raymond Conniff
Trombone, b.1916 d.2002, Attleboro, Massachusetts
An American musician. He was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and learned to play the trombone from his father. He studied music arranging from a course book.
After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II (where he worked under Walter Schumann), he was hired by Mitch Miller, then head of A & R at Columbia Records as their home arranger, and he worked with several artists, including Rosemary Clooney, Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray. He wrote a top 10 arrangement for Don Cherry’s “Band of Gold” in 1955, a single that sold more than a million copies.
Amongst the hit singles he backed with his orchestra (and eventually with a male chorus) were “Yes Tonight Josephine” and “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” by Johnnie Ray; “Chances Are” and “It’s Not for Me to Say” by Johnny Mathis; “A White Sport Coat” and “The Hanging Tree” by Marty Robbins; “Up Above My Head,” a duet by Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray, and “Pet Me, Poppa” by Rosemary Clooney. He also backed up the albums “Tony” by Tony Bennett, “Blue Swing” by Eileen Rodgers, “Swingin’ for Two” by Don Cherry. and half the tracks of “The Big Beat” by Johnnie Ray.
In these early years he also produced some similar sounding records for Columbia’s Epic label under the name of Jay Raye (which stands for “Joseph Raymond”) amongst them a backing album and singles with Somethin’ Smith & The Redheads, an American male vocal group.
Due to the success of his backings Mitch Miller allowed him to make his own record, and this became the successful “‘S Wonderful”, a collection of standards that were recorded with an orchestra and a wordless singing chorus (four boys, four girls). He released many more albums in the same vein, including “Dance The Bop” (1957), “‘S Marvelous” (1957, gold album), “‘S Awful Nice” (1958), “Concert in Rhythm” (1958, gold album), “Hollywood in Rhythm” (1958), “Broadway in Rhythm” (1959), and “Concert in Rhythm, Volume II” (1959, gold album).
In 1959 he started the Ray Conniff Singers (12 girls and 13 boys) and released the album “It’s the Talk of the Town. This group of word— not just syllable — singing singers brought him the biggest hit he ever had in his career: “Somewhere My Love” (1966). The title track of the album (also called “Lara’s Theme”) was written for the film Doctor Zhivago (1965), and was a top 10 single in the US. The album also reached the US top 20 and went platinum, and Conniff won a Grammy. The single and album reached high positions in the international charts (a.o. Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Japan) as well. Also extraordinarily successful was the first of four Christmas albums by the Singers,”Christmas with Conniff” (1959). Nearly fifty years after its release, in 2004, Conniff posthumously was awarded with a platinum album/CD.
Musically different highlights in Conniff’s career are two albums he produced in cooperation with Billy Butterfield, an old buddy from earlier swing days. “Conniff Meets Butterfield” (1960) featured Butterfield’s solo trumpet and a small rhythm group; “Just Kiddin’ Around” (after a Conniff original composition from the 1940’s), released 1963, featured additional trombone solos by Ray himself. Both albums are pure light jazz and did not feature any vocals.
Between 1957 and 1968, he had 28 albums in the American Top 40, the most famous one being “Somewhere My Love” (1966). He topped the album list in Britain in 1969 with “His Orchestra, His Chorus, His Singers, His Sound”. He also was the first American popular artist to record in Russia—in 1974 he recorded “Ray Conniff in Moscow” with the help of a local choir. His later albums like “Exclusivamente Latino”, “Amor Amor” and “Latinisimo” made him very popular in Latin-American countries. In Brazil he was treated like a young pop superstar in the 1980s and 1990s when he was in his 70s and 80s. He even played live with his orchestra and eight-person chorus in large football stadiums.
Ray Conniff was a quiet, modest sympathetic artist. He always worked in the background so that in the fifties there were rumours that this man didn’t even exist and his name was just a name fake as then his orchestral sound was so sensational. Nevertheless he sold about 70 million albums world-wide and continued recording and performing until his death in 2002. He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
In 2004, a memorial two-CD compilation set, “The Essential Ray Conniff”, was released, featuring many rare and previously unreleased tracks. “The Singles Collection, Vol.1” was released on the Collectables label in 2005. This also features many rare tracks.
For more go to http://www.rayconniff.info/
Composer, Trumpet, b.1939, Tampere, Finland
Trumpet, b.1914 d.1990, Brockton, MA
William Christopher (W.C.) Handy
Composer, Cornet, b.1873 d.1958, Florence, AL
He was an African American blues composer and musician, often known as “the Father of the Blues.”
W. C. Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the style of music that is distinctively American, he is credited with its invention not only because he was formally educated and able to notate his music for publication and hence, posterity, but because of syncopated rhythms, a style unique to his music.
While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from an obscure regional music style to one of the dominant forces in American music.
Handy was an educated musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from several performers. He loved this simple early music and brought his own transforming touch to it.
Handy was born in Florence, Alabama to freed slaves, Charles Bernard Handy and Elizabeth Bewer Handy. His father was pastor of a small charge in Guntersville, Alabama, another small town in northeast central Alabama. Handy wrote in his 1941 autobiography Father of the Blues, that he was born in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal minister after emancipation.
Handy was a deeply religious man, whose influences in his musical style were found in the church music he sang and played as a youth, and in the sounds of nature in his hometown, Florence, Alabama.
He cited the sounds of nature, such as “whippoorwills, bats and hoot owls and their outlandish noises”, the sounds of Cypress Creek washing on the fringes of the woodland, and “the music of every songbird and all the symphonies of their unpremeditated art” as inspiration.
Growing up he apprenticed in carpentry, shoemaking and plastering, and bought his first guitar that he had seen in a local shop window and had secretly saved for by picking berries, nuts and making lye soap, without his parents’ permission. His father, dismayed at his actions, asked him, “What possessed you to bring a sinful thing like that into our Christian home?” He then ordered him to “Take it back where it came from”, and enrolled him in organ lessons. His days as an organ student were short lived, and he moved on to learn the cornet.
Handy joined a local blues band as a teenager, but he kept this fact a secret from his parents. He purchased a cornet from a fellow bandmember and spent every free minute practicing it. An exceptional student in school, he placed near the top of his class. In September of 1892, Handy traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to take a teaching exam, which he passed easily. He obtained a teaching job in Birmingham but soon learned that the teaching profession paid poorly. He quit the position and found work at a pipe works plant in nearby Bessemer.
During his off-time, he organized a small string orchestra and taught musicians how to read notes. He formed a quartet called the “Lauzetta Quartet”. When the group read about the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago, they decided to attend. The trip to Chicago was long and arduous. To pay their way, group members performed at odd jobs along the way. They finally arrived in Chicago only to learn that the World’s Fair had been postponed for a year. The group then headed to St. Louis but working conditions there proved to be very bad. The Laurzetta Quartet disbanded and Handy subsequently left St. Louis for Evansville, Indiana.
In Evansville, Handy’s luck changed dramatically. He joined a successful band which performed throughout the neighboring cities and states. While performing at a barbecue in Henderson, Kentucky, he met Elizabeth Price, and they married shortly afterwards (on July 19, 1896). Henderson
His musical endeavors were varied, and he sang first tenor in a minstrel show, moved from Alabama and worked as a band director, choral director, cornetist and trumpeter. At age 23, he was band master of Mahara’s Colored Minstrels.
As a young man, he was playing cornet in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and in 1902 he travelled throughout Mississippi listening to various musical styles played by ordinary Negroes. The instruments most often used in many of those songs were the guitar, banjo and to a much lesser extent, the piano. His remarkable memory served him well, and he was able to recall and transcribe the music he heard in his travels.
Shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Price in 1896, he was invited to join a minstrel group called “Mahara’s Minstrels.” In their three year tour, they travelled to Chicago, Illinois, throughout Texas and Oklahoma, through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida on to Cuba and was paid a salary of $6 per week. Upon their return from their Cuban engagements, they travelled north through Alabama, and stopped to perform in Huntsville, Alabama. Growing weary from life on the road, it was there he and his wife decided to stay with relatives in his nearby hometown of Florence.
On June 29, 1900 in Florence, Elizabeth gave birth to the first of their six children (a daughter, Lucille). Around that time, William Hooper Councill, President of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes in Normal, Alabama (a small community just outside Huntsville) approached Handy about teaching music. At the time, AAMC was the only college for Negroes in Alabama. Handy accepted Councill’s offer and became a faculty member that September. He taught music there from 1900 to 1902 which is today named Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University.
An important factor in his musical development and in music history, was his enthusiasm for the distinctive style of uniquely American music which was often considered inferior to European classical music. He was soon disheartened to discover that American music was often cast aside by the college and instead emphasized inferior foreign music considered to be “classical”. Handy felt he was underpaid and felt he could make more money touring with a minstrel group and after a dispute with AAMC President Councill, he resigned his teaching position to rejoin the Mahara Minstrels to tour the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. In 1903 he was offered the opportunity to direct a Black band named the Knights of Pythias, located in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Handy accepted and remained there six years.
In 1909 he and his band moved to Memphis, Tennessee and established their presence on Beale Street. At that time, American society and culture was distinctively segregated and Handy’s observations of Whites responses to native Black music in conjunction with his own observations of his habits, attitudes and music of his ethnicity served as the foundation for what was later to become the style of music popularized as “the Blues.”
The genesis of his “Memphis Blues” was as a campaign tune originally entitled as “Mr. Crump” which he had written for Edward Crump, a successful Memphis, Tennessee mayoral candidate in 1909 (and future “boss”). He later rewrote the tune and changed the name to “Memphis Blues.”
The 1912 publication of his “Memphis Blues” sheet music introduced his style of 12-bar blues to many households, and was credited as the inspiration for the invention of the foxtrot dance step by Vernon and Irene Castle, a New York-based dance team. Some consider it to be the first blues song. He sold the rights to the song for $100, and by 1914, at age 40, his musical style was asserted, his popularity increased significantly, and he composed prolifically.
Because of the difficulty of getting his works published, he published many of his own works, and in 1917, he and his business moved to New York City. By the end of that year, his most successful songs, “Memphis Blues”, “Beale Street Blues”, and “St. Louis Blues” had been published. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white New Orleans jazz ensemble, had recorded the very first jazz record that year, introducing jazz music to a wide segment of the American public. Handy initially had little fondness for this new “jazz” music, but jazz bands dove into the repertoire of W. C. Handy compositions with enthusiasm, making many of them jazz standards.
Handy’s foray into publishing was noteworthy for several reasons. Not only were his works groundbreaking because of his ethnicity, but he was among the first blacks who were successful because of it. The rejection of his manuscripts for publication led him to self-publish his works. In 1912, Handy met Harry H. Pace at the Solvent Savings Bank in Memphis. Pace was valedictorian of his graduating class at Atlanta University and student of W.E.B. DuBois. By the time of their meeting, Pace had already demonstrated a strong understanding of business and earned his business reputation by rebuilding failing businesses. Handy liked him, and he later became manager of Pace and Handy Sheet Music.
In 1920, frustrated at white publishing companies that would buy their music and lyrics and record them using white artists, Pace amicably dissolved his long standing partnership with Handy, with whom he also collaborated as lyricist, and resolved to start his own record firm which he later named Black Swan Records.
For years, scholars thought Handy was a founder of Black Swan Records. However, Handy wrote, “To add to my woes, my partner withdrew from the business. He disagreed with some of my business methods, but no harsh words were involved. He simply chose this time to sever connection with our firm in order that he might organized Pace Phonograph Company, issuing Black Swan Records and making a serious bid for the Negro market. . . . With Pace went a large number of our employees. . . . Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact that people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan Record Company.”
Although Handy’s partnership with Pace was dissolved, he continued to operate the publishing company as a family-owned business, and published other works of other black composers as well as his own, which included more than 150 sacred compositions and folk song arrangements and about sixty blues compositions.
In the 1920s, he founded the Handy Record Company in New York City.
Bessie Smith’s January 14, 1925 Columbia Records recording of “St. Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong is considered by many to be one of the finest recordings of the 1920s.
In 1926 he authored and edited a work entitled Blues: An Anthology: Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs, which is probably the first work of its type which attempted to record, analyze and describe the blues as an integral part of the U. S. South and the |history of the United States.
So successful was Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” that in 1929, he and director Kenneth W. Adams collaborated on a RCA motion picture project of the same name which was to be shown before the main attraction. Handy suggested Blues singer Bessie Smith be placed in the starring role since she had gained widespread popularity with that tune. The picture was shot in June and was shown in movie houses throughout the United States from 1929 to 1932.
The genre of the blues was a hallmark of American society and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. So much so was its influence and Handy’s hallmark, that author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novel The Great Gatsby that, “All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the “Beale Street Blues” while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the gray tea hour there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low, sweet fever, while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor.”
Trumpet, b.1906 d.1983, Baltimore, MD
Bass, b.1916 d.1983, Windsor, ONT, Canada
Alto Sax, b.1953, Dayton, OH
Bass, Arranger, b.1914, Genoa, Italy
Drums, b.1908 d.1971, Laurel, MS
Trumpet, b.1925 d.1964, Philadelphia, PA