Milt “Bags” Jackson died in Manhattan of liver cancer at the age of 76. Jackson is best known as one-fourth of the Modern Jazz Quartet, which performed its unique and impeccable “chamber jazz” from 1952 until its dissolution in 1974, with only one change in personnel—drummer Connie Kay replacing Kenny Clarke in 1955. Jackson's death leaves pianist-musical director John Lewis and bassist Percy Heath as the MJQ's survivors. Jackson was born on New Years Day, 1923, in Detroit. Growing up, he sang and played a variety of instruments, including drums and piano (on which he recorded several times) before settling on a relatively new instrument, the vibraphone, a somewhat unusual choice given that he had perfect pitch. In 1945, Dizzy Gillespie heard Jackson playing the vibraphone in a Detroit bar and immediately hired him for Gillespie's ill-fated first attempt at a big band. After the band collapsed, Jackson joined Gillespie and Charlie Parker in a sextet for what became a legendary two-month engagement at Billy Berg's in Hollywood. Recordings from this period demonstrate that Jackson had not yet fully developed the modern style, but working night after night in a combo with the two great geniuses of the new music obviously had a profound influence. (("Bags" was his nickname, from the 'bags' under his eyes from staying up late - or more likely cigarette smoke)
Born in 1943 and
raised in Indiana, Gary Burton taught himself to play the vibraphone
and, at the age of 17, made his recording debut in Nashville, Tennessee,
with guitarists Hank Garland and Chet Atkins. Two years later, Burton
left his studies at Berklee College of Music to join George Shearing and
subsequently Stan Getz, with whom he worked from 1964-1966.
Also in the
'70s, Burton began his career with
Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Burton began as a teacher of percussion and improvisation classes at
Berklee in 1971. In 1985 he was named Dean of Curriculum. In 1989, he
received an honorary doctorate of music from the college, and in 1996,
he was appointed Executive Vice President. Burton began
recording for GRP records in the '80s and '90s. In 1990, he paired up
again with his former protege Metheny for Reunion, which landed him the
top spot on Billboard magazine's jazz chart. Burton is now recording for
Departure (Gary Burton & Friends) was released in 1997 by Concord
Records as well as Native Sense, a new duet collaboration with
Chick Corea, which garnered a Grammy Award in 1998. Also in 1997, Burton
recorded his second collection of tango music, Astor Piazzolla Reunion,
featuring the top tango musicians of Argentina, followed by Libertango
in 2000, another collection of Piazzolla music. His 1998 Concord
release, Like Minds, an all-star hit featuring his frequent
collaborators Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland,
was honoured with a Grammy win, Burton's fifth. Gary's vibraphone
tribute CD, For Hamp, Red, Bags and Cal, was released in March 2001 on
Concord and garnered Gary's 12th Grammy nomination. His most recent
release in 2002 is a unique project with Makoto Ozone, his pianist
collaborator of the past twenty years. In Virtuosi the pair explore the
improvisational possibilities of classical themes including works by
Brahms, Scarlatti, Ravel, Barber and others. In an unusual move, the
Recording Academy nominated Virtuosi in the classical category of the
Grammy awards, a unique honour for Gary.
Roy Ayers - A popular jazz vibraphonist and vocalist, Ayers reached the peak of his commercial popularity during the mid-70s and early 80s. He was also justly celebrated as an important influence on the latter decade's acid-jazz movement. Ayers played piano as a child and took an interest in the vibes after meeting Lionel Hampton. In high school he formed his first group, the Latin Lyrics, and in the early 60s began working professionally with flautist/saxophonist Curtis Amy. Ayers' first album under his own name was West Coast Vibes on United Artists Records, a 1963 recording session which featured Amy. He also worked with Chico Hamilton, Hampton Hawes and Herbie Mann, with whom he first gained prominence between 1966 and 1970. After recording three albums for Atlantic Records in the late 60s, Ayers formed Roy Ayers Ubiquity and signed to Polydor Records, incorporating funk and R&B styles into his jazz. Using a number of prominent sidemen such as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Sonny Fortune, George Benson and Billy Cobham, Ubiquity's albums helped to popularize the jazz/funk crossover style. The group reached the R&B charts with several albums and singles during this period, including the Top 20 disco-influenced R&B hit "Running Away". The album track "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" remains a perennial club favourite into the new millennium. Ayers dropped the Ubiquity group name in 1978 and continued to have chart success with both his solo albums and singles into the late 80s. After touring Africa, Ayers recorded Africa, Center Of The World with Fela Kuti and also set up the Uno Melodic Records label with the Nigerian musician. He switched to Columbia Records in 1984 but released records less frequently as the 80s came to a close, concentrating on composing and producing for other artists. Since the late 80s, Ayers and the resurrected Ubiquity have enjoyed a successful collaboration with Ronnie Scott's jazz club in Soho, London, acting as the official house band. In 1993, Ayers guested on the first instalment of Guru's Jazzmatazz project, a self-styled "experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz". Two years later Ayers secured a contract with RCA Records and the Groovetown label, for whom he recorded the well-received Nasté. He has subsequently appeared on albums by Masters At Work (the Nuyorican Soul project), Erykah Badu and Eric Benét, and re-established his own record label under the name AFI CDs.
Marjorie Hyams - Vibraphonist
If Margie Hyams had not retired prematurely, she would be much better-known today. A talented vibraphonist able to play in both bop and swing settings, Hyams was an important musician during the second half of the 1940's. She was featured with Woody Herman's First Herd (1944-45), led her own trio (1945-48) and was an original member of the George Shearing Quintet (1949-50). In addition, she recorded with Flip Phillips, Mary Lou Williams and Charlie Ventura. However in 1950 Margie Hyams (who never led her own recording session) married and decided to retire from music at the age of 27. Little has been heard from her since, a major loss to jazz.
Cal Tjader - The greatest Anglo musician in Latin music. Tjader's father was a musical director and producer in vaudeville, and he grew up around the music and the theatre, even studying to be a dancer for a while. He decided to stick with music, though, and began to play drums with different small groups in California in the late 1940s. In 1949, Dave Brubeck hired him for his trio and Tjader recorded several 10" albums with Brubeck. He left Brubeck and worked briefly with guitarist Alvino Rey before joining George Shearing's combo in 1953, where he began performing on the vibes.
While with Brubeck, Tjader signed with Dave's label, Fantasy, but it was not until he left Shearing in 1954 that he began recording in earnet. Over the next seven years, Fantasy released an amazing string of 30 albums, over half of them featuring Latin music. To some extent, Fantasy was trying to capitalize on the mambo craze of the mid-1950s, and, in hindsight, the Latin albums tended to cause some listeners (including this writer) to overlook his straight-ahead jazz albums. Worth particular note among these are the two "Brubeck/Tjader" albums and "San Francisco Moods," which featured a number of Tjader originals and remains one of the most listenable albums from the West Coast jazz era.
Tjader's mid-1950s quintet rode the wave of the popularity of West Coast jazz, giving pianist Vince Guaraldi, among others, major career boosts. In 1963, Creed Taylor signed him for Verve and he worked with Claus Ogermann and other producers to create some of the hippest albums of the 1960s. His single of "Soul Sauce (Guachi Guara)" briefly reached the Top 40 charts. Several of his Verve albums have been reissued on CD and are worth seeking out. Tjader could even take something as square as "The Whiffenpoof Song" ("We are poor little lambs who have lost our way")--theme song of the Yale Glee Club--and make you want to frug to it. n Although Tjader was often slammed by jazz critics for pandering to popular tastes, he was well-respected among Latin musicians and many of the greats played with him over the years, including Candido, Armando Peraza, Eddie Palmieri, andTito Puente. And in recent years, he's come to be recognized as one of the fathers of acid jazz, with numerous combos imitating the blend of Latin, jazz, and funk he pioneered in the 1960s. His Concord album, La Onda Va Bien won a Grammy award in 1979.
Ray Alexander Ray Alexander played jazz for over 50 years, appearing with such luminaries as George Shearing, Claude Thornhill, Stan Getz, Peggy Lee, Anita O'Day, Bill Evans, Charlie Barnet, and a host of others.
Victor Feldman was a child prodigy who was a professional from the age of seven and sat in on drums with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Band in 1944 when he was ten. He was active in his native England through the bebop years (mostly on drums), debuting as a leader in 1948. By 1952, Feldman was getting better-known for his vibes playing and he recorded extensively during the 1950s. After touring with Woody Herman (1956-1957), he decided to move to the U.S. in 1957, where he worked at the Lighthouse with Howard Rumsey. Feldman recorded (on vibes and piano) for Mode, Contemporary, and Riverside during 1957-1961, a period in which he became a busy studio musician. Feldman was with Cannonball Adderley's Quintet (mostly as a pianist) for six months in 1960-1961 and recorded with Miles Davis in 1963 (who offered him a job with his new quintet and recorded his original "Seven Steps to Heaven"), but remained in L.A. and the studios. He cut jazz dates for Choice, Concord, Palo Alto, and TBA and in the 1980s up until his death he led a soulful crossover group (the Generation Band) that often featured his son, Trevor Feldman, on drums. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
Guide to Solo Vibraphone - Lessons
Mark Sherman After nearly 25 years of recording, writing, and performing with Larry Coryell’s group and many others, vibraphonist Mark Sherman a Yamaha performing artist, and a Vic Firth artist has a beautiful quintet featuring Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Allen Farnham on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, and Tim Horner on drums. Sherman’s previous recording “One Step Closer” featuring Joe Lovano was recently in the top ten on the radio charts for 12 weeks in the United States. The most recent recording “Family First” was the most spun CD in the United States in it’s opening week on the charts. Tied in with most of Sherman's live performances (clubs, and festivals) is a 2 hour master-class on language skills for improvisation, usually done at the local music school or university music department, and sponsored by Yamaha and Vic Firth Co.” These master-classes have been extremely successful at the high school and college level. I've received countless emails from students telling me how my system for learning the harmonic language needed for playing jazz was the simplest and most user friendly system they've come across, and that it answered many of the confusing questions, and got them improvising on chord changes very quickly.” Mark Sherman's background, Juilliard education, and working, performance and recording experience have all contributed to a unique vision, which incorporates elements of jazz and classical music. Accomplished as a soloist (vibes/piano), ensemble player, composer and educator, Sherman is in love with music and re-harmonization of chords to explore and give expression to his musical vision. The Bronx-born and raised son of a star soprano who performed with the Cleveland and Boston Symphony Orchestras had 5 years of classical piano lessons before he fell in love with jazz through Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Coltrane LP's. He had been playing drums for a while and practicing with records, emulating Elvin Jones, when he heard that Elvin was teaching at Frank Ippolito's Professional Percussion Center. Mark sought him out as a teacher. What he learned most from Elvin was a feeling of “loose but intense swing” and how to “channel spiritual energy into music.”
Sherman graduated from the High school of Music and Art and then went on to Juilliard where he had 5 solid years of percussion training with tympani master Saul Goodman. He played in symphonic situations led by Zubin Mehta, Sir George Solti, and Leonard Bernstein. At Juilliard he met another soul at home in both classical and jazz worlds Wynton Marsalis. They jammed together regularly and years later when Columbia Records' George Butler inquired about Mark, Wynton's endorsement helped pave the way for Sherman's record date A New Balance ( 1986). The first few years after Juilliard he made a living in the “pits” of long running Broadway shows. But more challenging work soon came his way, He found himself in playing situations with, Kenny Kirkland, Rodney Jones, the NY Philharmonic, the Joffrey ballet Orchestra, the American Symphony, the NY New Music Ensemble and many other groups. David Chesky wrote a concerto for vibes and orchestra especially for Sherman, which has been performed twice. Mark performed as featured soloist in Darius Milhaud's Concerto For Marimba and Orchestra at Merkin Hall. Sherman went on the road with singers Jackie and Roy, which led to his recording and working with Peggy Lee (6years). From her he had lessons in how to “turn a musical phrase” and “subtle time.” Working with the special musicians Lee surrounded herself with (Grady Tate, Mike Renzi, and Jay Leonhart, and Jon Chiodini) led to gigs with Mel Torme and recordings with other singers including Maureen McGovern, Liza Minelli, and Jon Hendricks; and he got more studio and work experience. He played on records by guitarists Joe Beck and Rodney Jones and also produced Jones' CD “The Unspoken Heart” for Minor Music in Germany.Sherman began touring with R&B pioneer Ruth Brown just at the time when she was being re-appreciated as a jazz singer. But her singing of standards always calls for a heavy dose of blues feeling and blues changes. Mark was exposed to a lot of different blues forms and tempos. In accompanying her he gained a renewed awareness of the blues as the roots of all American popular music. He played vibes and piano on Brown's “Songs Of My Life” (Fantasy records) After recording for small labels, A New Balance (CBS) showcased his skills as a composer, vibraphonist, and pianist. In the last few years Mark has been performing with his group and doing master classes worldwide. Some of his music has been used regularly on TV shows. Mark has toured with guitarist Larry Coryell. He produced two of Coryell's CD’s, I'll Be Over You (CTI records).
Hi Eddie, - Your site is one of a kind. Very Cool!! - All my best - Mark Sherman
The UK Exponents
Roan Kearsey-Lawson has been described by the likes of Don Rendell, Harry Beckett and Lee Gibson as a fine percussionist. He has been quoted in the press as the "Vibes Master". Not only considered by some as one of the finest vibes players in the U.K. he is also a well seasoned Kit player having backed a huge list of jazz greats at various venues in the South East and as a house musician at the 144Club in Rochester and Maidstone, Kent. To name only a few he has backed John Etheridge, Jean Toussaint, Tony Kofi, and Alan Barnes on Kit, and performed with among others Art Themen, Duncan Lamont, Duncan Lamont Jr, Dave Cliff and Jimmy Hastings on Vibes. Roan has performed live on BBC Radio, has played at the Royal Albert Hall Ignite Concert Series at the end of the London Jazz Festival, and at Octave8 Jazz Club in Covent Garden, London. In 2007 Roan released a debut album and is currently (2009) working on 2 compilations with serveral artists. Also known to play the piano Roan even developed playing the drums and keyboards at the same time (which was part of a comedy show in London)! In addition to giging as a jazz musician Roan is also the principal percussionist for a non-residential professional orchestra the City of Canterbury Sinfonia Orchestra, he plays in other classical orchestras, performs for theatre companies, has recently published his own books (still working on more!) and with 3 degrees after his name is the managing director of KLMusicGroup, which includes a record label, publishing label, jazz clubs, gig promotions and private instrumental tuition.
Mwamba is one of the new generation of
British jazz musicians. Corey and his
vibraphone are a regular sight in Derby’s pubs and
clubs, but that’s the just the tip of the iceberg.
At just 25, he’s already an extremely accomplished
musician having performed with jazz greats, composed
for a range of musical genres and has his own radio
Corey first became interested in jazz when he
mistakenly tuned in to a piano concert whilst
his GCSEs. He began composing music before he
could even play an instrument; he claims to be able
to whistle and hum at the same time!
It was only when he saw a picture of legendary
musician Orphy Robinson playing his vibraphone that
Corey knew he had found the instrument for him.
Corey is self-taught apart from five lessons he received whilst at the college in Southampton. Whilst typically humble about his ability, Corey’s performances are fluid, funky and mesmerizing to watch. He regularly joins jamming sessions in Derby, plays alongside the decks of DJ Vuyani in nightclubs and plays duos and improvisation sets with percussionist Walt Shaw. Not to mention various ensembles performing his compositions. His repertoire goesand on! Dialectic, which has received funding from East Midlands Arts, explores the parallels between a conversation between strangers and totally improvised music.
Conversations between strangers are edited and remixed by Ben and replayed during the performance whilst Corey and Walt improvise to the voices. Corey and Walt are now running workshops based on the project with under-privileged children in Loughborough and Derby. They hope to help kids communicate and resolve problems as well as having fun with music. Although living in Derby, Corey has expressed frustration at the lack of opportunities for jazz musicians in the city. "Most of the venues that have live music have a reputation for playing rock or punk bands. Whilst there are plenty of opportunities to play in bars or clubs with a DJ, that’s just a small part of what I do. There doesn’t seem to be any promoters around who are willing to take a risk."
One venue that has provided a setting for the real Corey Mwamba is The Voicebox -The venue, which opened last year, only hosts acoustic music because of its city location. The owner, Colin Miller, explains: "We were conscious there was not a small, cheap, arts-based venue in Derby with a good acoustic for good amateur musicians and small groups. We’ve had jazz, improvisation and classical musicians using the venue including some really unusual combinations; oboe and percussion, harp and saxophone as well as Corey and Walt." Corey’s aim is to give a personal edge to his music whether it’s totally improvised or his delicately constructed compositions. He expresses a passion that’s contagious, whether he’s performing or just talking about music
Hart is the sensational new vibraphone star of the
London jazz scene.
Awesome multi-talented pianist, drummer and vibraphone player Jim Hart began playing piano and drums at the age of four. By the time he was eleven he was playing both instruments in the Tamar youth jazz orchestra as well as playing percussion in the Cornwall youth wind orchestra and the C.Y.percussion ensemble. At sixteen he went to study at Chetham's school of music. During this time he was a percussion finalist in the BBC young musician competition and won the John Dankworth award for most promising musician in the BBC big band competition. After Chetham's he studied at the Guildhall and after leaving there he became the drummer for NYJO and the vibes player with Martin Drew's Jazz Couriers. As well as studying with Dave Hassel and Steve Berry whilst at Chetham's and the many teachers and visiting tutors at the Guildhall Jim has had some in teaching in workshop environments. He has been an assistant tutor on Wavendon, has assisted Scott Stroman in primary school workshops and did regular workshops around the country with NYJO. Although it is not a jazz project Jim is currently working for the Guildhall's Connect project. Awarded “Best Newcomer” medal by the Worshipful Company of Musicians in August in a competition at the Pizza Express jazz club against others including talented alto saxophonist Sam Mayne, he is best known to audiences as a member of Martin Drew's New Jazz Couriers. Listen to Jim Hart
Ian Ballantine is regarded as one of the finest vibraphone players in the world. Add to this a whole range of other instruments, compositional skills and the ability to form a variety of ensembles playing different forms of music and you have a pretty formidable package. Growing up in Nottingham, it was here, feeling his way as a young musician, that he first developed a reputation and local fame. Deciding that he needed to expand his musical knowledge he left his home town to study for three years at Leeds College of Music; a place that has produced more of its fair share of 'name' musicians. Whilst still at college he was inspired to form a band called Semuta. This combination of power, excitement and authoritative musicianship, was soon making it imperative for audiences to turn up early to get in at the regular gigs. This was the band he was to bring with him to London, recording an album, and enjoying considerable success for a time playing opposite Ronnie Scott's band. Eventually Semuta split up and he set about developing a broader more flexible base. playing in numerous combinations of duos, trios and quartets, working with some of the top musicians in Britain
FRANK RICOTTI was voted Melody Maker’s Top Vibraphone player back in his teens, since when he has remained constantly in demand for his work on records, film scores, jingles and TV shows and is the first choice percussionist for many artists, valued for his creative input. He has worked with many of this country’s favourite jazz musicians having performed at many clubs and festivals including the Montreux Jazz Festival, and over the years has played alongside Stan Tracey, John Taylor, Mike Gibbs, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, Gordon Beck, John Surman and Stan Sulzmann. Widely regarded as the UK’s most recorded percussionist, his playing is featured on numerous best selling albums, including those by Robbie Williams, Tina Turner, Bjork, Lighthouse Family, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell and countless films, including Harry Potter, Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli and The Beach. As a versatile composer Frank’s crafted and distinctive scores have enhanced many TV dramas, and in particular his commissions in a jazz idiom have won much acclaim. He has collaborated closely with Alan Plater, writing the music for the acclaimed ‘The Beiderbecke Trilogy’ for YTV, winning a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Original Television Music’ for the ‘Beiderbecke Connection’