Lost Heroes 

Dizzy 100: Exploring him in Reverse

Dizzy’s contributions to Jazz could not be bigger. The same applies to his influence on Jazz trumpet heroes, but also on other instrumentalists and vocalists. On everyone. He was born 100 years ago today. Some Jazz purists of older generations might still remember the times of Dizzy’s first gig in 1935, when he played with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra, or Cab Calloway’s orchestra, in 1939. But there are those who have been or still are exploring his work in reverse. There are people, who first heard of Dizzy Gillespie when…

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Highlights Lost Heroes 

Tommy LiPuma: The Guy who Produced Them All

When Tommy LiPuma was born on July 5th, 1936, in Cleveland, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. When he listened to Nat King Cole and Ruth Brown on the radio, lying in bed due to a bone infection he was suffering from, the war in Europe was about to end. Once young Tommy was fine again, he found himself holding a tenor saxophone, which he would soon play in a local big band. Very early on, at age 25, Tommy LiPuma had excellent ears and good judgement. As a promotional representative for…

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Birthdays 

Norman Connors: The Jazz-Funk Captain Turns 70 Today

Norman Connors. This name stands for so much. During the 50 years he has been active, especially since the late 1970-s, he should have been celebrated a lot more than he was, and he should have been more famous in Europe and Asia. “Captain Connors” is one of the last great Jazz-Funk and Soul pioneers alive. It all started 70 years ago today, on March 1st, 1947, in Philadelphia. Some years down the road, his interest in Jazz was big. So was his ambition as a young drummer. When Norman…

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Lost Heroes 

Leon Ware: The Master of Mellow Soul Tunes Dies

A whole generation of genius Soul, Jazz and Funk musicians is dying. After the recent passing of George Duke, Joe Sample, Maurice White and Al Jarreau, the genius producer, composer and Soul singer Leon Ware died today (U.S. west coast time), at age 77. In 2009, he had been treated for prostate cancer. Leon Ware’s songwriting career started in 1967, when many of us were still in diapers or not even conceived. Over the years, he composed and co-composed countless brilliant Soul tunes for just as many fellow artists and…

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Lost Heroes 

Al Jarreau: Saying Goodbye to one of the Most Gifted

The singing psychologist is just one of a million labels which could have been put on the brilliant Al Jarreau. At Ripon College in Wisconsin he got his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 1962. But there was something he was even more interested in. Singing. During his college days, he sang with the band The Indigos. Later, he joined a young pianist’s trio as a singer. The bandleader on the keys was the late George Duke. Al quickly took a big decision. He was going to forget psychology…

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Birthdays 

Anke Helfrich at 50: German Jazz Pianist Performing with “Dedication”

There are not many female Jazz pianists from Germany, who tour the world. I can think of two, but one of them is an organist. Let’s stick to the actual pianist, Anke Helfrich, who was born half a century ago today. From the small town of Horb, at the Neckar river, in Swabia, she would be taken to Namibia soon, where she stayed five years. Her mother was an anti-Apartheid activist, who collected donations for the movement. Little Anke would sing “We Shall Overcome” and dance with children in African townships, while…

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Birthdays 

Richard Bailey at 61: The Off-Beat Genius who Became an Athlete After All

Richard Bailey played his ass off every time the British Jazz-Funk group Incognito hit the stage during the gigs and tours I joined, as their regional booker. And not just that. He treated his snare, toms, hi-hat and other cymbals as if they were part of him. It gets better: They actually are. And he is part of them. Richard was born 61 years ago today, in Guyana, and moved to Trinidad & Tobago with his family early on, before arriving in London, some years later. His father was a runner,…

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Birthdays 

Arturo Sandoval at 67: The Most Energetic Trumpet Hero Ever

It was in 1979, when a young trumpet genius by the name of Arturo Sandoval hit the stage at the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City, along with the other members of the Cuban group Irakere, which by now is music history, people looked at them in disbelief.  The performance delivered by the Cubans was nothing less than an explosion. The sounds hitting the stunned audience could be described as a hurricane of Afro-Cuban-Jazz-Rock of a kind nobody in the hall had ever heard before. It felt like a Cuban version of Earth, Wind…

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Birthdays 

Nick van Gelder at 52: Tight Groove Drummer & Multi-Instrumentalist

A tight groove specialist and multi-instrumentalist, who has played with several of Britain’s main “Acid Jazz” acts, including Jamiroquai, and who performs and records with his own projects, is celebrating a funky 52nd birthday today: Nick van Gelder. As a 6-year-old, he got a snare drum, which was pretty well equipped: “It had a cymbal arm”, van Gelder says. He had to wait another couple of years, until he was finally sitting behind his first complete drum set, on Christmas Eve of 1972, and another six years, until he had…

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Birthdays 

Tom Browne at 62: Jamaican Funk and Flying Packages

In the mid-1970s, a young trumpet player from Queens got a scholarship for the High School of Music & Performing Arts in New York. At that stage, nobody could have imagined he was going to provide one of the greatest Funk hits ever, or that he would come up with some of the most brilliant Jazz-Funk sounds ever recorded. Tom Browne learned from Freddie Hubbard and other fellow trumpet heroes. Downbeat Magazine used the expression “warm trumpet” very accurately, while describing his playing. Jimmy Boyd, who used to manage George Benson, Earl…

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