2015 Hall of Fame Inductees
GORDON IRA BRISKER
Tenor saxophonist composer/arranger November 6, 1937 – September 10, 2004
While a student at Walnut Hills High School, Gordon completed a year of college at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and gained recognition as an up and coming jazz talent by his work with local bands. His first professional engagement with a nationally known band , Ralph Marterie, at the age of 17 while short lived was the beginning of a long and successful career as a jazz musician.
He toured for six months with the Al Belletto Sextet and, after gigging back home with Bill Berry, he became a member of the Woody Herman Orchestra during 1960-1963. Brisker spent a period living in New York City after the Herman association ended, freelancing with Louie Bellson, Gerry Mulligan, and others. After some time back in Cincinnati writing and performing for local television shows, he moved to Los Angeles.
Brisker became a busy studio musician by day, gigging in clubs at night. He returned to Boston to teach at Berklee during 1983-1985 (and to write arrangements for the Herb Pomeroy Orchestra) before moving back to Los Angeles. His more notable career associations included Anita O'Day, Bobby Shew, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and leadership of his own bands.
In addition to recordings in support of the aforementioned and other major recording artists, Brisker headed his own record dates for the Sutra, Sea Breeze, Discovery, and Naxos labels. In the mid-'90s, Brisker moved to Australia, where he joined the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He returned to Cincinnati in 2001.
Singer. Born May 23, 1928 Maysville, Kentucky
The distinctively unpretentious, deep, rich, and smooth voice of Rosemary Clooney earned her recognition as one of America's premiere pop and jazz singers. According to Clooney's record company press biography, Life magazine, in a tribute to America's "girl singers" named her one of "six preeminent singers ... whose performances are living displays of a precious national treasure ... their recordings a preservation of jewels." First-class crooner Frank Sinatra stated, as was also reprinted in Clooney's press biography, "Rosemary Clooney has that great talent which exudes warmth and feeling in every song she sings. She's a symbol of good modern American music."
The singer noted for her decades-long mastery of American popular song started life amid the poverty of small-town Maysville. Her childhood was a difficult one; Clooney and younger siblings Betty and Nick were shuttled among their alcoholic father, Andy, their mother, Frances—who traveled constantly for her work with a chain of dress shops—and relatives, who would take turns raising the children. When Clooney was 13 her mother married a sailor and moved to California, taking Nick with her but leaving the girls behind. Her father tried to care for Rosemary and Betty, working steadily at a defense plant, but he left one night to celebrate the end of World War II—taking the household money with him—and never returned. As Clooney described in her autobiography, This for Remembrance, she and Betty were left to fend for themselves. They collected soda bottles and bought meals at school with the refund money. The phone had been disconnected, the utilities were about to be turned off, and the rent was overdue when Rosemary and Betty won an open singing audition at a Cincinnati radio station. The girls were so impressive, in fact, that they were hired for a regular late-night spot at $20 a week each. "The Clooney Sisters," as they became known, began their singing career in 1945 on WLW in Cincinnati.
This work brought them to the attention of bandleader Tony Pastor, who happened to be passing through Ohio. The Clooney Sisters joined Pastor's orchestra and toured with Pastor as featured singers for a couple of years until Betty decided to return to Cincinnati and Rosemary struck out on her own and at 21 headed for New York City. Clooney's arrival in New York was perfectly timed with the rage for orchestra-backed singers; she was immediately signed to a recording contract with Columbia Records. By then "girl singers," were emerging as recording stars.
It was at Columbia that Clooney began an important association with Mitch Miller, one of the company's A&R [Artists and Repertoire] representatives and top entertainers.
In 1951 Miller convinced Clooney to record an oddball song, Come On-a My House, written by Ross Bagdasarian with lyrics by William Saroyan. When Miller first suggested the song, Clooney was highly skeptical, insisting the song was not her kind of material. She felt it was silly and demeaning; she believed the double-entendres were a cheap lyrical device and felt uncomfortable putting on an Italian accent. But Miller was persistent and finally persuaded Clooney to record it. He conceived a novel instrumental effect utilizing a harpsichord to accompany Clooney.
Much to her surprise, the song was an immediate and enormous success, topping the charts to become a gold record. Come On-a My House made Rosemary Clooney a star. A household name, she became known simply as "Rosie."
In the early 1950s radio made a strong bid to issue a challenge to the growing magnetism of television. Star-studded variety programs were created, and week after week Hollywood studios offered musical programs by big names. Clooney was signed to co-host, with beloved vocalist Bing Crosby, a songfest radio show, which aired every weekday morning on CBS radio. Film roles abounded; Clooney's appearance in White Christmas was generally credited with the film's enormous success, which made it the top grosser of 1954. Costarring with hot properties Kaye and Crosby and accompanied by the music of Irving Berlin, Clooney was lauded for her performance, in which she sang the ballad Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me.
As her popularity swelled, Clooney began a romance with dancer Dante Di Paolo, her co-star in the films Here Come the Girls and Red Garters. Nonetheless, to her friends' and the public's amazement, Clooney eloped in the summer of 1953 with Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer, 16 years her senior. "Rosie" and her whirlwind marriage became a favorite topic of the tabloid journals. Clooney and Ferrer moved into a glamorous Beverly Hills home once owned by composer George Gershwin and entertained with lavish poolside parties attended by the toast of Hollywood. Their first child was born in 1955 and by 1960, they had five children.
Clooney became the star of her own television series in 1956. The Rosemary Clooney Show, which ran through 1957, was syndicated to more than one hundred television stations. But by that time, Clooney had begun to feel the strain of stardom and her relentlessly hectic schedule. The pressure of raising five children while pursuing careers as a television, movie, radio, and recording star, coupled with the deteriorating state of her marriage, soon took its toll. Clooney developed an addiction to tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Although her life appeared idyllic to the public, the singer's addiction to drugs worsened. Clooney and Ferrer filed for divorce in 1961, reconciled for a few years, then it became final in 1967. Recalling in her autobiography how she fell prey to "the '50s myth of family and career," the singer confessed, "I just did it all because I thought that I could, it certainly wasn't easy."
For Clooney, the world came crashing down in 1968. She was standing only yards away when her close friend Bobby Kennedy, then campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, was assassinated in Los Angeles at the Ambassador Hotel. The tragedy, compounded with her drug addiction, triggered a public mental collapse; at a Reno engagement she cursed at her audience and stalked off the stage. She later called a press conference to announce her retirement at which she sobbed incoherently. When a doctor was summoned, Clooney fled and was eventually found driving on the wrong side of a dangerous mountain road. Soon thereafter she admitted herself to the psychiatric ward of Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Clooney remained in therapy for many years. She worked when she could—at Holiday Inns and small hotels like the Ventura and the Hawthorne and selling Coronet paper towels in television commercials.
In 1976 Clooney's old friend Bing Crosby asked her to join him on his 50th anniversary tour. It would be Crosby's final tour and Clooney's comeback event. The highlight of the show came when Clooney joined Crosby in a duet of On a Slow Boat to China. The next year, Clooney signed a recording contract with Concord Jazz, taking the next step on her comeback trail—one that would produce a string of more than a dozen successful recordings, inaugurated with Everything's Coming Up Rosie. "I'll keep working as long as I live," Clooney vowed in an interview with Lear's magazine, "because singing has taken on the feeling of joy that I had when I started, when my only responsibility was to sing well. It's even better now ... I can even pick the songs. The arranger says to me, 'How do you want it? How do you see it?' Nobody ever asked me that before."
Along with her renewed recording efforts, Clooney created a living memorial to her sister Betty, who died in 1976 from a brain aneurysm: the Betty Clooney Center in Long Beach, California, a facility for brain- injured young adults. The first of its kind in the U.S., the center is supported by grants and donations. After receiving the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal in 1992 in recognition of her contribution to American music, Clooney told the Washington Post, "It's for showing up day after day, for small increments of time and achievement." Claiming that singing has become her salvation, Clooney added, "I'm the only instrument that's got the words, so I've got to be able to get that across."
As her top-selling jazz albums indicated, Clooney was still able to mesmerize audiences with her warmth, depth of feeling, honesty, and unsurpassed craft.
Jazz journalist, historian, radio personality
Oscar Treadwell, or ‘O.T.’ as his musician friends and listeners called him, was the apostle for what he called ‘American Creative Music.’ His career as a jazz journalist, historian, and host spanned almost 60 years, 45 of them in Cincinnati. He did not merely play songs on his show. He explicated them, shared anecdotes and history about the musicians, and mixed it all with recitations of moving, incisive, relevant poetry.
‘O.T.’ first gained a reputation as a jazz disc jockey and concert emcee in the Philadelphia area after World War II under his birth name, Arthur Pederson. On stage one night Louis Armstrong mistakenly called him ‘Oscar,’ apparently confusing his name with that of ‘Oscar Peterson,’ the great jazz pianist. Arthur liked this new first name, but he needed a less confusing last name. Ever a poet-philosopher, he adopted a professional last name with a metaphorical implication that would go with his soft- spoken, kind personality: ‘Treadwell.’
In 1960, O.T. moved to Cincinnati, where he was first heard on WZIP, then on the legendary jazz station WNOP. He hosted “Jazz with O.T.,” with its familiar theme song, ‘Oska T,’ written specifically for him by Thelonious Monk, on WGUC for 22 years and on WVXU for 11 years, until his death in 2006.
O.T. was a disc jockey, not a composer, but famous jazz artists composed in his honor. In 1949, Charlie Parker wrote ‘An Oscar for Treadwell,’ which he performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Buddy Rich. In 1950, Wardell Gray, the saxophonist for Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and other great bands, wrote and recorded ‘Treadin’ with Treadwell.’ The Monk composition, ‘Oska T,’ which became the recognition signal for legions of listeners, is still to this day heard on Sunday nights when WVXU continues almost a decade after his death to re-broadcast “Jazz with O.T.”
JOHN VON OHLEN
"Baron" John Von Ohlen has always been busy, very busy putting together the sounds and rhythms in which he fervently believes. It would be easy to believe that John Von Ohlen was born with a cymbal or tom-tom in his mouth, or at least had them waiting in his bassinette.
At the ancient age of four, John began the study of piano; this was followed by trombone at age ten, and topped off with drums several years later. At the age of 14, three years before he ever sat behind a kit or held a drumstick in his hand, John Von Ohlen became a drummer: "I didn't know anything about drums or even think about them, but when I saw Mel Lewis that night the next day when I woke up, in my head, I was a drummer," says Von Ohlen. John's father, who got a pretty good ear, would hear his son play at night when he got home from work.
John: "My dad said: "'For the first few months, I didn't know what you were doing in there. It just didn't make it. One night, you were playing and all of a sudden it sounded good. It was really overnight.' I just kept playing until it clicked. I taught myself. I never took lessons.
For a long time I couldn't use the hi-hat. I didn't know what to do with it." Several years and many beats later, John Von Ohlen toured with Ralph Marterie, performed with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under Warren Covington, played with Billy Maxted's Manhattan Jazz Band, and with Woody Herman. The year spent providing the rhythmic pulse for Woody was a memorable and maturing experience for the Baron, made infinitely more exciting by the jazz greats who helped to spark the band. John's experience led to a two week tour of Japan with Mel Torme' and the Marty Paich Orchestra, followed by a series of recording sessions with Carmen McRae.
In the summer of 2004 he spent three months away from his drum kit after a sidewalk tumble left him with a broken elbow. But John has been drumming ever since, as well as teaching at the University of Cincinnati and even giving private lessons and doing workshops.
Born November 30, 1926 in Akron Ohio, Jimmy McGary’s infatuation for music came when he was 10 years old after hearing Benny Goodman on the radio. At an early age McGary was also exposed to a vibrant music scene in the black community in Akron. The influence of the blues and other forms of African American music can be heard in McGary’s playing throughout his career.
After serving in the South Pacific as a member of the United States Navy, McGary returned to Akron where he studied at Akron University and Kent State for a short time. He moved to New York City and attended the New York College of Music where he studied clarinet with Alexander Williams, principal clarinetist with the NBC Orchestra. McGary received a Bachelor of Arts Degree but gained his education in jazz on the streets listening to Bebop innovators Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Jimmy moved to Cincinnati sometime between 1950-1954 where he quickly established himself as one of the finest jazzmen in the city. McGary was a staff musician for the famed King Recording Studios until the offices moved to New York in 1960, and was a regular fixture with black and white bands of the city. A regular fixture on the Cincinnati scene, McGary shared the stage with several famous jazz musicians including Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, and his good friend Rashaan Roland Kirk. He recorded his debut album “The First Time” which was released in 1979. His second release, “Two Tone Poems” was actually recorded before and was said to represent the highly progressive and creative sounds coming out of the Cincinnati area in the late 1960’s. In 1987, Jimmy recorded his final project “Palindrome” in New York, produced by pianist Fred Hersch who at one time referred to Jimmy as a mentor of his.
Jimmy McGary left his mark on many of the lives and musicians in Cincinnati Ohio. In the midst of racial unrest he brought a community together with his music. He was a loving father to his children and a mentor to younger musicians. Jimmy was a colleague to many fine artists and performed with some of the top jazz musicians of the time. He was able to work with the very people that inspired him to play, a dream come true to most all artists. He was an icon of Cincinnati, and a well-known story sums up his influence to the people from the city.
One evening after a gig in a Cincinnati club around 1979, A young woman with a baby in her arms walked up to the tenor player and proclaimed to the infant: ‘Baby, this is Father Jazz’. Jimmy McGary is the seldom-heard voice in every city of the country that has a city’s history and flare wrapped into its music.
For Cincinnati, he is their Father Jazz.
-- Bio courtesy of William Brian Hogg, Director of Jazz Studies, Saxophone at Northern Kentucky University (please do not republish without permission)
Tim Hagans (born August 19, 1954) is a jazz trumpet player, arranger and composer. He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards: for Best Instrumental Composition for "Box of Cannoli" on The Avatar Sessions (Fuzzy Music 2010); for Best Contemporary Jazz CD for Animation*Imagination (Blue Note 1999); and again for Best Contemporary Jazz CD for Re-Animation (Blue Note 2000). Hagans grew up in Dayton, Ohio.
His early inspirations included Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Thad Jones, to whom he dedicated For the Music Suite, a 40-minute piece for jazz orchestra composed on a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1974, Hagens joined the Stan Kenton band., with whom he played until 1977, when he toured with Woody Herman.
He then left for Europe, where he lived in Malmö, Sweden, a hotbed of the European jazz scene. While in Europe, he toured extensively and played with Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, Horace Parlan, and Thad Jones. His first recorded composition, "I Hope This Time Isn't the Last," appears on Thad Jones Live at Slukefter (Metronome, 1980). In 1987, Hagans moved to New York City.
He has performed with Maria Schneider, Yellowjackets, Steps, Secret Society, and Gary Peacock. Hagans has worked extensively with producer and saxophonist Bob Belden on a variety of recordings and live performances, including their ongoing Animation/Imagination project. Festivals at which he has performed include the Mount Fuji Festival in Japan, the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Tage, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Hagans has taught master classes at universities both here and abroad. He taught at the University of Cincinnati from 1982 to 1984, and at Berklee College of Music from 1984 to 1987. From 1996 to 2010, Hagans was Artistic Director and Composer-in-Residence for the Norrbotten Big Band located in Luleå, Sweden. The Norrbotten is a 17-piece jazz orchestra for whom Hagans wrote and arranged original compositions with guest artists including Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Peter Erskine, and Rufus Reid, an enterprise culminating in the Grammy nominated The Avatar Sessions: The Music of Tim Hagans, for which the Norbotten Big Band traveled to New York.
His compositions are featured on numerous recordings with the Norrbotten Big Band, including Future North (Doubletime Records, 1998), Future Miles (Act Records, 2002), and Worth the Wait (Fuzzy Music, 2007). Hagans has been commissioned by several other European jazz orchestras, including the NDR Big Band in Hamburg, UMO in Helsinki, and he was Composer-in-Residence at the Jazz Baltica Festival in 2000. In 2008, Hagans was awarded the ASCAP/IAJE Established Composer Award, and in 2009 he was commissioned by the Barents Composers Orchestra to write a piece for strings, woodwinds, and percussion: Daytonality, a piece based on improvisational melodic language.
Hagans is the subject of the feature documentary Boogaloo Road, directed by Runar Enberg and Marianne Soderberg. He is a featured soloist on Howard Shore's soundtrack for the feature film The Score starring Marlon Brando, Edward Norton, and Robert De Niro. Tim Hagans is a recording artist for Palmetto Records, where his latest CD is The Moon Is Waiting (Palmetto 2011). He currently performs, tours, and records with the Tim Hagans Quartet: Tim Hagans, trumpet; Viv Juris, guitar; Rufus Reid, bass, and Jukkis Uotila, drums. The quartet is featured on The Moon Is Waiting.
Following his interest in exploring theatrical venues for innovative jazz, Hagans is Composer-in-Residence with the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, a dance company located in Houston, Texas and in New York City. The company's focus on working exclusively with live original music and incorporating musicians into the stage imagery has been a source of inspiration for Hagans.
In January 2012, his composition Outside My Window was performed with the MBDE at Dance Theatre of Harlem. Hagans also performs with author-actor Peter Josyph in duets consisting of haiku texts and freely improvised trumpet, including Josyph's the way of the trumpet, a haiku novel written for and dedicated to Hagans.
In June 2012, Hagans will be awarded an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.
Proclaimed by Vanity Fair “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade,” Fred Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental and composing skills with significant achievements as a bandleader, collaborator and theatrical conceptualist. In 2006 he became the first artist in the 75-year history of New York's legendary Village Vanguard to play a weeklong engagement as a solo pianist.
His second solo run at the Vanguard was documented on the 2011 release Alone at the Vanguard, which received Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo—two of the eight Grammy nominations Hersch has earned in his more than three dozen recordings as a leader and co-leader. Hersch’s latest trio CD with bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson, Floating (Palmetto) was nominated for two 2015 Grammy awards in the Best Jazz Album and Best Jazz Solo categories. It reached No. 1 on iTunes Jazz, No. 2 on Amazon Jazz and No. 5 on Billboard Jazz after its release in July, 2014. “Mr. Hersch has been making acclaimed trio releases since his debut album as a leader, 30 years ago,” wrote Nate Chinen of The New York Times. “He hasn’t made one better than this...an extravagantly beautiful new album."
The trio’s two-CD set Alive at the Vanguard was awarded the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in France and named one of the year’s best CDs by Downbeat. Whirl, in 2010, also appeared on numerous best recordings lists.. An artist of unbounded imagination and ambition—"one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation," as Downbeat put it—Hersch has gained great acclaim for his solo work. In 2006, Palmetto released Fred Hersch In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis and 2009 welcomed his eighth solo disc, Fred Hersch Plays Jobim, cited as one of the year's Top Ten jazz releases by NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Alone won the Coup de Coeur de l'Académie Charles Cros in 2011, when the Jazz Journalists Association named Hersch its Jazz Pianist of the Year. His solo disc, Fred Hersch SOLO, a live recording, will be released in early September of 2015. Composing has been a vital and indelible part of Hersch’s live concerts and CDs. In 2003 he created Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet; the work was presented to a sold-out Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2005 as part of a six-city U.S. tour. Hersch’s 2010 theatrical project, My Coma Dreams, has been performed in Montclair, N.J.; New York City; San Francisco and Berlin.
Based on visions Hersch had during a two-month coma in 2008, it includes full-evening work for an actor/singer, 11 instrumentalists and animation/multimedia; Palmetto has released a DVD of the Columbia University performance from November 2014 (available on Amazon). A New York Times Sunday Magazine feature before the debut of My Coma Dreams praised Hersch as “singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz—a jazz for the 21st century.” Hersch and numerous other artists have recorded more than 80 of his jazz compositions. A disc of his through-composed works, Fred Hersch: Concert Music 2001-2006, has been released by Naxos Records. The prestigious firm Edition Peters published these compositions. In 2014, Hersch garnered his sixth Grammy nomination for his solo on "Duet" from Free Flying, a duo album with guitarist Julian Lage that received a rare 5-Star rating from Downbeat.
Hersch has collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists throughout worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O'Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Long admired for his sympathetic work with singers, Hersch has joined with such notable jazz vocalists as Nancy King, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling.
Hersch has featured himself as either a solo performer or at the helm of varied small ensembles,
which in addition to his trio include a quintet and as his Pocket Orchestra, an unconventional lineup of piano, trumpet, voice and percussion. Born in Cincinnati on Oct. 21, 1955, Hersch began playing the piano at age four; he was composing at eight. His awards include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition; a Rockefeller Fellowship for a Bellagio residency; grants from Chamber Music America, The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer; seven composition residencies at The MacDowell Colony; and commissions from The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, The Doris Duke Foundation, Roomful of Teeth, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University, The Gramercy Trio and The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Hersch has been a featured guest on CBS Sunday Morning with Dr. Billy Taylor as well as on a variety of National Public Radio programs, including Fresh Air, Jazz Set, Morning Edition, Studio 360 and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz.
For two decades Hersch has been a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies. He has produced and performed on four benefit recordings and in numerous concerts for charities including Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; his efforts have raised more than $300,000. He has also been a keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe.
A committed educator, Hersch has taught at The Juilliard School, The New School and The Manhattan School of Music, and conducted a Professional Training Workshop for Young Musicians at The Weill Institute at Carnegie Hall in 2008. He is currently a member of the Jazz Studies faculty of The New England Conservatory and of Rutgers University.
Hersch's influence has been widely felt on a new generation of jazz pianists, from former students Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson to his colleague Jason Moran, who has said, "Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He’s perfection.”
Frank Foster is one of those rare triple threats: He’s a saxophonist with a big, broad, rangy sound and approach; he’s a composer and arranger of both tunes and long-form works; and he’s a skilled leader of bands both large and small.
As a saxophonist fluent on tenor, soprano, and alto saxes, he’s been a welcome addition on bandstands and recording studios of vast variety. As a composer and arranger his efforts have run the gamut, from writing such jazz standards as “Shiny Stockings” and “Simone”, to his “Lake Placid Suite”, commissioned by the 1980 Winter Olympics. As a bandleader he’s led everything from quartets to big bands, all with great aplomb and abundant skill.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Frank’s mother was an amateur pianist, so the influence of music was always in his home. From the time he was a teenager, Frank played in dance bands in and around southern and south-central Ohio. After learning music in Cincinnati schools, he matriculated to Central State University, where he joined the Wilberforce Collegians, a major collegiate training ground. In 1949 Frank moved to Detroit, where he played with both aspiring and veteran jazz musicians, including fellow Ohioan Snooky Young.
Some of Frank’s early influences included Wardell Gray and Sonny Stitt. Frank entered the Army in 1951. After his Army stint ended in 1953 he joined one of the great jazz proving grounds, the Count Basie Orchestra. This was to be one of his signature band affiliations, for the next eleven years and beyond. With the Basie band he was not only a key member of the saxophone section, his keen writing skills soon came to the Count’s attention, and he became one of Basie’s most trusted composers and arrangers.
His most noted contribution to the Basie book was “Shiny Stockings,” which became a Basie signature. And Basie so valued his playing that Frank was also a member of the Count’s occasional small band, known as the Kansas City Seven.
Frank Foster’s composing and arranging gifts served him well and his skills were sought by several big bands, including the Woody Herman band, and the Lloyd Price Orchestra, which at the time was directed by Slide Hampton. From the mid-1960s through the 1980s Frank Foster led his own large and small groups, including his Loud Minority big band, Living Color Band, and Frank Foster’s Non-Electric Company. He was also a much sought after saxophone soloist, composer and arranger for bands large and small. These affiliations included the Duke Pearson, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry, and Jazzmobile big bands. It was the Jazzmobile Big Band that performed his “Lake Placid Suite”, at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
Quite skilled at working with singers, Frank arranged and conducted a record date for Sarah Vaughan. He has featured such stellar vocalists as Ernestine Anderson and Dee Bridgewater in his own big bands, as well as arranging Carmen Bradford’s vocals for the Basie band. Ms. Bradford even sang Frank’s praises on a Basie band tune called “Papa Foss.” Frank’s small ensemble memberships during the 70s and 80s included the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, and a quintet co-led with fellow saxman Frank Wess.
Two years after Count Basie ascended to ancestry, Frank Foster took over leadership of the Basie Orchestra and swung it to good health, from June, 1986 to July, 1995. He assisted mightily in upholding the proud Basie tradition, thrilling old fans and winning new converts to their distinctly swinging sound. Since leaving the Basie organization, Frank Foster has kept busy with a broad range of small band work and jazz education.
His jazz education work actually commenced years before that. He was hired as a music consultant by the New York City public schools in 1971 and 1972. In addition to his long teaching tenure with the Jazzmobile organization, Frank has taught at the State University of New York in Buffalo, and at Queens College. In 1983 he returned to his alma mater, Central State University, to receive an honorary doctorate degree. Foster was recognized in 2002 by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor .
In a statement expressing sadness at Foster's death, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman called him "an extraordinary saxophonist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator." Landesman added, "We join many others in the jazz community and beyond in mourning his death while celebrating his life."
One of the most widely respected jazz guitarists, and easily the best-known to ever come out of the Cincinnati area, was Cal Collins. Born on May 5, 1933, in Medora, IN, Collins began his career by playing bluegrass mandolin, eventually relocated to Cincinnati (once he'd completed serving in the Army), and shortly thereafter switched to the six-string after hearing landmark recordings by such jazz guitar greats as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian.
From the '50s through the '70s, Collins played regularly and was brought on board in 1976 to become Benny Goodman's guitarist. Around this time, Collins issued several acclaimed solo recordings on the Concord label, including such titles as Cincinnati to L.A., In San Francisco, Blues on my Mind, By Myself, Interplay, and Cross Country (and in 1979, was honored by Cincinnati with a Post-Corbett Award). In 1993, he appeared as part of the Masters of the Steel String Guitar tour, playing alongside such notables as Doc Watson, bluegrass Dobro player Jerry Douglas, and the blues duo of Cephas & Wiggins, and five years later, issued what would be his final recording, S'Us Four.
On August 27, 2001, Collins passed away at the age of 68 in Dillsboro, IN, due to liver failure.
A fine, swinging saxophonist, Curtis Peagler was an asset to many different groups through the years. His alto sound was influenced by Charlie Parker, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and, to a lesser extent, Louis Jordan. At 13, he started on the C-melody sax and soon joined the Sons of Rhythm on alto.
Prior to being called up by the Army in 1953, Peagler worked with territory bands and backed singer Big Maybelle. After being discharged in 1955, he attended the Cincinnati Conservatory for two years and played locally; in 1960, with the assistance of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, he started recording for Prestige. Peagler then recorded with Lem Winchester and joined his Modern Jazz Disciples, which recorded for Columbia.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1962 to freelance, and spent 1966-1967 and 1969 with Ray Charles. He did some studio work and toured with Count Basie for seven years (1971-1978). Peagler then resettled in Los Angeles, freelanced, founded the Sea Pea Records label, and recorded as a leader for Sea Pea and Pablo, also guesting on dates by Harry "Sweets" Edison and Big Joe Turner.
Curtis Peagler spent his last decade as a member of the Cheathams' Sweet Baby Blues Band, recording with the Kansas City swing-oriented group for Concord before heart trouble shortened his life.