William Richard “Bill” Berry was born on September 14, 1930 in Benton Harbor, MI to a musical family – his father played the bass and his mother was a singer. As a baby, he even slept in his father’s bass case until the family moved to South Bend, IN. When the family moved to Cincinnati, Bill took up the trumpet at 15-yrs-old.
After high school his early musical career had him traveling the Midwest for three years in a territory band. Berry served four years in the United State Air Force; returned to Cincinnati to study music as well as in Boston. In the fifties he played with Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson.
In 1961, Berry became a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and the next three years changed his entire life, musically, socially and philosophically. It was rare for a white musician in those days to be working along side black musicians.
Following his stint with Ellington, he joined NBC’s elite group of staff musicians while playing with Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and later, with his own New York big band. When the Merv Griffin TV show relocated to Los Angeles in late 1970, the Berry family went west. He again formed his big band and was active in the music community.
Later he taught at California schools and college, directed the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Stars every year, and was the festival’s musical director from 1987-1992.
In the 1980’s, he was traveling internationally to Japan and Britain, and he had by then permanently changed from trumpet to cornet. He likes to use the plunger and felt the “cornet was more his size.”
Berry was known as a snappy, uncluttered soloist with a boppish tinge, and he was always grateful his skills had enabled him to work and play with a variety of artists around the world.
Born in the West End of Cincinnati, OH, Melvin Broach was raised in a family of musicians. He started playing the drums at five years old with music friends of his older brothers, Stanley
and Algner, who were already established and well-known jazz drummers in the city. He was jamming at their rehearsals and performing at social events with some of the city’s biggest
At the young age of 13, Broach was asked to join jazz guitarist, Wilbert Longmire, vibraphonist King “Fruitbowl” Reeves and saxophonist/pianist Donald “Snooky” Gibson when they played at social events around town.
By age 14, he started his own band with musically gifted junior high school band students, and they performed at school functions and community talent shows. At Porter Junior High he began his six-year musical journey and studies with his mentor, band and orchestra teacher Mr. Oscar Gamby, Jr., trumpeter in Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band. He became very proficient in the percussion arts during his years at Taft High School and was one of the top drummers on call for any music genre.
After his time in the military, Broach began to perform and tour with many big names in jazz, such as: Wilbert Longmire, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, Houston Persons/Etta James, Pharaoh Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Earland, Nancy Wilson, Randy Crawford, Bobby Watson, James Moody, James Spaulding, Eddie Harris, Don Patterson, Larry Young, Dave “Fathead” Newman, Steve Wilson, Mulgrew Miller, and many others.
Broach returned home to Cincinnati after touring with Richard “Groove” Holmes and then began to teach and spearheaded many music groups. After a Bob James tour for Tappan Z Records, he co-founded award- winning groups like Volition Ensemble with Eugene Goss, Mike Wade, and the Jazz Mafia. For many years, he became a volunteer percussion instructor and assistant band director at Withrow High School.
Over the years, Broach received many Jazz Appreciation Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the jazz community. He also received a Mayor’s Proclamation through the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati.
Mandy Gaines began singing at an early age in school and church; she holds a B.A. from the College of Wooster in Speech/Arts. She has continued her studies through private instruction and various workshops.
In 1988, she was recruited by Coca-Cola Taiwan
to become part of an original recording and performing group called MIT, and with this band she toured the island
promoting the release of “We Can Be One.” From 1991 to 1994, Gaines returned to her theater roots and was hired as a featured vocalist at The Oldenberg Dinner Theatre Entertainment Complex and at The Star of Cincinnati.
Gaines began traveling to Europe in 1995 and performed regularly throughout Belgium and France in local clubs, concerts and festivals;
she continues to be invited back annually. Her career has taken her to many international venues in Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong; she has been the “Artist in Residence”
at several 5-star hotels in these countries. She was the featured vocalist in the Annual Cote Ouest Big Band Music Festival in Cote, France. And in December 2008, she starred in the musical revue, “Smokey Joe’s Café” performed in Taipei, Taiwan. October 2010 brought her back to Russia for the third time performing 15 concerts in 9 cities including Siberia and Kazakstan.
Throughout her career, Gaines has performed with such Jazz greats as, Wynton Marsalis, Rhoda Scott, Leroy Jones, Scott Hamilton, Marcus Printup, Vincent Gardner and Victor Gaskins. And she has released 3 CDs: a European release “With a Song in My Heart,” her second CD “Taking a Chance,” and a Gospel CD, “Faith Journey.”
Mandy Gaines is a talented, versatile vocalist and entertainer with more than 25 years of professional experience. She continues to delight audiences around the world with her amazing talent and love of jazz.
Wilbert Longmire, legendary guitarist, began his career playing the violin and learning Bach and Beethoven, according to Rick Bird, Enquirer contributor. The story goes that at the age of 12 he went to get a trumpet at the music store, but they didn’t have one and he would have to wait two weeks, so he got what they had that day ...a violin.
Although his musical career began with the violin, he was greatly influenced by the new sounds that were happening at the time from Bo Diddley to Elvis Presley. So, at 13, he begged for a guitar and become so accomplished so quickly that by 17 he was playing in the R&B band of Red Prysock. Longmire turned 18 when he was playing in New York and then became Red Prysock’s musical director. Jackie Wilson hired Prysock’s band, so Longmire spent a year touring with the legendary soul singer.
By the late 1960’s, he had a chance to quit the touring when he met George Benson who became a close friend. Benson introduced him to jazz pianist Bob James and Longmire was signed to the Tappan Zee label.
Longmire released three albums for James from 1978-80 (“Sunny Side Up,” “Champagne,” and “With All My Love”) and all featured his melodic, jazzy playing and soulful vocal.
He came back home to Cincinnati in the 1980’s and began mentoring young musicians out of an Avondale gym, teaching music and offering business advice to a new generation of players including members of The Deele, guitarist Aurell Ray, and Sheldon Reynolds of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Artie Matthews was born on November 15, 1888 in Braidwood, IL, and grew up in Springfield, IL where his mother taught him music at an early age. He learned ragtime from two local pianists.
After playing professionally in his hometown,
he moved to St. Louis in 1908, and became the “house” composer and arranger for Tom Turpin’s Booker T. Washington Theater. While in St. Louis,
he continued his musical studies at the Keeton School of Music.
Matthews’ abilities as a composer, arranger and pianist were outstanding and he made full use of them by composing popular music of the time. He was the first to arrange and publish a blues song. “Baby Seals Blues” (1912) is the first song with the word “blues” in the title to appear in the records of the Library of Congress.
In 1916, Matthews moved to Cincinnati to become a church organist. Realizing that the issues of white racism and legal segregation were handicapping the African American community, he decided to take action. Matthews and his wife, Anna Howard, established the Cosmopolitan School of Music as the first black owned and operated music conservatory in the United States in 1921. And for the next 37 years, they provided exposure, training, and education for hundreds of African Americans desiring knowledge and or careers in music.
One of the most notable students he had was Frank Foster who went on to become the principal arranger for The Count Basie Orchestra. In 1938, Matthews’ talents, accomplishments, and convictions were recognized when he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Central State University.
Dr. Matthews was also an active leader in the Cincinnati black community as a member of race relations committees that challenged the segregation laws. He was the secretary of the black musicians’ union for 35 years, arranged music for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and organized/ produced Negro Music Festivals.
There is no doubt that Dr. Matthews was one of the premier composers and performers of Ragtime; and his contributions and accomplishments in music and in Cincinnati’s black history will be heard and admired for many years to come.
DR. ARTIE MATTHEWS
Michael Moore was born in Glen Este, OH on May 16, 1945 and started playing bass at the age of fifteen at Withrow High School. He performed in ensembles and in the Presentation Orchestra in George G. “Smittie” Smith’s Withrow Minstrels as well as with his father in Cincinnati nightclubs. After attending Cincinnati College Conservatory, he played with Cal Collins and Woody Evans locally at the Playboy Club.
In the late 1960’s he was touring with Woody Herman in Africa and Europe on a State Department sponsored junket; and he recorded with Herman in New York and Dusko Goykovich while in Belgrade. He continued to work with great musicians and nationally recognized talent during the 1970’s such as Benny Goodman, Jake Hanna, Warren Vache, Bill Evans, Jimmy Raney, Marian McPartland, Chet Baker, and Lee Konitz.
In 1978, he auditioned and was hired by Bill Evans after longtime bassist Eddie Gomez had left the group. Moore left after ve months due to dissatisfaction with the group.
He played with Zoot Sims, Kenny Barron and Michael Urbaniak in the 1980’s, and with Gene Bertoncini from the 1970’s and into the 1990’s.
In 2008, Moore became a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and was there until Brubeck’s death in 2012.
Michael Moore has had an accomplished musical career and is noted as an impressive, capable bassist noted for his restraint and support in small group settings. He has few peers for his tasteful, lyrical playing and has constantly drawn raves for his work in New York clubs.
William Curtis Rank was born into a musical family on June 8, 1904 in Lafayette, IN. His father was a musician who played alto horn in the city band and his mother sang in the church choir. At 13, Bill’s father bought him a trombone and with his father’s help he taught himself to play. The family moved to Indianapolis and this was the beginning of Bill’s amazing musical career.
At 16, in 1920, he joined a band led by pianist Claude Collins. While playing with The Dolen Band in Indianapolis, Bill received a telegram with a chance to join the Goldkette Orchestra. He went to Detroit, played a set, and was told to report to work the next night. Rank was only 19 years old.
Bix Beiderbecke joined the Goldkette Orchestra in 1925 and that proved to be a significant event for Rank. The club business in New York was waning and Rank eventually landed with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in1927 where he stayed for the next eleven years.
After Whiteman he went to California worked at Paramount Studios and was a part of the famous “Road” movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. In 1940, he did a short run with Artie Shaw and his trombone solos were featured on the recordings made during that time.
In 1941, Bill decided to quit the road and settle in Cincinnati, his wife’s hometown, so that he could spend more time with his family. He was
a busy man as a full time musician and office manager of an insurance company. He played with Jimmy Wilbur’s Little Band with WLW vocalist Doris Day and was on Ruth Lyons program on WLWT-TV.
In 1972, Bill retired from his insurance job and returned to jazz. Once word got out, it wasn’t long before he was in great demand and he appeared in numerous concerts, festivals and clubs. He played the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in1972 and 1973. Rank toured Europe in 1967, 1974, and 1975 playing a series of concerts with European jazz groups.
And another noteworthy mention, Rank was the last musician to play at the Albee Theater before it was torn down in 1977, “Rhapsody in Blue.” It was just Bill, a cameraman and a TV reporter. In 1979 this talented and beloved trombonist, who performed for almost six decades, died of a heart attack.
Pianist Steve Schmidt was born and raised
in Cincinnati, OH. He took two years of basic piano lessons in grade school, but spent more time playing baseball and basketball. It was an attraction to guitar – to blues and blues-oriented rock bands –that really drew Steve into the pursuit of music.
Throughout high school he spent much of his free time playing guitar along with records and jamming with others around the city. Blues led to jazz, and he switched to piano the summer after high school to teach himself the chords and melodies of jazz.
Soon after, he began playing in various pop, fusion and jazz bands. In 1979 he toured with Columbia recording artist and guitarist Wilbert Longmire. Later that year he became the house pianist at The Blue Wisp Jazz Club, the city’s leading jazz venue. For 13 years, he also booked soloists who played with The Steve Schmidt Trio each weekend. Some of the artists he has played with include: Eddie Harris, Charlie Rouse, Joe Henderson, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Joe Lovano, Mark Murphy, Johnny Coles, and Scott Hamilton. Also, in that year, Steve became a founding member of the 16-piece Blue Wisp Big Band led by drummer John Von Ohlen. In 1984, he was called upon to fill in for an ailing Count Basie for three nights as the Count Basie Orchestra came through Cincinnati. Since Basie’s death, Steve has been asked to play with the band on numerous occasions.
In recent years Schmidt has received many Cammy Awards (recognizing outstanding local talent) for The Steve Schmidt Trio and Steve Schmidt Organ Trio. He has appeared on all of The Blue Wisp Big Band’s recordings, on four CDs with The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and on many other Cincinnati artists’ albums. His own 2005 trio CD “Red and Orange” was recorded in New York City with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Je Ballard. He has played in NYC at the Kitano Hotel with Amy London and the Royal Bopsters.
Steve continues to share his excellent talent and plays regularly with many local musicians and vocalists in the Tri-State area, including with the Blue Wisp Big Band.
Bassist Lee Tucker was born December 19,
1933 in Cincinnati, OH and was a member of
the Modern Jazz Disciples. Not to be confused with the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Modern Jazz Disciples were a noteworthy but short-lived hard bop combo that was active in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
The group was formed in Cincinnati, OH, in 1958 when the leader, alto tenor sax man Curtis Peagler, got together with pianist William Brown, drummer Ron McCurdy William “Hicky” Kelley, and bassist Lee Tucker. The Disciples did not play cool jazz – their acoustic bop was extroverted, aggressive, and hard swinging (although they could be lyrical on ballads).
Playing locally around Cincinnati, the Disciples caught the attention of visiting tenor sax great Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis (who lived in New York but was in town for a gig at a club called Babe Baker’s Jazz Corner). Davis was impressed by what he heard and he encouraged the Disciples to record a demo tape for him to pass along to Prestige Records (which he was recording for at the time). After listening to the demo, Prestige shared Davis’ enthusiasm and signed the quintet to its New Jazz label.
In September 1959, the Disciples entered engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s famous New Jersey studio and recorded their self-titled debut LP. McCurdy left the group after that album, and Wilbur “Slim” Jackson became the Disciples’ new drummer. With the new lineup in place, the quintet returned to Van Gelder’s studio in May 1960 and recorded their second New Jazz LP, “Right Down Front”.
Had the Disciples stayed together longer, perhaps they would have become as well-known as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers or the Jazz Crusaders. But regrettably, the group called it quits in 1961 and never recorded a third album.
Rick VanMatre has performed as a saxophonist throughout the US, Europe, Israel, Brazil, China, and Korea with many of the world’s most important jazz artists, and has composed for and recorded with his own quintet. Locally he has recorded with the PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, Phil DeGreg, Kim Pensyl, Frank Proto, and as a featured soloist with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Nationally he has played with such diverse musicians as the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Woody Herman Band, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Roland Vazquez’s Latin groups, and Rosemary Clooney.
He has commissioned four unique jazz crossover concerti and performed them with symphony orchestras including the New York Repertory Orchestra, Sichuan Symphony Orchestra (China), Jeju Wind Orchestra (South Korea) and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. In the eld of broadcasting, he served as the on-air host and interviewer for the nationally syndicated radio series “Jazz - Live From the Hyatt.”
Rick attended Walnut Hills High School. He studied at the Berklee College of Music and the College-Conservatory of Music and completed graduate school at the Eastman School of Music while living in New York. He moved back to Cincinnati in 1980 to accept a faculty position at CCM where he was responsible for expanding the BM in Jazz and creating the MM in Jazz Studies and the DMA in Saxophone. He conducted over 250 concerts featuring artists like Kenny Garrett, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, Ahmad Jamal, and Joshua Redman.
As conductor of the CCM Jazz Ensemble,
he produced four CD recordings including Serenade in Blue (Sea Breeze Records), described by Cadence magazine as a “necessary part of any big-band enthusiast’s library.” He retired as Director of Jazz Studies in 2010, but continues to assist the program through part time teaching
Rick is grateful that in the formative days of his career, he had the chance to play with the towering figures of the local jazz scene such as Frank Vincent, Dee Felice, Carmon DeLeone, Frank Brown, Mike Andres, Jimmy McGary, Morgy Craig, and John Von Ohlen.
Many of his former students are active performers throughout the nation and others hold teaching positions at prominent universities, but he is particularly gratified by the large number of his students that remain in the Greater Cincinnati area and help make it the thriving jazz community that it is.