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Gil Evans Biography

Born Gilmore Ian Rodrigo Green in 1912 to a father he never knew, Gil Evans took the name of his stepfather early on in life, long before he began collaborating with the highest echelon of musicians and achieving international recognition. After constantly moving around Canada as a child, the Evans family settled in California when Gil was ten. After a friend’s father took him to see Duke Ellington, Gil Evans’ lifetime engagement with Jazz began in earnest.

 He started transcribing the recordings of Louis Armstrong and Don Redman, before forming his own orchestra in 1933. Evan’s group played the California clubs, even opening for Benny Goodman, before joining forces with singer Skinnay Ennis. Evans then began a relationship with composer Claude Thornhill, who immediately became a close friend and artistic colleague to Evans. The two worked together for many years, first in Evans orchestra and subsequently in Thornhill’s, until Thornhill decided to disband his group since most of its members had been drafted into World War II.

Despite his Canadian citizenship, Gil Evans also joined the army, remaining stateside though, before finally becoming an American citizen. It was during his military service that Evans, after meeting Lester Young in an army band, found his love of the Bebop music that was becoming popular in American cities.

After being released from the service, Evans relocated to NYC and took residence behind a laundromat in midtown Manhattan. This small dwelling grew to colossal lore, as Evans’ instituted an open-door policy to the apartment that became a meeting spot for central jazz characters such as Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan. After reconnecting with Thornhill, Evans’ apartment became a home to an experimental project that combined the sound of a large jazz orchestra with the fresh style of Bebop. The project was originally to be led by Charlie Parker, but was eventually handed over to Miles Davis. This orchestra performed live only one time, however they did record in sessions that were later recollected and released as Miles Davis’ hugely influential, The Birth of Cool.

After marrying in 1949, Evans spent less time composing jazz, instead concentrating on his musical education and arranging works for television and radio, before reconnecting with Miles Davis to collaborate on four albums, most notably Miles Ahead and Sketches of Spain. He continued this momentum through the 1950s, releasing numerous albums as a bandleader and creating arrangements for a number of other notable musicians. However, Evans remarried in 1962 and again began to withdraw from Jazz again with the birth of his children.

When Evans reinvigorated his musical career again in 1969, he created an ensemble that concentrated less on brass and wind instruments, preferring a larger rhythm sections, and furthermore encompassing more electric instruments as the culture stepped into the next decade. When an anticipated collaboration with Jimi Hendrix was tragically cut short, Evan reconstituted his orchestra and began touring extensively throughout both the U.S. and Europe. In 1984, he was hired to play Monday nights at New York’s legendary Sweet Basil nightclub, where he continued to lead his Monday Night Band until his death in 1988.

Gil Evans is one of the most notable arrangers and composers of 20th century. Whether lending his talents to the Miles Davis, leading the host of jazz notables that played in his orchestra, or piling up Grammy nominations, honorary degrees and the praise of music journalists around the globe, Jazz-innovator Gil Evans’ name is appropriately synonymous with Jazz excellence.
 
 
Michael Brecker Biography
 
Arguably the most important saxophonist of the post-Coltrane era, 11-time Grammy winner Michael Brecker was son to a Jazz enthusiast father who exposed him to Jazz pioneers such as Thelonious Monk. Inspired by John Coltrane, Michael settled on the tenor sax in high school and after attending Indiana University for a year, moved to NYC where he co-founding the influential group Dreams. After a stint with Horace Silver’s Quintet, Michael and his brother Randy created a Jazz-Funk band appropriately named the Brecker Brothers Band. The brothers also operated a popular Jazz club, Seventh Avenue South. Infamous late-night jam sessions at the club led to the formation of Steps Ahead, an all-star band that left an indelible mark on the Jazz scene.
 
By the 1980s, Brecker’s talents had beyond Jazz Fusion as he became a notable soloist on numerous Pop and Rock albums, working with icons such as James Taylor, and also joined the celebrated Saturday Night Live Band.
 
Tragically, Michael was diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), and although he was unable to find matching bone marrow for a transplant, the entire music community supported his efforts to recover. With a career undeniably linked to the history of music, Michael’s impeccable technique, individual tone, and stellar musicality have already assured him an unforgettable legacy.
 
Michael Brecker died from complications of leukemia in New York City on January 13th, 2007.
 
 
Randy Brecker Biography
 
Trumpeter Randy Brecker has been one of the most sought after musicians of the last 4 decades. While attending Indiana University, Brecker and the IU Jazz band won the Notre Dame Jazz festival and were rewarded with a tour of Asia and the Middle East by the State Department. When he returned, Brecker moved to NYC, playing in various Jazz groups before joining Blood, Sweat and Tears for their pioneering album, Child is Father to the Man.
 
After stints with Horace Silver, Art Blakley’s Jazz Messengers, and co-founding the group Dreams, Randy and his younger brother Michael formed The Brecker Brothers Band. In addition to recording six albums and earning seven Grammy Nominations in merely six years, The Brecker Brothers Band propelled both the brothers to a new level of recognition.
 
After recording with the Charles Mingus Dynasty, Randy and his brother continued their genre deconstruction by forming a new Fusion band named Steps Ahead, which further cemented their status in the music world. Recording several more albums in the years following, playing alongside the highest echelon of music superstars (everyone from Aerosmith to Frank Zappa), and earning a myriad of awards and accolades, Randy Brecker has been one of the most influential sounds of the last 40 years.
 
 
Billy Cobham Biography
 
William Cobham spent his first two years listening to his cousins play the textured rhythms of Panama as a child, before moving to New York around his third birthday. After graduating from New York’s prominent school of Music and Art, Cobham spent from 3 years in the U.S. Army Band, before landing a gig with the Horace Silver Band.
 
Cobham left the hard bop of Silver’s group to help form the jazz-rock group Dreams with the Brecker brothers before landing in Miles Davis’ legendary fusion ensemble. After playing on highly-influential Davis albums such as Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson, Cobham andfellow Davis alumni John McLaughlin walked away from Davis, forming the Mahavishnu Orchestra in an effort to play a more powerful brand of rock fusion.
 
Cobham left the group he helped create to form Spectrum, a group hoping to continue pushing the boundaries of fusion by adding the new funk sound that was becoming popular in the early 1970s. As the Seventies progressed, Cobham’s sound became more accessible to the mainstream, making him significant more commercially viable. Despite numerous successful albums as a leader, Cobham never relented in working as a sought after session drummer. Besides having been essentially the house drummer for the CTI label, Cobham toured with the Grateful Dead, recorded with Peter Gabriel, and worked as a member of the famed Saturday Night Live Band.
 
With his legacy in both the jazz and rock world secured, Cobham is indisputably one of the legends and shapers of the fusion movement. His powerful sound and uncanny timing contrasted his intricate solo work in a fashion that has made him an unparalleled percussionist to this day. Cobham remains an active member of the jazz world, touring relentlessly around the globe.
 
 
Mike Mainieri Biography
 

Vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, 14 years old when he embarked on his first professional tour, played with American music legends Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, and Dizzy Gillespie all before his 18th birthday when he was awarded the International Jazz Critics Award.
 
Mike’s career includes stints with a who’s who of musicians. As a member of the renowned yet mysteriously forgotten band, Jeremy and the Satyrs, Mike became a fixture in New York’s music scene, jamming alongside 60’s icons such as Jimi Hendrix. By the end of the decade, these jam sessions transformed into a 20-piece Jazz / Rock / Big Band group named the White Elephant Orchestra, leaving a lasting impression on New York’s music scene for years to come. In the 70’s, the already accomplished Mainieri pioneered Steps Ahead, an all-star Jazz / Fusion / R & B group.
 
As a composer, arranger and performer, Mike has contributed to over 100 gold and platinum albums, playing alongside pop and rock greats like Aerosmith, Paul Simon and producing records for 8-time Grammy winner George Benson. Mike continues to push and stretch the Jazz idiom, finding new, innovative ways to create top-notch music and captivating audiences and fellow musicians alike with his enchanting instrument.
 
 
Gil Goldstein Biography
 
Gil Goldstein made his name in Jazz as a piano and keyboard player, but he started his musical journey on the accordion. By age 8, after a brief affair with the cello, Goldstein was a full time piano enthusiast. A native of Baltimore, Gil attended a handful of universities before earning a degree in Music Education.
 
Goldstein broke into professional music when he was hired to play in Pat Martino’s group. He subsequently worked for Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, and Billy Cobham, among others.
 
 
Howard Johnson Biography
 
Post-bop jazzman Howard Louis Johnson is the foremost tuba soloist in Jazz. Born in Montgomery, Alabama in the summer of 1941, and raised in Ohio, Johnson originally taught himself the saxophone at thirteen before learning the Tuba as well.  After moving to New York City in 1963, Johnson found work playing alongside Archie Shepp and Charles Mingus, before joining the Gil Evans Orchestra in 1963. He continued on-and-off with Evans for the next two decades, taking time to record and play with musicians such as Taj Mahal and The Band. He is still actively working in Jazz, gigging constantly, giving clinics and lectures, and working tirelessly with the two tuba ensemble bands he founded, Substructure and Gravity.
 
 
Lew Soloff Biography
 
Lew Soloff is best known for his high-note virtuosity on the trumpet, his myriad of high-profile collaborations, and his world-class musicianship. After studying at Julliard, Soloff played for artists such as Tito Puente and Ornette Coleman. Despite critical recognition in Jazz, Lew cemented his legacy outside the genre when he joined Blood, Sweat, & Tears, earning 9 Gold records and a Grammy Award. However, Soloff returned to Jazz, joining Gil Evan’s Orchestra and recording for Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, among others. 40 years after he broke into the industry, Soloff is still a regular on the Jazz circuit, playing with numerous bands and sharing his knowledge as a professor at the Manhattan School of Music.