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Louis Bellson Biography

Whether swinging with a big band or playing with a small, intimate quartet, Louis Bellson’s aptitude for impeccable timing, compositional skills, innovative sprit, and propensity towards vibrant soloing have made him one of the jazz world’s top drummers and a true rival to the legendary Buddy Rich.

Born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni in 1924, Louis Bellson caught the attention of jazz icon Benny Goodman at seventeen years old after winning nationwide drumming competition, subsequently playing for Goodman for the year before heading into military service during World War II. Upon his homecoming, Bellson rejoined Goodman’s group before stints with Jazz at the Philharmonic, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, who also let Bellson compose songs such as “Skin Deep.” It was also during his time with Ellington’s Orchestra that Bellson became the pioneer of the two bass drum kit.

After marrying singer and actress Pearl Bailey, he left Ellington and became his new wife’s musical director. During this same period, Bellson led a variety of side projects with many distinguished musicians, became an active lecturer and workshop leader on college campuses around the country, and continued to compose music, most notably songs such as “I Need Your Key,” for James Brown.

Still active in jazz education, Bellson has made an immeasurable impact in the music world. Whether playing drums on Ella Fitzgerald albums, or leading workshops on Illinois’ Louis Bellson Heritage Day, Louis Bellson is a true jazz original.

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.