News & Updates — avant-garde

Leon Thomas / Oct 4, 1937 - May 8, 1999

Leon Thomas / Oct 4, 1937 - May 8, 1999

One of the most unique vocalists of the jazz world, Brother Leon Thomas had an updated, yet ancient, style of scat-yodeling that was quite soulful and seemed to come from deep, not just from his inner being but also traveling folky songlines. He claimed to have discovered using that style after breaking his teeth before a concert. Most famous for his contributions to the great late '60s run of Pharoah Sanders albums on Impulse! followed by an early '70s run with the Santana band (including the amazing 1973 tour of Japan), he also cut records of his own including some...

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Roy Campbell Jr / Sept 29, 1952 - Jan 9, 2014

Roy Campbell Jr / Sept 29, 1952 - Jan 9, 2014

On his birthday today we miss our NYC jazz scene trumpeter/composer hero Roy Campbell Jr. I have witnessed his excellence on many, many occasions and his bright tone and world music-influenced free-jazz are greatly missed. He was most definitely one of the greats of progressive jazz trumpet, in lineage with Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Booker Little and Don Cherry. A native of the Big Apple, he started playing trumpet at 15 and studied with Morgan and Kenny Dorham. As a teen he played in big bands and as he turned 20 he aligned himself with the avant-garde with his group...

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John Gilmore / Sept 28, 1931 - Aug 20, 1995

John Gilmore / Sept 28, 1931 - Aug 20, 1995

Happy birthday to tenor saxophone hero John Gilmore. A long-time member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, a major influence on John Coltrane and an icon Blowing Out Of Chicago. Gilmore started playing clarinet at 14 and tenor sax at 17 and he played with Earl Hines before joining Sun Ra's fledgling Arkestra in '53. He stayed with Ra for over forty years, recording on every single Arkestra record until '95 (including most of the legendary Ra-produced doo-wop sides). He brought a gifted and harmonically advanced style and could play sweet to ferocious, but bop & blues was always his main language....

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Norris Jones aka Sirone / Sept 28, 1940 - Oct 21, 2009

Norris Jones aka Sirone / Sept 28, 1940 - Oct 21, 2009

Born on this day was the great improvising bassist Sirone, who brought a highly intuitive, yet bluesy improvisational presence to the scene and contributing to several genre-defining classics of the '60s & '70s, not the least of which was his work with the collective Revolutionary Ensemble. From Atlanta, the former Norris Jones took up the trombone as a kid before moving to bass at 17. He started playing locally in the late '50s in a group with saxophonist George Adams. He was a sideman at sessions for Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and other R&B artists. In '65 he moved to...

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Sam Rivers / Sept 25, 1923 - Dec 26, 2011

Sam Rivers / Sept 25, 1923 - Dec 26, 2011

One of my favorite multi-reed improvisors, Sam Rivers was born on this day in 1923. He came from Oklahoma, his father and grandfather were gospel singers and helped give little Sammy the music bug. After some time as a youth in Chicago & Little Rock, he started his professional career on the West Coast in the '40s, playing in Jimmy Witherspoon's band, as well as with Quincy Jones. In Boston he started working with teenage drummer Tony Williams, who in turn brought him into the Miles Davis Quintet in '64, if only for a brief spell (captured on the Miles In...

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