Benny Bailey, Trumpet, 1925, Cleveland, OH
Benny studied the flute and the piano before taking up the trumpet, which he studied with George Russell and at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. Around 1942 he played for the tenor saxophonist Bull Moose Jackson and the singer Scatman Crothers. He later worked with Jay McShann and Teddy Edwards before joining Dizzy Gillespie's big band in the mid '40s. He remained with Dizzy for around four years before leaving to fill the job of featured soloist with the Lionel Hampton orchestra. In 1953 Benny made his home in Sweden and played and toured with many American musicians who visited Europe. In 1959 he returned to the U.S. for a short time and then moved to Germany where he continued to freelance with local musicians and visiting Americans. In 1986 Benny joined the Paris Reunion Band, which toured extensively in Europe and the US. Bailey's playing is in his personal style, with a bright, forceful tone. His solos are both exciting and inventive.
George Shearing, Piano, 1919, London, Eng.
Shearing, who was blind from birth, started piano training when he was about four years old. His formal education consisted of only four years at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind. By the mid '30s he became hooked on jazz by listening to records by Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. George advanced so rapidly in jazz that the British music magazine, Melody Maker, poll, named him Top British Pianist for seven years consecutively. He was very strongly influenced by the American bop style, especially the playing of Bud Powell. He moved to the States in 1947, and made his home in New York City. The beautiful and famous "Shearing Sound" originated with his quintet, consisting of piano, vibes, guitar, bass and drums. His playing is in the block chord style, which became known as "locked hands", which originated with Milt Buckner's earlier style, and, oddly enough, from the chordal style of Glenn Millers's saxophone section. Shearing achieved great commercial success, rarely seen in the jazz world. Over the years, his sidemen included people like Cal Tjader, Gary Burton, Toots Thieleman, Joe Pass, Israel Crosby, and Vernel Fournier. During the latter part of the 1950s he began performing classical concertos with many symphony orchestras, which sometimes included orchestral arrangements featuring his quintet. From the early '70s he has been playing more and more as a soloist and in duos, which he feels best displays his abilities as a pianist and improviser.
Mulgrew Miller, Piano, 1955, Greenwood, MS
Mulgrew studied music privately as well as at school and Memphis State University. At the same time he played in gospel and r & b groups. In the latter part of the 1970s Mulgrew toured with Mercer Ellington's orchestra, which included a trip to Europe. During most of the next decade he worked on a fairely regular basis with Betty Carter and was a member of the wonderful Woody Shaw quintet. He also did a great amount of freelance work on both, the East Coast and West Coast. From three years in the mid '80s he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and was later a member of Tony Williams' quintet. In addition, he has managed to maintain his own trio, making several successful albums, and has been much in demand for others' recording sessions. Mulgrew has done a great deal of work with vocalists Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson. He is a brilliant technician, who has learned much from those who have gone before, absorbing all the influences of the 1960s and 1970s jazz piano, and has been one of the key figures in perpetuating the piano tradition.
Joe Puma, Guitar, 1927, New York, NY