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Adams, Pepper (08 October 1930–10 September 1986), jazz baritone saxophonist, was born Park Adams III in Highland Park, Michigan, the son of Park Adams, Jr., a manager of a furniture store, and Cleo Coyle. The family had been reasonably well off until the store went bankrupt in the depression, one year after Adams’s birth. Adams grew up in poverty. His parents traveled to live with different relatives before settling with his grandparents in Rochester, New York....

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Adderley, Cannonball (15 September 1928–08 August 1975), jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida A & M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. He then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group....

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Ammons, Gene (14 April 1925–06 August 1974), jazz tenor saxophonist, was born Eugene Ammons in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Albert Ammons, a boogie-woogie pianist; his mother’s name is unknown. Like several other prominent jazzmen, Ammons studied music at Du Sable High School under Captain Walter Dyett. Initially he idolized ...

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Bruce J. Evensen

Andrews Sisters, singers, were born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughters of Peter Andrews, a restaurant owner, and Ollie Sollie. The three sisters were LaVerne (6 July 1915–8 May 1967), Maxene (3 Jan. 1918–21 Oct. 1995), and Patty (Patricia; 16 Feb. 1920–). Word spread in jazz-age Minneapolis that a local sister team might get Americans to forget the Boswells (see ...

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Ayler, Albert (12 July 1936–05 November 1970), composer and musician, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Edward Ayler, a semiprofessional violinist and tenor saxophonist, and Myrtle Hunter. Albert and his brother Donald, who later became a professional jazz trumpet player, received musical training early in life from their father. In second grade Albert performed alto saxophone recitals in school. He performed duets with his father (who also played alto saxophone) in church. Together they listened to a great deal of swing and bebop music, both on recordings and at jazz concerts....

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Buster Bailey © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0538 DLC).

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Bailey, Buster (19 July 1902–12 April 1967), jazz clarinetist and saxophonist, was born William C. Bailey in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of his parents. He attended the Clay Street School in Memphis, where he began studying clarinet at age thirteen. In 1917 he turned professional after joining the touring band of famed blues composer ...

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Baquet, Achille (15 November 1885–20 November 1956), early jazz musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Theogene V. Baquet, a cornetist, music teacher, and leader of the Excelsior Brass Band of New Orleans, and Leocadie Mary Martinez. A clarinetist and younger brother of ...

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Sidney Bechet © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0053 DLC).

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Bechet, Sidney (14 May 1897–14 May 1959), jazz soprano saxophonist and clarinetist, was born Sidney Joseph Bechet in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Omar (or Omer) Bechet, a shoemaker and amateur flutist, and Josephine Michel. An incorrigible truant, after age eight he stopped attending school and started teaching himself clarinet. What basic education he later received came from private tutoring by a cousin. He received some clarinet training from ...

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Beneke, Tex (12 February 1914–30 May 2000), saxophonist, was born Gordon Lee Beneke in Fort Worth, Texas. By the age of nine he showed a talent for the saxophone, experimenting with both soprano and alto sax before settling on tenor. During the early and mid-1930s he began his professional career by playing in regional bands, first in Texas and then Oklahoma. In 1935 he joined the bandleader Ben Young's orchestra and toured with the group throughout the Midwest in one-nighters before arriving in Detroit in 1937. A fellow ...

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Tex Beneke. Aug. 1985. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Berry, Chu (13 September 1908–30 October 1941), tenor saxophonist, was born Leon Brown Berry in Wheeling, West Virginia; his parents’s names and occupations are unknown. He played alto saxophone in high school and at West Virginia State College, which he attended for three years....

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Barney Bigard. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0076 DLC).

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Bigard, Barney (03 March 1906–27 June 1980), jazz musician, was born Albany Leon Bigard in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Alexander Louis Bigard and Emanuella Marquez. Little is known of his family except that it produced musicians: his older brother Alex was a drummer, his uncle Emile was a violinist who played with musicians like ...

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Bostic, Earl (25 April 1913–28 October 1965), alto saxophonist, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Details about his parents are unknown. Bostic played clarinet in school and saxophone with the local Boy Scouts. By 1930 or 1931 when he left Tulsa to tour with Terrence Holder’s Twelve Clouds of Joy, he was already a saxophone virtuoso. Fellow saxophonist Buddy Tate recalls that Bostic was asked to join the band because of his dexterity and maturity as a soloist. Holder’s band members then informally tested his ability to read difficult music: skipping the opportunity to rehearse, Bostic counted off an impossibly fast tempo and played the piece on first sight with such skill that only he and the drummer made it through to the end. “We let him alone after that,” Tate said....

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Burbank, Albert (25 March 1902–15 August 1976), jazz clarinetist and singer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was a painter, but the names of his parents are unknown. Unusually for a New Orleans jazzman, Burbank was not from a musical family. Burbank first attended a private school; however, other details of his upbringing and schooling are unknown....