Ramsey Library Special Collections
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North Carolina Jazz Musicians
Bio-bibliography, Selected Recordings, Research Guide

by Bryan Sinclair, Associate University Librarian for Public Services, UNC Asheville




Intro :: Musicians A-E :: F-K :: L-R :: S-Z


- S -

Salim, Yusef (Brother)
Pianist and composer; based in Durham, NC. Played with Leo Parker in the 1960's and recorded for the Blue Note label. Selected CDs: Parker, Leo. Let Me Tell You 'Bout It. Blue Note 84087, 1990 (Originally recorded 1961).

Sharpe, Malachi
Vibraphonist and educator. Sharpe was born and educated in Cumberland County, and attended E. E. Smith High School, where he received much of his formal music education. While Sharpe played in several jazz bands in the Fayetteville area, he chose to devote his life to his family and teaching instead of pursuing a professional jazz career. For many years he taught in Robeson County, where he inspired a jazz flavor in the high school marching band. Even after retirement, Sharpe continued to teach and inspire students about music and the importance of jazz in American culture.

Shaw, Woody (Herman, Jr.)
All Music Guide Entry
Trumpeter and composer; b. Laurinburg, NC, 12/24/44-5/10/89. Woody Shaw was born in the hometown of Dizzy Gillespie’s alma mater, the Laurinburg Institute. Shaw’s father, Woody, Sr., was also a Laurinburg alumnus and a local musician who performed with the gospel group the Diamond Jubilee Singers. Shaw is best known for his accomplished solos and collaborations with Eric Dolphy, Art Blakey, and Dexter Gordon during the 1960s and 70s. Recently, his talents as composer have gained new attention as well (see Unity recording). Sources: Berg, Chuck. “Woody Shaw: Trumpet in Bloom.” Down Beat 45 (10 August 1978): 22-24, 49-53; Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.; Reitman, Linda R. “Woody Shaw: Linked to a Legacy.” Down Beat 50 (January 1983): 18-21; Rusch, Bob. “Woody Shaw: Interview.” Cadence 7, no. 1 (1981): 12-15. Web Links: "The Official Woody Shaw Website." http://www.woodyshaw.com; Poynor, Todd. "A Critical Discography of Woody Shaw." http://www.wnur.org/jazz/artists/shaw.woody/discog.html Selected CDs: Shaw, Woody. The Moontrane. 32Jazz 32019 (Originally recorded 1974); Shaw, Woody. Rosewood. Sony 65519, 1998 (Originally recorded 1977); Shaw, Woody. Solid. Camden 74321-610792 (2 discs; originally recorded 1974-87); Young, Larry. Unity. (Rudy Van Gelder Edition) Blue Note 97808, 1999 (Originally recorded 1965; Shaw appears as both trumpeter and composer).

Simone, Nina (Eunice Waymon)
All Music Guide Entry
Vocalist, pianist; b. Tryon, NC, 2/21/33-4/21/03. Prior to 1930, Simone’s father had been a successful and respected businessman in the mostly white, mountain resort town of Tryon, where he operated a barbershop, dry cleaners, and trucking company. By the time Nina (christened Eunice Kathleen Waymon) was born, the family had lost everything due to the Depression. The Waymons were a musical family; both parents sang and played the piano. Her father also played guitar and harmonica and sang in the church choir. By the age of six, Nina (then Eunice) was the regular pianist at her family’s Methodist church. Later she attended Allen High School for Girls in Asheville where she was graduated Valedictorian in June 1950. Sources: Clark, Paul. "Nina Simone: Famous Jazz Singer's Outlook Shaped by Life in Asheville." Asheville Citizen-Times, 23 April 2003, A1, A5; Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; McKenna, Kristine. “Nina Simone: An Exiled Avant- Garde Musician Speaks Her Mind.” Oxford American (Third Annual Double Issue on Southern Music) 27-28 (Summer 1999): 96-97; Roland, Paul, ed. “Nina Simone.” Jazz Singers: The Great Song Stylists in their Own Words. New York: Billboard Books, 2000; Simone, Nina, with Stephen Cleary. I Put a Spell On You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. Web Links: "Official Nina Simone Website." http://www.ninasimone.com  Selected CDs: Simone, Nina. Anthology: The Coplix Years. Rhino 72567, 1996 (Originally recorded 1959-64); Simone, Nina. Nina Simone at the Village Gate. Roulette B2-95058, 1991 (Originally recorded 1961).

Smith, Thomas H. (Tom), III.
Trombonist, bandleader, educator, author; b. Greenville, NC, 5/10/1957. Four time Senior Fulbright Professor of Music at the Romanian National University of Music and Lecturer of Social and Political Affairs in the School of American Studies at the University of Bucharest, and Dean of Fine Arts at Mott College in Flint, Michigan. He was for seven years Director of Instrumental Music at Pfeiffer University (1997-2004), near Charlotte, NC. Downbeat Magazine once called Smith "part trombonist, part music missionary." Smith was the longest continuous member of the prestigious North Carolina Artist-in-Residence Program, when he served at three different NC community colleges from 1984-1992. During this time he founded many critically acclaimed community and regional jazz ensembles, including the 18 member Unifour Jazz Ensemble (seventh in the 1988 Downbeat Readers Poll). In that same poll, Smith placed fifth in the trombone category. He has performed and toured with Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, the New York Voices, Nicholas Payton, Herb Ellis, Donald Byrd and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Smith is also a noted jazz historian and researcher. In 2001, he and research partner Gary Westbrook discovered the "musical fingerprint" for identification of unidentified personnel on early recordings. Since 2002, Smith's work in Romania has drawn wide attention in the field of jazz education. He is the only foreigner to have been awarded The Romanian National Radio Prize, Romania's highest musical honor.

Smith, Tab (Talmadge)
All Music Guide Entry
Saxophonist, arranger, bandleader; b. Kinston, NC, 1/11/09-8/17/71. Bandleader of the Carolina Stompers from 1927-29. Played with Count Basie in the 1940's. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed. Selected CDs: Smith, Tab. Ace High. Delmark DD-455 (Originally recorded 1952-53); Smith, Tab. Jump Time. Delmark DD-447 (Originally recorded 1951-52).

Stokes, Irvin (Sonny)
Trumpeter; b. Greensboro, NC, 11/11/26-  . Studied music at James P. Dudley High School and A&T College, 1943-47. Played with Lou Donaldson in local Greensboro bands. Was a section-man in various swing orchestras; was known later as a member of Panama Francis's Savoy Sultans. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed. Selected CDs: Stokes, Irvin. Just Friends. Arbors 19199. 1997.

Strange, Frank (Frankie) of the Frankie and Johnnie Orchestra
1930's "territory band" leader; recorded in Charlotte, June 1936. Selected CDs: Tar Heel Jazz. IAJRC CD 1002 (Originally recorded 1936-37. Rare territory bands recorded in Charlotte. Order direct from the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors at http://www.iajrc.org/

Strayhorn, Billy (William; “Swee’-Pea”)
All Music Guide Entry
Composer, arranger, pianist, lyricist; b. Dayton, OH, 11/29/15-5/31/67. This long-time collaborator with Duke Ellington was shaped by his extended visits to Hillsborough, NC. As a child, Strayhorn lived part of the year with his grandparents in their comfortable home on the corner of Hillsborough Avenue and West Margaret Lane. According to one family member, “…he got a lot of attention down there and had the run of the place.” (see Hajdu, Lush Life, p.10-11). His grandmother Lizzie, who served as pianist for her church, encouraged his love of music and the piano. Strayhorn would go on to be one of the most important composers and collaborators in jazz history, writing jazz standards such as “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Satin Doll,” and “Lush Life.” Sources: Bellamy, Cliff. "Writer Finds Strayhorn's Heart in Hillsborough." The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), 5 March 1999, 22; Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; Giddins, Gary, et al. “The Billy Strayhorn Suite” (Jazz Supplement). The Village Voice, 23 June 1993, 1-15 (insert); Hajdu, David. Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996; Hasse, John Edward. Beyond Category: The Life & Genius of Duke Ellington. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993; Leur, Walter van de. Something To Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn. New York: Oxford U P, 2002; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.; Tucker, Mark, ed. The Duke Ellington Reader. Oxford: Oxford U P, 1993. Web Links: "Billy Strayhorn: Take the ‘A’ Train." http://www.billystrayhorn.com Selected CDs: Ellington, Duke. The Blanton-Webster Band (3 Discs). RCA 5659, 1990 (Originally recorded 1940-42; Strayhorn appears as both composer and arranger on this landmark recording); Strayhorn, Billy. Great Times! OJC 108 (Originally recorded 1950); Strayhorn, Billy. Lush Life. Sony 52760, 1992 (Originally recorded 1964, 1965).

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Tardif, Paul
Pianist and educator; Distinguished Research Professor of Music at East Carolina University and Director of the ECU Contemporary Jazz Ensemble. In 1986, Tardif was the first recipient of a major North Carolina Arts Council jazz grant. Web Links: http://www.ecu.edu/music/bios/Faculty/tardif.html
Selected CD's: Tardif, Paul. Points of Departure. Koch Jazz 7800, 1995.

Tate, Grady B.
All Music Guide Entry
Drummer, vocalist; b. Durham, NC, 1/14/32-  . Learned jazz drumming while in the Air Force. Upon his discharge in 1955, Tate returned to Durham where he studied theater, literature, and psychology at North Carolina College, now North Carolina Central University. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.

Taylor, Billy (William Edward, Jr.)
All Music Guide Entry
Pianist, jazz educator; b. Greenville, NC, 7/24/21-   . Born into a musical family, Taylor began piano lessons at an early age. It was one of his uncles, who was something of a local celebrity, who first introduced Billy to jazz and the recordings of Fats Waller and Art Tatum. Today, the pianist is best known for his contributions to music education. He earned a doctorate in music education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975. Among his honors and awards are 19 honorary degrees, numerous Grammy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and an Emmy. Dr. Taylor is currently host of National Public Radio’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center, arts correspondent for CBS News’ Sunday Morning, and the author of several books. Sources: Boston, Bruce O. “Billy Taylor: Tapping into Our Musical Heritage.” Teaching Music 3 (June 1996): 42-44; Clarke, Catherine King. “Conversation With William 'Billy' Taylor, The JazzMobile Man.” Black Perspective in Music 10 (Fall 1982): 179-88; Cordle, Owen. “From His Fingertips.” The News & Observer (Raleigh), 14 November 1999, G1; Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.; Shepard, T. Brooks. "Billy Taylor's Jazz: Music for the Millennium." American Visions 14 (April/May 1999): 40-42. Web Links: "Billy Taylor - Jazz Pianist and educator." http://billytaylorjazz.com/; "Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center." http://npr.org/programs/btaylor/; "What Is Jazz?" http://town.hall.org/Archives/radio/Kennedy/Taylor/ Selected CDs: Taylor, Billy. Billy Taylor Trio. Prestige 24154, 1995 (Originally recorded 1952-53); Billy Taylor Trio. Live at IAJE, New York. Soundpost 5090, 2002; Taylor, Billy. Music Keeps Us Young. Arkadia 71601, 1997; Taylor, Billy. Urban Griot. Soundpost 3050-2, 2001.

Taylor, Dave, and His Dixie Serenaders
1930's band leader of the Charlotte-based Dixie Serenaders before Jimmie Gunn (see Gunn entry). The band was comprised mostly of students from Johnson C. Smith University. They recorded two sides in 1931 before Gunn took over the band in 1934. Band members Leslie Johnakins, Skeets Tolbert, and Harry Prather had later careers in New York. Sources: Demeusy, Bertrand. "What the Papers (and the Musicians) Said... Jimmie Gunn's Orchestra." Storyville 95 (June/July 1981): 189-90; Hennessey, Thomas J. From Jazz to Swing: African-American Jazz Musicians and their Music. Detroit: Wayne State U P, 1994; McCarthy, Albert. “The Territory Bands: The Southern States.” Big Band Jazz. London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974; Melick, Phil. "More Jazz From Charlotte." Storyville 109 (Oct./Nov. 1983): 14-19. 

Tucker, Mickey (Michael B.)
All Music Guide Entry
Pianist; b. Durham, NC 4/28/41-  . Studied piano in Pittsburgh, then became a high school teacher and worked as an accompanist in New York City. Presently lives in Australia. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed. Selected CDs: Tucker, Mickey. Blues in Five Dimensions. Steeple Chase 31258, 1989; Tucker, Mickey. Hang in There. Steeple Chase 31302, 1991.

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Unifour Jazz Ensemble.
Founded in 1984 by Tom Smith. This ensemble was the first entirely state supported jazz big band in the United States, and arguably the best known North Carolina jazz ensemble of the 1980s. It placed seventh in the big band category of the 1988 Down Beat Reader's Poll, the first North Carolina big band to do so since Hal Kemp in the 1930s. A number of its members assumed careers with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Frank Kimbrough, Chris Potter, Joe Henderson, and Diva, as well as a number of university professorships. The band recorded two critically acclaimed albums, and was often asked to tour with legendary performers, most prominently with Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, and Herb Ellis. Smith disbanded Unifour in 1991, citing financial difficulties. One of its members, saxophonist Gregg Gelb, was a co-founder of the North Carolina Repertory Jazz Ensemble.

Vick, Harold Edward
All Music Guide Entry
Tenor saxophonist; b. Rocky Mount, NC, 4/3/36-11/13/87. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.

- W -

Wilcox, Eddie (Edwin Felix)
All Music Guide Entry
Pianist, arranger; b. Method, NC (near Raleigh), 12/27/07-9/29/68. Much of the CD reissue material of Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra features arrangements and piano work by Wilcox. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.

Williams, Hod, and His Orchestra
"Territory band" leader during the 1930s; recorded in Charlotte, August 1937. Sources: McCarthy, Albert. “The Territory Bands: The Southern States.” Big Band Jazz. London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974. Selected CDs: Tar Heel Jazz. IAJRC CD 1002 (Originally recorded 1936-37. Rare territory bands recorded in Charlotte. Order direct from the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors at http://www.iajrc.org/

Williams, Mary Lou (Mary Elfrieda Scruggs)
All Music Guide Entry
Pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator; b. Atlanta, GA, 5/8/10-5/28/81. Influential woman instrumentalist in American jazz. Taught jazz at Duke U. from 1977. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed; Ratliff, Ben. The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz. New York: Times Books, 2002. Selected CDs: Mary Lou Williams Trio. Free Spirits. Steeple Chase 31043 (Originally recorded 1975); Williams, Mary Lou. Mary Lou Williams 1944. Classics 814; Williams, Mary Lou. Mary Lou Williams 1944-1945. Classics 1021; Williams, Mary Lou. Zodiac Suite. Smithsonian/Folkways, 40810.

Wilson, Dennis Edward
Trombonist and arranger; b. Greensboro, NC, 7/22/52-  . A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Wilson began his professional career with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra as trombonist, arranger, and musical director. An Assistant Professor of jazz at the University of Michigan School of Music, Wilson also co-directs the Rhythm Section Institute and the UM Jazz Festival. He has been a lead/solo trombonist for the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Benny Carter Orchestra, and for ten years with Mr. William "Count" Basie and his Orchestra. He received a Grammy Award nomination for vocal arrangements created for The Manhattan Transfer. He spent 10 years as the lead trombonist for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, directed by Jon Faddis. In 2001 Wilson became the first “Artist in Resident” for the San Jose Jazz Society where he also created the San Jose Jazz Orchestra and Youth Jazz Orchestra. In addition to the performing ensembles Wilson works with the education/outreach programs and provides artistic direction for the San Jose Jazz Festival. In 2004 Wilson became the musical director/conductor for jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon with the Count Basie Orchestra. Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.

Wilson, Lena
All Music Guide Entry
Vocalist; b. Charlotte, NC, 1898-1939? Classic blues singer who got her start in the Theatre Owners Booking Agency (TOBA) vaudeville circuit sometime around 1918. Married to jazz violinist Shrimp Jones. Her recording career began in 1922-24 and picked up again in 1930. After 1930, she continued to perform in clubs in the New York area until around 1935, and is reported to have died of pneumonia around 1939. Web Links: "Red Hot Jazz Archives: Lena Wilson" <http://www.redhotjazz.com/lwilson.htmlSelected CDs: Wilson, Lena. Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1 (1922-24). DOCD 5443; Wilson, Edith, and Lena Wilson. Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1924-31). DOCD 5451

Wood, Vishnu (Bill; William Clifford)
All Music Guide Entry
Bassist and jazz educator; b. Wilkesboro, NC, 11/7/37-  . Sources: Feather and Gitler's Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, 1999; New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.

Worrell, Lewis
All Music Guide Entry
Bassist; b. Charlotte, NC, 11/7/34-   . Played with many leaders of the jazz avant-garde in the 1960's, including Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp.  

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Intro :: Musicians A-E :: F-K :: L-R :: S-Z

This page last updated 24 August 2005.

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