Robert J. Carmack Editor in Chief Hipster Sanctuary.Com
Robert grew up in Los Angeles (Watts & Compton) and has spent almost five decades in entertainment as musician, actor,producer ,writer and photo/journalist across many genres including Jazz, Soul/R&B and Blues. Co-founded The Paul Robeson Players, The Atlanta International Jazz Society, The SFBAAAM (San Francisco Bay-Area African American Musicians)Worked as publicist ,promoter and producer for live concerts and awards shows.
An expert in Jazz & blues history, Robert studied Music, Communications and Theater Arts in college. He holds a Bachelors of Arts Degree from California State University Dominguez Hills. A passionate patron of Youth in the Fine Arts & Education
Songs in order 1, Summer Solstice, Azar Lawerence "Mystic Journey" 2, Artstis, Freddie Hubbard "Ready for Freddie" 3, Now The Time, Charlie Parker, "The Essential Charlie Parker" 4, Old World New Imports, Hank Mobley, 5, Your Lady, John Coltrane "Coltrane" 5, Cristo Redentor, Donald Byrd, "Byrd"
During my early years developing and understanding this music called JAZZ !! Billy was my mentor. We had so many conversations about music and about life. Billy will never know how much I miss those times. Love you Billy.
As a member of the groundbreaking Ornette Coleman-led quartet that launched the free jazz renaissance, Billy Higgins remains one of the most important and controversial drummers in music history. An uncommonly versatile and intuitive player, his nimble rhythmic patterns achieved a perfect balance between function and form, inspiring the great trumpeter
Lee Morgan to remark "[Higgins] never overplays, but you always know he's there."
Born October 11, 1936, in Los Angeles, Higgins began his career playing R&B, supporting headliners including Bo Diddley, Amos Milburn, and Jimmy Witherspoon. In 1953 he joined high school friend and trumpeter Don Cherry in the Jazz Messiahs, a group also featuring saxophonist James Clay; three years later, he began his session career, in the months to follow appearing on recording dates led by saxophonist Lucky Thompson and bassist Red Mitchell. Around this time, Higgins and Cherry met Coleman through mutual friend Clay.
A virtual unknown, the Texas-born saxophonist was supporting himself with menial jobs while working diligently to hone a musical lexicon liberated from the restraints of conventional harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic structures. Both Higgins and Cherry soon joined Coleman's rehearsal group, which spent years woodshedding before finally securing its first live gigs in 1958, opening for Paul Bley at L.A.'s Hilcrest Club.
Audiences were either angered or simply baffled by Coleman's radical sensibility, which he later dubbed "harmolodics," and with the 1958 release of his debut LP, Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman, the controversy spread throughout the jazz populace, dividing musicians, critics, and fans alike. Higgins followed Coleman when he relocated the group to New York City in 1959 to begin a residency at the Five Spot Café. Love it or hate it, their music was the talk of the town, and with the addition of new bassist Charlie Haden, Coleman finally began to make concrete the sounds and structures he'd pursued for years.
His 1959 Atlantic Records debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, remains a watershed album by any definition and a schism-creating turning point in the history of the avant-garde. The accolades now heaped on Coleman also launched his collaborators to prominence, and Higgins soon emerged as one of the most sought-after drummers in contemporary jazz, proving a master of both the hard bop sensibility still dominant throughout the jazz community as well as the more fluid and abstract approach of the new generation.
When a 1961 drug bust stripped Higgins of his cabaret card, prompting his exit from Coleman's band, he focused on studio work, becoming the unofficial house drummer at Blue Note Records during the label's creative zenith. In the decade to come, Higgins appeared on seminal dates including Dexter Gordon's Go!, Jackie McLean's A Fickle Sonance, and Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder, proving time and again his consummate skill and flexibility; even after Liberty Records acquired Blue Note in 1967, he remained much in-demand, maintaining his position as the premier drummer of the avant-garde with contributions to landmark efforts including Archie Shepp's 1971 LP Attica Blues and Coleman's comeback effort, Science Fiction. Higgins was also a frequent collaborator of pianist Cedar Walton, and with bassist Bill Lee and trumpeter Bill Hardman led the big-band ensemble the Brass Company for several years during the early '70s.
After close to two decades on tour and in New York, Higgins settled back in Los Angeles in 1978. The following year he recorded his first-ever session as a leader, the Red label LP Soweto. Higgins recorded a few more headlining sessions in the years to follow but seemed to value most his role as a sideman, supporting saxophonist Joe Henderson and trombonist Slide Hampton during the first half of the 1980s.
After appearing behind star and longtime collaborator Dexter Gordon in filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier's 1986 love letter to jazz, 'Round Midnight, Higgins reunited with Coleman, Cherry, and Haden for a 1987 tour that culminated in a new studio album, In All Languages. The following year Higgins teamed with poet Kamau Daaood to found the World Stage, a storefront enclave that hosted creative workshops, community activities, and live performances. He regularly tapped his extensive professional network to lure many of the biggest names in jazz to the World Stage site both as performers and as tutors, and ultimately Higgins turned his attention to teaching in a formal setting as well, serving on the jazz faculty at UCLA.
Higgins spent much of the remainder of his life battling liver disease, a manifestation of the hepatitis he contracted decades earlier. In March 1996, he underwent a liver transplant and when his body rejected the new organ, he was forced to submit to a second procedure just 24 hours later. Higgins nevertheless returned to music a few months later, traveling to New York to renew his collaboration with Coleman. However, by 2001 his new liver began to fail, and while waiting to find a donor, he succumbed to pneumonia on May 3. Higgins was just 64 years old at the time of his death.
This interview was done in 1985.
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Al McKibbon was a premier Bassist of the early swing and BePop era. He's played with Dizzy, Coleman Hawkins, Lucky Millinder, Count Basie, Miles Davis, T.S.Monk and the list go on. In 1999 Al but out his first CD as a leader called "Tumbao Para lus Congueros de mi Vida" Al McKibbon Passed in 2005 at the age of 86.
His first musical influence was his father, who played tuba and guitar, and his mother, who sang. He was also strongly influenced by records and player piano rolls. Vaudeville was still alive back then and he became a dancer, self taught of course. At one point his older brother, who was a guitarist and played with the local Mid-West Territorial Orchestras, told him to pay attention to the string bass. Replacing the tuba, the string bass was coming into it's own as a jazz rhythm instrument. Consequently, upon entering high school he took a music course with bass as his major. There
is a very reputable high school in Detroit that he attended, called Cass Tech. This school spawned many known jazz players such as Gerald Wilson, J.C. Heard, Wardell Grey and many others.
Locally, He first played in an old style club called B & C, which featured old time singers and dancers. Later he worked with Kelly Martin's band at the Congo Club, and with Ted Bruckners's band as a player and singer. Ted was the famed alto player with Jimmy Lunceford's band.
During the WWII, Lucky Millinders Band came to Detroit's Paradise Theater. George Duvivier was eventually drafted and at the recommendation of Billy Bowen, a Detroit saxophonist who was in the band, he finished the engagement at the Paradise Theater. Subsequently, he rejoined the band in Washington, D.C. at the Howard Theater. From there, they went to New York City.
After about a year with Lucky, he joined Tab Smith's group. This enabled him to stay in New York. It was there that he was introduced to 52nd Street where he worked with Coleman Hawkins in 1944. This led to his working with J.A.T.P., J.C. Heard's Cafe Society group, Dizzy Gillespie in late '47, Birdland House Group, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Gil Evans "Birth of the Cool", George Shearing for six years, and Cal Tjader for one year.
Wishing to do studio work and live in California, he made the big move in 1958. In California he studied with Herman Rheinshagen, formerly with the New York Philharmonic.
He played a Jacob Steiner Bass that was made in 1650.***(Recollections have been adapted from Al Mckibbon)
Al was such a pleasure to talk too.
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