Everett G. “Dean” Earl was born in Brooklyn and began playing piano as a boy. By his own admission he had limited training and could only play the black keys, but years of playing rent parties and dances schooled him in the popular music of the period. Touring with a vaudeville act in the late 1930s furthered his education, which was continued during a stint with an Army Air Corps service band during World War II.
After his service he moved to Boston, having developed his technique and reading ability to the point where he was frequently called on to back visiting soloists at the Hi-Hat and other clubs, during which time he was given his nickname. Location recordings exist of him playing with Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. He also worked with Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others.
In 1953 Earl enrolled at Schillinger House (soon to be known as the Berklee College of Music) and began a comprehensive study of theory. By the time he graduated in 1956 he had become one of Boston’s busiest musicians with numerous regular jobs in addition to his work backing guest artists.
Although his performance career was notable, it was as a teacher that Earl had his greatest influence. In 1961 he joined the faculty at Berklee and taught there until shortly before his death in 2002. Over those four decades many of his hundreds of students went on to successful careers as musicians and have given him credit for his methods and friendly, supportive teaching manner.
Trumpeter Joe Gordon (1928-1963) is the prototype of the tragic artist who is undervalued in his lifetime and claimed too early by death. Gordon was born in Boston and studied with Fred Berman at the New England Conservatory, practicing his trumpet on breaks at his job as a sandwich boy on the Boston-Albany railroad. Another job, selling newspapers in front of local jazz clubs, allowed him to meet a variety of jazz stars. Soon he was working with Sabby Lewis, and by 1950 was the first-call local trumpet for such visiting names as Georgie Auld, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.
In 1954, Gordon replaced his idol Clifford Brown in the Art Blakey band and recorded his first album for EmArcy with Blakey and Charlie Rouse as sidemen. With the exception of a brief stay in Dizzy Gillespie’s 1956 big band, Gordon spent most of his time in Boston with Herb Pomeroy’s orchestra and his own group until 1958, when he relocated to Los Angeles.
His West Coast period included two years with Shelly Manne’s Men, gigs at the Lighthouse under his own name and his second album, Lookin’ Good! on Contemporary. This recording, plus those he cut in California with Benny Carter, Barney Kessel, Harold Land, Manne and Monk, suggest that Gordon was about to take his place as one of the dominant trumpeters of the modern era; but his rise was cut short when he died in a rooming house fire.
Born near New Orleans and identified with its rich jazz clarinet tradition, Edmond Hall spent a significant part of his later career in Boston. Hall’s travels throughout the south preceded his 1929 arrival in New York, where he played with the Claude Hopkins Orchestra. For nearly two decades he balanced long stays at Café Society with recordings accompanying Billie Holiday, Red Allen and Teddy Wilson. The first date he led was for Blue Note in 1941 and featured “The Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet” with Meade Lux Lewis on celeste and Charlie Christian on guitar. This signaled a change from his traditional New Orleans roots to a swing style influenced by Benny Goodman. Although influenced by Goodman, Hall maintained his personal sound and approach to the instrument.
In 1948 Hall moved to Boston and spent the eighteen months at the Savoy, initially replacing Bob Wilber but soon leading the band. At this time he partnered with pianist/entrepreneur George Wein, organizing numerous jazz concerts in the area. After resuming his musical travels (including long associations with Eddie Condon and Louis Armstrong during the 1950s), Hall and his wife Winnie moved to Ghana, hoping to start a music school. That plan failed and, they returned to New York where in 1960 Hall began a regular schedule of European tours.
In 1964 the Halls settled permanently in Cambridge. Engagements at the Village Green (Danvers), Connolly’s (Roxbury), Bovi’s Tavern (Providence) and the South Shore Jazz Festival (Milton) alternated with both national and international tours. A favorite of audiences and musicians in New England, Hall brought a sense of history and professionalism to the region and influenced young musicians such as Dick Creeden, Tony Tomasso and Porky Cohen.
Brockton, Massachusetts native Max Kaminsky (1908-1994) was one of the great classic trumpet stylists, with a full sound and concise, swinging approach that honored the innovations and heritage of his idols King Oliver and Louis Armstong in a career that spanned over half a century.
While Kaminsky studied with Henry Pollock and had some of his earliest gigs in Boston, he found his initial fame in Chicago, where he quickly became identified with Bud Freeman, Benny Goodman, George Wettling and other members of the Austin High Gang. After returning to Boston for an extended stay with Leo Reisman in the early 1930s, Kaminsky left for New York in 1933.
After working with Joe Venuti, he began a string of featured jobs with big bands, including those of Tommy Dorsey, Goodman and Artie Shaw, enjoying his most extended stay with Shaw including a tour of the Pacific Theater during World War II. In addition to leading his own band at the 1939 World’s Fair, Kaminsky worked a variety of Manhattan clubs under his own name, including such legendary venues as Eddie Condon’s, the Metropole and Jimmy Ryan’s, and was a regular at Ryan’s through the 1970s.
Other Kaminsky credits include sideman appearances with Sidney Bechet, Earl Hines, Jack Teagarden and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. His autobiography Jazz Band: My Life in Jazz was published in 1963.
Born in New York, Jimmy Mosher was raised in a musical family residing in Lynn, MA. His father, a saxophonist who had retired from touring, settled there in 1952, opening a music retail and instructional store. By the age of six, Jimmy had begun playing saxophone himself. While attending Lynn Classical High School, Jimmy and trumpet player Paul Fontaine organized groups to play at local dances and functions. Initially influenced by swing players, Mosher learned of Charlie Parker’s music during high school and even heard him live at the Hi-Hat.
After high school Mosher abandoned plans for an engineering career and went to Berklee. During this time he played in the area with Herb Pomeroy and many other groups. A meeting with Serge Chaloff made a lifetime impression, and Mosher later credited him as an early mentor. This association led indirectly to Mosher’s occupying Chaloff’s former chair with Woody Herman’s band in 1959, playing baritone sax with that group for several years. He had shorter stints with Mongo Santamaria and Maynard Ferguson.
In 1964 Mosher returned to Boston and taught at Berklee, leaving to join Buddy Rich’s band in 1967. For the next seven years Mosher was lead alto and occasional music director of the Rich band in which he was frequently featured. During this period he also performed with Chick Corea and Jaki Byard.
In 1979 Mosher settled in Boston permanently, working again at Berklee and eventually becoming chairman of the woodwind department. In this final period of his life he recorded under his own name for the first time, producing albums with his quartet (A Chick From Chelsea in 1981) and quintet (Satyric Horn in 1984).