Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Amram, David (Werner, III)
Amram, David (Werner, III) , composer, French horn, piano, guitar, numerous flutes and folkloric instruments; b. Philadelphia, 17 November 1930. His father was Philip Amram (born Philadelphia, 1900 - d. New Jersey, 1990) and his mother was Emilie Weyl (Amram) (born Philadelphia, 1902 - d. Philadelphia, 1980).
His father Philip Amram (1900-1990),a lawywer, and mother Emile Weyl Amram (1902-1980), a translator, were both born in Philadelphia. Conductor Otto Klemperer was a cousin. One of his uncles, David, was a merchant seaman, who took him in 1941 to see Duke Ellington, as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also taught him folk music from around the world, including Native American music, beginning a lifelong pursuit of what is now called "world music." He played a bugle in school, then studied trumpet at the Settlement Music School, and also played piano. The family lived on a farm in Feasterville, Pennsylvania until they had to sell it during World War II, when he was 12, and the family moved to Washington, D.C. Soon he played trumpet in school bands. Later, he switched to the French horn. In 1948 he enrolled at the Oberlin (Ohio) College Cons., and later transferred to George Washington Univ., graduating in 1952.
In 1949, he playing jazz French Horn with musicians in Washington DC, played in Buddy Rowell's Afro-Cuban band and formed his own sextet. He met and jammed with Dizzy Gillespie in 1951 and Charlie Parker in 1952 who both encouraged him to continue as an improvising jazz performer as well as a symphonic composer. He was a member of the National Symphony in 1951-52. He is largely self-taught as a composer. His first involvement with theater music began in 1949, when he wrote music for plays at Ford's Theater at Howard University in Washington. He was drafted in the U.S. Army, and played the horn in the 7th Army Sym. Orch., which was stationed in Germany; following his discharge he was based in Germany, where he led quartets which included Albert Mangelsdorff (1953-4) and then moved to Paris and played with Bobby Jaspar (1954-5).
Late in 1955 he settled in NYC and studied composition with Vittorio Giannini at the Manhattan School of Music and with conductor Dmitri Mitropoulos and French horn with Gunther Schuller. He was also a member of the Manhattan Woodwind Quintet. He also studied privately with Charles Mills. Three weeks after arriving in New York In 1955 he was chosen by Charles Mingus to become a member of the Mingus band, with Jackie McClain and Mal Waldron, and performed and recorded with the Charles Mingus Quintet and Oscar Pettiford's big band starting in 1956. From 1956 to 1970 he led a quartet with the tenor saxophonist George Barrow that recorded in 1957 and he performed at the Five Spot from 1956-65. He began accompanying author Jack Kerouac and in 1957 at the Brata Gallery on East 10th Street, Amram and Kerouac and poets Philip Lamantia and Howard Hart gave the historic first-ever jazz-and-poetry readings in New York in the Fall of 1957. During the following years he became well known as a composer of orchestral and instrumental works, incidental music (in particular for the New York Shakespeare Festival from 1956-67), and film scores. He composed soundtracks for the films Splendor in the Grass (1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and The Arrangement (1969). He composed the jazz-chamber music score and appeared in the Kerouac-narrated classic Beat documentary film "Pull My Daisy" (1959) He was the music Director for the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater from 1964-66, and composed the all-jazz score for Arthur Miller's "After the Fall." He was chosen by Leonard Bernstein as the first composer-in-residence of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1966-7) and from 1972 through the late 1990s Amram was the music director of Young People's, Family, and Free Summer concert programs for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, combining jazz, Latin and World Music with the European classics with soloists Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Paquito D'Rivera, Nina Simone, Candido, Los Papines, Ron Carter, and Dave Valentin. where Amram both conducted and played.
He has traveled on several State Department tours: he performed in Brazil in 1969, Kenya in 1975 (with the World Council of Churches), Cuba in 1977 in the historic first-ever concert of American jazz artists with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and Earl Hines, to perform with Cuban musicians in Cuba, and he toured the Middle East in 1978. He became music director of the International Jewish Arts Festival in 1982
In 1981, he began a 17-year collaboration with Betty Carter as her conductor for symphony concerts around the USA. In 1986, he began symphonic orchestrations of Thelonious Monk's music and began giving concerts with T.S. Monk and Nneena Freelon.
He has been awarded four honorary degrees from Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1979) Muhlenberg College (1988), University of Commecticut (1991) and St Lawrence University (1994).
On September 14, 2002, David Amram's new flute concerto "Giants of the Night" dedicated to Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac and Dizzy Gillespie was premiered by James Galway. Amram and author Frank McCourt, a long time friend, are collaborating on a new work, "Missa Manhattan," for narrator, chorus and orchestra.
He continues guest-conducting orchestras around the world in multicultural family concerts. He also tours internationally with his quartet, narrating in five languages. Since 1965 he has lived north of NYC, for a long time in Godeffroy and for some years now on a farm in Putnam Valley, NY. At the age of 48 he married Loralee, and their three children were born in the 1980s. His autobiography Vibrations and memoir Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac are both in paperback, published by Thundersmouth Press.
Jazz Studio Six (1957); Havana/New York (1977); The Final Ingredient: An Opera of the Holocaust; At Home/Around the World; Three Concertos; Triple Concerto;
Kokopelli: A Symphony in Three Movements; No More Walls; David Amram: An American Original, Symphonic Works; Southern Stories; Keroac and Amram: Pull My Daisy
Lionel Hampton: Lionel Hampton and his New French Sound (1955); Oscar Pettiford: Orchestra in Hi Fi (1956); Matt Matthews: Four French Horns (1957); Curtis Fuller and Hampton Hawes: French horns (1957); Kenny Dorham: Blue Spring (1959); Mary Lou Williams: Music for Peace (1970); Betty Carter What Happened to Love (1983); T.S.Monk: Monk on Monk (1997)
Pull My Daisy (1958); The Final Ingredient, (1965); The World of David Amram, (NET broadcast)(1969); Amram Jam (includes footage from Amram's 65th birthday concert) (1995); Origin of Symphonic Instruments; The Music of David Amram: Soundstage PBS (with Dizzy Gillespie, Pepper Adams, Jerry Dodgion, Alfredo de La Fe, and the Chicago Symphony) (1977); Thelonious Monk Tribute PBS (with Dizzy Gillespie, Percy Heath, Wynton Marsalis, Gerry Mulligan and others) (1987); Dizzy Gillspie 70th Birthday Tribute at Wolftrap (1988); Amram appeared on national TV seven times with Willie Nelson for Farm Aid, several times with Dizzy Gillespie, as well as numerous interviews, including David Letterman, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS Sunday Morning.
Works by Amram
Vibrations: The Adventures and Musical Times of David Amram (New York, 1968), Thundersmouth Press Paperback; Offbeat: Collaborating With Kerouac (2002), Thundersmouth Press Paperback; In progress-- a third book, about his experiences around the world.
David Amram: Bird in Washington, in: Jazz Journal, 23/8 (Aug.1970), p.4-5 ("I")
David Amram: En Memoria de Chano Pozo, in: The Piano Stylist & Jazz, Feb/Mar.1991 (sheet music)
Workshop, Feb/Mar.1991D. Amram: 'Music and Survival in the World Today', Newsletter, Society of Composers, Iowa City, IA, xxvi/2 (1996)
Works about Amram
R. Fruchter: "A Musician for whom There are No Bounds," New York Times (11 Sept 1994)
K. Silsbee: "David Amram Interview," Cadence, xxiv/6 (1998), 22
E. Caprioglio: 'Daring to Improvise: Talking with David Amram', Peters Notes, i/2 (1996)
NN (Anon): Dave Amram au Five Spots, in: Jazz Hot, #127 (Dec.1957), p. 27 (N)
Joe Goldberg: Movie Reviews. The Young Savages, in: Metronome, 78/6 (Jun.1961), p. 32
NN: Amram Autobiography Gets Swinging Sendoff, in: Down Beat, 35/23 (1968), p. 13
M. Gardner: The Many Sides of Amram, in: Melody Maker, 11.Apr.1970, p. 8
Doug Ramsey: David Amram - No More Walls, in: Down Beat, 39/10 (1972), p. 18 (R)
J.H. Klee: David Amram, The Village Gaslight, New York City, in: Down Beat, 39/9 (1972), p. 30-31 (C)
T. O'Reilly: Vibrations, in: Coda, 10/5 (1972), p. 31-32
H.J. Klee: David Amram - Triple Concerto, in: Down Beat, 41/11 (1974), p. 26 (R)
Leonard Feather: David Amram, in: Leonard Feather: The Pleasures of Jazz, New York 1976 [book], p. 164-166 (F/I)
Ken Franckling: David Amram's Global Music, in: Jazz Times, 21/4 (Jun.1991), p. 28, 40 (F/I)
Life Magazine "Music Making Swinger" 3 page profile (Aug 11 1967)
Celebrating with David Amram: Free Spirit, New York Times (Nov 26 2000)
In progress: Paul Maher, Jr., authorized biography of David Amram
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