Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Decker, E. J. (Edward James)
Decker, E. J. (Edward James), singer, songwriter, arranger; b. Montclair, NJ, 20 September 1950. He was raised in Pompton Plains, NJ. His mother was Mary (Davey, 1918-1981). His father, Everett Decker (1915-1979), was a singer who appeared frequently with big bands in the NY/NJ area in the late '30s, and sang briefly with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. before WWII. His parents divorced in 1970. He has two brothers: Philip (b. 1942) and (Robert) Noel (b. 1946). In 1998, he married for the second time, to Katherine Sandberg.
Mostly self-taught, E. J. began singing at age 6, emulating singers of the day in pop, country, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, as well as American Standards, with vocal coaching from his father. From about age 10, he studied drums and played in a number of marching bands. Jazz attracted him in his early teens after attending NYC appearances by Jimmy Smith, Thelonius Monk and the Dave Brubeck Qrt. in 1964, Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1966, and, in 1968, Duke Ellington at the Rainbow Grill in Rockefeller Ctr., following E. J.'s HS Senior Prom. He later studied Music and Theater at both Mt. St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, MD, and Temple University in Philadelphia, PA., while singing in a range of musical styles in small clubs and coffee houses.
While in college, E. J. explored the ability of folk and rock and jazz music to speak to the immediacy of peoples' lives beyond being mere entertainment, and began his lifelong interest in political activism. In November 1969, he was chosen to chair the Philadelphia citywide antiwar rally--estimated at 5,000-10,000 people--the day before the National Moratorium rally in Washington, DC. In 1983, he served on the security staff of the 20th Civil Rights March Anniversary Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, which commemorated the 1963 Civil Rights March. In 2001, E. J.'s notes on the state of New York City following the September 11th attacks were posted on the web site for the Norwegian jazz radio station, NRK1-Norsk Rikskringkasting.
From 1970-1973, E. J. played in a succession of bands and duos on the West Coast, focusing mostly on rock and folk music, appearing in halls, clubs and cafes. At this juncture, E. J. began writing songs, which now number well over 300. Beginning in 1973, E. J. began focusing on theater and television, appearing in numerous productions nationally, including a stint on the NBC daytime soap opera, "Texas" (1980-1982). Starting in 1990, he began moving back into music, re-exploring American Standards, but with the influences of the folk, rock and r&b music he had performed for so long. He has since sung at most of the major music rooms of New York, including Birdland, The Garage, The Squire, The Savoy, J's, C-Note, Cornelia St. Cafe and Augie's among others, with players the likes of Randy Sandke, Chris Berger, Bob Kindred, Eric Lewis, David Lahm, Bob Kindred, Warren Chiasson, Manny Duran, Terri Thornton, Joe Strasser, Ratzo Harris, Peggy Stern, Sean Smith, Tom Melito, Dave Hofstra and others.
While the City Sleeps... (2000)
A half-dozen unissued tapes of performances ca. 1969-1973
Texas, NBC-TV (1980-1982)
Radio and television interviews, concerning both his music and his famous cousins, Clarence Darrow, the attorney and Charles Darrow, the inventor of Monopoly.