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Bassist Jack Lesberg dead at 85

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ENGLEWOOD, NJ -- Jack Lesberg, a steadfast and versatile bassist who worked with many legends of jazz in the 1940's and 50's and also had a career as a symphonic player, died on Sept. 17 at the Lillian Booth Actors' Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 85.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, his daughter Valerie Kaplan said.

Born and reared in Boston, Lesberg initially studied the violin, which he played in area clubs before switching permanently to double bass in the late 1930's. He survived the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire, which killed 492 people in 1942. He moved to New York in 1943, quickly establishing a professional foothold. From 1945 to 1948, he performed with the New York City Symphony Orchestra, primarily under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

In the postwar years, Lesberg played with a roll call of jazz luminaries, including the guitarist Eddie Condon, the tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, the clarinetist Benny Goodman, the pianist Earl (Fatha) Hines and the vocalists Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.

His most celebrated job was with Louis Armstrong, with whom he played intermittently from the late 1940's on, touring with the Armstrong All Stars in the mid-1950's.

Lesberg spent the first half of the 1970's with the Sydney Symphony in Australia. For much of the last 25 years, he lived on Roosevelt Island and worked steadily, although his activity waned in recent years. His last noteworthy performance was in March 2003, at Mat Domber's March of Jazz in Clearwater, Fla.

In addition to Ms. Kaplan, Lesberg's survivors include another daughter, Jacqueline Murphy; three grandsons; and his companion of 25 years, Linda Reilly.

-- Associated Press

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