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Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)

Jimmy Heath (1926-2020)

Jimmy Heath, a tenor saxophonist with exceptional gifts as a composer, arranger and player who spent critical years of the 1950s in prison for the sale of drugs but rebuilt his career in the 1960s and beyond, died on January 19. He was 93. Nicknamed “Little Bird" for his Parker-like fluidity when he played alto saxophone in the late 1940s, Jimmy didn't start recording leadership albums until 1959, when producer Orrin Keepnews signed him to Riverside Records. In 1975, he ...

Jack Sheldon (1931-2019)

Jack Sheldon (1931-2019)

Jack Sheldon, a West Coast jazz trumpeter who, in the 1960s, as jazz recording opportunities dried up, began to diversify into film studio work, TV acting, comedy, singing and a regular vocal part on the children's animated series School of Rock, died on December 27. He was 88. Sheldon was most notable for his clean, round sound on the trumpet and his easy-going personality and good cheer, which often seeped into his music. Sheldon spoke on camera in the Chet ...

Jack Sheldon, 1931-2019

Jack Sheldon, 1931-2019

It is sad to report that the great trumpeter Jack Sheldon has died at the age of 88. Sheldon sang with spirit, style, phrasing and good humor that paralleled his trumpet playing. This video is from his 1984 appearance at Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall in the New Orleans French Quarter. The other members of his band were Dave Frishberg, piano; John Pisano, guitar; and Dave Stone, bass. The tune is Duke Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” For more about ...

Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum 1928 - 2019

Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum 1928 - 2019

Hugh “Peanuts" Whalum, a pianist, singer, and tenor saxophonist who was part of the St. Louis music scene from the late 1940s into the 21st century, has died. He was 91 years old. News of Whalum's passing on Christmas day spread on social media via Facebook posts from Jeff Anderson, who played bass with Whalum for the last 20 years of his career, and Jay Brandt, former owner of Brandt's in University City, where Whalum played many gigs during the ...

Harold Mabern: 1936-2019

Harold Mabern: 1936-2019

Harold Mabern, a pianist who came relatively late to prominence but quickly carved out space as a hard-bop and soul-jazz legend, died September 17. He was 83. Born in Memphis, Tenn., Mabern was self-taught and came under the sway of local jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr. In 1954 he moved to Chicago, where he began recording with saxophonist Frank Strozier. He also was friend with Memphis saxophonists George Coleman and Booker Little. After moving to New York in 1959, Mabern ...

Cousin Mary: Keeper of the Coltrane Legacy (1927-2019)

Cousin Mary: Keeper of the Coltrane Legacy (1927-2019)

Mary Lyerly Alexander was born July 23, 1927 to Bettie Blair Lyerly and Goler Lyerly in High Point, North Carolina. An only child, Mary and her parents lived as an extended family with her first cousin, saxophonist John W. Coltrane, his parents and their maternal grandparents. Her grandfather, Rev. William Wilson Blair, an activist who was elected a Chowan County Commissioner in 1896 who later became pastor of St. Stephens African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, built the family home at ...

Bob Wilber, RIP

Bob Wilber, RIP

We have learned that the superlative clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Bob Wilber died at his home in England earlier this month. He was 91. Wilber studied with the New Orleans reed pioneer Sidney Bechet and spent decades extending the Bechet legacy. Unusual among those who specialize in traditional music, Wilber also became adept in the bebop idiom and worked with, among others, trumpeter Clark Terry. In the Washington Post, arts writer Matt Schudel profiled Wilber in an extensive obituary. To ...

Arno Marsh (1928-2019)

Arno Marsh (1928-2019)

Arno Marsh, a big band tenor saxophonist who recorded almost exclusively with Woody Herman's Third Herd in the 1950s and cited Chu Berry and Stan Getz among his major influences, died on July 12. He was 91. In addition to his work with Herman, Arno led a band in his home town of Grand Rapids, Mich., between 1951 and '53, but the ensemble isn't known to have recorded. Arno began playing in Las Vegas starting in the late 1950s and ...


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