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Big Jay McNeely (1927-2018)

Big Jay McNeely (1927-2018)

Cecil “Big Jay" NcNeely, the father of the R&B tenor saxophone whose stamina and extravagant stage act starting in the late 1940s included playing on his back, setting the tone for rock 'n' roll and soul artists who followed, died on Sept. 16. He was 91. Big Jay had several significant R&B hits in the late ...

Don Gardner: 1931–2018

Don Gardner: 1931–2018

Philadelphia lost another great cultural leader this week with the passing of Donald Gardner, who died on Tuesday, September 4, 2018, at the age of 87. Gardner’s legacy spanned eight decades starting in 1947 as a singer and songwriter. His biggest hit was “Need Your Lovin,” which rose to number four on the R&B charts in ...

Randy Weston (1926-2018)

Randy Weston (1926-2018)

Randy Weston, a jazz pianist and composer who was the first artist producer Orrin Keepnews signed to his new Riverside label in 1954 and who became one of the most ardent champions of Pan-Africanism in jazz, died on September 1. He was 92. [Photo of Randy Weston by Chester Higgins] Randy was perhaps best known for ...

Randy Weston, 1926-2018

Randy Weston, 1926-2018

Pianist and composer Randy Weston, who championed the African origins of jazz, died at home in New York yesterday. He was 92. With his distinctive rhythmic patterns and powerful harmonic progressions, Weston underlined the African heritage that so definitively helped shape the music’s development. He frequently visited and performed in Nigeria and other African nations. For ...

Pat Arana, trombonist of the St. Louis Stompers, dies at age 72

Pat Arana, trombonist of the St. Louis Stompers, dies at age 72

Trombonist Joseph Patrick “Pat" Arana of the St. Louis Stompers died of cancer last Wednesday, August 22 in St. Charles, MO. Arana was 72 years old and was retired from teaching music in the Ritenour School District. He performed locally and at festivals all over the country with the Stompers, worked with many other jazz and ...

Jimmy Wilkins (1921-2018)

Jimmy Wilkins (1921-2018)

Jimmy Wilkins, the trombone-playing brother of arranger-saxophonist Ernie Wilkins and the last surviving member of Count Basie's original New Testament Band launched in 1951, died August 24. He was 97. In recent years, Jimmy led a big band in Las Vegas using arrangements by his brother Ernie and Frank Foster. Jimmy and I spoke every six ...

Jack Costanzo (1919-2018)

Jack Costanzo (1919-2018)

Jack Costanzo, whose fierce bongo playing added drama and heat to hundreds of recordings and performances by jazz, pop and Latin artists starting in the late 1940s before moving on the TV and film, died August 18. He was 98. Costanzo wasn't the first to record jazz on the bongos. The instrument first appeared on Latin ...

Jean Kittrell 1927 - 2018

Jean Kittrell 1927 - 2018

Pianist and singer Jean Kittrell, who performed traditional jazz, swing and ragtime in St. Louis and around the world from the 1960s into the 2000s, died on Tuesday, August 14 in Edwardsville, IL. She was 91 years old. A native of Birmingham, AL, Kittrell began playing piano as a youth in church, and went on to ...

Jack Costanzo, 1920-2018

Jack Costanzo, 1920-2018

The percussionist Jack Costanzo was so closely identified with his instrument that early in his career he became known as “Mr. Bongo.” Costanzo died over the weekend at his home near San Diego, California. He was 98. During his long career he worked with Stan Kenton, Nat Cole, Charlie Parker and dozens of other musical stars. ...

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

Aretha Franklin, long considered the undisputed “Queen of Soul” and one of America's most emotional and spiritual interpreters of pop, jazz and soul songs, died on Thursday at her home in Detroit. She was 76. The cause was advanced pancreatic cancer. My Franklin obituary and appreciation for The Wall Street Journal can be found here. Yesterday, ...