Jazz violinist Billy Bang dead at 63


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One of Rochester's favorite musicians, jazz violinist Billy Bang, has died at the age of 63. Over the past decade Bang appeared many times in Rochester, including a collaboration with Garth Fagan Dance.

A favorite at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, Bang was scheduled to play on the first day of the 2011 festival (running June 10-18). It would have been his fourth festival appearance. “Billy was extremely well liked in Rochester and had an exceptionally loyal following," says John Nugent, festival producer. “We were so looking forward to welcoming him back to the festival. His unique artistry and talent will be missed by us and the jazz world."

Born William Vincent Walker in Mobile, Alabama, in 1947, Bang was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also a fiery performer known for his pyrotechnics. But neither of those aspects of his life were the inspiration for his stage name, which came from a cartoon character while he was in junior high school in Harlem.

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