In Memoriam – Remembering jazz musicians who died in 2012

As we wrap up 2012, I’d like to take some time to remember some of the wonderful contributors to jazz that passed away in 2012. Here is a short list of some of the great musicians we lost over the last year, and as always, feel free to share your memories of these musicians, or any musicians that passed away that aren’t on this list.

Dave Brubeck, 91

(From the HARTFORD, Conn. AP) – Jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as “Take Five” caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, passed away December 5th. Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all American jazz since World War II. He formed The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine – on Nov. 8, 1954 – and he helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and ’60s club jazz.

Pete Cosey, 68

(From the Chicago AP) – Pete Cosey, an innovative guitarist who brought his distinctive distorted sound to recordings with Miles Davis, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, died May 30th. In the 1960s, Cosey was a member of the studio band at Chess Records in Chicago, where he played on Waters’ “Electric Mud” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Howlin’ Wolf Album.” Cosey also worked with Etta James and Chuck Berry. Cosey ended up playing on many of Miles Davis’ boundary-pushing recordings in the 1970s, including “Dark Magus,” ”Agharta” and “The Complete On the Corner Sessions.”

Clare Fischer, 83

(From the Los Angeles AP) – Clare Fischer, a Grammy-winning composer who wrote scores for television and movies and worked with legendary musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, died January 26th. An uncommonly versatile musician, Fischer worked as a composer, arranger, conductor and pianist for more than 60 years. He is best known for his arrangements for Prince, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Branford Marsalis, Raphael Saadiq, Usher and Brandy.

Von Freeman, 88

(From the Chicago AP) – Earle Lavon Freeman, a tenor saxophonist and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, passed away August 11th, remembered as a jazz great who made every song his own with a husky, melodic sound. Freeman never became of a major star but was highly regarded as a musician by other jazz practitioners. Miles Davis reportedly wanted him in the 1950s, but Freeman refused to leave his native Chicago for most of his career, taking only the briefest trips out of the city to perform.

James “Red” Holloway, 84

(From the Morro Bay, Calif. AP) – James “Red” Holloway, a noted saxophonist who played with the greats from the big band era through bebop, blues, R&B and modern jazz, died February 25th in California. During a career that spanned nearly seven decades, Holloway’s versatility and driving swing style kept him much in demand. He performed with legends such as Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton and Aretha Franklin.

Etta James, 73

(From the Los Angeles AP) – Etta James, the feisty R&B singer whose raw, passionate vocals anchored many hits and made the yearning ballad “At Last” an enduring anthem for weddings, commercials and even President Obama, died January 20th. James performed well into her senior years, and it was “At Last” that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged, and on Jan. 20, 2009, as crowds celebrated that – at last – an African-American had become president of the United States, the song played as the first couple danced.

Ravi Shankar, 92

(From New Delhi AP) – From George Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to David Crosby, his connections reflected music’s universality, though a gap persisted between Shankar and many Western fans. Shankar died December 11th. As early as the 1950s, Shankar began collaborating with and teaching some of the greats of Western music, including violinist Menuhin and jazz saxophonist Coltrane. He played well-received shows in concert halls in Europe and the United States, but faced a constant struggle to bridge the musical gap between the West and the East. To later generations, he was known as the estranged father of popular American singer Norah Jones.

Related Posts:

In Memoriam (2011)


Nationwide Musicians’ Moment of Silence

As the nation continues to mourn the innocent lives lost in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, musicians around the country are organizing so send a message of sympathy and unity.

All musicians are asked to observe a moment of silence at every musical performance in the USA on Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 PM in whatever time zone they are performing.

In the circle of musicians includes Jimmy Greene, the father of Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the children lost. Musicians in all genres of music, as well as other performing artists are asked to join in honoring the memory of the victims, and in resolving to help prevent this kind of senseless violence from happening again.

This action will also show that artists stand unified in their desire to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Passing of Dave Brubeck leaves impact on many

Dave set an example that any musician would be wise to follow – to be loving and treat everyone around you with respect, and create new music every minute we have on this earth.” – Pianist Taylor Eigsti

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, responsible for the recording of the seminal album Time Out which still ranks as one of the best selling albums of all-time, and the first jazz musician to have a single sell 1 millions albums, died this morning of heart failure. He was 91.

In 1951, he formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and made a regular habit of touring and and performing at college campuses, bringing his musical approach to a younger audience. In 1954, Brubeck became only the second musician at that time to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.

The career that Brubeck sustained had an enormous impact on musicians and fans. Brubeck was a recipient of the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master award. Today

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman reflected on the loss:

 “On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, it is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of National Medal of Arts recipient and NEA Jazz Master Dave Brubeck. One of our nation’s greatest and most popular jazz pianists, Brubeck’s experiment with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoint, and a distinctive harmonic approach resulted in a unique style of music. Brubeck became a leader in cultural diplomacy, taking part in the first Jazz Ambassadors program during the Cold War. In a 2006 interview with Dana Gioia about his cultural diplomacy efforts, Brubeck said, ‘One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born – or before you’re born – and it’s the last thing you hear.’His diplomacy efforts led to be the first recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy from the U.S. State Department.We join many others in the jazz community and beyond in mourning the loss of this renowned figure in jazz while celebrating his life and contributions to our nation’s musical legacy.”

Jim Wilke, host of the nationally syndicated program Jazz After Hours, had this to say of Brubeck:

“I was one of those college kids when the Dave Brubeck Quartet began touring the college circuit in the 50s. The DBQ was one of the first jazz groups to do that and ‘Jazz Goes to College’ was big on my campus and heard coming out of dorm rooms, jukeboxes and the radio station where I worked.  I played alto sax in a quartet that attempted to emulate the Brubeck Quartet in style if not repertoire as we improvised counter point on standards, and we four were rapt listeners when Dave Brubeck played on our University of Iowa campus.”

In 1959, Brubeck released the album Time Out, which featured a variety of time signatures unconventional to jazz such as 5/4 and 9/8. While critics were somewhat divided initially on how to respond to this release, Time Out enjoyed major success on the charts. In 1961, the single Take Five became the first jazz single to ever sell 1 million copies. Time Out still ranks as one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. In 2010 National Public Radio (in partnership with 88.5 KPLU and polled listeners and readers on what they thought the greatest jazz songs of all-time were. The list, called The Quintessential Jazz 100, ended up ranking Take Five as the number one jazz song of all-time, according to voters.

Throughout his career, Brubeck maintained a devotion to traditional jazz while at the same time branching out and exploring a variety of other avenues which included larger jazz groups, orchestral works, ballet and opera, which often were inspired by his spirituality.

Pianist Taylor Eigsti, who performed with both Dave Brubeck and his sons, Chris and Dan, shared with me today the inspiration he received from the jazz legend:

Dave set an example that any musician would be wise to follow – to be loving and treat everyone around you with respect, and create new music every minute we have on this earth. I feel lucky to have known him, and his amazing family throughout the years, and will always be inspired by the Brubeck family and all of the positivity and brilliant music Dave gave to the world.

Brubeck received awards from both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and on Nov. 7 the Dave Brubeck Quartet was recognized for the second consecutive year as the Best Jazz Group in the Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll – quite the honor considering Brubeck had stopped touring.

Dave Brubeck  is survived by his wife, Iola, four sons and a daughter, grandsons and a great granddaughter.

Australian jazz legend Graeme Bell dies

Graeme Bell, one of the pioneers of jazz in Australia, and a bandleader and pianist that made over 1500 recordings during a span of 70 years, passed away yesterday at the age of 97. Reports say that Bell suffered a stroke and died in a Melbourne hospital after being admitted earlier this week.

Born September 14, 1917 in Melbourne, Bell began working professionally in the 30’s, but came to notoriety after forming his Australian Jazz Band and touring Europe during the post-war era. The most notable leg of the tour was in 1947 in Czechoslovakia where his band experimented with combining elements of tradition and Dixieland jazz with more obscure compositions.

Bell returned home to Australia and formed the record label Swaggie. He continued to tour and record virtually non-stop until 1967, when he started to diversify his projects. In 1973, Bell took the role of narrator in the Australian orchestral production of The Who’s rock opera Tommy.

Australian critics and musicians alike largely agree that Graeme Bell was not only the musician who put jazz on the map in Australia, but was Australia’s foremost jazz musician.

Bell was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) on 1 January 1978 for “valuable service to jazz music” and an Officer of the Order of Australia on 11 June 1990 for “service to music, particularly jazz”. He was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 1997. The Australian Jazz Awards, or “The Bells”, which commenced in 2003, are named in his honor. Bell is also reportedly the first Westerner to lead a jazz band to China.

Red Holloway, Jazz Saxophonist, Dead at 84

Red Holloway, the longtime saxophonist and soulful, good-spirited singer, passed away, reportedly following a stroke and subsequent kidney failure. A source told Groove Notes that he passed away early this morning (February 25th), and that date is also being reported in an article on Wikipedia is listing the date of his passing as February 24th, 2012 at the time of this post.

If Clark Terry possesses the happiest sound in jazz, then he frequently loaned it to Red Holloway regularly (who he performed with from time to time).

Holloway was a talented sideman during the course of his career, working with everyone from Terry to B.B. King, Jack McDuff, Yusef Lateef, Roosevelt Sykes, Dexter Gordon, and Aretha Franklin. He also excelled as a leader, cutting several albums with his own band beginning with Burner in 1963.

I remember seeing Red Holloway at Jazz Alley a few years back, joining the headlining band as a “special guest.” When you can’t even remember who the headlining band was, but you can remember that Red Holloway was there, it goes without saying that he stole the show.

And like Clark Terry, Holloway used his saxophone to speak, rather than to simply just play. He had the ability to communicate precisely what he wanted to say through his horn, almost as he was actually having a conversation with you personally.

But make no mistake, Holloway made time to speak during the show in the traditional sense, not just through his sax. But the mood you were put in by his playing, which was more often than not upbeat, soulful and friendly sounding, was the same mood you were put in when he spoke.

It was his singing, however, that was the pinnacle for me that evening. The two songs that he sang (This is No S**t and the Helen Humes tune Million Dollar Secret) seemed like natural humorous choices for Holloway. For those who had never heard the song Million Dollar Secret before (and even for those who had), Holloway managed to once again seem like he was communicating directly with each member of the audience, letting them individually in on one of the best kept treasures of the world.

While at the time of this post details are still coming out about his passing, many musicians who have heard the news have already made mention that Holloway wasn’t simply a fellow jazz and blues man, but a friend and a mentor, and someone who could always make them smile.