RIP

courtesy of Barney Fields

“Hey Bob Porter, this is Joe Fields. I’ve got a Grant Green album and I need some liner notes.” That phone call was my introduction to one of the genuine good guys in the jazz business.

John Rogers for WBGO and NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Geri Allen, a widely influential jazz pianist, composer and educator who defied classification while steadfastly affirming her roots in the hard-bop tradition of her native Detroit, died on Tuesday in Philadelphia. She was 60, and lived for the last four years in Pittsburgh.

The cause was cancer, said Ora Harris, her manager of 30 years. The news shocked Allen’s devoted listeners as well as her peers, and the many pianists she directly influenced.

Bern Nix, a thoughtfully expressive guitarist in the jazz avant-garde, best known for his close association with composer and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, died on Wednesday at his home in New York City. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by Denardo Coleman — Ornette’s son, and the drummer in his fusionesque band Prime Time, which has recently been preparing for a memorial Ornette Coleman Festival at Lincoln Center in July.

Bernhard Ley

Mickey Roker, a soulful and deeply propulsive drummer who carried a torch for literate hard-bop in the decades after its commercial peak, died on Monday in Philadelphia, where he was a local jazz institution. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Debra Roker, who cited natural causes but noted that he had lung cancer and diabetes, among other health issues.

Allan Holdsworth, a spellbinding guitarist who influenced generations of jazz and rock musicians with his innovative sound, has died unexpectedly at age 70.

His daughter Louise Holdsworth announced his death on Sunday, prompting an outpouring of grief as well as high praise for an artist who not only changed the guitar, but also created a musical language entirely his own.

Arthur Blythe, whose bracing, gusty sound on alto saxophone was an essential feature of the New York loft scene in the 1970s, and a proud fixture of the post-bop vanguard in subsequent decades, died on Monday in Lancaster, California. He was 76.

Chart Room Media

Tommy LiPuma, who died on Monday at 80, was a record producer with a golden touch, and a track record virtually unmatched in his field. LiPuma was honored alongside his fellow NEA Jazz Master, saxophonist Jimmy Heath, at WBGO’s 2011 Champions of Jazz Benefit. That evening included performances by Natalie Cole, pianist Danilo Pérez and singer Lizz Wright, who hailed LiPuma on Facebook earlier today as “one of the first friends I made in this wild business.”

Other tributes have begun to pour in from some of the artists LiPuma produced, and from listeners that his albums reached. But there’s a special sort of insight that can be found only among those who worked alongside him day after day, behind the scenes in the record business. Below, find a sampling of those voices.

Dave Valentin, a jazz flutist of virtuoso control, brisk rhythmic flair and a sprawling expressive language, died on March 8 in the Bronx. He was 64.

His manager, Richie Bonilla, confirmed his death. Valentin suffered multiple strokes over the last five years.

Misha Mengelberg
Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Misha Mengelberg, a Dutch pianist and composer who embodied an irreverent yet fully fluent relationship to the jazz tradition, both in his influential solo career and as a founder of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP), died on Friday in Amsterdam. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by Susanna Von Canon, the manager of the ICP Orchestra.

Horace Parlan, an astute and soulful pianist whose unique style was informed by the partial impairment of his right hand, died on Feb. 23 in Næstved, Denmark.

 

He was 86. His death was confirmed by the jazz historian Frank Büchmann-Møller. 

 

Barbara Carroll was definitive. As an elegant pianist. As a sophisticated singer. As a beautiful lady. And like another great Lady, her good friend Billie Holiday, Barbara Carroll was down-to-earth and always swinging.

Al Jarreau, a nimble, charismatic singer who bridged contemporary jazz and smooth soul in a career that yielded both popular success and critical regard, died on Sunday at Los Angeles. He was 76.

 

His death was confirmed by his manager, Joe Gordon. Jarreau had announced his retirement from touring just last week, after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for exhaustion.

 

Nat Hentoff during the annual "A Great Night in Harlem" Benefit Concert at The Apollo Theater in New York City.
STEPHEN LOVEKIN / FILMMAGIC VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

The first and most famous book by Nat Hentoff — Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya, co-credited to Nat Shapiro and originally published in 1955 — is an oral history that rings with the authority of scripture. “This is the story of jazz,” it begins, “as told by the musicians whose lives are that story.”