RIP

WBGO

Lorraine Gordon will always be remembered for her indefatigable stewardship of The Village Vanguard, where she maintained the highest of standards. She was also a terrific storyteller — and had more than a few terrific stories to tell.

Joan Powers

The Branford Marsalis Quartet had been rampaging at the Village Vanguard for over an hour — in full burnout mode, practically rattling the pictures on the walls — when its leader swerved unexpectedly into a softer mode. Channeling his best Ben Webster warble on the tenor saxophone, Branford closed the set with a songbook ballad, “Sweet Lorraine.” For those in the room who recognized its gladsome melody, the implicit dedication rang clear.

Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at 94, was a bebop piano player, a lifelong hipster, and a songwriter who made it all look easy (while always staying one step ahead of you).

He was also an irreplaceable singer — and an important figure in the life of WBGO's Michael Bourne, who offers this reminiscence alongside Dorough's last appearance on Singers Unlimited.

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

It’s taken decades for Jason Moran to understand the artistry of Cecil Taylor, the brilliant American pianist who left us last Thursday, on April 5. A few years ago, The Checkout visited Moran’s New York studio to celebrate the visionary iconoclastic artist, just before paying homage at Harlem Stage.

 

On this very special Checkout podcast, Moran reflects on his hero in conversation, then honors him in performance. 

Ignatius Mokone

The trumpeter, scholar and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela died this morning in Johannesburg, at 78. The Checkout has periodically checked in over the years with this South African jazz master — though he'd be the first to say that he wasn’t a jazz artist, nor is jazz an American art form.


Ilene Cutler / Courtesy of Verna Gillis

Roswell Rudd, a trombonist whose jubilant blare and yawping wit made him a singular fixture in the jazz avant-garde — as a bandleader, a member of The New York Art Quartet and a frontline partner for titans like saxophonist Albert Ayler — died on Friday morning at his home in Kerhonkson, N.Y.

John Rogers for NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses.

 

And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most. We bade farewell to avant-garde pioneers like Muhal Richard Abrams and Sunny Murray, genre-blending synthesists like John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, and behind-the-scenes giants like Nat Hentoff and George Avakian.

Kevin Mahogany, a big-voiced, broad-shouldered singer who dipped into the wellsprings of jazz, blues, pop and R&B during a career spanning three decades, died on Monday in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 59.

The news was announced by his niece, Lawrencia Mahogany, who confirmed his death to WBGO.

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Let's take a moment to remember the Chicago Jazz pianist Willie Pickens, who died last week at age 86.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Sunny Murray, an improvising drummer who pioneered a radical and influential approach to rhythm, died on Thursday night in Paris. He was 81.

David Redfern / Getty Images

Jon Hendricks, a revered jazz singer who refined and popularized the art of vocalese, or putting lyrics to famous improvised solos, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Aria Hendricks.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

George Avakian, a producer, artist manager and writer who played a foundational role in jazz’s expression on record, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Anahid Avakian Gregg.

Tom Marcello / Flickr

Ben Riley, a subtle and versatile jazz drummer best known for his affiliation with Thelonious Monk in the 1960s and Kenny Barron, one of Monk’s pianistic heirs, in all the years since, died on Saturday at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York. He was 84.

Nancy Carter / Colson personal collection

The pioneering composer, pianist and educator Muhal Richard Abrams died on Oct. 29, at 87. Among the many artists who considered him a mentor are pianist Adegoke Steve Colson and vocalist Iqua Colson, who are spouses as well as musical partners, and coauthored this tribute. 

akamu / akamu.net

The pianist, composer, and teacher Muhal Richard Abrams, a visionary artist with no patience for compromise or excuses, leaves the jazz community in mourning.


Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Muhal Richard Abrams, a pianist and composer of staunch independence and sweeping influence, inseparable from his role as a founding father of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians [AACM], died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 87.

Courtesy of the Jazz Foundation of America

Fred Staton, a saxophonist touted as "the world's oldest jazz musician," has died at the age of 102. His death was confirmed by his grandson, Richard Staton.

A member of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band and the older brother of singer Dakota Staton, he was active as a performer even after his centennial, when WBGO profiled him in our program guide. We've reprinted that story below.

Courtesy of the artist

I first met Grady Tate in the fall of 1968 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Frans Schellekens / Redferns

Grady Tate, a crisp, swinging drummer who also enjoyed crossover success as a vocalist in a prolific recording career spanning more than 50 years, died on Sunday night at his home in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.

He was 85. His death was confirmed to NPR by Wendy Oxenhorn, executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America, which provides a range of assistance to musicians. No cause was given.

Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Legendary rock singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 66. 

Pete Turner / Courtesy of Pete Turner Studio

Pete Turner, a master photographer whose striking use of color and composition defined the visual aesthetic for some of the most iconic jazz albums of the 1960s and ‘70s, died on Sept. 18 at his home on Long Island, N.Y. He was 83.

John Rogers / ECM Records

John Abercrombie, an intrepid and deeply lyrical guitarist who made a formative contribution to jazz-rock before refining a judicious, poetic iteration of post-bop, died on Tuesday at Hudson Valley Hospital, in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. 

John Abercrombie, a trailblazing and deeply lyrical guitarist, died on Tuesday at 72.

Here are two wonderful recent conversations with John at WBGO. Five years ago he sat down with Michael Bourne to talk about his ECM album Within a Song, featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron. 

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Jerry Lewis, a comedic fixture on big screens and charity telethons for decades, has died at the age of 91.

His death was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and confirmed by NPR with his publicist and spokeswoman Candi Cazau.

Cazau provided the following statement:

 

"Famed comedian, actor, and legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home in Las Vegas with his family by his side."

MGM

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, at 42. There are countless ways to commemorate the occasion, and you should go with the one that speaks to you.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

So many of us can point to a moment when we heard something that changed our lives. In January of 1975, I was a high school student who had saved my money to buy a ticket and sit alone in the balcony of Carnegie Hall. Barbara Cook had returned to the stage after virtually disappearing from public view. Seeing her then, after hearing her on countless recordings, I knew I had to be a part of the theater.

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Chuck Loeb, a crisply proficient guitarist who progressed from a sideman and session ace to a prominent solo artist and collaborator in the field of smooth jazz, died on Monday. He was 61.

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.

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