Category Obituaries

Wayne Shorter (1933-2023): Don’t Forget The 1980s

The sad death of soprano/tenor sax titan Wayne Shorter has inspired many column inches but, reading most of the obituaries, you might be forgiven for thinking that he was completely dormant during the 1980s. Nothing could be further from the truth, even if he took more of a backseat in his ‘day job’ co-leading Weather […]

Milford Graves 1941-2021

One of the most memorable music documentaries broadcast in Britain during the late 1980s was ‘Speaking In Tongues’, directed by Doug Harris for German TV and originally shown in 1982. It began with John Coltrane’s funeral on 21 July 1967, featuring music from drummer Milford Graves, trumpeter Donald Ayler and saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Albert […]

Geri Allen 1957-2017

Pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen, who has died at the age of 60, had her own sound. Her close-interval chord voicings and sparkling single-note lines couldn’t be anyone else. Influenced by Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Monk, Tommy Flanagan, Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor, she explained her style to writer Howard Mandel in 1993: ‘A […]

Larry Coryell 1943-2017

On 8th November 2016, the day after America voted to make Donald Trump the next president of the US, guitar legend Larry Coryell – who has died of heart failure – told Downbeat magazine’s Bill Milkowski: ‘Now that Trump is in, we’re going to make good on our promise to move to either Germany or […]

John Taylor 1942-2015

John Taylor, the gifted pianist, composer and educator who has died aged 72, was one of the key British jazz musicians of his generation, a versatile sideman and occasional leader whose work featured on many key albums of the last 40 years. Born in Manchester in 1942, he also featured in not one but two […]

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

Amy Winehouse will be remembered as the foremost songwriter of her generation, a gifted but troubled singer and composer whose music touched on jazz, soul, R’n’B and hip-hop. She emerged in the early 2000s when jazz was enjoying one of its frequent ‘comebacks’, and was seen by the mainstream media as part of the new […]

Abram Wilson 1973-2012

Trumpeter, composer and educator Abram Wilson died on Saturday 9th June 2012 at the age of 38 after a short battle with cancer. Just 14 days ago, Abram posted a message on his website saying how much he was enjoying a UK tour with his quartet performing ‘Philippa’, a jazz theatre project based around the […]

Joe Morello 1928-2011

Joe Morello‘s modest, bespectacled demeanour belied his role as the go-to man in the world-famous Dave Brubeck Quartet, the crisp thwack of his snare drum and relentless ride cymbal frequently lighting a fire under that most organised of ensembles. Aided by Teo Macero‘s widescreen production, his famous solo on ‘Take Five‘ was heard around the jazz world, a masterpiece of […]

Ray Bryant 1931-2011

Ray Bryant, the gifted gospel-tinged pianist whose work straddled many different jazz styles from Dixieland and hard bop to blues and R’n’B and enjoyed some chart success, has died aged 79. Whilst working as house pianist at the Blue Note club in his native Philadelphia in the ’50s, he played with an astonishing lineup of […]

Michael Garrick 1933-2011

Michael Garrick, the English pianist, composer, arranger and educator who has died aged 78, was an inspirational figure on the UK jazz scene. His big band work garnered comparisons with Duke Ellington and his piano playing featured in most of the major British jazz units of the ‘50s and ‘60s. He was a key member […]

Gil Scott-Heron 1949-2011

Once heard, the voice of Gil Scott-Heron was never forgotten. His rich baritone could break your heart with its tenderness on ‘Your Daddy Loves You’ or ‘Did You Hear What They Said’ or seduce with power and passion on ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ or ‘When You Are Who You Are’. His words also had huge range, […]

Sir George Shearing 1919-2011

George Shearing, piano master, composer of ‘Lullaby of Birdland‘ and hero to a whole generation of jazz fans and musicians has died at the age of 91. His quintet became world-famous in the ’40s and ’50s for its cool, sophisticated sound, and Shearing patented a much-imitated ‘locked hands’ piano style. Shearing’s life was an incredible […]

Paul Motian 1931-2011

Paul Motian, the drummer, composer and bandleader who has died aged 80, was one of jazz’s great listeners. He reacted to the most subtle changes in a soloist’s phrasing and altered his playing accordingly. Sometimes a simple backbeat was the first casualty of this approach, making him a very popular drummer in the free jazz/avant-garde […]

Dr Billy Taylor 1921-2010

Dr Billy Taylor was one of the last in a generation of classic jazz musicians who thrived in the bebop era. A distinguished ambassador for our music, he was a recording artist for six decades and probably most famous for his stirring composition ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free‘. Written […]

James Moody 1925-2010

Saxophonist, flautist and bandleader James Moody died on Thursday 9th December, 2010, in San Diego, California. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. He was 85. One of the last living masters of the bebop era, Moody was perhaps best known for ‘Moody’s Mood For Love‘, his masterful 1949 improvisation over the chord changes of ‘In the […]

Abbey Lincoln 1930-2010

Abbey Lincoln, who has died aged 80, was known for her earthy, passionate vocal style and glamorous image. She was sometimes called ‘the black Marilyn Monroe’, but in the latter stages of her career presented an dignified, earnest, almost sombre performance style inspired by her heroine Billie Holiday. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in […]

Jack Parnell 1923-2010

Jack Parnell, the drummer, bandleader and entertainer, has died at his home in Suffolk aged 87 following a year-long battle with cancer. Parnell’s musical career lasted almost seven decades. He was named Best Drummer in the annual Melody Maker awards for seven years in succession and enjoyed a long and distinguished stint in the renowned Ted Heath Band. […]

Lena Horne 1917-2010

Pioneering singer, actress and dancer Lena Horne is credited as helping black actresses to gain more acceptance in Hollywood and was an important contributor to the Civil Rights Movement. She was born in Brooklyn in 1917 and at the age of 16 became a dancer at the famous Cotton Club. But her singing was soon gaining attention […]

Harry Beckett 1935-2010

The Brit jazz legend Harry Beckett was one of the most instantly recognisable trumpeters in all of music. He played with some key artists in the British jazz pantheon and was a huge inspiration on players such as Courtney Pine and Gary Crosby. Beckett was born in Saint Michael parish in Barbados and started off playing the cornet in […]

Herman Leonard 1923-2010

Herman Leonard was arguably the photographer who defined jazz as the epitome of cool. His images of Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk contributed to all becoming iconic jazz figures. His rendering of the post-war New York club scene brought the musicians to life and seemed to capture […]

Richie Hayward 1946-2010

The drummer and composer Richie Hayward, who has died aged 64 after treatment for liver cancer, will be best remembered for his 40 years with Little Feat, the band he co-founded. His swinging, sure-footed and funky playing was the heart and soul of their music, and his subtle but always solid grooves powered along their enticing blend […]