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Big Band in the Sky

October 2007

By Published: October 17, 2007
"Over the past four years, Vince warmed the hearts of thousands of Cecil's patrons with his quick, witty perspective on jazz and life in general, Adreena and Cecil Brooks III said in a statement that called attention to Giantomasi's photographs of performers on the club's walls. He was an enthusiastic supporter of New Jersey Jazz Society; donations to his memory were welcomed by the society's president, Andrea Tyson, 110 Maywood Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854.


Bill Barber, 87, modern jazz tubaist and teacher.
Hornell, NY, May 21, 1920—Bronxville, NY, June 18, 2007.

The first musician to play modern jazz on the tuba, John William Barber was an alumnus of the pianist Claude Thornhill's forward-looking big band. He went on to tour and/or record with Miles Davis/Gil Evans, George Shearing, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and other modernists.

He died at 87, apparently of heart failure, June 18 in Bronxville, NY.

Like his fellow-tubaist, the late Don Butterfield, Bill Barber was a classically trained pioneer of the deep-toned, bulky horn in the modern jazz genre. Both players took their bachelor's in music at the Juilliard School; Barber later went for a master's in music education at the Manhattan School of Music.

After service in the 7th Army band, he joined the Kansas City Philharmonic. He moved to New York and worked for Thornhill in 1947-1948. With the Miles Davis Nonet for the next two years, he took part in a historic series of recordings led by the trumpeter. Birth of the Cool on LP helped usher in the period of cool jazz.

Barber moved to the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra in 1952-1954, when Pete Rugolo then hired him. His association with Davis and Evans was resumed in 1957-1962 when the two combined talents for the acclaimed big-band albums Miles Ahead, Sketches of Spain, and Porgy and Bess. He also worked in 1959 with George Shearing.

Freelance assignments in Broadway shows, on TV and for the City Center Ballet helped keep the tubaist busy, but to make ends meet he earned a master's degree and taught high school music classes from 1960 on Long Island. In 1992 he toured with Gerry Mulligan. The veteran of 90 recording sessions recorded for the last time, with Mulligan, on the album Re-birth of the Cool.


Nellie Lutcher, 94, rhythm and blues singer, pianist.
Lake Charles, LA, October 15, 1915—Los Angeles, CA, June 8, 2007.

Sixty years ago, the jazz critic Leonard Feather pictured Nellie Lutcher ("Hurry on down to my house, honey / Ain't nobody home but me ) as "not pretty, or even handsome, but ... a tall, big, somehow striking person (able) to change moods and express a wide range of ideas, both musical and humorous.

Lutcher, a singer and pianist, enjoyed a spate of rhythm-and-blues hits from 1947 until 1952. Four hits on the Capitol label reached the Billboard R&B Top 10, including "He's a Real Gone Guy, "My Mother's Eyes and "Fine Brown Frame. She sang a duet with Nat 'King' Cole, "Can I Come In For A Second?

Lutcher went on performing until nearly age 80, and inspired Nina Simone and other singers. At 94 and in failing health, with pneumonia, she died June 8, in Los Angeles. "She was a fighter to the end, her nephew and manager, Gene Jackson, said. "She had told the family, I'm going to go when I'm ready to go.

Her accepted date of birth in Lake Charles, Louisiana, is October 15, 1915, into a family that eventually numbered 15 children. (Spencer Leigh, of The Independent London newspaper, wrote that she actually was born in 1912, but that Capitol changed the year to 1917 to make her seem younger.) At 11, she played piano for the renowned blues singer Ma Rainey.

The Calcasieu Museum in Lake Charles had already begun a series of events saluting Lutcher's life in music. She once penned "Lake Charles Boogie, a novelty tune about her hometown: "This little ditty / is a song about the city / where I was born.


Dave Remington, 80, pianist, trombonist, bandleader, educator.
Rochester, NY, October 10, 1926—Traverse, MI, June 8, 2007.

Musicians across the country telephoned a Michigan hospice to pay respects to Dave Remington, their teacher, whose career spanned a half-century as a freelance pianist, trombonist, bandleader and educator. A member of New Jersey Jazz Society who lived in Beulah, MI, he died June 8 of prostate cancer complications.

He was 80 and worked into May, playing "his usual Mother's Day weekend bandleader job at a Wisconsin resort, a 400-mile drive each way, said his wife, Karen. She is a freelance vocalist who graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1981, the year her future husband took his M.A. in jazz studies.


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