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Bassist Eldee Young Passes Away

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Eldee YoungBassist Eldee Young, best known for his ten year stint in the '50s and '60s with the (pianist) Ramsey Lewis Trio, died of a heart attack on February 12, 2007, in Bangkok.

Last May I found myself in Saigon, and was both surprised and delighted to learn that the Eldee Young trio was playing in town. The gig was in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, a far cry perhaps from Carnegie Hall, and the Montreux or Newport Jazz Festivals, all venues of past glories for the man from the Windy City.

“Eldee, what are you doing in Vietnam?" I asked.
“Vietnam? You tell me. I thought I was in Singapore!" And then that infectious laugh.

Although the venues may have changed over the years, what never changed was his cheeky sense of humor, his openness to all people and his enthusiasm for life.

Born in Chicago on January 7, 1936, Eldee Devon Young was already playing bass professionally in a club at the age of thirteen, and was touring in his mid-teens. His first important gig was with King Komax, with whom he played from '51 to '54.

In a career spanning nearly sixty years, Eldee Young played with T-Bone Walker, Joe Turner, Chuck Willis, Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Dinah Washington, Sonny Stitt, Jeremy Monteiro and Dizzy Gillespie.

Like Dizzy Gillespie, Eldee Young saw no need to divorce his tremendous sense of fun from his playing; there was as much soul or R&B in Eldee Young's bass playing and singing as there was straight-ahead jazz, and his first solo album was the appropriately titled Just for Kicks (Argo, 1962).

It would be another 38 years before he recorded another solo album, and although he never stopped recording or touring in the intervening years, he was never to regain the long-term commercial success or profile of his playing days in the Ramsey Lewis Trio alongside drummer Red Holt.

Young and Holt left Lewis in 1966 (they would return for a period in '83) to form their own trio, which lasted a decade. Teaming up with Singaporean pianist Jeremy Monteiro in the mid '80s, Holt and Young enjoyed a notable success at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Young's association with Monteiro lasted over twenty years and Monteiro paid tribute to his friend and colleague when he said: “Eldee was like a brother to me, a mentor, and we enjoyed 21 wonderful years of friendship and music making. He always had a warm handshake, or a hug, and a huge smile on his face which would bring a ray of happiness to whomever he came into contact with. Besides being a consummate musician and entertainer, Eldee was a compassionate and generous man."

Eldee Young's last gig was at The Living Room, Bangkok on February 10, 2007. The last song he sang was “Every time we Say Goodbye." He said goodbye to the world two days later.

His survivors include his wife Barbara, sons Eldevon, Tyree, Marcus, and sister Vermell.

Photo Credit
Courtesy of The History Makers

Obituary submitted by Ian Patterson

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