September 2007


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Max Roach, 83, drummer, bandleader, composer, educator.
Newland, NC, January 10, 1924—New York, NY, August 15, 2007.

Max Roach, widely deemed the most innovative percussionist in contemporary jazz and a composer who leaped the boundaries of four-four time and standard instrument combinations, died August 15 in a New York hospice. He was 83 and had suffered for several years with dementia.

Roach "built on the innovations of Kenny Clarke, elaborating the style, bringing more complex cross-rhythms into play, and employing greater textural variety," notes The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.

The drummer had fast hands and could keep several rhythms going at once, often at breakneck tempos.

A self-taught prodigy, Maxwell Roach was born January 10, 1924, in tiny Newland, North Carolina, and raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, New York.

Already known at age 16 in 1940, he filled in for three nights for Duke Ellington's drummer, Sonny Greer, at the Paramount Theater. That led to the renowned Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, where he was instrumental in the genesis of bebop.

In late 1943 he made his recording debut with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet, and then worked with Dizzy Gillespie in the first bebop group to hit 52nd Street. Both men took part in a Hawkins-led session for the Apollo label that many consider the first bop recording date.

Roach then toured and recorded with Benny Carter's big band, which included Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He worked and recorded with Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Stan Getz and almost every other important artist in modern jazz.

He was a member of Parker's seminal 1947-1949 quartet while also studying at the Manhattan School of Music. Moving from sideman to co-leader in 1954, he formed a quintet with the brilliant young trumpeter, Clifford Brown. In June 1956, Brown and their pianist, Richie Powell, perished in an auto accident. The tragedy had a profound impact on Roach, but he recovered to perform and compose in a wide spectrum of settings, including solo and all-percussion ensemble performances, duets with avant-garde players like the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Anthony Braxton.

He composed the scores for Alvin Alley dance works and for three Sam Shepard plays, which brought him an Obie award. He also worked with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop performers.

In 1972 he joined the University of Massachusetts music faculty. Among many career honors, Roach was the first jazz recipient, in 1988, of the prestigious (and lucrative) MacArthur Fellowship Award. He was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1992.

The new century found Roach still touring with his quartet and actively composing. In 2002 he wrote and played the score for "How to Draw a Bunny," a documentary film about the New York underground artist, Ray Johnson. Some 368 career recording sessions are detailed by the discographer Tom Lord.

His last album, Friendship (Columbia, 2002), reunited Max Roach, then 78, and the 81-year-old trumpeter and flugelhornist Clark Terry in a quartet with Don Friedman on piano and Marcus McLaurine on bass. The last of 12 tracks is titled "To Basie, with Love."

Art Davis, 73, bassist, psychologist, educator.
Harrisburg, PA, December 5, 1933—Long Beach, CA, July 29, 2007.

Art Davis, a crossover jazz and classical bassist, and a university professor who earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and practiced that profession along with music for many years, was a musician's musician, described as beyond category.

Davis died July 29 of a heart attack at his Long Beach, California home. He was 73.

Excelling in all genres, Arthur Davis started with the Harrisburg and Philadelphia symphonies, moving on to the NBC-TV, Westinghouse-TV and CBS orchestras, and working in Broadway show bands. By the late 1950s and 1960s, Davis was a familiar figure on the New York jazz scene, working with Max Roach and recording with John Coltrane's and Dizzy Gillespie's bands. He also played with Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Louis Armstrong.

When he encountered hiring discrimination and was blacklisted on the white classical scene, Davis, an African-American, sued the New York Philharmonic—and lost. He also lost work, but enrolled in the doctoral program at New York University and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1981. For many years he practiced psychology and played music.

According to the critic Nat Hentoff, the Davis experience led to the "blind audition," where evaluators hear the music but don't see the person playing. "I wouldn't be Dr. Art Davis if it hadn't happened," the bassist said in an interview with Double Bassist.

The discographer Tom Lord credits Davis with some 131 recording sessions, first in 1958 with Max Roach + 4 at Newport (Verve CD) and concluding in 2000 with The Movement (Exodus), on which he teamed with the bassist Al McKibbon in a septet led by the tenor saxophonist Robert Stewart.

Eddie Bigham, 87, trombonist and pianist.
Philadelphia, PA, 1920—Newton Square, PA, July 28, 2007.

Francis Edward Bigham was killed in a car accident July 28 this year when his car was struck by another in Newton Square, about five miles from home. His wife, Mary, was injured but survived.

Eddie Bigham, a veteran Philadelphia jazz trombonist, interrupted his college studies in 1942 to enlist in the U.S. Army. Sent to North Africa in 1943, he was drafted to play piano in a USO show starring Martha Raye, whose regular pianist had been injured.

After the show the singer said, "Pack your bags, Eddie, you're going on tour with me." The pianist said he didn't understand; he was an infantryman.

"You don't understand, Eddie," she shot back, "I'm friends with the general."

Later that year, as the Philadelphia cornetist Steve Barbone tells the story, "Margaret Bourke-White photographed Ms. Raye entertaining the troops, and there at the piano was Eddie. The picture was 'Photo of the Week' in Life magazine, March 8, 1943."

After the war, Barbone said, Bigham finished college and worked for a time with Fred Waring. He organized society bands in the 1960s and accompanied touring stars. But he was best known as a "trad trombonist" in Philadelphia area jazz clubs.

Bigham played his last gig in 2005 with the traditional Barbone Street Band. "He had an enormous repertoire, a strong sense of swing and flawless technique," said Barbone.

Sal Mosca, 80, pianist and teacher.
Mt. Vernon, NY, April 27, 1927—July 28, 2007.

Salvatore J. (Sal) Mosca, a fiercely independent modern jazz pianist and teacher whose virtuosity invoked Art Tatum, was one of the more original artists in jazz.

In poor health for years, he died July 28 at Westchester County Hospitals, NY, of emphysema complications. He was 80.

Mosca, a protégé of Lenny Tristano, worked and recorded with the blind master's alto saxophonist Lee Konitz in 1949-1965, and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh in the 1970s.

"He was closest in style to Lennie, but managed to express his own personality within that style," Ira Gitler, coauthor of The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, said. Gitler said Mosca may have achieved even more as a teacher.

The pianist later led his own combos, ending a 32-session recording career with a trio album, Thing-Ah-Majig (Zinnia 118 CD). All five tracks were standard tunes poorly recorded in the leader's home studio.

"But wait until you hear what Mosca does with "I'll Remember April" and "I Can't Get Started," a Jazz Times reviewer wrote in 2006. "Tempo and melody and changes are relative matters" to the pianist, who "breaks these songs so far down, in abstracted block chords, tangential fragments and confrontational tremolos, that it is startling when they resolve back into themselves." The Sal Mosca Trio performed in February 2005 at William Paterson University, in Wayne.

Lester Young and Art Tatum "made masterworks" out of standard tunes, Mosca told Zan Stewart, the Star-Ledger jazz critic. "That's what I try to do."

Bernie Berger, 76, reeds player and pianist.
Newark, NJ, July 4, 1931—Clark, NJ, July 25, 2007.

Bernie Berger, a consummate "crossover" reeds player and pianist who worked in symphonies, Broadway musicals and many legendary jazz groups, died of cancer complications at his home in Clark. He was 76.

Berger was an all-round sideman whose jazz credits include working with Tex Beneke, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Nat 'King' Cole, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett and Ray Charles, among others.

His classical credentials cover orchestras with virtuoso soloists such as Artur Rubenstein, Isaac Stern, Pincus Zucherman and Itzhak Perlman.

He played in the 1980s with the New Jersey Jazz Society big bandleader favorite Parke Frankenfield, and most recently on piano with saxophonist Marty Eigen, in the now 10-piece, Watchung-based Beacon Hill Jazz Band.

"Bernie was our mentor and rock," said Eigen. "He was a crossover jazz artist before the term was invented. His technical proficiency was awe-inspiring. His improvising was worthy of study. He made everyone he played with better."

Berger is listed in Who's Who in Music and in Lord's Jazz Discography CD-ROM 7.0 with a three-date studio big-band recording session, backing the vocalist leader, Alex Donner.

He joined a reeds section led by the former Count Basie saxophonist and flutist, Frank Wess. Sixteen tracks were recorded on three dates from 1998 to 2000. The band's personnel fluctuated with, among others, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jack Wilkins or David Spinozza on guitar, and Jay Leonhart or Bob Cranshaw on bass. A Grammy-nominated CD album, White Tie, was released on the Black Tie label.

Born July 4, 1931, in Newark and raised there, Bernard J. Berger received a B.A. degree from Columbia Teachers College in New York. He and his wife of 49 years, Naomi Schecter Berger, moved to Clark in 1963. He is also survived by two sons, Mitchell, a lawyer in East Hanover, and Glen, a musician in California (whom his father taught), three grandchildren, and two sisters.

A memorial concert by the Beacon Hill Jazz Band was set for Saturday, October 27, 8:00 pm, at the Watchung Arts Center.

Al Hendrickson, 87, guitarist, banjoist, mandolin player, vocalist.
Eastland, TX, May 10, 1920—North Bend, CO, July 19, 2007.

Al Hendrickson, a member of the 1940 Artie Shaw Orchestra and Shaw's takeout first-edition Gramercy Five, and arguably the busiest and most-recorded West Coast guitarist of the last 67 years, died July 19 of cancer complications in North Bend, Colorado. He was 87.

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1942-1945, Hendrickson worked with Ray Linn, played and sang with Freddie Slack, toured and recorded many times with Benny Goodman in 1947 and twice thereafter. He also toured and/or recorded with Boyd Raeburn, Ray Noble, Woody Herman, Johnny Mandel, Neal Hefti and Bill Holman in the late 1950s.

For more than 40 years, Hendrickson was the first-call guitarist in Hollywood, playing on thousands of feature film and TV music tracks, including "Cleopatra," "The Music Man," "Some Like it Hot," the Fred Astaire movie "Second Chorus," and "West Side Story."

In his seventies in the early 1990s, Hendrickson returned to jazz and produced albums on electric and acoustic guitar in his home studio. Lord's The Jazz Discography CD-ROM 7.0 credits him with 457 recording sessions, perhaps the greatest number for any guitarist on that database.

Recalling sessions with Artie Shaw in the first Gramercy Five, Hendrickson said: "Artie was very picky. We did something like 19 takes on 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.' I was really getting bugged."

Thanks to Jerry Gordon, Joe Lang, Don Robertson, Mitchell Seidel and the Jersey Jazz editors for obit tips. And to Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler for The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (new ed. 2007).

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