RIP

Roberto Masotti / ECM Records

Jon Christensen, a Norwegian drummer whose firm yet flowing pulse helped shift the parameters for European jazz, notably as one of the most widely recorded sidemen on ECM Records, died on Tuesday in Oslo. He was 76.

Ralph Quinke / ECM Records

Lyle Mays, a keyboardist, composer and orchestrator who helped carve a new channel for contemporary jazz with The Pat Metheny Group, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 66.

Paul CHARBIT / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Lawrence “Lo” Leathers was a drummer much beloved in the jazz community, in his adopted home of New York City as well as his hometown of Lansing, Mich. He was vividly remembered in song, in stories and in spirit on Monday night, during a memorial at Dizzy’s Club.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Lucien Barbarin, a playfully suave and boisterous trombonist who carried a torch for traditional New Orleans music, most visibly as a featured soloist with Harry Connick, Jr. and a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, died on Thursday. He was 63, and lived in Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.

Kevin Antoine

Bob Gullotti, an endlessly creative jazz drummer hailed as a guru by several generations of musicians, both for his instruction at the Berklee College of Music and his work in an experimental trio called The Fringe, died on Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

David Redfern / Getty Images

Claudio Roditi, whose lyrical poise and burnished warmth on trumpet and flugelhorn helped make him one of the most accomplished jazz musicians from Brazil, died on Jan. 17 at his home in South Orange, N.J. He was 73.

John Lamparski / WireImage/Getty

Jimmy Heath, a saxophonist, composer, arranger, educator and 2003 NEA Jazz Master who came of age in the bebop era, and did much to sway the course of jazz history in the ensuing decades, died on Sunday. He was 93.

Arnie Goodman / Used with permission

Vic Juris, a guitarist whose stylistic breadth, technical fluency and selfless poise made him a first-rate sideman for more than 40 years, as well as an influential educator and a perennially underrated solo artist, died early this morning at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. He was 66.

Mainstream Records

Buddy Terry, a saxophonist who worked in a broad array of styles and situations — making his most enduring contribution in the realm of soul jazz, and on the ground in Newark, his hometown — died on Nov. 29 in Maplewood, N.J. He was 78.

Leo Van Velzen / leovanvelzen.com

Gerry Teekens, founder and proprietor of Criss Cross Jazz, an unassuming Dutch indie label that became a vital repository of recorded jazz from the 1980s onward, died on Oct. 31. He was 83.

Isaac Brekken / WireImage/Getty

Ray Santos, a saxophonist, composer, arranger rightly known to Latin music fans as “El Maestro,” died on Oct. 17. He was 90.

Andy Eulau

Saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Gene Jefferson — one of the finest human beings and greatest musicians I have ever known — died on Wednesday at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y, of complications from vascular dementia. He was 88.

Richard Wyands, a pianist whose articulate touch and sensitive phrasing made him a first-tier accompanist over a career spanning 75 years, died on Sept. 25 in New York. He was 91.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Larry Willis, whose ringing authority as a pianist extended to swinging post-bop, blaring jazz-rock, Cuban rumba and free improvisation, died on Sunday morning at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. He was 76 and lived in Baltimore.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Harold Mabern, a pianist of percussive fire and boundless soul, with a language that pulled from hard bop, post-bop, Memphis soul and the blues, died on Sept. 17 in New Jersey. He was 83.

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Steve Dalachinsky, a contemporary poet unrivaled in his dedication to the jazz avant-garde, not only as a gimlet-eyed observer but also as a prolific collaborator and performer, died early Monday morning at Southside Hospital on Long Island.

Connie Lester, whose robust and affirming style on saxophone proved a perfect fit for the soul jazz of the 1960s and beyond — notably in organ combos, and especially around a thriving scene in Newark — died on Tuesday in Edison, N.J.

He was 88. His death was confirmed by his daughter Toni Lester, who did not provide a cause.

An authoritative voice on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, Lester also played clarinet and piano. He formed a sterling reputation as a sideman, over the course of a long career largely based in his home state of New Jersey.

Michael Lionstar / Knopf

An array of writers, musicians and friends will gather at The Center for Fiction on Wednesday, for “an evening of readings, music, reflection, and gratitude in celebration of the life and legacy of Toni Morrison.”

Morrison, who died on Aug. 5 at 88, was an American novelist of profound craft and penetrating vision, as well as a writer of oracular authority on the subjects of race and social justice.

David Redfern / Redferns/Getty

Bob Wilber, a saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader who spearheaded a traditional jazz revival in the face of a postwar modernist boom, and kept the faith well into a new century, died on Aug. 4 in Chipping Campden, England. He was 91.

Ed Bickert, whose exceedingly modest way in conversation belied a nimble sense of humor, used to tell one story deserving of a permanent place in guitar lore. At a concert in Montreal, the host introduced the band by naming each player as well as the make of his equipment — for instance, “Bill Mays on a piano by Yamaha.”

When he homed in on the guitarist, the announcer said: “Ed Bickert on a guitar by Fisher-Price.”   

David Redfern / Redferns/Getty

Ira Gitler, a passionate critic and proponent of modern jazz during its rise, and a tireless chronicler of its history thereafter, died on Saturday at a nursing facility in New York City. 

He was 90. His death was confirmed by Fitz Gitler, his son.

Few writers on jazz have ever loomed as large as Ira Gitler, who opined prodigiously for more than 60 years, in publications like Metronome, JazzTimes and DownBeat, for which he served as New York editor for a time.

Gilles Petard / Redferns/Getty

The front page of today’s Baltimore Sun carries an excellent obituary for the singer Ethel Ennis, described in its headline as that city’s “First Lady of Jazz.” Which of course she was.

As a performer, a regional celebrity, a venue proprietor and a community builder, she bolstered Charm City’s underrated scene with a genial brand of strength and pride.

Courtesy of The Roy Hargrove Estate

This time each year, amidst the warmth of year-end highlights and holiday wishes, we pause to remember those we have lost.

But while it's an occasion for sadness, it's also an opportunity to celebrate their legacies in full. That's the spirit with which Jazz Night in America offers this In Memoriam episode, featuring testimonials by some of those who knew the artists best.

WBGO

Trumpeter and composer Roy Hargrove, who died in 2018 at 49,  is best known for his unflappable command in small-group settings, including his sterling quintet. But he was also a connoisseur of the big band — leading his own, on and off, through most of his career.

The Roy Hargrove Big Band released a single album, Emergence, in 2009. Around the time of the album’s release, he brought the 18-piece ensemble to WBGO for a session on Afternoon Jazz. Highlights from that session were later featured on The Checkout, then hosted by Josh Jackson.

Hamiet Bluiett was as much a soul singer as any broad-shouldered balladeer who recorded hit singles for the rhythm-and-blues labels of the 1950s and ‘60s.

The only difference was that he used a baritone saxophone to do the pleading, growling and shouting, in the experimental vein of progressive jazz.

Big Jay McNeely, a rhythm-and-blues legend known as “King of the Honkin’ Sax,” died on Sunday, according to multiple sources. He was 91. Bob Porter, the author of Soul Jazz, remembers him here.

Nick Michael / NPR

As we continue to remember pianist and composer Randy Weston, who died on Sept. 1, we’re reminded of his devotion to the motherland, Africa. But how many people know about his ties to Central America — and in particular, his deep connection to Panama?


Chester Higgins

Randy Weston, a pianist and composer who devoted more than half a century to the exploration of jazz’s deep connection with Africa, died on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 92.

His death was announced by his wife and business partner, Fatoumata Weston.

Aretha Franklin
NPR

Tributes continue to pour in from around the world following the death of legendary singer Aretha Franklin, who died in Detroit last Thursday at 76. The music and message of  The Queen of Soul touched so many in the jazz and blues community; some of their voices are captured in this edition of the WBGO Journal.

WBGO will rebroadcast our four-hour Aretha Franklin special on Friday, Aug. 24, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Last Saturday on Rhythm Revue, Felix Hernandez celebrated the life and music of Aretha Franklin, who died on Aug. 16.

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