Thursday, April 29, 2021

Glimmers of hope, turning a corner

This 2021 edition of Jazz Appreciation Month underscored the notion that we can’t take the music or its makers for granted. Especially after the past year: clubs shuttered temporarily or permanently, or forced to present music to their supporters virtually via webcasts because of limited or no live audiences. Musicians without steady gigs or, in some cases, any gigs for over a year. Or others performing from their living rooms, stoops, driveways and public parks to keep their chops – and sanity – hoping for support from real or virtual tip jars. The tragic number of jazz musicians and industry figures felled by COVID-19 reached at least 90 and still counting.

But there are glimmers of hope, of turning the corner. Some concerts and restaurant gigs have returned with a clear focus on social distancing, masks and other pandemic protocols.

One of those good news stories occurred this past weekend in Savannah GA, when the city’s premier venue, Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant, reopened after a total shutdown that lasted more than 12 months.

Owners Stephen and Danielle Moore opened Good Times in 2017. It offered dining and live Tuesday through Sunday nights, plus a gospel brunch on Sundays. That was before COVID-19 struck. Rather than risk any viral impact on guests, employees or their relatives, executive chef and jazz fan Joe Randall locked the doors of the downtown venue on busy West Broughton Street in late March 2020.

Good news, Good Times

Good Times reopened to the public last week on Friday, April 23. Re-opening Weekend featured three nights of performances by groupings of the Good Times All-Stars, fine local musicians who have been part of its music core. They included trombonist and educator Teddy Adams, who helps Randall book the music, and also co-leads the Savannah Jazz Orchestra; singer Cynthia Utterbach; saxophonist Calvin Barnes; pianists Erez Dessel and Eric Jones; bassist Marc Chesanow; and drummers Aaron Jennings and Robert Saunders.

“It was wonderful,” Randall says. “We had full houses for most shows, including sellouts for Saturday night and the Sunday brunch. People missed us, and they told us they were happy to be here. They wanted to get out to hear live jazz for so long - but had nowhere to go.” 

Adams said if the first weekend was indicative of things to come, he's optimistic about the future - and pleased for the musicians. Prior to the reopening, he only played twice since last September. "Everybody suffered," Adams said. "Some guys have found some work, some got into streaming, but everybody was fending for themselves. Now it is slowly returning to normal."

Adams said he tries to bring in regionally or nationally known musicians to Good Times about once a month. His first two offerings will be trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and singer Carmen Bradford on the schedule.

Randall has pared  the restaurant’s schedule to four days and nights for the time being. He said Good Times will operate Thursdays through Sundays for at least the next two months, perhaps even longer. Strict masking protocols are in place.

Yes, musical good times are coming back to artsy Savannah, which has a rich jazz history to supplement the cobblestone streets and 18th century colonial charm of its historic landmark district. It is the birthplace of composer and lyricist Johnny Mercer, saxophonists James Moody and Sahib Shihab, singers Connie Haines and Irene Reid, trombonist Trummy Young, and drummers Big Black and Ben Riley.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at CDs by Roderick Harper, Fred Hersch, Lisa Hilton, Dan Moretti, Omar Sosa and Veronica Swift ….

 Roderick Harper, Evolving (RHM Entertainment)

New Orleans singer Roderick Harper pulled in a talented mix of his Crescent City jazz colleagues for this this vocal gem. His primary support comes from pianist Oscar Rossignoli, bassist Robin Sherman and either Chris Guccione or Gerald Watkins on drums. It’s heartfelt and soulful, whether Harper is tacking pure ballads or R&B classics like Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” which teams the singer with pianist Jesse Davis and bassist Amina Scott. Saxophonist Donald Harrison, pianist Ellis Marsalis and drummer Jamison Ross also join the fun on one track apiece. Harrison is featured on the lively opener “Infinite Heart,” while Marsalis and Ross join Sherman in the rhythm section on “Never Let Me Go.”

Fred Hersch, Songs From Home (Palmetto)

If you’re a fan of solo jazz piano at its finest, don’t miss Songs From Home. New York-based pianist Fred Hersch recorded this  last August while sheltered in his second home, which is tucked away in the woods of Pennsylvania. In addition to two originals, the material covers a wide-range of musical influences dating back to the pop music of the 1960s before he knew what jazz was. Gems: his artful freshening of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” his delicate approach to Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want,” and his cover of Kenny Wheeler’s “Consolation – A Folk Song.” Also in the mix, a bit of the Beatles, a few Great American Songbook classics, and a natural choice for 2020-21’s unusual times, Duke Ellington’s “Solitude.”

 Lisa Hilton, More Than Another Day (Ruby Slippers)

Pianist Lisa Hilton teams up with her longtime trio mates, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Rudy Royston, on a wide-ranging balm to ease the stresses of the pandemic. More Than Another Day shimmers and swings with authority and the players’ deep musical connectivity. Hilton, a musical abstractionist, has taken the music on this, her 23rd recording, in a variety of directions – laid-back balladry, the gentle side of the blues, and a decided Latin tinge on three tracks. Favorite tracks: the teasing moods of “Blues & Beauty,” the Latin-charged burner “Karma Chaos,” the gorgeous, meditative closer “So This is Love” and her Latin refresh to the session’s only cover, Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

Dan Moretti, Tres Libre (Roots Grooves)

New England–based saxophonist Dan Moretti is a mighty versatile jazz musician, comfortable playing in every setting. With a strong underpinning of funk and Latin rhythms, his longstanding favorites, Tres Libre celebrates his creativity as a conceptualist and improviser. He’s supported primarily by longtime rhythm partners Marty Ballou on bass and Marty Richards on drums, with guest artists on bass, guitar and Latin percussion on various tracks.  “Escrito Jazz Libre” teams him in a free-jazz romp with two Cuban jazz masters, conguero Jorge Najarro and bassist Hernando Isaza Cano. The finale, “The Missing Breath,” is all Dan – a reflective solo track that’s a choir of three overdubbed tenor saxophones. This is a beauty.

Omar Sosa, An East African Journey (OTA)

Cuban-born pianist Omar Sosa blends jazz with world music on this project. He recorded its core material on a December 2009 tour that brought his trio to eight East African nations). Sosa took the time at each stop to make field recordings of local folkloric musicians in Madagascar, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Zambia and Mauritius. Their vocals and distinctive African instrumentation were blended here with Sosa’s piano artistry and on a few tracks, vocals and percussion. His sparkling jazz improvisation and comping, added a decade after the tour in most cases, created a distinctive and fascinating musical hybrid.

Veronica Swift, This Bitter Earth (Mack Avenue)

Singer Veronica Swift continues her fascinating, and rapid, upward trajectory. Her second Mack Avenue recording, This Bitter Earth, puts her times-have-changed illumination on songs that underscore some of the social problems still haunting the world. Racism, sexism, domestic abuse, the disturbing rise of fake news are undercurrents that run through the various songs from jazz, musical theater, classic R&B and current-day rock. She sets the tone to follow with the title track, which was Dinah Washington’s 1960 signature song. Swift brings a fresh sense of innocence lost to its mournful underpinning. Other gems include her takes on Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s’ provocative “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” (a hit for The Crystals), Dave Frishberg’s “The Sports Page” and the optimism that courses through her version of The Dresden Dolls’ art rocker “Sing.” Her fine band features pianist Emmet Cohen, guitarist Armand Hirsch, flutist Aaron Johnson, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Bryan Carter. To sum this song-cycle up in one word, I’ll just say “wow.”

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The worldly art of jazz

Pianist (and abstract painter) Bill Buchman brought his Art of Jazz Quintet to Venice FL on Wednesday, March 10 for a concert that touched on many of the global influences that have become central to jazz. From its inception, the genre has absorbed – and welcomed – elements of other styles, and turned that musical melting pot into a rich gumbo.

Bill Buchman
His band for this socially distanced, outdoor concert at Plantation Golf & Country Club included Rick Aaron on flute, Rob Fors on bass, Chuck Parr on drums and Gerardo Velez on congas. The event was sponsored by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota as part of its 25th anniversary season.

Since a swing beat is the very heart of jazz, it was only fitting that Buchman opened the program with the Freddie Green-penned Count Basie Orchestra staple “Corner Pocket.” While there were hot moments here and there, the late afternoon program was breezy for the most part, matching the weather.

Rick Aaron
The Jewish vaudeville staple “Bei Mir Bist Du Shön,” which became a mega-hit for the Andrews Sisters, was a wonderful flute feature for Aaron with playful percussion interplay from Velez. Aaron, a longtime classical and jazz player from Milwaukee, spends the colder months in Southwest Florida. Velez, a founding member of Spyro Gyra and whose first professional gig was backing Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, moved to Sarasota two years ago from Hawaii.

The program ran nearly 90 minutes. It also included Slide Hampton’s “Frame for the Blues,” the Middle Eastern-tinged “Miserlou,” bassist Ron Carter’s “Little Waltz” (honoring the impact Vienna’s 3/4 dance beat has had on jazz) and Juan Tizol’s Ellington band staple “Caravan.” Buchman’s playing throughout revealed his musical artistry as an inventive pianist with solid, swinging chops.

Gerardo Velez

“Frame for the Blues” was a splendid choice, since the blues form has influenced so much of the world’s music, including jazz and rock. Velez, whose percussive accents and enthusiasm can steal a show, dug into this one with back-to-back solos that featured vocal scatting and harmonica.

The band’s take on “Miserlou” shifted from its traditional exotic rhythm to double-time bebop then back to the original tempo. “Caravan” was an explosive percussion feature for Parr and Velez, with both tandem playing and solo space. They made the most of it.

The afternoon concluded with an encore. “All The Things You Are,” in title and possibilities, summed up the many things that fall under the jazz umbrella.

The Art of Jazz Quintet
Chuck  Parr, Gerardo Velez, Rick Aaron, Bill Buchman, Rob Fors

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A hard-swinging reminder that Woody evolved with the times

The Stardust Memories Big Band paid tribute to the musical legacy of clarinetist and bandleader Woody Herman on Tuesday, March 2 at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs FL. For this evening, and the prior night at Cambier Park in neighboring Naples, bandleader Craig Christman turned the reins over to baritone saxophonist Mike Brignola, who joined the band this season.

The highly regarded bari player was an integral member of Woody's band from 1981 until the leader's death in 1987. Since then, Fort Lauderdale--based Brignola has served as road manager and personnel director for the Woody Herman Orchestra under the leadership of tenor saxophonist Frank Tiberi.

His concert mix resulted in a hard-swinging reminder that Woody Herman evolved with the times over his band's 50-year run. Brignola had a lot from which to choose.Herman and his outfit recorded about 875 tunes between the late 1930s and his death in 1987.

Stardust Memories Big Band in Bonita Springs
His chronological selections included classics like "Woodchopper's Ball" (featuring Christman on clarinet), "Early Autumn" and "Four Brothers," which were a nightly requirement for the Herman band because of their popularity. 

Inn the second half, Brignola worked his way toward things the band recorded in the 1970s and '80s, including Alan Broadbent's arrangement of the Steely Dan hit "Aja"and John Oddo's Herman band arrangement of the Billy Preston song "You Are So Beautiful. The night included 17 Herman-related songs, two of them by written by Duke Ellington (the only big bandleader whose material Herman would perform).

The Stardust Memories Big Band was up to the challenge, and then some, its chairs filled by a slew of southern and central Florida players who are established leaders in their own right. Besides Brignola, they included saxophonist Terry Myers, trumpeter-singer David Pruyn, trumpeter Bob Zottola, pianist Jerry Stawski, and bassist Don Mopsick.

Favorite moments: 

  • The unbridled swing as the band roared through Neal Hefti's "The Good Earth," which he wrote for Herman's band in 1945.
  • Pruyn's frisky vocal take on "I've Got News For You," one of the night's three vocal numbers that honored Herman' regular vocal features.
  •  Brandon Younger's searing tenor sax solo on "Aja." 
  • Trombonist George Mancini's poignant solo on the Preston ballad popularized by singer Joe Cocker. 
  • The solo interplay on a John Fedchock arrangement of Duke's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." Trombonists Mancini and Jeff Lego went head to head, then trumpeters Bob Zottola and Ryan Chapman did the same, before Stawski put an exclamation point on it with his closing solo.

The traditional big band format, with the three horn sections stacked behind each other in close proximity, doesn't lend itself to jazz in the age of pandemic. Christman & Co. offered a pleasing workaround. It spaced the horn players in a half-oval across the width of the bandshell, with the rhythm section set six or more feet behind them. It worked just fine.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Sharing some thoughts - and visuals - on Chick Corea

Has there been a more dominant, restlessly creative jazz explorer over the past 50 years than Chick Corea? I think not.

Chick Corea, Newport, 1998
The Clearwater FL-based pianist, composer, bandleader and educator passed away last Tuesday, February 9, from a rare form of cancer that his family said had only been diagnosed very recently. He was 79. Check out his Facebook posting, which includes a parting message.

The sheer variety of his compositions and band projects still astounds me. After he left trumpeter Miles Davis's band in 1970s to forge his own musical path, Corea's journey took many winding twists and turns. He continued exploring the electronic frontiers of jazz fusion with Return to Forever, and later, his Elektrik Band. 

He kept one foot in tradition but also aimed toward the future with his Akoustic Band, his powerful New Trio with bassist Avashai Cohen and drummer Jeff Ballard, his band Origin with Ballard, Cohen and other daring, young acoustic players, and his Chick Corea & Friends tours with a variety of jazz all-stars. One of the latter, was his 1996 tour and recording with drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Wallace Roney, and saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman celebrating the music of late bebop pianist Bud Powell.

Then there were his duo collaborations with fellow pianist Herbie Hancock, vibraphonist Gary Burton (Crystal Silence), and singer Bobby McFerrin (Play). More recently, 2020's recording Antidote with his Spanish Heart Band won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. It was his 23rd. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2006.

His longtime yearly residencies at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club were legendary. He'd perform for three or four weeks straight, changing the roster and context of his band every night or two. Every time he took to the stage, wherever he played, was a musical adventure. 

Chick at Chick Corea Way
Corea always was creative, right until the end. And all of us were shocked by his unexpected passing. I heard Chick live more than a dozen times over the years. Seven were at the Newport Jazz Festival. Others were in Boston (clubs and festivals), at JazzFest in New Orleans, and Freihofer's Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs NY.

One of those memorable Boston concerts was his 1985 duet tour with Burton. Another Boston-area opportunity to see and hear Chick, without piano, was on May 20, 2001. His hometown, Chelsea MA, honored him that day by renaming one block of Everett Avenue between Arlington and Walnut Streets as Chick Corea Way. Chick was there for the dedication, along with scores of relatives and longtime friends.

Here are some favorite images taken over the years.

Newport 2013, from Jazz in the Key of Light

The New Trio with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard
Saratoga Springs NY, 1998

With Elvin Jones backstage at Newport, August 1982

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Pasquale Grasso visits the other Naples

Italian guitarist Pasquale Grasso grew up in the mountain town of Ariano Irpino, just 49 miles  northeast of the nearest major city, Naples. He's been playing guitar since age 4 and has developed a jazz- and classical-influenced mastery of his chosen instrument that is something to behold.

That talent brought him to another Naples, in southwest Florida, on Wednesday, February 10 for a concert showcasing his swinging artistry. He was special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as part of the sextet's All That Jazz series at Artis-Naples.

Guitar players were not the primary musical influence on young Grasso, who grew up in a southern Italy household that loved jazz. He was inspired by the sound of bebop pianists, including Bud Powell, Elmo Hope and Barry Harris. He won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in 2015, just three years after moving to New York City, where he has enjoyed a busy career as a performer and educator. Pat Metheny, a jazz guitar god for many, is one of Grasso's biggest fans.

Pasquale Grasso
Now 32, Grasso shows a command of his instrument well beyond his age. His warm sound, complex harmonic lines, dexterity and improvisational skills blend into a masterful musicality.

All of those skills were on full display as he and the NPJO dug into nine wide-ranging jazz standards. The resident band includes artistic director Lew Del Gatto on tenor sax, Dan Miller on trumpet, Glenn Basham on violin, Jerry Stawski on piano, Kevin Mauldin on bass and Mike Harvey on drums.

He kicked things off with Powell's bop chestnut "Bouncing With Bud." After the band's romp through Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia," the night heated up even more on "Hey George," a contrafact that Powell built over the chord changes to "Sweet Georgia Brown." It was billed as a drum feature for Harvey, but Grasso's teasing, blistering playing kept pace.

Mauldin, Del Gatto
The band's subdued take on George Gershwin's "Soon" was a beautiful feature for Del Gatto, whose  tenor solos are always thoughtful, never overdone. They then dug into Hope's buoyant "Happy Hour." Basham was in the spotlight with a gorgeous exploration of Mercer Ellington's "Moonbeam."

Grasso treated the audience to some beautiful solo guitar as he put his own creative stamp onn the Richard Rodgers- Lorenz Hart ballad "My Heart Stood Still." While it was written in the 1920s, it retained a beautiful freshness in the 2020s in the guitarist's hands.  

Dan Miller, Mike Harvey

They closed the evening with a strong trumpet feature for Miller on "Star Eyes," followed by an all-hands-on-deck take on the playful "Tea For Two."

Safe seating in Hayes Hall
Because of the pandemic, this season's series was moved from the cozy confines of 275-seat Daniels Pavilion to the 1,700-seat Hayes Hall next door, with room for about 200 attendees with safely-distanced seating, masks required.

Stawski, Grasso, Mauldin, Del Gatto, Miller, Basham

Thursday, February 4, 2021

2021 - Jazz Musicians Felled By Coronavirus, Chapter 4 (updated 4-30-2021)

Here is part four of our chronological listing of jazz-related COVID-19 deaths from the novel coronavirus, updated as we receive them. Our profound sympathies to their families, friends and fans as we remember their musical legacies. Parts one, two and three contain 2020's 63 known losses.
  • Violinist, singer, arranger and educator Zoran Džorlev died January 2, 2021 in Skopje, Macedonia. He was 53. His music ranged from folk and pop to classical and jazz.
  • Latin Grammy-winning bandoneon player and composer Raul Jaurena died January 5. He was 79. He was a master of the button squeezebox that is the quintessential tango instrument. His music was a hybrid of the traditional tango of South America and tango nuevo. He moved from Uruguay to the United States in the 1980s, settling in the New York City area.
  • Trombonist, singer, bandleader and writer Burt Wilson died January 6 at age 87. Wilson started Sacramento’s Silver Dollar Jazz Band in 1949. The band helped incubate the area’s trad jazz scene, which led to formation of the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society and the Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee. Wilson also was a political activist, playwright, and former advertising executive. He moved from his native Sacramento to upstate New York in 2015. He died in a nursing home near Binghamton NY.
    Burt Wilson
  • British pianist, singer and vintage jazz expert Keith Nichols died January 21 in a London hospital. He was 75. He contracted COVID-19 after going into the hospital for unrelated issues.
  • Salt Lake City pianist, composer, singer and educator Courtney Isaiah Smith died January 25. He was 37. The prolific northern Utah musician’s career bridged the jazz, gospel and soul genres. He led his own quintet, worked in other bands and taught jazz piano at Utah State University, The University of Utah, Weber State and Westminster College.
  • African guitarist, singer and songwriter Wambali Mkandawire died January 31 in Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawii. The jazz and afro-beat musician was 70.
  • Czech composer, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and singer Ladislav Štaidl died January 31 in a Prague hospital. He was 75. Štaidl wrote the music for 80 television and feature films, and composed some 200 songs. 
  • Pianist, composer and educator Uli Rennert died February 5 at age 60. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Rennert had lived in Graz, Austria since 1987, and became an Austrian citizen in 1993. He taught at the Jazz Institute at the Arts University of Graz and was also an artist in residence at Basel University in Switzerland. 
  • Trumpeter and bandleader Pauly Cohen died February 10 at home in Tamarac FL. He was 98,. Cohen played lead trumpet with the Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie orchestras. He led his own 18-piece big band in south Florida into his nineties.
  • Austrian concert promoter, tour manager and DJ Erich Zawinul died February 12 in a Vienna hospital at age 55. He was the son of late jazz keyboardist and bandleader Joe Zawinul. He brought a wide range of jazz, pop, rock and country stars to perform in Austria over the years. 
  • Saxophonist Richie Perez, a Bakersfield CA jazz fixture for 70 years, died February 16. He was 86. The Texas-born musician moved with his family to California at age 9. At 15, he auditioned for blues legend Muddy Waters in a Bakersfield motel room for a show that night at Rainbow Garden — and he got the gig. His parents wouldn’t let him go on the road after that singular performance.
  • New Jersey-based saxophonist Sal Spicola died on February 22. He was 72. He started playing saxophone professionally at age 15 for Chuck Berry, and by 19 he was touring with Lionel Hampton’s band. He was an alumnus of the Boston Pops, Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, and the Mike Treni Big Band. He made multiple Broadway shows and tours, including “Cats,” “Me and My Girl,” ”Miss Saigon” and “Starlight Express.”  
  • English singer, pianist and writer Jean Darke died March 4 at age 88. She was the driving force behind Oxford’s Jazz at St Giles concert series, which has raised more than ₤40,000 (approximately $55,000) for charity since she founded it 10 years ago. She also wrote about music for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. Darke contracted Covid-19 in October. She recovered but the virus led to further complications. 
  • Serbian pianist and composer Sanja Ilić died March 7 in Belgrade, 20 days shy of his 70th birthday. Ilić was keyboardist in the Yugoslav band San in the early 1970s. He founded his world music group Balkanika in 1998. The band’s style combined elements of world, folk and medieval music with the strong rhythms of the Balkans into ethno jazz.
  • Singer and pianist Jo Thompson died March 9 in Montclair NJ at age 92. The Detroit native performed well into her 80s in a career that brought her to top cabaret rooms, nightclubs and supper clubs across the U.S. and around the world, often breaking racial barriers in the 1950s. She once was described as the "piano-playing Lena Horne." 
  • Trumpeter Elton Reyes died March 10 at his Okala FL home, where he had been quarantined with COVID-19. He was 43. Over his more than 20-year career, Reyes played lead trumpet in a variety of jazz groups in Central Florida. They included the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra, Phoenix Jazz Orchestra, the Space Coast Jazz Orchestra, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Maynard Ferguson Tribute Band. He also played in salsa bands. 
  • Pianist, composer and bandleader Florentín Giménez died March 11 at age 95 in his native Paraguay. He learned to play the piano and joined Ramón Reyes’ Orchestra in 1945 at age 20. He stayed until 1947, when the Paraguayan Civil War forced him to flee to Argentina. He returned to Paraguay after the war and formed his first orchestra, “Ritmos de América” (America’s Rhythms). In 1950, he formed the 14-member orchestra “Florentín Giménez y su típica Moderna.” Because of his protests against the government, Giménez was labeled a communist and arrested in 1953. He was jailed for several months.  
  • Italian singer, guitarist, bandleader, composer and actor Raoul Casadei died March 13 at Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, where he had been hospitalized since March 2. He was 83.
  • Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Eulalio Cervantes Galarza died March 14 at age 52 in Mexico City. He was a co-founder of the iconic Mexican rock band La Maldita Vecindad. His jazz collaborations included work with pianist Hector Infanzon, and guitarists Bill Laswell and Michael Brook. 
  • Czech pianist, composer and educator Antonin Bilý died March 17 in a Prague hospital at age 81. He taught at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague and was a founding member of Traditional Jazz Studio, a New Orleans-style trad jazz and swing band. 
  • Washington DC-based alto saxophonist Aaron Martin Jr. died March 18. He was 73. The free-jazz improviser was a pillar of the DC jazz community.
  • Trumpeter Cristián Cuturrufo, one of Chile’s most prominent jazz musicians, died March 19 at the Las Condes Clinic in Santiago. He was 48. He was a passionate promoter of jazz, producing the Las Condes Jazz Festival, which presented its 15th edition last month. The 2021 edition was presented online because of the pandemic. Cuturrufo also opened two Santiago jazz clubs, The Jazz Corner and Boliche Jazz.
  • Drummer and educator Buddy Deppenschmidt died March 20 in a hospice near his Doylestown PA home. He was 85. Deppenschmidt co-conceived and performed on the landmark 1962 Charlie Byrd-Stan Getz album Jazz Samba that started America‘s fascination with the bossa nova. The Grammy-winning record was the only jazz album ever to reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.
  • Swedish alto saxophonist, music journalist and playwright Ingmar Glanzelius died March 28 at age 93. He played in a modern jazz quintet that accompanied Stan Getz and Lee Konitz on Sweden tours in the early 1950s. He wrote for Dagens Nyheter, a daily newspaper in Stockholm, until 2004. 
  • Brazilian singer, songwriter and politician Agnaldo Timóteo died April 3 in Rio de Janeiro. He was 84. He sang and recorded in the bolero and bossa nova genres, and had several romantic hits in his more than 50 recordings.  
  • Alto saxophonist Andy Fusco died April 5 in New York at age 73. His battle with COVID-19 last spring compromised his immune system, leading to serious health problems from which he couldn’t recover. The Buddy Rich Band alumnus (1978-1983) also played in the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Steve Smith’s Vital Information. He taught and directed the jazz ensemble at Kean University in Union NJ for 25 years. 
  • Bassist Joe Long died April 21 at age 88. The New Jersey musician, whose birth name was Joseph Louis LaBracio, played bass guitar and sang background vocals in the Four Seasons from 1965 to 1975. Long then started his own rock band, LaBracio, and later formed the jazz band Jersey Bounce. 
  • Actor, singer, guitarist and bandleader Johnny Crawford died April 29 at age 75. He was one of Disney’s original Mousketeers, rose to prominence playing Mark McCain on the ABC-TV western The Rifleman, and was a teen idol pop singer in the 1960s. After a brief stint as the singer with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, he formed the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, an 11-member vintage dance band, in 1990. It recorded one album, 2008’s Sweepin’ the Clouds Away, and perfomed for more than 25 years.
Here are links to Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.