Thursday, November 26, 2020

Jazz musicians felled by coronavirus - Chapter 3 (updated 12-28-2020)

Here is part three 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.

  • Vibraphonist and xylophonist Ian Finkel died November 16 in Manhattan after a protracted battle with COVID-19. He was 72. Finkel dubbed himself “the world’s greatest xylophonist.” He was also a composer, arranger, musical director and author.
  • Guitarist and educator Bobby Cairns died November 21 in Edmonton, Canada. He was 78. He started playing professionally at age 15 with pianist Tommy Banks. Cairns headed the guitar program at Grant MacEwan College for 38 years. He retired in 2008.   
  • Promoter, broadcaster, writer and Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz co-founder Russ Neff died November 28 in Lancaster PA. He was in his 70s. He hosted jazz radio programs on WITF and WMSP, and wrote about music for the Harrisburg Patriot-News. Neff worked with CPFJ and Gretna Music to spotlight the local jazz scene and bring renowned performers to the Harrisburg area.
  • Broadcaster Carlos Gaivar died December 1 in south Florida. He was 74. After many decades working at radio and TV stations in Washington DC (including WAMU-FM, WETA-FM and WJLA-TV), and Los Angeles (KNX Newsadio), the Brooklyn NY native retired and moved to the Miami area in 2018.
  • Scottish bassist Ron Mathewson died December 3 in London at age 76. He was best known for his longtime work with saxophonist and London club owner Ronnie Scott, but also performed with Phil Woods, Gordon Beck, Tubby Hayes, and the Charlie Watts and Kenny Clark-Francy Boland big bands, among others.  
  • Multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator Bassam Saba, president of the Lebanese National Conservatory, died on December 4 in Beirut. He was 61. Saba was a leading figure in Arab music. His collaborations included work with classical, pop and jazz musicians, the latter including Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. He played oud, violin and nay (an Arab flute).
  • Saxophonist and educator Ed Xiques died December 4 in New York. He was 81. He was a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in the 1970s and also worked with Frank Foster, McCoy Tyner, Bill Watrous, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Maria Schneider among others. He taught music in New York schools in the 1960s and more recently at Vassar College.
  • Traditional jazz banjoist Jack Kuncl died December 7 at age 86. He was a member of the Chicago-based Salty Dogs Jazz Band since 1969. He also played with the Chicago Cubs Dixieland Band, Roy Rubinstein’s Hot Six and The Dixie Stompers. 
  • Composer, pianist, drummer and poet Harold Budd died December 8. The Los Angeles native was 84. His work over the years included jazz, avant garde, contemporary classical and minimalist and pop  music, including film and TV scores.   
  • Belgian jazz and blues guitarist, singer and educator François Monseur died in his hometown, Liege, on December 10. He was 74.
  • Croatian guitarist Damir Kukuruzović died December 12. He was 45. He was the founder and leader of the Siscia Jazz Club, which put his city, Sisak, on the jazz map. Kukuruzović organized numerous jazz festivals in Croatia, including the Siscia Open Jazz & Blues Festival. In 2011, he was named the most prominent acoustic jazz guitarist in Croatia.   
  • Bassist and composer Lelio Giannetto died December 19 in Palermo, Italy. He was 59. He founded Curva Minor, an association for the dissemination of innovative music.
  • Alabama-based concert organizer Bernard Lockhart died December 21. He was 59.  He founded  Birmingham’s Jazz in the Park series at Avondale Park in 2010. The series later spread to other parks in Birmingham and at least four other Alabama cities. Lockhart was CEO of Magic City Smooth Jazz and helped stage the Taste of Fourth Avenue Jazz Festival on Fourth Avenue North, Birmingham’s historic Black business district, in 2011. 
  • Composer, pianist and singer Armando Manzanero, one of Mexico’s most revered songwriters, died in Mexico City on December 28. He was 85. He wrote more than 400 songs, many of them romantic ballads that were covered by a wide range of artists, including Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley. Those gems included “It’s Impossible” and “Yesterday I Heard the Rain.”  
  Here are links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

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