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Albert Thornton Grey
Al Grey
March 24, 2000
Age 74
Diabetes 
 
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Al Grey, 74, a Sly Trombonist Who Played With Count Basie
 
                By BEN RATLIFF 

                     The trombonist Al Grey, a member of the Count Basie band through 
                     various stretches from 1957 to 1977 and a strong, humorous 
                improviser, died on Friday at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 74 
                and lived in Great Neck, N.Y.  

                The cause was complications from diabetes, said his companion, Rosalie 
                Soladar.  

                Mr. Grey exemplified the musicians that Basie sought and cultivated: a 
                disciplined section player who could also step forward for solos and 
                transcend that role with style.  

                His signature was the plunger mute, and he used it swaggeringly, making 
                his malingering, behind-the-beat notes plump and juicy. He knew how to 
                insinuate slyness into standards and ballads, but he was probably at his 
                best on the blues; he needed a tenacious rhythm section as a bed for his 
                authoritative dance-band riffs.  

                He joined the band at the beginning of Basie's tenure with Roulette 
                records and played with it through the 60's -- the last great decade of 
                Basie music -- except for a stint as lead a small group with the 
                saxophonist Billy Mitchell. Along with the tenor saxophonist Eddie 
                (Lockjaw) Davis, Mr. Grey was a principal soloist for the band in the 
                late 60's; some of his best work can be heard on the 1966 album 
                "Sinatra at the Sands," with the Basie band accompanying Frank Sinatra, 
                as well as the recording of a performance of the band from the same Las 
                Vegas engagement, "Count Basie Live at the Sands (Before Frank)."  

                Mr. Grey was born in Aldie, Va., and learned to play trombone from his 
                father, an instructor for a youth orchestra in Pottstown, Pa. He worked in 
                a Navy band during World War II, and musicians he encountered there 
                recommended him to Benny Carter, whose band he joined in 1946.  

                After the Basie years Mr. Grey was a busy freelancer. He led a band 
                with the saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, and of another with his son, Mike, 
                also a trombonist. He toured a little with Norman Granz's Jazz at the 
                Philharmonic and played with George Wein's Newport All-Stars.  

                In addition to his son Mike, of Las Vegas, he is survived his sons Albert 
                Jr., Ernest and Robert, of Philadelphia; a brother, Richard, of Reading, 
                Pa.; a sister, Jenny Beck of Philadelphia; and four grandchildren. 

       

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 Open letter from an old friend
           God, I just found about about Al 3-24-2000. Nobody told me. I last saw Al at 
      Carnegie Hall on 10-6-99 when Tony Bennett did his concert there re: Duke 
      Ellington. There is a very special relationship between Al and I for we share 
      the same birthday 6-6. His in 1926 and mine in 1937. I had the very distinct 
      pleasure of playing with Al in 1976 at Jack Teagardens House on a Sunday 
      afternoon in 1976. You see, Jack had a complete recording studio in his 
      house. All were there, Mr. Armstrong, Pete Fountain, Don Hewell, Nappy 
      LaMare, Charlie "Little "T", myself, Of course Al Grey and many more. I will 
      always remember Al for that great flashing smile and his personality. To his 
      son Mike I say I only wish I could have known him longer. I remember the days 
      when we would celebrate out mutual birthday by having a bagel & iced tea in 
      Santa Monica early in the morning. Dear Al, you have done so many things that 
      it makes me immensely proud to have known you and even more to have you as a 
      friend. May you now rest in peace knowing that there will never be another. 
      One time just as Frank Sinatra told Tony Bennett that he was the best 
      baritone of the 20th century, You, Mr. "G" were and are the greatest slide 
      trombone player of the 20th century. God, I love you so much. RIP
      Joe Domke
      28936 Flowepark Drive.
      Canyon Country, Ca 91351
  
    
  
 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 
Born: June 6 , 1925 in Aldie, VA
Died: March 24, 2000 in Scottsdale, AZ
       
      Al Grey's trademark phrases and often-humorous use of the plunger mute 
      have long made him quite distinctive. After getting out of the service, he was 
      with the orchestras of Benny Carter (1945-46), Jimmie Lunceford (1946-47), 
      Lucky Millinder and Lionel Hampton (off and on during 1948-53). Grey was a 
      well-featured soloist with the classic Dizzy Gillespie globetrotting orchestra 
      during 1956-57 (taking an exciting solo at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival on 
      a blazing version of "Cool Breeze"). He was with Count Basie's Orchestra on 
      three separate occasions (1957-61, 1964-66 and 1971-77), led a band with 
      Billy Mitchell in the early '60s and had a group with Jimmy Forrest after leaving 
      Count in 1977. In recent years Grey has performed and recorded often with  
      Clark Terry, made a CD with the Statesmen of Jazz and for a time led a quintet 
      that featured his son Mike Grey on second trombone. Al Grey recorded as a  
      leader for Argo (1959-64), Tangerine, Black & Blue, Stash, Chiaroscuro and  
      Capri and co-led an excellent Pablo date in 1983 with J.J. Johnson. -- Scott Yanow, All Music Guide 
       
 
 
  
 
 

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