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Robert Haggart
Bob Haggart
 Embolism
Dec. 2, 1998
Age 84
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Bob Haggart, 84, Jazz Bassist and Arranger

   By PETER WATROUS for the New York Times

Bob Haggart, a bassist and arranger who performed with an extraordinary variety of jazz groups during his nearly 70-year career, died Thursday in a hospital in Venice, Fla., after collapsing on his way to the post office. He was 84 and lived in Venice.

Haggart's long and varied career demonstrated his own vitality as well as that of the music. Not only did he record with some of the greatest black jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Charlie Parker, but he was a mainstay in some of the great white bands as well.

And by the end of his life he had not only participated in the bands and recordings of figures like Bob Crosby, Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, Wingy Manone, Jess Stacy and Jack Teagarden, but had become an important part of the neo-traditionalist movement that he helped start by forming the World's Greatest Jazz Band in 1968 with the trumpeter Yank Lawson. Through the mid-1990s, Haggart was still playing and recording with musicians like Kenny Davern, Bob Wilber, Jane Jarvis and others.

Haggart's success came in part from his ability to perform in all sorts of different contexts, from small jazz groups to larger pop ensembles designed for singers. He worked with the string orchestra of Charlie Parker, and in the large ensembles that backed Sarah Vaughan.

In the small groups his buoyant, swinging playing came to the forefront; at his several appearances at New York's 92nd Street Y in the 1990s, Haggart's playing always enlivened the band, making the music swing harder than it otherwise might have.

His first significant work in jazz was as a bassist with the Bob Crosby band, to which he added not just his bass work but arrangements that often proved to be classics, including "What's New," "South Rampart Street Parade" and "The Big Noise from Winnetka," a duet for bass and drums.

That number, which he composed and recorded with the drummer Ray Bauduc in 1938, opens with drums, has stop-time sections, slapped bass and a rare musical virtuosity. Haggart whistles, Bauduc taps on the bass strings with his sticks, and the effect is casual brilliance.

In 1942 he left the Crosby band to freelance in New York, working in recording studios and in radio and television. During the 1940s Haggart was one of New York's most sought-after musicians, recording and playing with such artists as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

His playing with Armstrong is recorded on the "The Complete Town Hall Concert" of 1947. For the next few decades Haggart drifted in and out of the studios. He worked occasionally with Bob Crosby reunion groups, and recorded with the saxophonist Bud Freeman in 1962.

Born in Manhattan, Haggart, whose full name was Robert Sherwood Haggart, grew up in Douglaston, N.Y. He started playing guitar as a teen-ager and then switched to the double bass when he was 17. He is survived by a son, Bob Haggart Jr. of Sarasota, Fla., and a sister.

In 1968 he formed the World's Greatest Jazz Band with Lawson, a group that in many ways provided inspiration for an entire movement of neo-traditionalists that came to fruition in the 1980s and '90s. In the '90s Haggart recorded regularly with the clarinetist Kenny Davern and the saxophonist Bob Wilber, along with the pianist Jane Jarvis and the saxophonist Rick Fay. In July 1996, he performed in Japan with the World's Greatest Jazz Band. He was also an accomplished painter in oils and watercolors and found a ready market for his work. 

 
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Bob Haggart

b. 13 March 1914, New York City, New York, d. 2 Dec. 1998, FL

    After formal tuition on guitar and informal playing of trumpet and piano, Haggart switched to bass, on which he is self-taught. After playing with various small-time dance bands, he came to national prominence when  he joined the former members of the Ben Pollack unit who were planning their own co-operative band. This new outfit, under the nominal leader-ship of Bob Crosby, became one of the great successes of the swing era, combining as it did the currently popular dance band music with an exhilarating two-beat Dixieland style. Haggart's contribution to the band's success extended far beyond his pivotal role as a member of the sprightly rhythm  section. He arranged several of the band's most popular numbers, including South Rampart Street Parade and Dogtown Blues. Haggart was co-creator, with drummer Ray Bauduc, of a tune on which he whistled sibilantly through his front teeth, and pressed the strings of his bass while Bauduc played on them with his sticks. The unusual effect this produced created a massive hit for the duo and Big Noise From Winnetka remains one of the best-known tunes from the swing era. In 1942 Haggart left the Crosby band, turning to studio work and arranging for many artists, including Louis Armstrong, but he retained his playing connections with former Crosby-band colleague Yank Lawson. In the early '50s the Lawson- Haggart Jazz band became very popular; at the end of the '60s the two men again teamed up to create the  World's Greatest Jazz Band. Haggart remains a popular figure at festivals  and at reunions of the Crosby band, touring the USA and Europe as band-leader and sideman and making records, including some more with Lawson.  He is also responsible for at least one other jazz standard, the ballad What's New?

 
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