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  Fuller Up, The Dead Musician Directory

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Eddie Lang  Chick Webb
Stéphane Grappelli Tony Williams

 
 
 

 

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Eddie Lang: Age 29
Born: October 25, 1902, Philadelphia
Died: March 26, 1933, New York, NY

Eddie Lang was the first Jazz guitar virtuoso. A boyhood friend of Joe Venuti, Lang took violin lessons for 11 years but switched to guitar before he turned professional in 1924 with the Mound City Blue Blowers. He was soon in great demand for recording dates, both in the jazz world and in pop settings. His sophisticated European sounding chord patterns made him a unique accompanist, but he was also a fine soloist. He often played with violinist Venuti and with Red Nichols's Five Pennies , Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke (most memorably on the song "Singin' the Blues"). He played in many orchestras including Roger Wolfe Kahn , Jean Goldkette and with Paul Whiteman (appearing on one short number with Venuti in Whiteman's 1930 film "The King of Jazz"). Lang was a versatile player who could back Blues singers, play Classical music, and jam with the greatest musicians of his day. He was the house guitarist at Okeh from 1926 to 1933.  Using the pseudonym of Blind Willie Dunn, Lang often teamed up with Blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson. Eddie Lang led several dates of his own between 1927 and 1929, including an interesting session with King Oliver and Johnson, under the name of Blind Willie Dunn and his Gin Bottle Four. He worked regularly with Bing Crosby during the early 1930s and is appears briefly with him in the film "The Big Broadcast". Tragically his premature death was caused by a poorly performed operation, where he lost too much blood during a routine tonsillectomy. Bing was deeply disturbed by Lang's death, not only because he suddenly lost one of his best friends, and most talented sidemen, but because he had personally urged Lang to have the operation. ~redhotjazz

Chick Webb:Age 30
  born: William Henry Webb
Born Feb 10, 1909  Baltimore, MD
Died Jun 16, 1939 in Baltimore, MD
 

Chick Webb represented the triumph of the human spirit in jazz and life. Hunchbacked, small in stature, almost a dwarf with a large face and broad shoulders, Webb fought off congenital tuberculosis of the spine in order to become one of the most competitive drummers and bandleaders  of the big band era. Perched high upon a platform, he used custom-made pedals, goose-neck cymbal holders, a 28-inch bass drum and a wide variety of other percussion instruments to create thundering solos of a complexity and energy that paved the way for Buddy Rich (who studied Webb  intensely) and Louie Bellson. ... In 1935, Webb hired the teenaged Ella Fitzgerald after she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre, became her legal guardian, and rebuilt his show around the singer, who provided him with his biggest hit record, "A Tisket-A-Tasket," in 1938. The band's fame continued to grow, fueled by its reputation as a giant-killer in the Savoy battles and a continuous string of Decca 78s that featured such irresistible numbers as "T'aint What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)" and the B-side of "Tasket," "Liza."  But Webb's precarious health began to give way, and after a major operation in Johns Hopkins  Hospital in Baltimore, he died (his last words reportedly were, "I'm sorry, I've got to go."). After  Webb's death, Fitzgerald fronted the the band until it finally broke up in 1942. -- Richard S. Ginell,  All-Music Guide

 
 

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Tony Williams: Age 51
Died: February 23, 1997

Innovative jazz drummer Tony Williams dead at 51

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) -- Tony Williams, who set the standard for modern jazz drumming as a teen prodigy with the Miles Davis Quintet and later became a seminal figure in jazz-rock fusion, has died of a heart attack. He was 51.

Williams had been recovering from minor gall bladder surgery performed Friday, said his publicist, Kirk Tanksley. He died Sunday.

Born in Chicago and raised in Boston, Williams began playing drums with his father when he was eight, learning his craft from musicians such as Art Blakey and Max Roach. Davis invited the 17-year-old prodigy to join his band in 1963.

Williams played with Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Wayne Shorter until 1968, collaborating on 13 albums.

Williams grew restless with Davis's band and formed what many consider to be the first jazz-rock fusion group, Lifetime, with guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young.

The group released the innovative record Once in a Lifetime (Verve), but Williams, disillusioned by criticism of his retreat from pure jazz, stopped performing in 1972.

He returned four years later to back Hancock's band, V.S.O.P.

After moving from New York to San Francisco in the mid-'70s, Williams began studying classical composition at Berkeley.

His manager, Greg DiGiovine, said Williams pioneered the use of melodies and counter-rhythm in percussion, and incorporated blues, country and classical music into his style.

"He had accomplished so much and he changed the style of drumming so dramatically that everyone was hard-pressed to understand or catch up to him, even today," DiGiovine said.

"In the musicians' world, a lot of people come and go and they end up being a footnote," he said. "But in the world of drums, Tony was a legend and everybody knew it. There's nobody who could touch him."

Williams also drummed for Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane. His recordings include Believe It, Joy of Flying, Million Dollar Legs and Once in a Lifetime.

He won his only Grammy in 1995 for The Tribute to Miles Davis, a reunion recording with Hancock, Carter and Shorter.

His most recent album, Wilderness, featured a fusion of jazz and classical music, and included contributions from Hancock, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker and Stanley Clarke.

Williams is survived by his wife, Colleen, and his mother, Alyse Janez.

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Stéphane Grappelli: Age 89
Born: January 26,1908 in Paris
Died: December 1,1997

  PARIS (Reuters) - French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, whose lively,elegant style captivated audiences for more than a half a century, died in Paris Monday after undergoing a hernia operation. He was 89.  


When the music magazine Down Beat first asked readers in 1936 to name their favorite jazz players, violinist Stephane Grappelli was prominent among them.   Here's a far more impressive fact: In the magazine's 1996 poll, 60 years later, his name was still there.  That was no "lifetime achievement award," either, for Grappelli was still making the sweet swing music that characterized his long career, still touring regularly and making records, still sitting in on jazz sessions around the world.  

In 1993 a stroke caused him to miss just a month of performances; in 1994 surgery to replace a vein in his neck only cost him two months off stage. Almost literally until his death this week at the age of 89, Grappelli was a constant, vigorous figure in the world of jazz.  One of the first and greatest European jazzmen, Grappelli studied classical violin on scholarship at the Paris Conservatoire but fell in love with recordings of Louis Armstrong and Joe Venuti - choosing to play their music on violin, he said, because there wasn't nearly as much competition as among sax players.  

Wandering the streets playing for food and spare change in 1929, he connected with the Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, forming the nucleus of the Hot Club Quintet that popularized American-style jazz on the Continent in the 1930s.  Grappelli's contribution to jazz is perhaps as well chronicled as any in history: He recorded more than 100 albums filled with Gershwin and Cole Porter, with "Stardust" and "Satin Doll."  His love of the music and the performer's life was the stuff of legend.  "I will play until the final curtain," he once promised. When the final  curtain fell, he had recently finished yet another tour, and his music  was still playing around the world. ~The Fresno Bee

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