Chu Berry: Age 31 | Cause Of Death: CAR CRASH

Tenor Sax

(b Leon Berry, 13 September 1910, Wheeling, West Virginia,  d. 30 October 1941)

In the early ’30s Berry played tenor saxophone with a number of New York bands, including sessions for Spike Hughes and spells with the bands of Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson. He was in great demand among leaders who were setting up recording and club sessions and played on memorable dates with Roy Eldridge and Lionel Hampton. In 1937, he was added to the star-studded Cab Calloway band, where his musical influence helped build the band’s reputation as a fine jazz outfit (despite the leader’s exhibitionism). A superbly eloquent soloist, Berry’s playing was in the mold of Coleman Hawkins with a rich and emotional sound. However, before he was able to forge a completely distinctive style, he received severe head injuries in a car crash while touring with Calloway and died a few days later.