Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Louie Bellson (1925 - 2009)
Big Band & Jazz Drummer, Dies at 84

Big band and jazz drummer Louie Bellson, a master musician who performed with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and his late wife, Pearl Bailey, has died. He was 84.

Bellson died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications of Parkinson's disease following a broken hip in November, according to his wife, Francine.

Bellson's career spanned more than six decades, performing on more than 200 albums with jazz greats including Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

It was through Ellington that he met Bailey, the great singer and Broadway performer. They married in 1952, and when she died in 1990 at age 72, he told the Philadelphia Daily News that "I just lost my best friend."

He was designated as a "master of jazz" in 1994 by the National Endowment for the Arts, which said he "ranks among the foremost big-band drummers of the swing and post-swing eras and is best known for his precise technique and the invention of two pedal-operated bass drums."

Bellson wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements in several genres, including jazz, swing, orchestral suites, symphonic works and ballets. As an author, he published more than a dozen books on drums and percussion.

His final recording, "Louie & Clark Expedition 2" with trumpeter Clark Terry, was released last year.

Bellson was born in 1924 in Rock Falls, Ill., son of Italian immigrants whose family name was originally Balassoni. He told Jazz Connection, an Internet magazine, that he was entranced by the sound of drums when his father took him to a parade when he was 3. His father, who eventually opened a music store, taught his son to play drums and other instruments.

Bellson was still in his teens when he pioneered the double bass drum set-up, and two years later he went on to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa drumming contest.

"I've been of the opinion that all a drummer really needs is one bass drum, a snare drum, some tom-toms, a ride cymbal, a crash cymbal, sticks and brushes," Bellson told Jazz Connection. "If you can't do it with that, you better go back to the drawing board. The extra bass drum is frosting on the cake. It doesn't mean that every drummer needs to play two bass drums. For me, it works."

There are tentative plans for a Los Angeles-area memorial service, followed by a funeral and burial in his boyhood home of Moline, Ill., according to his Web site.

On the Net: http://www.louiebellson.info/

Loui Bellson Drum Solo
Performed: With The Duke Ellington Band (1950)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Joe Cuba (1931 - 2009)
"Father of Latin Bugaloo," Dies at 78

Funeral Services for Joe Cuba

Viewing: R & G Ortiz Funeral Home
204 E. 116th Street
, between 3rd & 2nd Avenue

Phone: 212.722.3512

  • Wednesday, February 18th
    from 2:00pm to 10:00pm

  • Thursday, February 19th
    from 2:00pm to 10:00pm
Funeral Mass: Services at St. Paul’s Church
located at 213 E. 117th Street, between Park & Lexington.

  • Friday, February, 20th at 11:00am

Monday, February 16th 2009, 1:27 AM

Salsa pioneer Joe Cuba, who was born the son of a Harlem candy-store owner and grew up to become the "Father of Latin Boogaloo," died Sunday. He was 78.

Cuba died at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan from complications of a bacterial infection, said Cheo Feliciano, a friend and member of the Joe Cuba Sextet.

His death came a day after doctors disconnected him from life support, Feliciano said.
A conga player and band leader, Cuba was a protege of Tito Puente.

He and his band made a splash during the "boogaloo" craze of the 1960s with a string of hits including "Bang Bang" and "El Pito."

Cuba described his music, inspired by life in East Harlem's El Barrio, as having an "R&B feel with Latin rhythms."

"I still play the old stuff because the public asks for it," Cuba told the Daily News in a 1995 interview. "People are coming to see Joe Cuba, the guy who brought all these tunes into their lives."

In April 1999, Cuba was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. In recent years he was director of the Museum of La Salsa in East Harlem.

Stricken by various ailments since the 1970s, Cuba began performing again in 2006.
Feliciano said he spoke to Cuba by telephone just before he died.

"I told him that God has a mission for all of us, and when we've come to the end of the mission, we have to go to the place we came from," Feliciano said.

Monday, February 02, 2009

John "Boy Wonder" Isaacs (1915 - 2009)
Famed "Harlem Rens" Basketball Player

John Isaacs, top, in recent photo @2008 and third from left in Harlem "Rens" team photo.

It’s with deep sorrow that we report the passing of former star Harlem "Rens" basketball player and community leader
John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs. John passed away this morning at the Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx, New York. He had suffered a major stroke last week, from which he never arose. He was 93 years old.

Wake and Viewing Ceremony
Date: Friday, January 30, 2009
Time: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: Granby’s Funeral Home
Street: 4020 White Plains Road (@ 228th Street)City: Bronx, NY
Phone: 718-519-6047

Funeral Service
Date: Saturday, January 31, 2009
Time: 9:30am - 11:00am
Location: Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church
Street: 58 West 135th Street (off Lenox Avenue)
Phone: 212-690-1834

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a contribution be made to the John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs Scholarship Fund in support of education and mentoring for children and young adults:
John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs Scholarship Fund

c/o Karen Isaacs
1011 Sheridan Avenue, No. B16
Bronx, New York 10456

While the corrupt, mob-operated Cotton Club flaunted its patronizing attitude toward African-Americans, the black-owned-and-operated Renaissance Casino celebrated African-American achievements. This is where many of Harlem's more dignified events took place, including the annual awards dinners held by the NAACP's periodical, the Crisis, the magazine that had done the most to define and develop the ideals of the New Negro. Meetings of black unions and clubs were common, including the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Business and Professional Men's Forum. Patrons danced to the jazz licks of the house band fronted by Vernon Andrade, as well as other renowned musicians and entertainers such as the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, Louis Armstrong, Elmer Snowden's band, Rex Stewart, Dickie Wells, Cecil Scott, Roy Eldridge, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. While the Cotton Club rejected the black community, the Renaissance clientele reflected the black community. But most important, it celebrated the black community, from its workers to its artists to its writers.

And the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom had one other thing that the Cotton Club didn't have: an all-black championship basketball team, the "Rens." Between band sets, the dance floor would be cleared and the Rens would play basketball to the enthusiastic cheers of the patrons. When the game was over, the hoops would be stored away and the dancing would continue, sometimes with team members joining the customers on the dance floor. More important, the team barnstormed throughout the Midwest, South, and Northeast. Through the team's athleticism and courage in the face of constant racism, they helped spread the gospel of the Harlem Renaissance without even knowing it.

From On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance. Copyright 2007 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Published by Simon & Schuster.