COVID-19 Claims The Lives Of Countless Artists


Ellis Marsalis performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 7, 2017.

(Photo: Erika Goldring)

Free-jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Giuseppi Logan died April 17 in New York at age 84. His passing was related to COVID-19. After an auspicious start to his career on the 1960s avant-garde scene, the Philadelphia-born Logan, like Grimes, disappeared from public life for decades before making a comeback in 2009.

Bassist Andy González, who was famous for the influential Latin-jazz recordings he made with the Fort Apache Band, died on April 9. He was 69. During his long career, González worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Eddie Palmieri, Steve Turre, Papo Vazquez, Bill O’Connell, Ray Barretto, Arturo O’Farrill and others.

Bucky Pizzarelli, acclaimed jazz guitarist and father of guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli, passed away on April 1 at age 94. The cause of death was confirmed as the coronavirus.

As a leader, Pizzarelli released the albums Green Guitar Blues (1972), Love Songs (1981), April Kisses (1999) and Back In The Saddle Again (2009). Father and son recorded numerous albums together, including Contrasts, Generations and Family Fugue, all released on the Arbors label. Other collaborators over the years included Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, George Barnes, Dick Hyman, Stéphane Grappelli, Zoot Sims, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Stanley Jordan and Paul McCartney.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, as John Pizzarelli, the guitarist received the nickname “Bucky” as a youngster from his father. He was a member of the house band for The Tonight Show in the late 1960s and early ’70s, working with bandleader Skitch Henderson and then Doc Severinsen. Pizzarelli frequently performed on a guitar designed with a seventh string, allowing him to play an additional bass line. Revered by fellow guitarists and fans of straightahead jazz and standards, Pizzarelli performed at the White House for two presidents: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Trumpeter Wallace Roney—a generous straightahead bandleader whose career put him in the path of legends like Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea—died March 31 at age 59 due to complications from COVID-19.

Born in Philadelphia, Roney began playing trumpet at age 5 and took lessons as a child with Clark Terry. His first album as a leader, 1987’s Verses, set the stage for the rest of his career, both as a player of dazzling intellect with a sharp, resolute tone, and as an artist who relished working with jazz musicians of a previous generation, as well as mentoring younger players. A crucial moment in Roney’s career unfolded when producer Quincy Jones invited him to help rehearse with Miles Davis’ band prior to a performance at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. Davis was so impressed by what he heard that he invited Roney to sit in for the concert, which was released as a live album. Roney earned a Grammy paying tribute to his mentor on 1994’s A Tribute To Miles, which featured a band consisting of players from Davis’ past.

Pianist Mike Longo, best known for his long tenure with Dizzy Gillespie’s band, died on March 22 in New York at age 81. His health was compromised by COVID-19.

Manu Dibango—the Cameroonian saxophonist who recorded the global hit “Soul Makossa” and helped expand African music’s reach by fusing it with jazz, funk, r&b and reggae—died March 24 at age 85 after contracting COVID-19.

Saxophonist Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, a pillar of the Philadelphia jazz scene, fell victim to the coronavirus on April 22. The brawny-toned tenor saxophonist and bandleader—known for his work in bebop groups—was 82.

Rock bassist Matthew Seligman, who was a member of The Soft Boys and later worked with Thomas Dolby and David Bowie, died April 17 in London after being admitted to the hospital with symptoms of COVID-19. He was 64.

Gospel singer and Grammy nominee Troy Sneed died of complications from COVID-19 on April 27 at age 52. Sneed’s latest album, All My Best, was released last year. DB

Marcelo Peralta, an Argentine saxophonist known for combining elements of the avant-garde with traditional South American music styles, died of complications from COVID-19 on March 10 in Madrid, Spain. He was 59.

Eddy Davis, a Grammy-winning banjo player and bandleader who performed frequently with filmmaker/clarinetist Woody Allen, died April 7 in New York due to complications from the coronavirus. He was 79.

Film and TV music producer Hal Willner, known for his work assembling tribute albums and creating movie soundtracks, as well as his long-running gig on Saturday Night Live, died April 7 after suffering from what appeared to be coronavirus symptoms. He was 64.

Among the other artists who have succumbed to COVID-19 are folk music legend John Prine, April 7, age 73; Somalian oud player Ahmed Ismail Hussein, April 7, age 91; and Denver-area saxophonist Freddy Rodriguez Sr., March 25, age 89. DB

Updated June 3

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