Research Guru / Moderator
Mar 29, 2010, 7:17 PM
Jazz guitarist Herb Ellis, the only white member of the Oscar Peterson Trio, died Sunday at his Los Angeles home of Alzheimer's disease, his son Michael confirmed. He was 88.
Legendary jazz guitarist Herb Ellis dead at 88
In the 1950s, Ellis was part of the trio (along with pianist Peterson and bassist Ray Brown) at a time when racism was still very much widespread. The house recording band for Verve Records, the Oscar Peterson Trio worked with such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Ben Webster.
The three provided a stirring rendition of "Tenderly" as a jazz improvisational backdrop to John Hubley's 1958 cartoon The Tender Game, Storyboard Films' version of the age-old story of boy falling head over heels for girl.
With fellow jazz guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd and Joe Pass, he created another ensemble, the Great Guitars. Ellis and Kessel's performance of the theme from Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMrv9aXOCnA.
Born Mitchell Herbert Ellis on August 4, 1921 in Farmersville, Texas, he attended North Texas State University from 1941 to 1943, where his classmates included Jimmy Giuffre, Gene Roland and Harry Babasin. He worked with such groups as the Casa Loma Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey and the Soft Winds Trio while establishing himself as one of the most technically accomplished of jazz guitarists.
Ellis recorded, toured or appeared on TV with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Della Reese, Steve Allen, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye. He had over 30 solo recordings on the Justice, Concord, Pablo, Verve and Columbia labels, as well as various group recordings with Peterson and others.
In the late 1980s, he moved to Arkansas to enjoy semi-retirement from the frantic pace of a musician's life in Los Angeles. Until returning to L.A., he lived in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, where he ran his own music publishing/education/production business, Herb Ellis Music.
Since coming to Arkansas, he was anything but retired. He gave many promising young jazz musicians around Arkansas a chance to perform and learn from a master jazz artist. He gave strength to jazz in Arkansas by performing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Monday Jazz Series, the Eureka Springs Jazz Festival, the Wildwood Jazz Festival and Wildwood Music Festival, the Hot Springs Jazz and Blues Festival, the Arkansas Jazz and Heritage Foundation Concert Series, and in many other jazz venues around the state.
In 1993, he was presented with the Arkansas Travel certificate, making him an ambassador for Arkansas in his travels around the United States and the world.
"If you're not swinging, he's gonna make you swing," guitarist Les Paul once said. "Of the whole bunch of guys who play hollow-body guitar... I think Herb Ellis has got the most drive."
[Via Washington Post -- voices.washingtonpost.com/postmortem/2010/03/jazz-guitarist-herb-ellis-dies.html]
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Mar 30, 2010, 12:13 PM)