Bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw died Dec. 29 at the age of 94, apparently of natural causes. In the 1930s and '40s, Shaw's band ranked with the Goodman, Dorsey and Miller bands in popularity. But he largely rejected pop tunes and stuck with music by composers like Porter, Gershwin and Berlin. We remember Shaw.
We remember band leader and composer Mercer Ellington, the son of Duke Ellington. He perpetuated the big band tradition his father made famous as head of the Duke Ellington Band. When he was a young man, Mercer Ellington had hoped to break into his father's band on the saxophone. But after years of frustration, he could see that he would never crack the legendary Ellington reed section. He finally was accepted as a trombone player and later played french horn and trumpet. With the death of his father in 1974, Mercer Ellington took over his father's orchestra.
Arranger and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan died Saturday, January 20th, from complications due to surgery. He was 68. We will rebroadcast a 1989 interview with him. Mulliagn was an innovator in modern jazz orchestration. Early in his career he was staff arranger for Gene Krupa's big band. In 1949 he collaborated with Gil Evans and Miles Davis in the Nonet. The nine-piece band shook up jazz arrangers and launched the era of so-called cool jazz. He achieved international acclaim when he started a "pianoless" quartet with trumpeter Chet Baker in the early 1950's.