Monday, March 29, 2010

R.I.P.: Herb Ellis

(born Mitchell Herbert Ellis on August 4, 1921, in Farmersville, Texas, US;
died on March 28, 2010, in Los Angeles, California, US)

Jazz guitarist Herb Ellis dies at 88

Renowned jazz guitarist Herb Ellis, 88, died at his home in Los Angeles on March 28. He had Alzheimer's disease.

The death was confirmed by his son, Mitchell Ellis.

Mr. Ellis was a member during the 1950s of the Oscar Peterson trio, which served as the house recording band for Verve Records and accompanied a who's-who of jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Ben Webster.

It has been said that in Herb Ellis, virtuoso jazz pianist Peterson found his truest musical peer.

Mr. Ellis was a Texan and a disciple of Charlie Christian, the guitar player who innovated horn-like electric guitar solos with the Benny Goodman band. In his youth, Mr. Ellis played with big bands such as Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. In the late 1940s, he started the Soft Winds trio with pianist Lou Carter and bassist Johnny Frigo.

After his five-year stint with Peterson's trio in the 1950s, Mr. Ellis toured with Ella Fitzgerald and then settled in southern California, where he worked in movie and television studios before launching his own small jazz groups.

One of his most memorable venture was creating the Great Guitars with fellow jazz guitarists Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd. At every show, these three peers challenged each other's dexterity in musical conversation.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to Ellis are these words from guitarist Les Paul, who instantly recognized his friend's style during one of Downbeat magazine's infamous blindfold tests.

Paul said, "If you're not swinging, he's gonna make you swing. Of the whole bunch of guys who play hollow-body guitar... I think Herb Ellis has got the most drive."

A full obituary will follow.

--Terence McArdle

More obituaries: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times.
(Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson & Herb Ellis)

Es gibt dieses Album "Doggin' Around" von 1988: Herb Ellis, swingend im Duo mit dem Bassisten Red Mitchell und einem grandiosen Cover von Gary Larson. Das passte perfekt zu einem Gitarristen, der immer ein wenig im Schatten von Barney Kessel und Joe Pass stand, mit Humor, Feeling und einem Augenzwinkern aber seinen Platz in der Jazzgeschichte behauptete.

Der Texaner Herb Ellis begann seine Karriere in den 1940er Jahren in Bigbands wie von Jimmy Dorsey, wurde dann bekannt als Mitglied des klassischen Oscar Peterson Trios in den 1950er Jahren und landete schließlich an der Seite von Ella Fitzgerald und anderen swingenden Koryphäen auf vielen Konzertbühnen der Jazzwelt.

Nach dem aufreibenden Leben als Tourneemusiker ließ er sich in Kalifornien nieder und schreib Musiken für Film- und Fernsehstudios, wenn er nicht mit dem Trio "Great Guitars" unterwegs war oder sich eben zu Gigs wie "Doggin' Around" im "Loa"-Café in Santa Monica einfand. Am 28. März starb Herb Ellis, der unter Alzheimer litt, im Alter von 88 Jahren in Los Angeles.

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