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 Post subject: Obituary: Louie Bellson/Drummer played with bigband greats
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:10 pm 
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:
Obituary: Louie Bellson / Drummer who played with big-band greats
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
By Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

Louie Bellson, a jazz drummer and bandleader who combined remarkable instrumental virtuosity with far-ranging compositional skills, has died. He was 84.

According to his wife Francine, Mr. Bellson died Saturday at a Los Angeles hospital of complications of Parkinson's disease following a broken hip in November.

Mr. Bellson's productive career stretched from his teen years to the tours and seminars he continued until 2008.

Best known as a superlative big-band drummer as a result of his work in the 1940s and '50s with Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Duke Ellington and others, Mr. Bellson was also an adept small group player. His more than 200 recorded appearances as leader and sideman encompass sessions with Jazz at the Philharmonic, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, James Brown and dozens of others, including Ellington's Big Four alongside guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Ray Brown.

Mr. Bellson often said that he regarded his tenure with Ellington as one of the significant points in his career. Performing with the orchestra in the early '50s triggered a forward leap in his development as an instrumentalist and his confidence as a composer.

A pair of his best-known big band works, "The Hawk Talks" and "Skin Deep," became staples of the Ellington repertoire.

Mr. Bellson was born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, on July 6, 1924, in Rock Falls, Ill., to Italian immigrants. Drawn to percussion as early as age 3, he was urged by his father, who owned a music store, to study keyboards, harmony and theory.

Still in his teens, the young Mr. Bellson was hired by Goodman.

After serving in the Army for three years, Mr. Bellson returned to the Goodman band in 1946 for a year before moving on to play with Tommy Dorsey and James. The arrival of bebop, however, shifted the jazz world's orientation toward smaller groups and a different style of rhythm playing. He was an instrumentalist and percussionist, more than simply a drummer, and immediately sought ways to adapt his own technique to the emerging styles.

While performing with Ellington from 1951 to 1953, Mr. Bellson met and married singer Pearl Bailey. Their interracial marriage, rare for the early '50s, coincided with Mr. Bellson's presence as the only white member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

He spent the next few decades alternating between leading his own small groups and big bands, serving as Bailey's music director and occasionally returning to work as a sideman. A stint with Count Basie in 1961 was followed by a return to Ellington, performing the Concerts of Sacred Music that Ellington described as "the most important thing I've ever done."

After Bailey's death in 1990, Mr. Bellson continued his growing activities as a jazz educator, while leading various-sized ensembles, including a pair of on-call big bands available for performances on both coasts. His most recent recordings include "The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson and the Jazz Ballet" and "The Louie and Clark Expedition 2" with trumpeter Clark Terry.

Mr. Bellson wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements, including ballet music, sacred music, "The London Suite," the "Concerto for Jazz Drummer and Full Orchestra" and a Broadway musical, "Portofino," in addition to his numerous big-band charts and small ensemble pieces. He wrote more than a dozen books and booklets on drums and percussion.


RIP to a true legend. :B

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 Post subject: Re: Obituary: Louie Bellson/Drummer played with bigband greats
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:44 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Obituary: Louie Bellson/Drummer played with bigband greats
PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:54 pm 
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I recognize a few people he's worked with. RIP


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 Post subject: Re: Obituary: Louie Bellson/Drummer played with bigband greats
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:12 pm 
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Some amazing accomplishments in his lifetime. R.I.P.

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