Volume 117, No. 12December, 2017

Muhal Richard Abrams. Photo by Nomo Michael Hoefner


The pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams, 87, died on Oct. 29. He had been a member of Local 802 since 1977. Mr. Abrams was a co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and was highly respected in a variety of styles, including jazz, extended forms of improvisation and classical music.

In the 1950s, Mr. Abrams wrote arrangements for King Fleming’s Jazz Orchestra. From 1957 to 1959, he played hard bop in Walter Perkins’ group MJT+3 and accompanied leading artists during their visits to Chicago, including Kenny Durham, Art Farmer, Hank Mobley, Ray Nance, Max Roach and Sonny Stitt. In 1961, Abrams began his foray into extended forms of composition and improvisation in his Experimental Band, which included Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman.

In 1990 he became the first recipient of the prestigious Danish JAZZPAR Award, and almost a decade later Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley issued a proclamation declaring April 11, 1999, to be Muhal Richard Abrams Day. In 2010, he was selected for the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame. The same year, the NEA selected him to be a Jazz Master.

Abrams’ compositional prowess is evident even beyond jazz. His Tranversion Op. 6 was performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and his String Quartet No. 2 was performed by the Kronos Quartet.

During the last 30 years, Abrams has taught jazz composition and improvisational classes at Columbia University, Syracuse University, Stanford University, Mills College, University of California in San Diego, the New England Conservatory in Boston, and the BMI Composers Workshop in New York City. He also taught internationally in Finland, Canada, and Italy.

He is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Richarda, sisters Dolores Abrams and Alice Rollins; brothers Milton, John, Michael and Mott Christopher; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Obituary information and text from the NEA and

John Berry


John W. Berry Jr., 61, a trumpet player and Local 802 member since 1991, died earlier this year, on June 4. John spent the first four years of his music career – from 1976 to 1980 – on the road with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. In 1981, Mr. Berry moved to Los Angeles and became one of the original members of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Mr. Berry enjoyed a career boost when Jack Mack became the house band for Fox’s “The Late Show” hosted by Joan Rivers and later Arsenio Hall. While in L.A., Mr. Berry built an impressive list of credits on commercials, albums and movies. In 1991, he moved his growing family to the East Coast where he continued to perform and record with artists from all over the world, including Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Glen Frey, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, the Allman Brothers, Southside Johnny and the Eddie Testa Band. He also performed on the soundtracks to “Tuff Turf,” “Police Academy” and “Wild Orchid.” Mr. Berry is survived by his wife Sheri, sons Matt and Michael, daughter-in-law Karisa, grandson Kaiden, father John W. Berry Sr., sisters Jennifer and Elizabeth, brothers Timothy and Christopher, and 11 nieces and nephews. “Rock on in the heavens, my dear husband,” wrote Sheri in an e-mail to Allegro. “Thank God we were blessed with your presence. We will love you FOREVER.”


John Buckingham, tuba
Bert Gilman, saxophone
Charles Loeb, guitar
Virginia McGrath, bass
Carl Nutter, arranger
Samuel Richards, saxophone
Steve Tubin, piano

To report the death of a member, please call Avelon Ramnath at (212) 245-4802. Be sure to ask about the union’s death benefit. E-mail obituaries to Mikael Elsila. Survivors should also call the AFM Pension Fund at (800) 833-8065, option 2 to ask about any benefits.