Ray Alexander – Drums/Vibraphone
Henry Baigelman – Saxophone
Ray Brown – Bass
Robert Cadway – Guitar
Winston Collymore – Violin
Noel G. Da Costa – Violin/Composer
Matt Dennis – Piano
Sidney Fine – Arranger
Frank Floyd – Guitar
Gene Gardner – Drums/Percussion
Ben Ginsberg – Bass/Arranger/Copyist
Helen Goldstein – Piano
William L. Johnson, Sr. – Guitar
Nat Kappel – Saxophone/Reeds
Igor Kipnis – Harpsichord
Frank La Sala – Violin
Jimmy Lamarr – Piano
Esther Mullen – Violin
Bob Norman – Bass
Truck Parham – Bass
Paul Ringe – Drums
Carolyn M. Snell – Vocalist
Ray Alexander, 77, a jazz drummer and vibraphonist, died on June 8. He had been an 802 member for almost 60 years.
He began playing the piano as a child, and took up the drums at 16. As a drummer, he played with Claude Thornhill, Bobby Byrne, the Dorsey Brothers, Stan Getz, Joe Venuti, Mel Torme, Johnny Smith, Chubby Jackson and many others. He later switched to the vibraphone and worked with such artists as George Shearing, Charlie Barnet, Bill Evans, Anita O’Day and Mel Lewis.
He also worked with his own quartet in jazz clubs such as Birdland, the Embers and Basin Street East. In the early ’70s he joined with drummer Mousey Alexander to form “Alexanders the Great,” a quartet which played many clubs and concerts. In recent years he played various jazz clubs in New York and along the East coast, as well as college concerts and jazz festivals. In the summers he played jazz venues and festivals in Europe.
He recorded three albums featuring his works – Cloud Patterns, Rain in June and Vigorous Vibes. He taught jazz for 25 years at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, where he received an honorary doctorate.
Mr. Alexander is survived by his wife Joan, sons Russell (also an 802 member) and Neil, and grandchildren Angelique and Victoria.
A memorial for Ray Alexander is set for Sunday, July 21, from 1 to 6 p.m., at Five Towns College (305 North Service Road, Dix Hills, N.Y.). There will be food (and BYOB alcohol), and a full bandstand will be available for people to play.
Ray Brown, 75, a jazz bassist who played on more than 2,000 recordings and accompanied such performers as Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and his wife, Ella Fitzgerald, died on July 2. He had joined Local 802 in 1948.
A masterful soloist, accompanist and composer, Mr. Brown was enormously influential. He expanded the parameters of the bass, transforming the instrument’s technical and emotional range.
Mr. Brown was born in Pittsburgh, and began studying the piano at 8. In high school he switched to bass, and soon was appearing in local bands. After graduation he worked in several “territory” bands, but soon moved to New York and joined the pioneering bebop quintet led by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. With Gillespie’s big band, he recorded such hits as “Emanon” and “Night in Tunisia.” After leaving Gillespie, Mr. Brown formed his own trio with Hank Jones and Charlie Smith.
In 1951, he began an association with Norman Granz and Jazz at the Philharmonic that lasted for 18 years. He married Ella Fitzgerald, who was also performing in the series. They divorced in 1953, but he became her music director in later years.
In the early ’50s Mr. Brown recorded with the Milt Jackson Quartet, forerunner of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and also began to perform with pianist Oscar Peterson and guitarist Herb Ellis. He remained with the Peterson trio until 1966 when, tired of traveling, he settled on the West Coast, where he became a freelance and studio musician. He was a mainstay of Frank Sinatra’s television specials, appeared regularly on The Merv Griffin Show, and served as director of the Monterey Jazz Festival for two years.
In the late 1960s, he composed the Grammy Award-winning “Gravy Waltz,” which became the theme song of The Steve Allen Show. He appeared as a guest on hundreds of albums, and was equally notable as the leader of his own bands, with which he recorded dozens of albums. He was a mentor to many young musicians.
He is survived by his wife Cecilia and his son, Ray, Jr.
Winston Collymore, 89, a violinist and an 802 member since 1936, died on June 13 in Morehead City, N.C., where he had retired.
Mr. Collymore made his musical debut at Aeolian Hall in New York at the age of eight. He attended Dewitt Clinton High School, where he was concert master of the student orchestra, and then studied at the Martin Smith School of Music and the Juilliard School. He was a veteran of World War II.
Mr. Collymore’s professional career encompassed many fields. As a classical violinist, he worked in many of the city’s freelance orchestras, and taught privately. He became a contractor and side musician in recording studios, Broadway theatres and on the concert stage, playing with such artists as Harry Belafonte, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. He played in the orchestra for Alvin Ailey Ballet Theatre for several seasons and with the Radio City Music Hall orchestra for 11 years. Throughout his career, he opened many doors for African American musicians, and especially string players – on the club scene, in symphonies, Broadway theatres, radio and television, and the recording industry.
He is survived by his wife Emily, daughter Valerie, sons Winston, Jr., and Stan, and four grandchildren.
Noel Da Costa
Noel Da Costa, 82, a composer, violinist, choral conductor and professor at Rutgers University, died on April 29. He had been an 802 member since 1957.
Mr. Da Costa was born in Nigeria to Jamaican parents. The family moved to Harlem when he was 10 or 11. He attended Queens College and Columbia University and won a Fulbright Scholarship to study music with Luigi Dallapiccola in Florence, Italy.
A founding member of the Society of Black Composers, Mr. Da Costa wrote music that drew from the American classical tradition, spirituals and African folk music. His compositions include works for a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations, and many reflect his knowledge of African, West Indian, and Afro-American folk traditions. His compositions include Ceremony of Spirituals, Five Versus with Vamps, Primal Rites, Preludes for Trombone and Piano, and Blue Memories. He also set poems by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen and others.
He began teaching in 1961 at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., and later taught at Hunter College and Queens College in New York before joining the faculty of Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1970, where he taught for three decades.
Beginning in 1975, he conducted the Triad Chorale in concerts at Hunter College, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Town Hall, Symphony Space and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.
Mr. Da Costa is survived by his wife Patricia, son Richard, daughter Halima, sisters Lily and Lorna and brother Lloyd.
Gene Gardner, 66, a jazz percussionist and a member of Local 802 since 1985, died on May 1. He had played an important role as a leader of the Jazz Foundation of America’s Monday night jam sessions, which have been held in the 802 Club Room for a number of years.
Born in Newark, Mr. Gardner began playing the drums at the age of 7, attended the New York School of Music, and played drums in the Morris High School senior band. During his Marine Corps Service, he played in the Drum & Bugle Corps. His teachers included Papa Jo Jones, Sr., a family friend for many years.
Mr. Gardner formed his own trio in 1980 with pianist Walter Davis, Jr., and bassist Philip Bowlden. Also during the early ’80s, he began developing the Jazz Recoverers, a musical group that gives jazz musicians the opportunity to perform drug- and alcohol-free – and, through performance and lectures, to dispel negative myths about jazz and its performers.
Mr. Gardner has performed across the country, and internationally, with such musicians as Jamil Nasser, Barry Harris, Stanley Turrentine, Danny Mixon and Teri Thornton, to name a few. He has played at the Apollo, Birdland, The Blue Note, Tramp’s, City College, the Beacon Theatre, Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Saint Peter’s Church, the Waldorf Astoria, and in many other venues.
He is survived by his wife Shoko.
Nat Kappel, 83, a multi-reed player and an 802 member since 1937, died on April 8.
His friend and colleague, trumpeter Charles McCarty, describes Mr. Kappell as “one of 802’s most underappreciated and misunderstood (by too many) musicians.” In a tribute Mr. McCarty provided to Allegro, he described Mr. Kappel’s “lifelong devotion to music in all its forms, classic and popular, its history, and to the many instruments he loved, played so well and studied all his life. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and concert players, the history of swing bands, of Latin American and ‘society’ bands, of saxophones and of the strange working needs of a New York freelancer throughout the last half of the past century. And, not known to many (and probably a surprise to most), he had a quick, subtle, wonderfully droll sense of humor…
“He played on most all of the city’s hotel bandstands, with both their show and dance units: the Waldorf, Plaza, Pierre and Americana; at ballrooms including Roseland, the Arcadia and the Palladium; and the Latin Quarter and Copa cabarets.
“An adept ‘faker’ able to play both harmony lines on alto or tenor, and possessed of an astonishing, unstoppable repertoire, he was a popular club date musician, on call by all the offices in the field. In the 1980s and ’90s he was on many dates in the UK and Europe for Lester Lanin, including a cruise to New Zealand and Australia aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.”
Mr. Kappel is survived by his sister Betty, nephew Neal Gordon and other nieces and nephews.
Igor Kipnis, 71, a member of Local 802 since 1959, died on Jan. 23. One of the world’s leading harpsichordists, he also played clavichord, fortepiano and the modern piano. He made more than 80 recordings and was one of the few solo harpsichordists to perform with major symphony orchestras.
Mr. Kipnis was born in Berlin. His father, opera singer Alexander Kipnis, was the foremost opera and lieder bass for German repertoire between the two World Wars. The family moved to Vienna and, after the Nazis took over Austria, settled in the United States.
Mr. Kipnis began studying piano as a child, but majored in social relations, rather than music, at Harvard University. After graduating he wrote and edited program notes for Westminster Records. He continued to write about music throughout his life.
He made his harpsichord debut in 1959 after studies with Fernando Valenti and Thurston Dart, and became a fervent advocate for his instrument. The harpsichord was a baroque instrument, but he also played 20th century scores, such as Francis Poulenc’s Concert Champetre. His concert career took him all over the world, and to collaborations with many of the leading musicians of his day. His discography includes the complete solo concerti of Johann Sebastian Bach on Sony with Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Many of his recordings have been reissued.
During the 1960s, he hosted The Age of Baroque on WQXR radio in New York. In 1971, he moved to Connecticut, teaching at Fairfield University.
He is survived by his son Jeremy.
Truck Parham, 91, a bassist who played with some of the biggest names in jazz during a career that spanned seven decades, died on June 5 in Chicago. He had been an 802 member since 1953.
Born Charles Valdez Parham, he began his career in 1928 as a tuba player. The string bass was rapidly replacing the tuba in jazz bands in the 1930s, and Mr. Parham was one of the first tuba players to make the transition. He studied with jazz bassist and bandleader Walter Page and then with Nate Gangursky, a bassist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He worked with groups led by the drummer Zutty Singleton, the pianist Art Tatum and the trumpeter Roy Eldridge, becoming a mainstay of the busy Chicago jazz scene.
Mr. Parham worked with Earl Hines for two years, beginning in 1940, and then joined Jimmie Lunceford’s big band, touring and recording extensively with them until Mr. Lunceford’s death in 1947. He then returned to Chicago, which remained his home for the rest of his life. In 1957 he began an association with the pianist Art Hodes, which lasted more than two decades. He remained active on the Chicago jazz scene, occasionally making appearances at jazz festivals all over the world, until developing health problems a few years ago.
Mr. Parham is survived by daughters Lynn and Rita, and three granddaughters.