Nancie Banks – Vocalist/Bandleader
Helen Berlin – Violin
Bill Berry – Trumpet
Louis Damico – Saxophone
Julius Grossman – Violin/Music Educator
Roland Hanna – Piano
Berge Kalajian – Trumpet
Ben Kendall – Piano
Werner Lywen – Violin
Edward Pancari – Saxophone
Hugo Polidora – Saxophone
Pauline Styler – Piano
John Weed – Piano/Arranger
Nancie Banks, 51, a singer and big band leader and an 802 member since 1986, died on Nov. 13.
Ms. Banks was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, and raised in Pittsburgh. Her first piano teacher, at age four, was her mother, who was a classical pianist. Her father was a singer in the church choir.
Ms. Banks moved to New York when she was 17. She studied with Barry Harris, Alberto Socarras and Edward S. Boatner. She also participated extensively at the Jazzmobile Workshops, founded by Dr. Billy Taylor.
She sang as the leader of her own small ensembles as well as with big bands, including the Lionel Hampton Orchestra which she joined in the mid-1980’s.
She worked with Sadik Hakim, Walter Davis Jr., John Hicks, Barry Harris, Dexter Gordon, Woody Shaw, Michael Max Fleming, Walter Booker, Bob Cunningham, Bross Townsend, Duke Jordan, Jon Hendricks, Walter Booker, Walter Bishop Jr., C. Sharpe, Charli Persip and many others. Some of her musical heroes were Charlie Parker, Thad Jones, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra. She counted among her influences Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McCrae, many of whom who she met during her life.
In 1989, she was given a scholarship to study at the New School’s Jazz Department. Under the tutelage of Cecil Bridgewater, who led the student big band, Ms. Banks formed her own band, the 19-piece Nancie Banks Orchestra. The group went on to perform many festivals and concerts over the next decade, including an appearance at the annual Mary Lou Williams Women’s Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C.
Her debut recording, Waves of Peace, won accolades from critics and was among the nominees for “Best Jazz Records of the Year” in the Village Voice critics’ poll. She released three other CD’s before her death.
Ms. Banks also worked as a music copyist and music preparation musician. She worked on Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues. She also worked on the music for Housesitter, composed by Miles Goodman and orchestrated by Oscar Castro Neves. On Broadway, she helped prepare the music for Swingin’ On A Star. She worked as a music copyist for the Count Basie Orchestra, George Benson, Diane Schuur, Buck Clayton, Frank Foster, Grover Mitchell, Joe Chambers, Jack Jeffers and Monty Alexander.
Her survivors include her husband Clarence (also an 802 member), mother Jean, father George, brothers George Jr. and Jimmy, and sisters Mary Ellen and Susan.
Bill Berry, 72, a trumpeter who joined Local 802 in 1961, died on Nov. 13 in Los Angeles.
Mr. Berry was born in Michigan. His parents were musicians, and they took him frequently on tour with them. His first instrument, at age five, was the piano.
After a stint in the Air Force, Mr. Berry studied at the Cincinnati College of Music and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He played with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra and led his own big band in New York.
Mr. Berry played in the orchestra for the Merv Griffin Show from 1965-1980. He moved to Los Angeles in 1971, following Mr. Griffin, and founded the L.A. Big Band.
He toured with Louie Bellson and performed with Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson. He was in Duke Ellington’s band from 1961-1964.
Mr. Berry was also a music teacher, and was musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival for many years.
He is survived by his wife, son William and daughter Lisa.
Julius Grossman, 90, a violinist and music educator and an 802 member since 1946, died on Nov. 11.
Mr. Grossman was born in Brooklyn and began his musical career as a concert violinist. He studied conducting at Washington Square College of New York University after directing several award-winning bands in the Pacific during the World War II. He went on to lead numerous professional instrumental ensembles in the New York area.
Many consider Mr. Grossman’s greatest achievement to be the formation of Municipal Concerts, Inc., a not-for-profit organization which presents free concerts of classical music in parks, community centers, centers for older adults and other venues where classical performances are not readily available. Grossman began these endeavors in 1957 and, working closely Local 802, was on the podium for thousands of such concerts, some as recently as October.
Mr. Grossman was extremely proud of many soloists and orchestral players who became famous after rising up under his baton. Numerous members of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and other great ensembles had their earliest professional playing experiences with Mr. Grossman. His orchestra and chamber orchestras provided steady employment for hundreds of freelance musicians. Over the years and his series were fondly known by his players as “the Grossman gigs.”
Mr. Grossman organized and directed the music program at the High School of Performing Arts. He was exceptional at recognizing talent in young people and always provided strong support for their continuing musical education and future performing careers.
He is survived by his wife Ruth, daughter Jean, son Marc, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Roland Hanna, 70, a pianist and an 802 member since 1958, died on Nov. 13.
Sir Roland Hanna – he was knighted by the government of Liberia in 1970 – was born in Detroit and was considered one of the major Detroit beboppers, along with Hank Jones, Barry Harris and Tommy Flanagan. Mr. Hanna would later cite Flanagan as one of his biggest influences, and it was Flanagan who introduced Mr. Hanna to jazz at Cass Technical High School.
After a two-year stint with the U.S. Army band, Mr. Hanna moved to New York in 1955 and earned a degree from Juilliard, in between gigs with Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus and Coleman Hawkins.
In the 1960’s he performed as a leader at the Five Spot and later was the pianist with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He was musical director for Sarah Vaughn’s group. He played with Carmen McCrae and Al Hibbler. He formed the New York Jazz Quartet in 1974.
Mr. Hanna taught at Eastman, the Manhattan School of Music, the New School and Queens College. He was a constant performer to the end of his life and was particularly popular in Japan.
He worked with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra in the 1980’s and 90’s, and traveled as a solo pianist with the Smithsonian Institution’s touring Duke Ellington exhibition in 1999.
Mr. Hanna also composed chamber and orchestral works; his composition “Oasis” was performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1993. Like Duke Ellington whose trademark praise was the term “beyond category,” Mr. Hanna believed that the best music crosses all boundaries. He disliked the pigeonholing of musical styles. At his death, he appeared on more than 50 albums, many as a leader.
Mr. Hanna is survived by his wife Ramona, sisters Winifred and Ethel, brothers Leonard, Elisha and Lagorce, sons Michael and Christopher, daughters Cheryl and Cheri, and six grandchildren.