By Scott Yanow

Jazz Around Town May 2023 – L.A. Jazz Scene

While it is common to cheer on and publicize jazz’s newcomers, the younger artists, and those who are breaking new ground, one should never overlook the greats of the past who are still with us. We should not wait to celebrate their lifelong contributions to jazz until they have already passed on; they deserve the tributes now while they can still enjoy our praise.

Listed below with brief summaries are 53 jazz artists who, as of March 1, 2024, will be at least 90. Their ages and birth dates are included. None of these artists recorded before 1940 (the 1920s and ‘30s are completely gone) unless one counts a radio broadcast of Terry Gibbs playing classical music in the 1930s as a kid. There are only a handful of greats left from the 1940s, and the ranks of those from the 1950s, ‘60s and even the ‘70s are thinning out.

My apologies to anyone who I have missed!

Ray Anthony – trumpeter-bandleader (102 – Jan. 20, 1922) The last living member of the original Glenn Miller Orchestra, nearly the only instrumentalist left from the swing era, and one of only two performers on this list who recorded before 1945, Anthony (who made his recording debut in 1940) headed his own big bands from 1946 on. While too late to be the Harry James of his time, he did his best to keep swing popular in the 1950s and appeared in several movies.

Annette Warren – singer (101 – July 11, 1922) A vocal coach and a versatile singer who “ghosted” for many Hollywood actresses in movies of the 1940s and ‘50s, Warren (who was married to pianist Paul Smith for 54 years) sang swing standards on an occasional basis.

Phil Nimmons – clarinetist, composer, leader (100 – June 3, 1923) Nimmons, who first recorded in 1949 with a quintet, is best known for leading and writing for Nimmons ‘N Nine, an excellent modern jazz group in Toronto that was most active in the 1960s.

Marshall Allen – alto-saxophonist (99 – May 25, 1924) Although he started out playing bop, Allen (who also plays flute, oboe and piccolo) has been an avant-gardist throughout much of his career. He was a key member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra during 1958-93 and has been its leader since 1995. The still-active altoist has not mellowed with age.

Terry Gibbs – vibraphonist (99 – Oct. 13, 1924) One of the greatest vibraphonists of all time, Gibbs has only retired in recent years although he loves to talk about his many musical experiences. An exciting bebopper, Gibbs became famous as a member of Woody Herman’s Second Herd, worked with Benny Goodman, led his Dream Band in the late 1950s, was an integral part of Steve Allen’s television shows, and had a great musical partnership with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. His memoirs Good Vibes is filled with hilarious stories.

Roy Haynes – drummer (99 – Mar. 13, 1925) Haynes’ resume is quite beatable including working with Luis Russell, Lester Young, the Charlie Parker Quintet, Bud Powell, Sarah Vaughan, the John Coltrane Quartet (as the main sub for Elvin Jones), Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and so many others, not to mention his own groups.

Marjorie Hughes – singer (98 – Dec. 15, 1925) The last living singer from the Swing era, Marjorie Hughes is the daughter of pianist Frankie Carle, sang with his band starting in the early 1940s and later worked on radio and television.

Joe Negri – guitar (97 – June 10, 1926) A member of the Shep Fields Orchestra during 1943-44, a fixture on the Pittsburgh jazz scene for many decades, an important educator, and a skilled guitarist who was in his seventies when he led his first record date, he portrayed Handyman Negri on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for nearly 40 years.

Lou Donaldson – alto-saxophonist (97 – Nov. 1, 1926) A soulful and boppish altoist who was inspired by Charlie Parker but always displays his own bluesy and witty musical personality, “Sweet Lou” Donaldson is one of the last living stars of the Blue Note label of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Dick Hyman – pianist (97 – Mar. 8, 1927) Able to play in virtually every jazz style, Hyman is an inventive virtuoso who has long been one of the giants of stride and swing piano.

George Freeman – guitarist (96 – Apr. 10, 1927) Part of the Chicago jazz scene since the late 1940s, Freeman played twice with Charlie Parker, worked with Gene Ammons, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, and his older brother Von Freeman, and is still quite active today.

Barbara Dane – singer (96 – May 12, 1927) While she has always been a social activist and a versatile singer of folk music and blues, Dane began her career in classic jazz, performing on television with Louis Armstrong and utilizing such sidemen as Earl Hines, Benny Carter, Don Ewell, and Wellman Braud on her recordings.

Bill Holman – arranger, composer, leader, tenor-saxophonist (96 – May 21, 1927) Along with Gibbs, Holman is the last major survivor of the 1950s West Coast jazz scene. A fine tenor player, his playing was overshadowed by his adventurous and swinging arrangements for Stan Kenton and his own bands.

Doc Severinsen –trumpeter, bandleader (96 – July 7, 1927) A technically dazzling trumpeter, before he became famous for his nightly appearances as the bandleader on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, Severinsen played with Charlie Barnet in 1949 and was on many studio sessions.

Martial Solal – pianist (96 – Aug. 23, 1927) An innovative pianist from France, Solal started in bebop, recorded an excellent album with Sidney Bechet, and became a very original improviser.

Lloyd Arntzen – clarinetist (96 – Sept. 19, 1927) Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Arntzen (the grandfather of clarinetist Evan Arntzen and banjoist/guitarist Arnt Arntzen) played New Orleans for many decades including with Sweet Papa Lowdown, his own group Blackstick, and on records with Chris Barber.

Cleo Laine – singer (96 – Oct. 28, 1927) Her remarkable range, beautiful tone and versatility made her a major attraction for many decades, often performing with her late husband alto-saxophonist Johnny Dankworth.

Ted Brown – tenor-saxophonist (96 – Dec. 1, 1927) The cool-toned tenor-saxophonist worked with Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Art Pepper, and Lee Konitz, leading at least 13 albums of his own.

Bill Crow – bassist (96 – Dec. 27, 1927) The reliable bassist worked with Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Bob Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, Benny Goodman and many others. Crow is also an author who wrote his memoirs From Birdland To Broadway and collected together many of the funniest stories in jazz history (Jazz Anecdotes).

Dick Nash – trombonist (96 – Jan. 26, 1928) The brother and uncle of two major saxophonists both named Ted Nash, he appeared on a countless number of studio and jazz dates through the years and was on many of Henry Mancini’s soundtracks.

Marilyn Maye – singer (95 – Apr. 10, 1928) The jazz/cabaret singer and actress, Marilyn Maye appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show 76 times.

Gene DiNovi – pianist (95 – May 26, 1928) Equally comfortable playing with swing and bop musicians, DiNovi (long based in Canada) worked with Benny Goodman, Chubby Jackson, Boyd Raeburn, Artie Shaw, Lester Young, Peggy Lee, Sonny Rollins and Ruby Braff among many others.

Sheila Jordan – singer (95 – Nov. 18, 1928) Inspired directly by her friend Charlie Parker and married to pianist Duke Jordan in 1952, Jordan recorded an excellent album for Blue Note in 1962 but was not a fulltime jazz singer until the mid-1970s. Since then she has pioneered the voice-bass duo, made many rewarding recordings, and become a beloved and very encouraging educator.

Frank Tiberi – tenor and alto-saxophonist (95 – Dec. 4, 1928) A member of the Woody Herman Orchestra during much of 1970-87, after Herman’s death Tiberi became its leader; he also recorded some fine bop-oriented albums of his own.

Benny Golson – tenor-saxophonist, composer, arranger (95 – Jan. 25, 1929) One of jazz’s greatest composers (“Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” “I Remember Clifford,” “Along Came Betty,” “Stablemates,” and “Blues March” are just six of his songs), as a tenor-saxophonist Golson helped Art Blakey turn the Jazz Messengers into a major group, co-led the Jazztet with Art Farmer, and was busy as both an arranger and a soloist for nearly 70 years.

Ed Reed – singer (95 – Feb. 2, 1929) Reed overcame many personal problems to become a very good jazz vocalist while already in his late seventies. His debut album was made when he was 78.

Eiji Kitamura – clarinetist (94 – Apr. 8, 1929) A fine swing clarinetist from Japan, Eiji Kitamura recorded for Concord, held his own on sessions with Buddy DeFranco, and was a regular at the Monterey Jazz Festival for years.

Betty Bryant – pianist-singer (94 – June 1929) A delightful singer and a swinging pianist, Betty Bryant has come into her own during the past 20 years and is still active in the Los Angeles area.

Ronnie Lang – alto-saxophonist (94 – July 24, 1929) Lang started his career with Hoagy Carmichael’s Teenagers in the mid-1940s, worked with Earle Spencer, was a busy studio musicians for many years and is best known for his playing with Les Brown (1949-50, 1953-56) and the Dave Pell Octet.

Toshiko Akiyoshi – pianist, arranger, composer, bandleader (94 – Dec. 12, 1929) Born in China, Akiyoshi began playing piano in Japan, was inspired most by Bud Powell, was discovered by Oscar Peterson, moved to the U.S. in the mid-1950s and in 1973 formed a big band with her husband Lew Tabackin that was a perfect outlet for her composing and arranging talents for decades.

Johnny Varro – pianist (94 – Jan. 11, 1930) A superior swing pianist inspired by Teddy Wilson, Varro worked with Phil Napoleon, Pee Wee Erwin, Eddie Condon, Eddie Miller and Ed Polcer, recording several very good albums for the Arbors label as both a leader and a sideman, and was a regular at jazz parties.

Marty Grosz – guitarist, singer (94 – Feb. 28, 1930) A triple threat as an acoustic guitarist inspired by Carl Kress and Dick McDonough, a singer inspired by Fats Waller, and as an always-humorous ad-libber, Grosz consistently performed highly enjoyable sets of superior obscurities from the 1930s.

Eph Resnick – trombonist (94 – 1930) He started on records in 1947 with the Stuyvesant Stompers and the Washboard Wonders, and recorded as a trombonist with the Dixieland Rhythm Kings, Ruby Braff, Pee Wee Russell, and Bob Greene, plus a duet album with guitarist Marty Grosz in 1982. Resnick has mostly played piano during the past 20 years.

Sam Noto – trumpeter (93 – Apr. 17, 1930) The bop-oriented soloist first became known as a soloist with the Stan Kenton Orchestra of the mid-1950s. He also worked with Count Basie, Rob McConnell, and in many all-star combos including in the 1980s on several albums for the Xanadu label.

Ruth Price – singer (93 – Apr. 27, 1930) An excellent jazz singer who worked with Philly Joe Jones, Charlie Ventura, Billy Taylor, Charles Mingus, and Harry James, she started running the Jazz Bakery (one of Southern California’s top jazz clubs) in 1991. After the club lost its lease, she turned the Jazz Bakery into a “movable feast” and has continued to book top jazz talent at a variety of venues.

Bob Havens – trombonist (93 – May 3, 1930) While he was a longtime member of the Lawrence Welk Show (1960-82), Havens is best known in jazz for being a very talented Dixieland

trombonist, one who worked with George Girard, Al Hirt, and Pete Fountain and appeared at many classic jazz festivals.

Helen Merrill – singer (93 – July 21, 1930) Virtually every recording by this creative jazz singer has had a purpose and memorable moments including albums with Clifford Brown, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, Thad Jones, Teddy Wilson, Ron Carter (a duet album) and Stan Getz, plus many in Japan.

Sonny Rollins – tenor-saxophonist (93 – Sept. 7, 1930) One of the greatest of all jazz improvisers of all time whether it is his 1950s classics for Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary or Blue Note, his adventurous 1960s recordings for RCA and Impulse, or his later work for Milestone. Forced to retire from playing after 2012 due to respiratory problems, Sonny Rollins’ presence on the jazz scene is still missed.

Nancy Harrow – singer (93 – Oct. 3, 1930) Although she made two excellent albums during 1960-62, Harrow left the jazz world for a long time as she raised a family. Returning in 1975, she has since recorded many underrated gems including standards, her own originals, and tunes taken from unusual sources.

David Amram – French horn, pianist, pennywhistle, flutist (93 – Nov. 17, 1930) A true Renaissance man, throughout his career Amram gave one the impression that he could enthusiastically jam with musicians from any culture. He recorded with Lionel Hampton, Bobby Jaspar, Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Dorham, Mary Lou Williams, and Dizzy Gillespie, wrote film scores, was involved in the Jazz & Poetry movement, composed classical works, and led a wide variety of fascinating recordings, often teaming together unusual groups of musicians.

Dizzy Reece – trumpeter (93 – Jan. 5, 1931) One of the top trumpeters based in England during the 1950s, Reece was less prominent after moving to the U.S. but made worthy recordings on an occasional basis.

John Pisano – guitarist (93 – Feb. 6, 1931 A member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet (1957-59), Pisano worked with Peggy Lee and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, enjoyed playing with Joe Pass, and welcomed a countless number of his fellow guitarists to his weekly Guitar Night in Los Angeles area clubs for many years.

Gérard Badini – tenor-saxophonist (92 – Apr. 16, 1931) After beginning his career in France in the early 1950s by playing New Orleans jazz clarinet including with Sidney Bechet and Bill Coleman, Badini switched to tenor while working with Claude Bolling in 1958. As a top swing player who also played piano, Badini worked with Alice Babs, Duke Ellington, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, and his own Swing Machine.

Dick Garcia – guitar (92 – May 1, 1931) Primarily active in the 1950s, the guitarist was a member of the George Shearing Quintet during 1952 and 1959-61, performed with Charlie Parker in 1953, and worked with Tony Scott, Milt Buckner, Aaron Sachs and Kai Winding. While he led two albums of his own, Garcia made his last recordings in 1963.

Plas Johnson – tenor-saxophonist (92 – July 21, 1931) A busy studio musician in both New Orleans and Los Angeles and he is most famous for playing Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme,” Johnson was also an excellent and always-soulful straight ahead jazz soloist.

Kenny Burrell – guitarist (92 – July 31, 1931) Burrell recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1951, was part of the 1950s Detroit jazz scene, spent 20 years working steadily in New York, and was a longtime educator at UCLA. The prolific guitarist made some of his finest recordings with Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine.

Lalo Schifrin – arranger, composer, pianist (91 – June 21, 1932) Best known for composing a huge number of film scores, Schifrin has always been a very skilled jazz pianist. He worked with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet in the early 1960s (composing “Gillespiana”) and made a notable series of “Jazz Meets The Symphony” recordings many years later.

Ray Mosca – drummer (91 –July 26,, 1932) Always a supportive and swinging drummer, Mosca worked with a lengthy list of notables including Cy Coleman, the George Shearing Quintet, Peggy Lee, the Billy Taylor Trio, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Dorothy Donegan, and Mike Longo.

Sadao Watanabe – alto-saxophonist (91 – Feb. 1, 1933) The Japanese jazz saxophonist had a dual career as a Charlie Parker-inspired bebop altoist and a pop/jazz recording artist, somehow sounding like himself in both settings.

John Handy – alto-saxophonist (91 – Feb. 3, 1933) Handy became known due to his work with Charles Mingus in the 1950s, was the hit of the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival (a set that was recorded), had a hit with “Hard Work,” and was able to hit stratospheric notes on the alto with ease.

Quincy Jones – arranger, composer, producer (91 – Mar. 4, 1933) While much of his post-1975 work has been in other fields, Jones was a colorful jazz arranger-composer during the previous quarter century, writing for Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, his own big band, and nearly every top jazz singer.

Joe Licari – clarinet (90 – Jan. 10, 1934) A skilled swing and New Orleans jazz clarinetist, Licari worked with Roy Eldridge, Wild Bill Davison, Bob Haggart, Vic Dickenson, Doc Cheatham and more recently Jon-Erik Kellso, led thee albums of his own, and performed each Monday night at Arthur’s Tavern in Greenwich Village for decades.

Lanny Morgan – alto (90 – Mar. 30, 1934) The bop-oriented altoist worked with Maynard Ferguson, Supersax, Bill Berry, Bob Florence and Bill Holman, led several albums of his own, and played “Cherokee” with as much fire as anyone.

The Third Annual Jazz at Naz Festival


Last year, the second annual Jazz At Naz Festival (held at the Saroya in Northridge) was a great hit. It had a diverse and notable lineup of artists including Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, Joel Ross, Melissa Aldana, Samara Joy, and Charles Lloyd,

While the roster for the third annual festival does not quite reach those heights, there are definitely some interesting concerts in the series. Already in the past are performances by Herb Alpert & Lani Hall (Jan. 27) and the Jan. 31 concert of Ranky Tanky with Lisa Fischer. The latter group will also be performing on Feb. 1, keyboardists Booker T. Jones and Matthew Whitaker will be featured on separate sets (Feb. 2 & 3), Delfeayo Marsalis leads his Uptown Jazz Orchestra (Feb. 7) and Eliades Ochoa with Harold López-Nussa will be featured on Feb. 10. More information about this worthy festival can be found at

I have a new book that is available from Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist. It is subtitled My Jazz Memoirs and is my 12th book and first in a few years. I discuss in an often-humorous fashion my early days and discovery of jazz, my period as the jazz editor of Record Review, the story behind my involvement with the All Music Guide, and I reminisce about some of my adventures as an amateur musician. Included are vintage interviews with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, and Maynard Ferguson, encounters with Clint Eastwood, summaries of the Monterey and Playboy Jazz Festivals (including a full-length review of the 1985 Playboy Festival), memories of other events (such as the IAJE Conventions), and brief snapshots of many memorable club and concert performances. There is also background information about my other books, evaluations of the jazz critics who inspired me early on, and my thoughts on jazz criticism which includes advice to up-and-coming jazz journalists. Rounding out the book is a chapter on how the jazz writing business has changed over the past 50 years, and appendixes that include the jazz greats of the past, 86 jazz giants of today, 21 young performers to look for in the future, jazz books and DVDs that everyone should own, and a dozen enjoyable Hollywood jazz films.
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