[Passing away]

2018 passings

Author: David Hoehl - TNT USA
Published: September, 2018

TNT-Audio has been on summer break for the past several weeks, but of course the world has continued on. Unfortunately, one inevitable way in which it has done so is the passing of noteworthy musical figures. The sampling that follows includes singers, instrumentalists, dancers, choreographers, composers, technicians; whatever their role, whatever their fame, the world of music--be it classical, popular, or theatrical, performing or recorded--is a poorer place for their loss.

Maartin Alcock, English rocker and folk/Celtic rocker, January 5, 1957 (Middleton, England)-September 16, 2018 (Bangor, Wales). Multi-instrumentalist Alcock was a member of folk-rock group Fairport Convention for 11 years and played keyboards for Jethro Tull for three. As a session musician, he participated in hundreds of albums, 15 of them with Fairport, and in later years he worked in production as well. Alcock had culinary as well as musical talents; having trained as a chef, he worked as one in the Shetland Islands in 1980.

Max Bennett, US jazz bassist, May 24, 1928 (Des Moines, Iowa)-September 14, 2018 (San Clemente, California). Bennett was notable as a jazz performer, but he may have been more important as a session musician. Associated with "The Wrecking Crew," his credits included playing on multitudes of albums released by performers ranging from Stan Kenton, Henry Mancini, and Frank Sinatra to the Temptations to the Beach Boys to The Partridge Family and The Monkees, among many others. He also made a foray into the avante garde as bassist for Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" and "Chunga's Revenge." Bennett formed several bands of his own and was active with his last, Private Reserve, up to the time of his death.

Kenneth Bowen, Welsh oratorio and operatic tenor, August 1, 1932 (Llanelli, Wales)-September 1, 2018 (Cheltenham, England). In a repertory spanning Monteverdi, Bach, Berlioz, Elgar, Stravinsky and Britten, Bowen sang with the Welsh National and numerous English opera companies and was noted for his work in oratorio, particularly Handel's Messiah, which he first sang in 1954. Other distinguished venues in which he sang repeatedly included the Three Choirs Festival, the Proms, and Welsh National Eisteddfods. He co-founded the London Welsh Chorale in 1983 and was that ensemble's conductor until 2008. Bowen sang at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 and at the opening of St. David's Hall in Cardiff in 1982. In 1967 he accepted an appointment as professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London and served as head of vocal studies there from 1987 to 1991.

Aretha Franklin, US soul singer, March 25, 1942 (Memphis)-August 16, 2018 (Detroit). Known as "the Queen of Soul," the multi-talented Franklin was also was noted as a songwriter, pianist, actress, and advocate for civil rights. As one of popular music's top tier superstars, she achieved more than a small summary here can begin to document. Suffice it to say, born during the era of strict racial segregation in the United States, she would go on to achieve household-name status and eventually to sing on the US Capitol steps, before an immense crowd and on international television, at the inauguration of the first African-American US president. Her awards, again too numerous to detail, ranged from 18 Grammies to induction into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Anneke Grönloh, Dutch popular singer, June 7, 1942 (Tondano, Dutch East Indies)-September 14, 2018 (France). Although Grönloh would come to be known as "singer of the century" because of her strong recording sales, her first years marked an inauspicious start: daughter of a Dutch military officer, she was born and initially raised in an internment camp following the World War II Japanese occupation of what is now Indonesia. After the war, her family moved to the Netherlands, where as she matured she gradually worked her way into a professional singing career. Her hits were many in the 1960s, the most frequently mentioned being "Brandend Zand." She tied with the Belgian entry for tenth place in the 1964 Eurovision Song Contest; by the end of the decade, her career had become international, and she maintained strong popularity in Singapore, Maylasia, and Indonesia. She also sang jazz and Indonesian kroncong.

Joseph Kobzon, Russian crooner, September 11, 1937 (Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union)-August 30, 2018 (Moscow, Russia). He was known as the "Russian Frank Sinatra" and enjoyed great popularity in the Eastern Bloc before the Soviet Union's breakup. Thereafter, he continued his successful performing career and launched one in politics with his election to the Russian Duma. A staunch supporter first of the Soviet regime and then of Russia's recent expansionism, he was at times a controversial figure. For example, the European Union imposed sanctions on him in 2015 for supporting Russian annexation of Crimea. Moreover, in the West he was sometimes accused of criminal activity; in 1973 a Swiss court found he was engaged in money laundering and froze his assets, and the United States revoked his visa from 1995 on grounds of alleged ties to organized crime. Kobzon always denied such allegations. In other aspects of his life he showed great courage by promptly visiting disaster areas to entertain relief workers and more than once negotiating for the release of hostages. He also ran various charitable foundations and funded orphanages. Among his political achievements was participating in the negotiations that led to establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and Israel. In recognition of his contributions, Kobzon's country bestowed on him a long list of awards, medals, and honors.

Siegfried Linkwitz, audio engineer, November 23, 1935 (Bad Oeynhausen, Germany)-September 11, 2018 (Corte Madera, California). In 1975 he was co-inventor, with Russ Riley, of the Linkwitz-Riley crossover, popular with DIY and commercial loudspeaker builders. Linkwitz worked for Siemens in Germany until 1961, when the emmigrated to the United States, originally intending to stay for only two years' postgraduate study. Instead, he settled in California, where he worked for Hewlett Packard designing test instruments until his retirement in 1988. Thereafter, he devoted himself to designing DIY loudspeakers and making the plans available at low or no cost. Among his papers published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society were titles like "Investigation of Sound Quality Differences between Monopolar and Dipolar Woofers in Small Rooms," "Development of a Compact Dipole Loudspeaker," and "Passive Crossover Networks for Noncoincident Drivers."

Elliott ("Ellie") Mannette, Trinidadian steel pan developer, player, and builder, November 5, 1927 (San Souci, Trinidad)-August 29, 2018 (Morgantown, West Virginia). In the years following World War II, Mannette, known as "father of the modern steel pan," began crafting instruments from 55 gallon steel oil drums, readily available as surplus at a local Shell Oil terminal. His key innovation was to form a concave surface, which allowed for better tuning and separation of notes. He subsequently came to the United States, first to assist the US Navy Steel Band, then to assist in a New York inner city youth program, and finally to join a university-sponsored project in West Virginia, where he settled and established Mannette Steel Drums, a leading manufacturer of the instruments. Trinidad and Tobago awarded him the silver Hummingbird Medal for his innovations in pan making; the University of the West Indies awarded him an honorary doctorate. In the United States, he was awarded the 1999 NEA National Heritage Fellowship and was named to the Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society of the United States.

Big Jay McNeely (Cecil James McNeely), US rhythm and blues saxophonist, April 29, 1927 (Los Angeles)-September 16, 2018 (Moreno Valley, California). A seminal figure in the transition of R&B into rock 'n' roll and a pioneer in breaking down the color barrier in audiences, McNeely was noted for his flamboyant onstage presence while playing "honking" sax; for instance, he applied clear fluorescent paint to his instrument and donned white gloves, then played under blacklight so that only his hands and the saxophone were visible. His signature move was to drop onto his back and writhe across the stage while belting out sax honks. He was hugely popular and recorded a string of hits, first for Savoy and then a series of other labels, beginning in the 1940s, throughout the 1950s, and into the 1960s, but he eventually left music, supporting himself as a postman, for about a decade when his style fell out of fashion. With the revival of interest in R&B in the early 1980s, he resumed his musical career and remained a showman for the rest of his life. He was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2014.

Arthur Mitchell, US ballet dancer and dance administrator, March 27, 1934 (New York City)-September 19, 2018 (Manhattan). Mitchell attended the High School of Performing Arts and, after graduation, the School of American Ballet, where he was a scholarship student. His dance career began on Broadway; then in 1955 he joined the New York City Ballet, where he would eventually become principal dancer. He left in 1966 to return to Broadway and to found dance companies in Washington, DC; Spoleto; and Brazil, which company became the National Dance Company of Brazil. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mitchell joined his teacher Karel Shook to found the Dance Theater of Harlem, initially funded out of Mitchell's own savings, as an initiative to provide artistic opportunities for inner city youth. DTH has gone on to become an important fixture of the ballet world. Mitchell was widely honored for his achievements; among his awards, besides a wide array of honorary doctorates, were Kennedy Center Honors, MacArthur and Fletcher Foundation Fellowships, the United States Medal of Arts, and an honorary presidential dinner for Mitchell and the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Ira Sabin, US jazz drummer, record store proprietor, and publisher, August 10, 1928 (Brooklyn, New York)-September 12, 2018 (Rockville, Maryland). Sabin started his professional career at age 15, during World War II playing as many as three jobs a day in venues ranging from nightclubs to society ballrooms, a regimen he would later describe as affording him "a lifetime of professional experience in a few short years." During the 1950s, he gradually shifted to producing concerts for the day's jazz greats, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Oscar Peterson. He changed direction yet again in the early 1960s, buying a record store, which he renamed Sabin's Discount Records, in Washington, DC's then vibrant jazz district. It soon became nationally known for having an exceptionally deep stock of jazz records and for attracting visits from celebrated jazz musicians. At that time, Sabin commenced publication of a small newsletter that he eventually nurtured into JazzTimes, which remains a key resource in the world of jazz.

Conway Savage, Australian alternative rocker, July 27, 1960 (Victoria, Australia)-September 2, 2018 (Melbourne). For 30 years, Savage played keyboards and sang backup vocals for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with whom he appeared on seven albums. He also worked with other musicians and maintained a solo career, in which capacity he released three albums. Savage joined the Nick Cave group in 1990 after a decade of playing in various other bands, including the country band Feral Dinosaurs. In 2000's Nothing Broken--his first full-length album on his own label, Beheaded Communications--Savage took the novel approach of providing the musicians with only a piano guide track for the sessions, adding his vocals later. One critic praised the resultant sense of spontaneity and noted that quality was typical of Savage's outlook on music.

Claudio Scimone, Italian conductor and musicologist, December 23, 1934 (Padua)-September 6, 2018 (Padua). Although he studied with Dmitri Mitropoulos, noted exponent of modern composers, Scimone, like Sir Neville Marriner, was most associated with early music played on modern instruments, particularly Italian Baroque music. In 1959 he founded I Solisti Veneti, a widely respected chamber orchestra with some 350 recordings to its credit on labels including RCA, Erato, and Sony. Other orchestral associations included the Philharmonia in England, with which he made the first recordings of Muzio Clementi's symphonies, and the Gulbenkian Foundation orchestra in Lisbon. Scimone led first modern performances of numerous early operas by Vivaldi, Rossini, and Salieri, among others. His honors included the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros, the title of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, and an honorary law degree from the University of Padua.

Paul Taylor, US ballet dancer, choreographer, and ballet company director, July 29, 1930 (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)-August 29, 2018 (Manhattan, New York). A graduate of the Juilliard School's dance program, he worked as a dancer for the likes of Martha Graham and George Balanchine even as, in the 1950s, he formed his own dance company. The internationally acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company toured widely, and Taylor himself continued dancing until 1974. For his work as dancer and choreographer, Taylor received a wide array of awards: Kennedy Center Honors, National Medal of the Arts, Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts, three Guggenheim Fellowships, numerous honorary degrees, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and induction into the American Academy and institute of Arts and Letters. He was also recognized repeatedly in France, eventually being awarded the Legion d'Honneur for his contributions to French culture. One day after Taylor's death, the American ballet community suffered a second blow with the suicide of dancer and dance teacher Peter Frame, April 16, 1957 (Charleston, West Virginia)-August 30, 2018 (Manhattan, New York). Frame had been with the New York City Ballet from 1976 to 1990 and principal as of 1988; from 1993 to his death he was an instructor at the School of American Ballet. During his dancing career, Frame was associated with Taylor and at least one of Taylor's signature roles.

George Theophilus Walker, composer and pianist, June 27, 1922 (Washington, DC)-August 23, 2018 (Montclair, New Jersey). Although he preferred to be viewed simply as a musician, not as an "African-American musician," Dr. George Walker's life was a remarkable compendium of racial firsts: first African-American graduate of the Curtis Institute, first to be awarded a doctorate by the Eastman School of Music, by his account first to perform a solo recital in New York's Town Hall, first to perform as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, first to be signed by a major US management firm, first to achieve tenure at Smith College in Massachusetts, recipient of the first minority chair established by the University of Delaware, first to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In addition to his academic postings at Smith and several other universities, Dr. Walker served as chairman of the music department at Rutgers. At Curtis, his teachers included Gregor Piatigorsky, William Primrose, and Rudolf Serkin, who later assisted Dr. Walker's ultimately unsuccessful attempts to establish a career as classical pianist in the face of racial discrimination. After earning his doctorate, in 1957 Walker won Fulbright and John Hay Whitney Fellowships that enabled him to study in Paris for two years with Nadia Boulanger, whose prior students had included such front-rank American composers as Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Elliott Carter, Vergil Thomson, and David Diamond. The Pulitzer Prize came to Dr. Walker in 1996 for his composition Lilacs, a song cycle setting of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Among numerous other recognitions, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999 and inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2000. His extenisve catalogue includes orchestral and chamber works; sonatas; concerti; a Mass; and quartets, the first of which was written in memory of his grandmother, a former slave.

Randy Weston (Randolph Edward Weston), US jazz pianist and composer, April 6, 1926 (New York)-September 1, 2018 (New York). A disciple of Thelonious Monk and associate of a who's who of jazz artists in a career spanning 60 years, Weston was particularly noted for fusing African and Caribbean influences with modern jazz and more mainstream American popular idioms to create a new sound world. Weston recorded prolifically, and he received two Grammy nominations ("Tanjah in 1973 and "The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco" in 1994). The US National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master in 2001, and he was elected to DownBeat's hall of fame in 2016,

...and a few others. Other passings during the period would include:

Facebook logo

© Copyright 2018 David Hoehl - drh@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com