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Bud Shank dies at 82

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Bud Shank dies at 82

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:09 PM
Author: Patrick McCulley

Bud Shank, an alto saxophonist and flutist who helped propel cool-school West Coast jazz to prominence in the 1950s and fostered the melding of American and Brazilian music that created the bossa nova, died on Thursday in Tucson, Ariz. He was 82. Daniel Shen, 2006 Bud Shank Related The Bud Shank Quartet at the Chivas Jazz Festival, 2004 (YouTube.com) The cause was a pulmonary embolism, his wife, Linda, said. Mr. Shank, whose career spanned 60 years, was a versatile player, both as a sideman and bandleader, in a wide variety of musical arenas, from big band swing to symphonic to pop, with a wide variety of collaborators. He played with the Stan Kenton big band in the early 1950s; in the 1960s he accompanied the sitarist Ravi Shankar, and he recorded with the Mamas and the Papas, playing the flute solo on their hit “California Dreamin.’ ” In 1985, he was the featured soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a recording of a concerto for alto sax and orchestra. But he thought of himself primarily as a bebop alto sax player, and no matter whom he was playing with, his sound, crisply melodic with an underlying swing, reflected his earliest influences: Lester Young, the great swing saxophonist of the 1930s and 1940s, and the bebop generation that followed him. In the 1950s, living in Los Angeles along with musicians like the trumpeter Chet Baker and the baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, Mr. Shank helped establish the laid-back, nonchalant-seeming sound that came to be called West Coast jazz. With other Kenton big band alumni, he was a regular presence at the legendary jam sessions at the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach. It was also in the Kenton band that he met Laurindo Almeida, a Brazilian guitarist, with whom he recorded two 1953 albums, known as “Brazilliance” Volumes 1 and 2, that anticipated the emergence of the bossa nova, the fusion of Latin music and cool jazz that would be popularized a few years later by Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. Mr. Shank reunited with Almeida in 1974 in a band known as the L.A. Four, which toured internationally and recorded several albums. Clifford Everett Shank was born in Dayton, Ohio, on May 27, 1926; he was known as Bud from childhood, Linda Shank said, though she did not know why. “I can just tell you he hated the name Clifford,” she said. As a young man he studied clarinet, flute and tenor saxophone as well as alto. He attended the University of North Carolina, studying music and business, and eventually dropped out because he wanted to play jazz. “He hitched a ride with a friend to L.A., and he fell in love with the weather and the scene,” said his wife, whom he met at a jazz festival and married in 1994. Mr. Shank was married twice previously; he was once divorced and once widowed. In addition to his wife, he is survived by a brother, Ted, of Dayton. In the 1980s Mr. Shank eventually set aside the flute to concentrate on the saxophone, and in the last two decades of his career, his playing became less cool and far more aggressive, closer in sound to his contemporary and friend Phil Woods than to Lester Young or Gerry Mulligan. In Port Townsend, Wash., where he lived before moving to Tucson for health reasons several years ago, he ran a summer jazz workshop. And he was a devotee of jazz history; he donated his own archives, including original charts, to the Los Angeles Jazz Institute in Long Beach. Mr. Shank had two other passions besides jazz, his wife said, sailboat racing and his three dogs: Andante, Allegro and Rubato. But music was paramount. On the day before he died, he was in a San Diego recording studio as a musician for hire. “He knew it was his last shot,” his wife said. “The doctors told him if he went he would die. And he went.”


Tuesday, April 7, 2009 10:24 PM
Author: Zelde Malevitz

Thanks for the post............and it's very sad to hear. I was fortunate enough to hear Bud with the LA Four when they came to Chicago in the 80's.....just a tremendous player that always deserved being in the "Talent deserving wider recognition" category. Kudos to you, Bud! Roland Colsen

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