Buddy Collette

Buddy Collette, born William Marcel Collette on August 6, 1921, in Los Angeles, California, is an American tenor and clarinetist. His influence was felt in West Coast jazz and West Coast blues. He also collaborated with Dexter Gordon (drummer Chico Hamilton) and Charles Mingus, his long-time friend and saxophonist. Collette began playing the alto-saxophone at age twelve and was soon leading his first band, which featured Britt Woodman on trombone as well as Charles Mingus on bass. He began playing professionally at age 17. After his service as a U.S. Navy band leader he joined the Stars of Swing, which featured Woodman, Mingus, and Lucky Thompson. He was a part of the bebop revival in Los Angeles’ Central Avenue neighborhood, along with Charles Mingus (bass), and Chico Hamilton (drummer). He was a studio musician in the 1950s and became the first African American musician to appear on television’s You Bet Your Life. He was a founding member Chico Hamilton’s famed quintet in 1955. This unusually instrumented quintet featured guitarist Jim Hall, cellist Fred Katz, as well as chamber jazz. Collette released Man of Many Parts a year later. This was his first album as bandleader. Collette, unlike other West Coast musicians, stayed in Los Angeles and recorded with his quintet. He also became an important educator. Some of his students were Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd, Frank Morgan and Sonny Criss. The Library of Congress asked Collette to perform and write a concert for their special big band to celebrate his long career. Although Collette was unable to play after a stroke in 1998, he is still active in jazz education and has founded many programs for children in the Los Angeles region. He co-authored an autobiography, Jazz Generations: A life in American Music and Society (Bayou 2000), with Steven Louis Isoardi. Collette was a pioneer in civil rights activism, and worked to desegregate Los Angeles’ musicians union. His early supporters included Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole as well as saxophonist Benny Carter. He was also instrumental in organizing a protest against the government’s repression of Paul Robeson, an actor, singer and activist from Africa. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

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