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Louis Bellson

( b. Jul 06, 1924 Rock Falls, Illinois, USA - d. Feb 14, 2009 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Male
Relations: Husband of Pearl Bailey (1952 - 1990) her death

Louie Bellson was a crisp and dazzling drummer who worked with many of the major figures of the swing era and a gracious entertainer who made frequent appearances at the White House and on "The Tonight Show."

Mr. Bellson was a dynamic, spectacular soloist known for his use of two bass drums, a technique he pioneered as a teenager and developed from a novelty into a serious mode of expression. However, his attentiveness and precision made him a highly successful sideman, and he was capable of extreme subtlety. Bellson logged time with the top-flight orchestras of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. He later worked briefly with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. As a regular on the impresario Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic tours in the 1950s, he appeared in combos with all-stars like the trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, the alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and the pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

He also wrote compositions like "The Hawk Talks" and "Skin Deep" that were regularly performed by the Ellington band. Later, in 1965, he participated in Ellington's first Sacred Concert.

In 1952 Mr. Bellson married the singer and actress Pearl Bailey and became her bandleader. Their high visibility was significant at a time when interracial relationships were far from common. The couple enjoyed warm relationships with the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and they were often invited to the White House.

Mr. Bellson also led his own bands for decades: small groups as well as ensembles like the Big Band Explosion. In 1969 his was the band chosen to back James Brown on "Soul on Top," a crossover jazz album released on the King label.

He was also a prolific composer who performed and recorded a number of his own pieces, sometimes branching beyond swing to orchestral and choral work. Especially in his later years, he was a tireless educator and clinician who nurtured generations of young musicians, particularly fellow drummers.

Mr. Bellson received a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as Living Jazz Legend Awards from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

On his own label, Percussion Power, he released "The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson & the Jazz Ballet," which included a big band, strings and a choir, in 2006. His most recent album -- "Louie & Clark Expedition 2," made with the trumpeter Clark Terry -- was released last year.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
[Musical, Comedy, Original]
  • Music by Louis Bellson
Feb 21, 1958 - Feb 22, 1958
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