|Benny Bailey, photographed by Jos L. Knaepen
Jazz trumpet player Benny Bailey has died in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He was 79.
Benny Bailey was born on August 13, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father was an amateur saxophonist and his mother played the piano. After some experience on piano and flute early in his career, he switched to the trumpet and studied at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. He started his career in the Jay McShann orchestra. In the forties and fifties he played with some of the best-known jazz musicians, like Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones, who wrote the song Meet Benny Bailey for The Manhattan Transfer, admired Bailey for his marvellous breath control and remarkable range. According to Jones, Bailey had the most perfect technique. In the sixties he played with the legendary big band of Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland.
From 1953 Bailey was in Europe on a regular basis. After some years in Sweden and Germany, he settled in Amsterdam where he spent his last years in a humble apartment.
Benny Bailey stayed active till the end. He was supposed to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival on July 8th: following the news of his death this concert was changed to a "Tribute to Benny Bailey". The planned tribute combined his Dutch Quartet (Rob van Bavel - piano, Frans van Geest - bass and John Engels - drums) with soloists Joe Wilder (trumpet), Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn) and Ferdinand Povel (saxophone).
Sadly Benny Bailey had lain dead for between one and ten days before being found on 14th April. His neighbours knew nothing about him and other musicians had assumed that he was abroad on tour. The Social Security department had planned an simple near-anonymous funeral for him but fortunately jazz colleagues saw an advertisement in the Dutch newspapers and realized that it was he: his two sisters from the USA were then able to attend the funeral service. A Dutch TV news company has made a short documentary about this sad story which is available to watch online, and is recommended to readers: we now have an English transcript online (please see links below) and non-Dutch speakers will in any case follow the sense, and appreciate the many musical extracts.
Quincy Jones has commented "Benny was one of the most impressive people that I've ever met. He stood there right at the top with Dizzy ... I'm going to miss my man, Benny"
Dutch TV documentary (Opens in new window. From there please choose smalband or breedband for the low or high bandwidth video.)
English translation of Dutch TV script, with added commentary from Erik van Lier.
Photos of Benny Bailey at Jos L. Knaepen's site
Funeral notice and obituary at allaboutjazz.com
Update: 17th October - added TV transcript and linked it from here.
Source: Emile Meuffels, ITG Euro News correspondent
Photo: Jos L. Knaepen, used by kind permission