These are the remembrances as they ran in the print publication of the paper, many other obituaries, and longer obituaries for those listed below, are posted here as soon as the news comes in.
Bill Watrous, 79, on July 2nd, after a short illness in California.
William Russell Watrous III grew up in Connecticut idolizing his trombonist father who had played with Paul Whiteman. He tried his hand at the instrument himself and was playing in Dixieland bands while he was still in high school. He would go on to become one of the greatest trombonists in the history of jazz known for his rich, smooth, and technically proficient playing.
In 1957 he joined the Navy Band, which he said gave him more discipline in his approach to learning music. While with the Navy Band in San Diego he studied with Herbie Nichols. In New York in the early ’60s he got attention when he joined Kai Winding’s bands. He also recorded with Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Maynard Ferguson, and Johnny Richards. He performed with the Billy Butterfield Band and then in the late ’60s was a member of the house band on the Merv Griffin show. In the early seventies, he played with jazz fusion group, Ten Wheel Drive.
In 1993 he released his best-known album, A Time For Love, which featured songs written by Johnny Mandel with charts arranged by Sammy Nestico.
He had been recently planning a vocal album. He was on the music faculty at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. He also contributed to innumerable trombone workshops, passing on his wisdom to the next generation of talent.
Thomas Alan Dutart, June 19th in Santa Maria, California. He taught elementary school and had a unique way of making every child feel special. He is remembered by many students as their “favorite teacher of all time.”
He started by playing trombone and baritone in high school, along with taking piano lessons, and from there he became proficient on the tuba, the banjo, the bass fiddle, and the ukulele. He started his musical career playing banjo and piano at Shakey’s Pizza in Modesto. Tom also played in the Sacramento Banjo Band, and in 1980, he was hired as the banjo player for the Tuleburg Jazz Band of Stockton, CA. Soon after joining Tuleburg, he switched to the tuba, thus earning him one of his many nicknames, “Tommy Tuba.” He played with this popular band for 24 years all over the state at many jazz festivals and other events. Once they moved to Santa Maria, Tom and Linda became active in the Pismo Beach Basin Street Regulars, the local jazz club where Tom played right up until his passing.
He met the love of his life, Linda Cardiff, at a college homecoming parade, and this coming August they would have celebrated 59 years of marriage.
“Big” Bill Bissonnette, 81, June 26th in Connecticut. He was a legendary trombonist, drummer, and advocate for traditional New Orleans music. He founded the Jazz Crusade Record label in the 1960s and recorded over 100 sessions with local artists. He appeared on roughly half of those recordings as either a trombonist or drummer. As well as preserving their legacy on high-quality recordings he arranged tours that gave nationwide exposure to New Orleans veteran musicians Kid Thomas Valentine, George Lewis, and Jim Robinson.
Bissonnette learned drums from Sammy Penn and was honored by the opportunities he had to associate with jazz legends, particularly Big Jim Robinson. He led The Easy Riders Jazz Band, bringing Sammy Rimmington from England to assist on reeds. After reviving his label in the 1990s he released an additional 130 albums. He turned his focus to archiving the British Jazz scene on a series of Best Of The Brits albums before eventually selling the catalog to UpBeat Records on condition that the music remain available.
In 1992 he published a book about his early experiences entitled The Jazz Crusade: The Inside Story of the Great New Orleans Jazz Revival of the 1960s. In the book, he explained the fierceness of his mission to record the early jazz performers still playing in the sixties by saying, “If you think Punch Miller is really dead, I suggest you put on the recording we made that night at McGoon’s. Does that sound like a dead man to you? As his music lives, so does he.”
Linda Foley, 73, July 4th in Sacramento, California. Linda joined the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society as a social activity in 1973 and volunteered at the first and subsequent Jazz Jubilees until 2005. She originally was a “musician hostess” and then became involved in the performance sites, ultimately being the General Site Manager, with some 1500 volunteers, for 20 years.
She served as Jazz Society president for two years in the 1990s and joined her husband Mike in running the Elderhostel/ Road Scholar programs in 1998 when she retired from California State service. She was a dedicated volunteer, making many friends among volunteers and musicians over the years. Linda and Mike were even married the night before the 1989 Jubilee at Turntable Junction, with 1500 attendees.
Don Richard “Dick” Doner, 82, July 4th in Rancho Talos Verdes, Calif. He played the trombone in high school and worked the piano bars as a pianist and singer in his native Toledo, Ohio. Following service in the Navy, he settled in California where he worked for a company that specialized in computerized drafting, eventually becoming the company’s president and owner. He played with the Goodtime, Milneburg, and Workingman bands, but is best known for the 37 years he spent with Chet Jaeger’s Night Blooming Jazzmen as their trombonist, vocalist, and occasional pianist.
Les Lieber, 106, on July 10th on Fire Island, New York. Lieber grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and plied his main career in journalism while pursuing a strong avocation in music. Starting on C-melody sax in his teens, within a few years he had switched to alto, and developed an uncanny knack of playing the penny whistle. He was arguably the first to play jazz on the instrument, on which he performed on the CBS Saturday Night Swing Club and in an extant Vitaphone short film.
After nearly a decade of not playing a note, in September 1965 he organized Jazz at Noon, where talented amateur players got together every week to play alongside top-flight professionals such as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, and Bobby Hackett. Jazz at Noon continued until 2011, though Lieber continued to play sax and penny whistle well past his 100th birthday.
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