This is The Final Chorus as printed in our October 2018 issue. Longer versions of these and other remembrances may be found as individual postings on our Final Chorus page.
Don Hunt, 87, August 5, in Lyons, NY. Hunt was the last surviving member of the original Salt City Five. “Don’s inspired skills on the trumpet were a major factor in the Salt City Five’s rise to fame,” said former SC5 manager Arnie Koch. The band also featured trombonist Will Alger, clarinetist Jack Maheu, drummer Bob Cousins, and pianist Charlie French.
Under Koch’s leadership and Hunt on lead horn, the band made a prize-winning appearance in 1952 on CBS-TV’s Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, one of the highest-rated television shows of the decade. The band was booked for a long-term engagement at Childs Paramount, a 700-seat restaurant club in Times Square. There the quintet often shared the bill with some of the most legendary names in jazz, including New England-bred trumpeters Phil Napoleon and Bobby Hackett.
“Hackett was Don’s idol,” Koch said. “At jam sessions at end of sets, Don stood next to him and traded choruses. He was so impressed with Hackett’s improvisations.”
In 1954, Hunt left the SC5 and returned to Central New York as his wife, Margie, prepared to give birth. He played trumpet for Rochester’s Dixieland Ramblers and later for the Soda Ash Six in Syracuse. Don Hunt was an avid hunter, private pilot, farmer, photographer, newspaper reporter, editor, columnist, and an especially versatile musician.
Peter Bullis, on September 4th, one day shy of his 86th birthday. He was banjoist and manager of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, having been with the group since 1971. The New Black Eagle Jazz Band is one of the most successful and respected of the revival bands. One of their defining features was the relaxed 4/4 rhythm Bullis set with his banjo.
While attending Dartmouth College in the 1950s Bullis visited New Orleans and was exposed to the music of George Lewis, Paul Barbarin, and Oscar “Papa” Celestin—true New Orleans originals. Inspired, he joined and helped manage a band known as the Dartmouth Indian Chiefs. As manager he took the band to Carnegie Hall, venues in New York and Boston, and even on Steve Allen’s Tonight Show.
In the 1960s he played with the Salty Dogs South. He also completed graduate school at Harvard and led a successful career as an architect with a focus on church design.
With the New Black Eagles, he traveled the world playing major stages and festivals. The band recorded numerous well-respected albums through a continuous span of work nearing 50 years. The band’s excellence helped them onto lineups where they were the only traditional jazz band, playing on bills with classical performers. Dedicated to their music, the band has continued to play around New England even after suffering setbacks this year including the loss of their leader, Tony Pringle, in May, and the retirement of Bob Pilsbury, who played piano for the band for 43 years, in June.
Randy Weston, 92, September 1st, in Brooklyn. In the late ’40s he left the New York jazz scene he was just starting out in for the calmer climes of The Music Inn in the Berkshires where he became fascinated with the African roots of jazz. That fascination would guide the rest of his career. By the sixties he had incorporated African and Caribbean elements into his jazz recordings. In 1967 he settled in Morocco for five years where he recorded both local musicians and visitors from abroad. In 1972 he had a best selling record called Blue Moses.
Though his albums have been infrequent his compositions have often been recorded by other artists. He remained active into his last years. in 2015 he was an Artist-In-Residence at The New School in New York City and could be seen performing live as recently as July.
Joseph Patrick (Pat) Arana, 72, August 22, of cancer in St. Charles, MO. He was retired from teaching music in the Ritenour school district where he had shared his love and talents with thousands of children. As a trombonist, he played with the St. Louis Stompers and other groups taking the festival stage both nationally and internationally during a fifty-year career. He played with nearly every group in the St. Louis area and was a charter member of Jean Kittrell and Red Lehr’s Old St. Louis Levee Band which played for 14 years on the Lt. Robert E. Lee Showboat. He remained incredibly active in the local jazz scene.
Ira Davidson Sabin, 90, of cancer in Rockville, MD. He started his career as a professional drummer at the age of 15 while many musicians were away in WWII. After his own service during the Korean War, he turned his focus to promoting events and then opening a record store at the corner of the Jazz District in Washington, D.C. In the ’60s he began printing Sabin’s Happenings sheets to distribute to customers. By 1970, these promotional sheets evolved into a four-page newsletter called Radio Free Jazz. He grew the newsletter into JazzTimes which at its peak had a circulation above 100,000.
“I was the writer, editor, publisher, advertising salesperson, artist, proofreader, distributor, you name it,” he recalled in 1995.
JazzTimes conventions became important insider gatherings after the first one in 1979 was a wild success. Soon after Sabin sold his record shop to focus on the publication. He enjoyed a long retirement after passing on the business to his sons at age 62. He never strayed far from the action and could often be found on jazz cruises enjoying the music he loved.