Saxman Bob Berg has passed away. Bob was killed in an automobile accident on Thursday. He was 51. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Bob played in bands with Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and Chick Corea among others. I’m guessing that others reading this have his early 90s, Grammy-nominated release Back Roads. I remember Bob’s strong tenor sound and am sorry to read this news.
Guitarist and composer Nick Webb, a founding member of the contemporary jazz group Acoustic Alchemy, died in London Feb. 5, 1998 from cancer, the group’s publicist said. He was 43.
Webb, a native of England, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago, and at the time of his death was finishing work on the Grammy-nominated group’s 10th album, Positive Thinking, publicist David Millman said.
“Nick was a sweet, wonderful man and a wonderful friend,” said Webb’s chief collaborator, Greg Carmichael, who formed Acoustic Alchemy with Webb in 1987.
“Though this past year was quite difficult for him, Nick managed to write some of the most beautiful music of his life. If there’s any silver lining, it’s knowing that, ’till the very end, he was doing what he loved and that he was surrounded by his adoring family,” Carmichael said in a statement.
Zachary Charles Breaux died February 20, 1997 after attempting to save a drowning woman in the ocean off Miami Beach. According to the Associated Press, Breaux suffered a heart attack after being brought to shore. The woman also died. Breaux had previously saved a man from drowning, while on tour in Italy in 1988.
Zachary Breaux was born in Port Arthur, Texas. He began playing guitar at the age of 11 after practicing the clarinet for two years. His interest in jazz was inspired by his high school band director. He majored in Music Composition at North Texas State University, where he enjoyed listening to Wes Mongomery, Charlie Christian, and Dizzy Gillespie. He played with musicians such as Noel Pointer, Ronnie Laws, Jon Lucien, and most notably Roy Ayers, which whom Breaux would perform through 1993 when he decided to embark on a solo career. Breaux’s playing was brought to the attention of NYC Records president Mike Mainieri, who promptly asked Breaux to contribute a track to the Beatles guitar tribute album he was releasing. Mainieri released Breaux’s first two solo albums on NYC. The first, released in 1993, was an album recorded at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London. Groovin’ featured Breaux originals and compositions by other writers, as well as an acid jazz version of John Coltrane’s “Impressions.” The follow-up album, Laid Back, was released the following year. Breaux had recently resurfaced on Zebra Records, where his album, Uptown Groove, has been performing very well.
Mainieri had said of Breaux, “I’ve personally had the pleasure of performing with Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and George Benson, and Zachary’s own ‘voice’ on the guitar keeps the lineage alive with eloquence and passion.”
Zachary Breaux is survived by his wife, Frederica, and three daughters, ages 14, 12 and 6, as well as six brothers and sisters and his parents.
Arthur Lee Porter, Jr. perished in a tragic boating accident in Thailand on Saturday evening, November 23, 1996. Porter and four others were floating on the River Kwae when their raft sprang a leak. Porter, a boatman, and a married couple who were music teachers in Bangkok all drowned. The only survivor was Alan Burrows, a guitar player in Porter’s band. Porter and the band had just played at the Golden Jubilee Jazz Festival in Bangkok and were on their way to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lampur, as part of the Thailand International Jazz Festival 96.
Although Art is best known for his saxophone playing, he originally played the drums in his father’s jazz trio at age 9. Growing up in the Porter household in Little Rock, Arkansas, he was exposed to the sounds of Coltrane, Bird, and Gene Ammons. He was soon barred from playing with the trio by the state’s Beverage Control Board. However, then state Attorney General Bill Clinton pushed a law through allowing underage performers to work if a parent or guardian acts in a performing/supervisory capacity. The law is commonly known today at the “Art Porter Bill.” At the age of 15, Art was ready to step up and take center stage. After deciding he no longer wanted to serve as a support player, the saxophone “just became more natural to me.” The following year, young Porter attended the Berklee College of Music for a semester. He later received a scholarship to Northeastern Illinois University, where he played in local bands, including Von Freeman’s, every week. After receiving his degree in music education, Art began his journey as a professional musician, playing with Jack McDuff, Pharoah Sanders, Gene Chandler, and serving as musical director for the vocal r&b group After 7. On the road, Art developed a solid following and was soon signed with Verve/Polygram. His debut solo album, Pocket City, was released on Verve Forecast in 1992. Although he was primarily exposed to traditional jazz in his youth, Pocket City was an album definitely in the contemporary jazz vein. “I grew up on the standards,” he said in 1992, “but I didn’t grow up to be a jazz purist. In high school I got into a new wave kind of thing, and I’ve always liked funk. So when I got my own band, the challenge was to put all these things together. I wanted to do something that would be considered commercial and still have some integrity to the music.” The same style was evident on his three releases following: Straight to the Point, Undercover, and Lay Your Hands On Me (all on Verve Forecast).
David Bendett was the manager for Art’s band during the Southeast Asian tour. Bendett said that the President had been informed of Porter’s death. “President Clinton knew Art ever since he was a boy and they had always kept in touch,” Bendett said.
“Art Porter was a treasured member of the Verve / Polygram family,” said Chuck Mitchell, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Verve Group. “He was a great musician and a tremendous performer. More than that, Art was a warm and generous spirit who touched all who met him and heard his music. Our deepest condolences and sympathies go out to Art’s family in this time of sadness.”
Art was an engaging performer and continued to earn rave reviews for his live performances. One person recounted her experience at seeing him play: “He came down into the audience, walked through our row and stopped right in front of me and played! It was such a thrill. Even though I had never met him, he just gave you this warm sense of being.” In a recent profile in Jazziz magazine, he recounted his father’s advice to him about playing for the people. “I think what it’s really about is giving to people and moving them. And hopefully, there’s some people out there to appreciate it.”
Art Porter was 35 years old. He is survived by his wife, Barbie, and two sons, Arthur III and Arrington, ages 6 and 3.