Pianist Frank Hewitt died on September 5 from cancer at age 66.
Since the mid 1950s, Hewitt had been one of the mainstays of the New York jazz scene. Born on October 23, 1935 in Queens, New York, he grew up in Harlem in Sugar Hill. In 1961, he appeared in The Living Theater's famous production of The Connection, playing alongside Cecil Payne. Over the years, Frank worked extensively as a sideman, having appeared with Cecil Payne, Howard McGhee, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, John Coltrane, and many others. He was a frequent contributor at The University of The Streets, and also at St Peter's church, the Jazz Vespers, where he often held down the yearly All Nite Soul celebration. He also spent considerable time playing with the late underground legend Clarence "C" Sharpe.
In the last eight years, he was the featured artist at Smalls, appearing several times each week in the company of bassist Ari Roland.
Funeral Held for Jazz Great Hampton
NEW YORK (AP) — The remains of jazz great Lionel Hampton were carried in a white horse-drawn hearse through the streets of Harlem on Saturday, with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis blowing a dirge to lead the funeral procession.
The 94-year-old showman and bandleader died Aug. 31 of heart failure. Hampton suffered two strokes in 1995 and had been in failing health in recent years.
Starting from the Cotton Club, once an icon of great music, hundreds of mourners walked in a procession to a service at the nearby Riverside Church.
President George W. Bush sent a letter of condolence, which was read by his father.
"His legacy of music, education and civic dedication will continue to inspire generations to come," the former president said, quoting his son. A condolence letter from former president Bill Clinton was also read at the service.
The service was presided over by the Rev. James Forbes, pastor of the church, who called Hampton "this 20th Century marvel of a man"
The Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, also spoke at the service, calling Hampton "an inspiration. He lived a long time. God gave him energy to continue his music for as along as he lived."
Bush remembered meeting Hampton when the former president was director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s. At the time, Bush said, morale at the spy agency was low.
"He loaded his band on a bus they came to CIA headquarters and performed to an overflow crowd," Bush recalled.
After the service, Hampton was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, near other greats of American music — Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins and Irving Berlin.
"Yes, I love this man," Bush told the congregation, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke, with Hampton's coffin nearby. "This incredibly gifted musician had an incredible knack for friendship."
Over a six-decade career, Hampton played with a who's who of jazz, from Benny Goodman to Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker to Quincy Jones. His own band helped foster or showcase other jazz greats including Charlie Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Joe Williams and Dinah Washington.
He performed at the White House for presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. When he played for Truman, his was the first black band to ever entertain in the White House, Hampton once said. In 1997 he received the Presidential Medal of Honor.
Hampton's music was melodic and swinging, but audiences also responded to his electric personality — the big smile, energy and bounce that contributed to his style. When not playing the vibes, he drummed, sang and played his own peculiar style of piano, using two fingers as if they were vibraphone mallets.
He learned to play the drums from a nun while in grade school, and launched his career with Les Hite's band after finishing high school. It wasn't until a 1930 recording session with Armstrong that Hampton played the vibraphones.
At the time he didn't know the instrument, but after 45 minutes of noodling on the instrument, Hampton felt comfortable enough to swing in behind Armstrong on "Memories of You."
Actress Kim Hunter Dies at 79
NEW YORK (AP) — Kim Hunter, who won a supporting Oscar in 1951 as the long-suffering Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and appeared in three "Planet of the Apes" movies, died Wednesday. She was 79.
Hunter apparently suffered a heart attack in her Greenwich Village apartment, said her daughter, Kathryn Emmett.
The actress enjoyed a long and busy career in theater, but less in films, partly because she was blacklisted during the red-hunting 1950s.
"Kim Hunter was a fine actress and a wonderful person," said actor Charlton Heston, who co-starred in "Planet of the Apes." "The world has lost a unique talent."
"A Streetcar Named Desire" was the highlight of Hunter's career. The play was cast with Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Karl Malden as Mitch, and Jessica Tandy as the tragic Blanche DuBois. Director Elia Kazan admitted in his autobiography, "A Life," that he had trouble casting Stella "because I enjoy looking at girls."
He added of Hunter: "The minute I saw her I was attracted to her, which is the best possible reaction when casting young women."
Brando, Malden and Hunter played their roles in the somewhat sanitized film version. Hunter, Malden and Vivien Leigh, as Blanche, won Academy Awards; despite his unforgettable performance, Brando did not.
Hunter told the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1999 that after she left "Streetcar" she tried to avoid seeing the play with other casts.
"It's simply that I have no objectivity about it," she said. "It was so much a part of my life, it would be unfair to the productions and performers."
Hunter's subsequent films were few, and they lacked the luster of "Streetcar." Among them: "Deadline U.S.A.," as newspaper editor Humphrey Bogart's estranged wife; "Anything Can Happen," as Russian immigrant Jose Ferrer's wife; "Storm Center," a minor film starring Bette Davis; also "The Young Stranger" and "Bermuda Affair."
Her screen career entered a lull in the late '50s, after Hunter, a liberal Democrat, was listed as a communist sympathizer by Red Channels, a red-hunting pamphlet that influenced hiring by studios and TV networks.
She returned to film in "Lilith" (1964), which starred Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg and Peter Fonda. Four years later came "Planet of the Apes."
Hunter was cast as Dr. Zira, a chimpanzee psychiatrist in the science fiction classic. Applying and removing the makeup and monkey suit took hours.
"It was pretty claustrophobic and painful to a certain extent," she said in a 1998 interview.
She was enough intrigued with the character and the plots that she appeared in two sequels, "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970) and "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" (1971).
Hunter was born Janet Cole in Detroit on Nov. 12, 1922; her mother had been a concert pianist. She recalled later that she was a lonely child who "picked friends out of books and played `let's pretend' games, acting out their characters before a mirror."
At 17, she joined a traveling stock company, then gained more seasoning in regional theaters before going to California.
She obtained a contract with David O. Selznick, whose first move was to change her name. She made her film debut in a low-budget RKO horror film, "The Seventh Victim," and followed with secondary roles in other features, but eventually returned to the New York theater.
Irene Mayer Selznick was producing "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1947, and Selznick, her ex-husband, recommended Hunter to play Stella Kowalski.
After the "Planet of the Apes" movies, Hunter appeared on Broadway in "Darkness at Noon," "The Children's Hour" and "The Tender Trap."
Her television appearances included the soap operas "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns."
"She was a fabulous actress and a terrific human being," her longtime agent, Lionel Larner, said Wednesday.
Hunter was married to William Baldwin in 1944; they had a daughter, and divorced in 1946. In 1951, she married actor and producer Robert Emett, with whom she sometimes costarred in plays. They had a son.
Steve Ellis Of Atlantic Records Dies At 41
Steve Ellis, VP of promotion Atlantic Records in New York, died on September 3 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 41. He also worked at Mercury and Curb Records along with two stints at Atlantic Records and was a program director for New York's WQHY and Los Angeles' KLSX.