Jazz pianist and composer Cy Coleman died of heart failure on November 18 in New York City. He was 75. Coleman is best known for composing legendary Broadway tunes like “Witchcraft,” “Big Spender” and “The Best Is Yet to Come.” Coleman has kept busy, even in recent years, since he began his work as a Broadway composer in the 1950s. At the time of his death, Coleman was working on several projects, including a revival of Sweet Charity; musical biographies of Napoleon, Grace Kelly and Elaine Kaufman (proprietor of Elaine’s restaurant in Manhattan); and Pamela’s First Musical, based on playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s children’s book. Coleman also continued to perform at Feinstein’s at the Regency within a month of his death.
Coleman leaves behind a large legacy, which includes work on the plays/musicals Sweet Charity, On the Twentieth Century, Wildcat and Little Me. Coleman was nominated for the Oscar for best score of a musical in 1969 for the screen adaptation of Sweet Charity. The revival of that production is currently in the works and will open on Broadway in April starring Christina Applegate.
Coleman has won numerous Tony’s for his work on The Will Rogers Follies, City of Angels and On the Twentieth Century.
Coleman never retired, telling The New York Times in October that, “It won’t work for me. I’m lucky to be in a profession where you can keep getting better. To put it in musician’s terms, my chops are good.”
Coleman is survived by his wife, Shelby, who he married in 1997, and their daughter Lily Cye.
Bebop drummer Jimmy Lovelace also died recently, of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 29 in New York City at age 64. Born in Kansas City, Mo., Lovelace appeared on over two dozen recordings, including clarinetist Tony Scott’s Tony Scott, guitarist George Benson’s The George Benson Cookbook, pianist Frank Hewitt’s We Loved You and Across 7 Street’s The Eternal Pyramid. Lovelace played frequently with Hewitt, Benson, Scott and Across 7 Street, which features saxophonist Chris Byars, bassist Ari Roland and pianist Sacha Perry. The drummer was also a regular player at the West Village jazz club Smalls. Lovelace is survived by his wife and a sister.