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Waldron, Brooks and Baird Die

The darkly melodic and evocative pianist Mal Waldron (pictured), who had lived in Europe since 1965, died Dec. 2 in a hospital in Brussels, Belgium. There were no further details of his death at press time, but Waldron was diagnosed with cancer in Sept. and had been ill for several months. He was 76. When Waldron began playing music he played jazz on an alto saxophone and saved the piano for his classical studies. While attending Queens College he gave up the alto and allowed himself to play jazz on piano. In the ’50s Waldron found work with Charles Mingus and Billie Holiday, who he accompanied until her death in 1959. After playing with the Eric Dolphy-Booker Little Quintet and Abbey Lincoln, and after scoring a few films, Waldron made a permanent move to Europe. He settled in Brussels, worked frequently with Steve Lacy, and only came back to the U.S. occasionally.

The sassy and smoky-voiced Queen of the Boogie, Hadda Brooks, died on Nov. 21, a few weeks after open-heart surgery. She was 86. Brooks was also a classically trained pianist that eventually grew fond of boogie-woogie playing and in 1945 scored a hit with “Swinging the Boogie.” She also appeared in a number of films and in 1947 beat out Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan for a singing role in Out of the Blue. A good friend of Billie Holiday’s, the two met when Lady Day offered the Queen of Boogie a hit on her joint. In the ’50s Brooks more or less disappeared from the music scene at large, though she did sing and play piano on occasion in Europe, Hawaii and Australia until she retired in 1971. She came out of retirement in 1987, captured the attention of the younger generation, and enjoyed playing the Viper Room in Los Angeles and the Oak Room of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. In 1995 Virgin/Pointblank Records released a new Brooks CD, Time Was When, and a 50-year retrospective of her work, I’ve Got News for You. Brooks is survived by a sister, and two nephews.

Taswell Baird Jr., a trombonist who played with Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, was attacked on Nov. 5 by three men. He was thrown from his wheelchair, beaten, then robbed of $80 outside his West Oakland retirement home. Baird died Nov. 22 from his injuries. He was 80.

Originally Published