Alvin Batiste, a New Orleans-born clarinetist who played in modern settings far removed from the swing and Dixieland music usually associated with his instrument, died Sunday from an apparent heart attack. He was 74.
Batiste was born in NOLA in 1932, attending Booker T. Washington High School and then Southern University in Baton Rouge. Shortly before beginning at Southern, he was chosen to be a guest soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic. While in college he met tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, who would also apply his traditional musical training to the avant-garde, and the pair performed together in both school marching bands and jazz bands prohibited from performing on-campus, among them The Dukes of Rhythm. Batiste served in the military briefly following his graduation, toured (even playing baritone sax in Ray Charles’ band) and then played with Ornette Coleman in Los Angeles in 1956. (Coleman would hire Batiste’s boyhood companion, the drummer Ed Blackwell, to perform in his quartet a half-decade later.)