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Drummer Donald “Duck” Bailey Dies at 80

Played with Jimmy Smith from 1956-64

Donald Bailey
Donald Bailey

Donald “Duck” Bailey, a drummer best known for his tenure with the organist Jimmy Smith, died Oct. 15 at age 80 in Montclair, Calif. Bailey’s passing was confirmed by posts on his Facebook page. The cause of death was not reported.

Bailey worked with Smith from 1956-64 and appeared on more than 20 of Smith’s albums on the Blue Note label. He also performed with the Three Sounds and recorded at least three albums as a leader.

Bailey grew up in Philadelphia, where he played with a young John Coltrane. Following the Jimmy Smith years, while living in Los Angeles, Bailey also contributed as a sideman to bands led by Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Hampton Hawes and others. Bailey also spent five years living in Japan, after which he settled down in Oakland, Calif., in 1982. He continued to perform there until ill health forced him to quit.

For more on Bailey’s life and music, read Shaun Brady’s 2009 JT profile.

Originally Published