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Saxophonist Gil Bernal Dies at 80

L.A. musician played jazz, rock, R&B

Gil Bernal

Tenor saxophonist Gil Bernal has died, according to an obituary published in the L.A. Weekly blog. According to an obituary written by Jonny Whiteside, Bernal passed away July 17 of congestive heart failure. He was 80.

According to the bio on Bernal’s website, which confirms his death, Bernal was born in Los Angeles and became interested in jazz at a young age. He began playing tenor sax at parties and was eventually hired by Lionel Hampton. After performing with his own group for a while he worked with Spike Jones and then worked L.A. and Las Vegas with his own group.

According to Whiteside’s obituary, Bernal also played with such artists as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones and he was also heard on hit records of the 1950s and early ’60s by the Coasters, including “Youngblood,” “Smokey Joe’s Café” and “”Searchin’.” Another hit record to which he contributed was Duane Eddy’s smash instrumental “Rebel Rouser.” He mainly performed jazz throughout the rest of his life.

According to Whiteside, “He can also be heard on soundtracks like In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood, both collaborations with Quincy Jones. Distinguishing himself as one Los Angeles’ most in-demand and hardest working jazz players, more recently Bernal was drafted by Ry Cooder for work with both the Buena Vista Social Club and on Cooder’s star-studded Chavez Ravine.”

Originally Published