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The Gig: Lew Soloff, 1924-2015

Consummate lead player, a surefooted improviser, an impeccable technician and a generous mentor

Lew Soloff

He’s best remembered, out in the world, for 35 seconds of fire-breathing ingenuity on an epochal pop song. But Lew Soloff meant much more than his immortal trumpet solo on “Spinning Wheel,” which led off Side B of the 1968 LP Blood, Sweat & Tears.

A consummate lead player, a surefooted improviser, an impeccable technician and a generous mentor, Soloff occupied an important place in the New York jazz firmament for more than 40 years. He did this despite releasing fewer than 10 proper solo albums, and maybe just one-With a Song in My Heart (Milestone, 1999)-that saw widespread release. His legacy rests largely on the glowing work he did in large ensembles, typically as a first chair: a short list would include the Gil Evans Orchestra, the Carla Bley Big Band, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Among the earliest responses to his death was a tribute posted to Facebook by his fellow trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center honcho Wynton Marsalis, who summed up by writing: “Tragic loss for music, irrecoupable loss for trumpet.” Soloff died in the early morning hours of March 8, after a massive heart attack. He was 71.

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