Bill Berry (trumpeter)

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William Richard Berry (September 14, 1930 – November 13, 2002), known as Bill Berry, was an American jazz trumpeter best known for playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the early 1960s and for leading his own big band.


Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, the son of a bass player in a touring dance band, he spent his early years traveling with his parents; his mother said, "He was on the road when he was only a few months old; he slept in the bass case under the bandstand."[1] From the age of five, he took piano lessons in South Bend, Indiana, his parents' home base; later, in high school in Cincinnati, he switched to the trumpet, which he played in a Midwest band led by Don Strickland before serving for four years in the Air Force. He studied at the Cincinnati College of Music and Berklee College of Music in Boston and played trumpet with the Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson orchestras before joining the Ellington orchestra in 1961 as one of its first white members.[2]

After his stint with Ellington, he played with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra and led his own big band in New York; in 1965 he joined The Merv Griffin Show, where he remained for fifteen years, moving to Los Angeles with Griffin and reforming his group as the L.A. Big Band in 1971. Jack Nimitz, a baritone saxophonist in his band, said "He knew how to get what he wanted out of the band in a very relaxed way — nice and easy, no shouting."[1] Among the most successful of his own recordings[3] was Shortcake (Concord, 1978), an album of jazz for small group in the Ellington style;[4] he appeared on many albums by other musicians, including Rosemary Clooney (Everything's Coming Up Rosie), Scott Hamilton (Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill), Jake Hanna (Live at Concord), and Coleman Hawkins (Wrapped Tight).


With Maynard Ferguson

With Johnny Hodges


  1. ^ a b Dennis McLellan, "Bill Berry, 72; Band Leader, Duke Ellington's Trumpeter," Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2002.
  2. ^ Bill Berry, 72, Jazz Trumpeter," obituary, New York Times, November 19, 2002.
  3. ^ Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz, 1st ed. (1992), p. 104.
  4. ^ Bill Berry, Shortcake, review by Dave Glackin.

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