Bill Berry (trumpeter)

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William Richard Berry (September 14, 1930 – November 13, 2002) 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 at his parents' home in South Bend, Indiana. In high school in Cincinnati, he switched to trumpet, which he played in a Midwest band led by Don Strickland, then served 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 orchestra. In 1961, he became one of the Duke Ellington orchestra's first white members.[2]

After his working 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).


As leader[edit]

  • 1963 Jazz and Swinging Percussion
  • 1976 Bill Berry and the L.A. Band Hot and Happy
  • 1976 Hello Rev
  • 1978 Shortcake
  • 1978 For Duke
  • 1978 The Ellington All-Stars[5]

As sideman[edit]

With Chris Connor

  • 1961 Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song
  • 1961 Double Exposure (Atlantic) with Maynard Ferguson

With Duke Ellington

  • All American in Jazz (Columbia, 1962)
  • 1962 Duke Ellington and His Orchestra Featuring Paul Gonsalves
  • 1963 My People
  • 1976 Recollections of the Big Band Era

With The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra

  • 1967 Live at the Village Vanguard
  • 1968 Monday Night
  • 1970 Village Vanguard Live Sessions Vol. 3

With Maynard Ferguson

With Johnny Hodges

With Herb Pomeroy

With others


  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.
  5. ^ "Bill Berry | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  6. ^ "Bill Berry | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 January 2017.

External links[edit]