Buddy Collette

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Buddy Collette
Birth name William Marcel Collette
Born (1921-08-06)August 6, 1921
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died September 19, 2010(2010-09-19) (aged 89)
Genres Cool jazz
West Coast jazz
West Coast blues
Instruments Tenor saxophone, Alto saxophone flute, clarinet
Associated acts Dexter Gordon, Chico Hamilton
Notable instruments
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
External video
Oral History, Buddy Collette talks about his work in Los Angeles to promote the joining of the musician's unions who at the time had separate lists for black and white performers. Interview date February 13, 2008, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library
Buddy Collette in 1985. Photo: Brian McMillen

William Marcel "Buddy" Collette (August 6, 1921 – September 19, 2010) was an American tenor saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist. He was highly influential in the West coast jazz and West Coast blues mediums, also collaborating with saxophonist Dexter Gordon, drummer Chico Hamilton, and his lifelong friend, bassist Charles Mingus.


Collette took up the alto saxophone at age 12 and led his first group, which included Britt Woodman on trombone and Charles Mingus on bass.[1] At 17 he started playing professionally. After serving as a U.S. Navy band leader, he played with the Stars of Swing[2] (featuring Woodman, Mingus and Lucky Thompson). Along with saxophonist Dexter Gordon, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Chico Hamilton, he helped keep bebop alive in Los Angeles' historic Central Avenue neighborhood. In the early 1950s he worked as a studio musician and performed on Groucho Marx's television program, You Bet Your Life.

In 1955, he became a founding member of Chico Hamilton's quintet.[3] The unusually instrumented quintet also featured guitarist Jim Hall and cellist (and pianist) Fred Katz, and performed chamber jazz. A year later, Collette recorded Man of Many Parts, his first album as a bandleader.

Unlike other influential West Coast players Collette stayed in Los Angeles, recorded with his quintet, and became a noteworthy educator. His students included such renowned musicians as Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Frank Morgan, Sonny Criss, and James Newton.

In 1996, the Library of Congress commissioned Collette to write and perform a special big band concert to highlight his long career. Although a stroke in 1998 had rendered him unable to continue performing, Collette remained active in jazz education, responsible for founding numerous programs for children in the Los Angeles area. Together with Steven Isoardi he wrote an autobiography titled Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society (Bayou 2000).

Collette was a pioneer civil rights activist, working to desegregate the musicians' union of Los Angeles. Gerald Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and saxophonist Benny Carter were some of his early supporters. He also helped organize a concert and rally protesting government repression of the African American singer, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson.

He died in Los Angeles on September 19, 2010.


As sideman[edit]

With Chet Baker

With Louis Bellson

With Red Callender

  • Swingin' Suite (Crown, 1957)

With Brass Fever

With James Brown

With Benny Carter

With June Christy

With Nat King Cole

With Miles Davis and Michel Legrand

  • Dingo (Warner Bros., 1991)

With Sammy Davis, Jr.

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Gil Fuller

With Ted Gärdestad

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Chico Hamilton

With Eddie Harris

With Jon Hendricks

With Freddie Hubbard

With Quincy Jones

With Fred Katz

With Stan Kenton

With Barney Kessel

With Wade Marcus

With Les McCann

With Carmen McRae

With Charles Mingus

With Blue Mitchell

With Lyle Murphy

With Oliver Nelson

With Dory Previn

With Don Ralke

  • Bongo Madness (Crown, 1957)

With Buddy Rich

With Little Richard

  • Mr. Big (Joy, 1965 [1971]) - previously unreleased VeeJay recordings

With Horace Silver

With Frank Sinatra

With Gábor Szabó and Bob Thiele

With The Three Sounds

  • Soul Symphony (Blue Note, 1969)
  • Persistent Percussion (1960, Kent Records, KST 500)

With Mel Tormé

With Stanley Turrentine

With Gerald Wilson

With Nancy Wilson

With Red Norvo


  1. ^ Myers, Marc (2010-05-18). "Interview: Buddy Collette". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  2. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Buddy Collette: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Chico Hamilton: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 

External links[edit]