Willie Dennis

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For the rapper, see Willie D.
Willie Dennis
Birth name William DeBerardinis
Born (1926-01-10)January 10, 1926
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died July 8, 1965(1965-07-08) (aged 39)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Trombonist
Instruments Trombone
Years active 1950–1965
Labels Debut Records

Willie Dennis (né William DeBerardinis, January 10, 1926, Philadelphia – July 8, 1965, New York City) was an American jazz trombonist[1][2][3][4] known as a big band musician but who was also an influential bebop soloist.[5] He died in an automobile accident in New York in 1965.[6]


After working with Elliot Lawrence,[7] Claude Thornhill,[8] and Sam Donahue,[9] Dennis also performed with Charles Mingus,[10] appearing on two of Mingus's more successful albums in 1959, Blues & Roots[11] and Mingus Ah Um.[12] In 1953, Dennis recorded Four Trombones[13] (released in 1957) for Mingus's Debut Records. The other three trombones were J. J. Johnson,[14] Kai Winding[15] and Bennie Green.[16]

The fullest recorded example of Dennis's solo work, however, is on a little-known 1956 Savoy disc by English pianist Ronnie Ball[17] (like Dennis, a student of Tristano[18]), All About Ronnie,[19] in the company of Ted Brown,[20] Wendell Marshall[21] and Kenny Clarke.[22]

In the late 1950s Dennis returned to his big band roots, joining Buddy Rich[23] in 1959 after stints with Benny Goodman,[24] (with whom he travelled to the Soviet Union in 1962) and Woody Herman.[25]

In the 1960s, Dennis also performed often with Gerry Mulligan.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Relationships and family[edit]

He married singer Morgana King in 1961. They had only been married for a few years when he died in 1965 in an automobile accident in Central Park, New York City.[6][27] They had no children.


Style and influence[edit]

Dennis was renowned for his extremely fast articulation on the trombone, obtained by means of varying the natural harmonics of the instrument with minimal recourse to the slide (a technique known as "against the grain").


With Cannonball Adderley

With Manny Albam

With Mundell Lowe

With Gary McFarland

With Charles Mingus

With Gerry Mulligan

With Oliver Nelson

With Buddy Rich

With Shirley Scott

With Zoot Sims

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ Carr, Fairweather, Priestley. The Rough Guide to Jazz (2004) pp. 209 - ISBN 1-84353-256-5
  2. ^ Berendt, Joachim Ernst The New Jazz Book, A History and Guide (1962), pp. 314
  3. ^ Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane, His Life and Music (2000) pp. 59 - ISBN 0-472-08643-X
  4. ^ Bogdanov, Woodstra, Erlewine. All Music Guide to Jazz, The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music (2002) pp. 877 - ISBN 0-87930-717-X
  5. ^ "Evolution of the Jazz Trombone", Part Three: Bebop, by David M. Wilken
  6. ^ a b Jack, Gordon Fifties Jazz Talk, An Oral Retrospective (2004) pp. 85 - ISBN 0-8108-4997-6
  7. ^ Elliot Lawrence at Allmusic
  8. ^ Claude Thornhill at Allmusic
  9. ^ Sam Donahue at Allmusc
  10. ^ Charles Mingus
  11. ^ Blues and Roots 2008 record label Rhino CD Import release
  12. ^ Album titled" Mingus Ah Um 1999 record label Sony Records CD release
  13. ^ The Four Trombones, The Debut Recordings 1991 record label Prestige CD release
  14. ^ J. J. Johnson
  15. ^ Kai Winding at All About Jazz
  16. ^ Bennie Green at All About Jazz
  17. ^ Ronnie Ball at Allmusic
  18. ^ Lennie Tristano at All About Jazz
  19. ^ Album titled: All About Ronnie 1994 record label Savoy Jazz CD release
  20. ^ Ted Brown at All About Jazz
  21. ^ Wendell Marshall at Allmusic
  22. ^ Kenny Clarke at Allmusic
  23. ^ Buddy Rich
  24. ^ Benny Goodman
  25. ^ Woody Herman at Solid!
  26. ^ Gerry Mulligan
  27. ^ Liner notes by Fr. Norman O'Connors - Morgana King album It's A Quiet Thing

External links[edit]