R.I.P., Lew Soloff

I was saddened to hear of the death of the great Lew Soloff. If you hadn’t heard of him, start with the original Blood, Sweat and Tears albums — that’s him on trumpet on “Spinning Wheel.” He went on to be one of NYC’s top session men, playing for everyone there was.

When I was in high school in NJ, our jazz band would go every year to a clinic at Indian Hills HS. Soloff was there as a clinician. In between, he and fellow trumpeter Jon Faddis wandered into the auditorium and started to play “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” in thirds with as corny and rinkitink a style as you could imagine. Then, right at the point where we were all laughing, they took it up about two octaves and blew us away.

In the 80’s, I once went into the city with my dad. We went to hear a concert of avant-garde music at the MOMA Summergarden, then down to the Village Gate to catch the George Russell big band. Soloff was at both gigs. We chatted with him about the coincidence, and he was gracious, modest and grateful.

When Wynton Marsalis started with Jazz at Lincoln Center, he did an Ellington concert from the original charts. He had Soloff on the Cat Anderson chair, which meant that he took the high notes. At one solo, he hit a note so outrageously out in the stratosphere that all of the other trumpeters, the best in the business, turned and stared at him. He just shrugged and kept playing on.

He will be missed.
Give him a listen here.

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