Obituary: Buddy Collette by Alan Purslow

BUDDY COLLETTE
multi-instrumentalist, teacher and campaigner.
b. August 1921, d. September 2010

Searching through the obituaries in the daily papers over the last few weeks I was struck by the fact that the actor Tony Curtis had died around the same time as the multi-instrumentalist Buddy Collette. It was a coincidence because Curtis played Sidney Falco in the excellent 1957 movie ―Sweet Smell of Success‖ and, if you look at the cast list, you will see ―themselves – the Chico Hamilton Quintet‖. At the time of the making of the movie Hamilton was enjoying some success with his unusual quintet consisting of cello (Fred Katz), bass (Carson Smith), drums (Hamilton), guitar (Jim Hall) and tenor/flute/clarinet (Buddy Col-lette).
William Marcel Collette was born in the Watts district of Los Angeles and was part of the thriving West Coast jazz scene in the 1940s and early 50s. At the age of twelve he formed his first group (including Charles Mingus with whom Buddy formed a lifelong friendship). Col-lette was the first African-American to be a part of a television studio orchestra and played on Groucho Marx‘s TV show ―You Bet Your Life‖.
4Over the years he remained on the West Coast and became ac-tive in the fight for civil rights and the reform of the musicians‘ unions. He was also an active teacher and a mentor to many younger musicians. His book ―Jazz Generations‖ (Continuum 2001) is a fascinating account of his life and work. Probably his finest performance on record is ―Buddy Boo‖ with the Chico Hamilton Quintet (available on Avid MSC 949 on a ―Three Classic Albums‖ set), recorded live at the Strollers Club, Long Beach, 1955.