Monday, April 4, 2011

Remembering a Legend: Bill Scarlett

With the echoes of a Middle Beethoven quartet reminding me of my afternoon, my inner jazz musician would be remiss not to note with sadness the passing of a major force- "force majeur"- on the Knoxville jazz scene AND a longtime member of the KSO, Bill Scarlett. He was principal clarinetist with the KSO from 1957 until 1977, when current principal Gary Sperl came to town. He also taught at UT for at least twice as long as that.

Bill and I shared the stage occasionally, usually on Pops concerts: Dionne Warwick, Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Byron Stripling and many more. I was struck by his bio for the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra’s website: “After 40 years of teaching at the University of Tennessee, Bill has taught almost every single member of the band in some capacity.” A 2008 inductee into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame, he was responsible for founding the UT Jazz Giants, which grew to be the UT Jazz Ensemble.

Billy (at far left) is pictured here with jazz pianist Donald Brown, who is flanked by local saxophonists Rocky Winder and Lance Owens in a photo from a cd put together by Brown called Tenors and Satin: The Knoxville Jazz Session.

There will be a memorial celebrating Bill's life and legacy on Sunday, April 10 from 7 to 9pm at the Foundry on the World's Fair Site. All are welcome to attend. Please spread the word about the memorial to anyone who you think might be interested. Hope to see you there.

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