LOS ANGELES - Buddy Collette, a Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist, flautist, bandleader and educator who played important roles as a musician and an advocate for the rights of African American musicians, has died. He was 89.
Collette's virtuosic skills on saxophones, flute and clarinet allowed him to move easily from studio work in films, television and recording to small jazz groups and big bands. During his lengthy career, Collette performed and recorded with such notable musicians as Frank Sinatra, Charlie Parker, Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and more.
Collette was also one of the activists instrumental in the 1953 merging of the then all-African American musicians union Local 767 and the all-white Local 47.
Collette had already crossed the color bar before that in 1949 and 1950 by performing as the only African American musician in the orchestra for Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" radio and television shows.
Collette was born Aug. 6, 1921, in Los Angeles. He was raised in Watts, and was a childhood friend and contemporary of former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley and close musical associate of bassist/composer Charles Mingus, whom Collette persuaded, at the age of 13, to switch from cello to bass.
In 1998, Mayor Richard J. Riordan designated Collette "A Living Los Angeles Cultural Treasure." Collette's autobiography, "Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society," written with Steven Iosardi, was published in 2000.- Los Angeles Times