Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Big band drum legend Bellson dies

Louie Bellson
Bellson played with the likes of Oscar Peterson and Louis Armstrong

Legendary big band drummer Louie Bellson, who performed with the likes of Oscar Peterson, has died aged 84.

The musician died at Ceders-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from complications arising from Parkinson's disease, according to the LA Times.

Bellson's career spanned more than six decades, performing on more than 200 albums with jazz greats.

Duke Ellington called him "the world's greatest drummer", and Sammy Davies Jr said he was a "symphony orchestra".

His final recording, Louie & Clark Expedition 2 with trumpeter Clark Terry, was released last year.

Bellson wrote more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements in several genres, including jazz, swing, orchestral suites, symphonic works and ballets.

He performed with many jazz legends including Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

Sammy Davis Jr said that he was "the only man I know who, when he plays by himself, sounds like a symphony orchestra."

The drummer received the prestigious American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994 and was a six-time Grammy nominee.

Bellson - born Luigi Balassoni - began his career at the age of 15, when he pioneered the double bass drum set-up, and two years later he went on to win the national Slingerland National Gene Krupa drumming contest.

According to his website, there are tentative plans for a memorial service in the Los Angeles area, followed by a funeral and burial in the drummer's childhood home of Moline, Illinois.



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