KAY DAVIS, COLORATURA WHO SOARED IN WORDLESS SONGS
Published: February 22, 2012
Kay Davis, who wove her haunting soprano tones through many of Duke Ellington’s records in the 1940s, often using her voice as an instrument within the orchestra, died on Jan. 27 at her home in Apopka, Fla. She was 91.
William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Kay Davis with Duke Ellington. The classically trained coloratura soprano sang with Mr. Ellington’s orchestra from 1944 to 1950.
Her death was confirmed by her son, Edward Lawson Wimp.
Ms. Davis performed with the Ellington orchestra from 1944 to 1950. As a member of a trio of female vocalists — the others were Joya Sherrill and Maria Ellington (no relation) — she offered the maestro an opportunity to reprise something he had long relished: wordless vocalization.
“She was a classically trained coloratura,” Phil Schaap, curator of Jazz at Lincoln Center, said in an interview on Tuesday, noting that Ellington had used “the high-register female voice as instrumental color” in the middle and late 1920s. Among the best-known wordless works was “Creole Love Call,” sung by Adelaide Hall in 1927.
“With Kay Davis, he returned to this practice,” including revisiting “Creole Love Call” in 1944, Mr. Schaap said. “And he took a work that featured the trombone, ‘Blue Light,’ renamed it ‘Transblucency,’ and blended trombone with her highest-notes coloratura voice.”
While “Transblucency” may be her signature piece in the genre, Ms. Davis recorded several other noteworthy wordless vocals — many accompanied by the renowned trombonist Lawrence Brown — including “Violet Blue,” “Minnehaha” and “On a Turquoise Cloud.”
Kay Davis was born Kathryn McDonald in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 5, 1920, one of three children of Samuel and Katherine McDonald.
“As early as the age of 10 I knew I wanted to sing professionally,” she said in a 2001 interview with Northwestern magazine, published by Northwestern University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in 1942 and a master’s degree a year later.
As one of only six African-American students enrolled in the school of music at the time, she was not allowed to stay in the residence halls. “We used to drool over Willard Hall, which was right across from the music building,” she said. “I had a good time at Northwestern, but there were those limitations.”
Ellington came to Evanston in 1944 and, after hearing Ms. Davis at a recital, asked her to join his band. She was soon singing alongside Ms. Sherrill and Al Hibbler. She and Mr. Hibbler handled the vocals on one of the Ellington band’s best-known songs of that era, “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues.” A major moment in her career came on Nov. 13, 1948, when she sang Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” with Strayhorn at the piano, at Carnegie Hall.
Ms. Davis left the band in 1950 to marry Edward Wimp; he died in 1991. Besides her son, she is survived by a grandson.
“She had a purity of tone and accuracy of intonation that added another instrumental voice to the Ellington palette,” Richard A. Wang, a jazz scholar and an associate professor emeritus of music at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said.
“If one made a classical reference, it would be to the sounds in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise’ — also a wordless vocal,” he added.
DICK ANTHONY WILLIAMS, ACTOR AND THEATER PRODUCER
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: February 21, 2012
Dick Anthony Williams, a prolific actor who created enduring roles in blaxploitation films during the 1970s while simultaneously securing his reputation on the New York stage with Tony-nominated performances and a Drama Desk Award, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Dick Anthony Williams as a pimp in “What the Wine-Sellers Buy” (1974).
American Playhouse, via PBS
Mr. Williams as Malcolm X in “The Meeting.”
His death was confirmed by a family friend, Samantha Wheeler. No cause was given.
Mr. Williams was in the top rank of the first generation of black actors to find steady work in American film, television and theater. Though he was most often cast in supporting roles, his performances were invariably singled out by critics for their intelligence and subtlety.
In 1974 he was widely praised for his performance in Ron Milner’s “What the Wine-Sellers Buy,” the first play by an African-American produced by Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival.
His multilayered portrayal of a Detroit pimp, which won Mr. Williams the Drama Desk Award and a Tony nomination, was a cautionary version of the more flamboyant character he portrayed in the blaxploitation movie “The Mack,” starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor, released in 1973. Mr. Williams’s character, Pretty Tony, was a philosopher-pimp armed with a sword-cane, a figure said to have left its stamp on the pimp-centric worldview of hip-hop artists like Tupac Shakur and Ludacris.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Williams and the director Woodie King Jr. were co-founders of the New Federal Theater, an actors’ workshop open to professionals and amateurs, at minimal cost, at the Henry Street Settlement. The theater became a showcase for playwrights and actors including David Henry Hwang, Ntozake Shange, Amiri Baraka, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington. The New Federal Theater is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Mr. Williams, who was born on Aug. 9, 1934, on the South Side of Chicago, spent four years of his childhood in a hospital being treated for polio. In an interview with The Chicago Tribune, he said being hospitalized had its advantages. It kept him safe, he said, and he “ate well.”
But, he added, “it’s very gratifying now to see an iron lung and not have to get into it.”
Mr. Williams began acting in Chicago while working as a member of a singing group called the Williams Brothers Quartet. He moved to Los Angeles, where he directed and starred in a production of Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s “Big Time Buck White.” Reviewing it for The New York Times when it played in New York in 1968, Clive Barnes praised Mr. Williams’s Buck, a Black Panther-like leader, for the “weary tolerance” with which he raises the consciousness of others.
In 1974 and 1975 he was nominated for Tony Awards for his work in the dramas “Black Picture Show” and “What the Wine-Sellers Buy.” He won acclaim for his portrayal of Malcolm X opposite Paul Winfield’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 NBC mini-series “King,” and again in several theatrical productions of Jeff Stetson’s play “The Meeting,” which depicted a fictional meeting between the two civil rights leaders.
In the early 1990s he was a regular on the ABC-TV series “Homefront.” He also had roles in many other television shows and in movies including “The Jerk” (as Steve Martin’s brother) and Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues.”
Mr. Williams is survived by two daughters, Mona and Mikah, and a son, Jason. His wife, the actress Gloria Edwards, died in 1988.
Mr. Williams ran actors’ workshops at the New Federal Theater from 1971 until the end of the decade. The workshops were free because he and the co-founder, Mr. King, wanted to develop new talent at a time when opportunities for black actors were increasing. “So we had no auditions,” he said in a taped interview for the theater’s anniversary celebration, “which was good and bad” for the program.
The free workshops attracted some street gang members and ex-prostitutes, he said. Some of them were talented, he added, chuckling, “but some of them just scared people off.”
JIMMY SABATER, MASTER OF BOOGALOO
By ELIAS E. LOPEZ
Published: February 19, 2012
Jimmy Sabater, a singer and timbales player who was one of the architects of the hybrid Latin style known as boogaloo in the 1960s and ’70s, died on Feb. 8 at his home in the Bronx. He was 75.
Jimmy Sabater in 2007.
The cause was complications of heart disease, said his son, Jimmy Sabater Jr.
Mr. Sabater, at one point one of the most revered vocalists in Latin music, rose to fame as the “velvet voice” while working with the influential New York bandleader Joe Cuba.
Mr. Sabater’s raspy voice and intimate style drew as much from doo-wop and crooners like Nat King Cole as from Puerto Rican danza. The Joe Cuba Sextet, with which he spent more than 20 years, was one of the most commercially successful Latin acts of the early 1960s and reached an even wider audience after incorporating elements of soul and funk into its sound.
Mr. Sabater (pronounced sa-bah-TARE) sang in Spanish and English, a factor that contributed to the group’s appeal, and he and Mr. Cuba became symbols of the growing Nuyorican identity in New York, one rooted in a generation’s common urban experiences rather than in life on their parents’ island.
Jaime Sabater Gonzalez was born in the Spanish Harlem section of Manhattan on April 11, 1936, to parents who had migrated from Ponce, P.R. Among his neighbors when he was growing up were Tito Puente and the percussionist William Correa, professionally known as Willie Bobo, who lived next door to Mr. Sabater and started teaching him to play timbales drums using empty oatmeal containers.
Before long, Mr. Sabater was playing and singing with bands at local nightclubs in Harlem and at the Palladium Ballroom, the glamorous club on Broadway and 53rd Street that was a fulcrum for Afro-Caribbean music. He joined Mr. Cuba as a singer and timbales player in 1954.
The smooth ballad “To Be With You,” which became Mr. Sabater’s signature song, was one of the first of the Joe Cuba Sextet’s string of hits. It was on the album “Steppin’ Out,” which also featured another promising young singer, Cheo Feliciano, who went on to become a major salsa star but was already enjoying some attention on the Latin scene.
Hits like “Sock It to Me Baby” and the rollicking “Bang Bang” followed in 1967, cementing the band’s and Mr. Sabater’s crossover appeal by reaching a mainstream pop audience as well as Latino and black listeners. Mr. Sabater became the voice of the “bastard sound” of boogaloo, as Mr. Cuba called the style that his band pioneered, and his voice floated above stripped-down songs on which moving bass lines, vibraphone and piano replaced the traditional brass sections.
The Joe Cuba Sextet continued to move deeper into funk and disco (Mr. Sabater even resurrected “To Be With You” as a disco remix in 1976), and the boogaloo craze dominated dance floors until the late 1970s, when the emerging salsa movement began to attract bigger audiences.
Mr. Sabater left the group in 1977 after a falling out with Mr. Cuba, whom he accused of taking undue credit and royalties for some hit songs. He released several solo albums, including the genre-defying “El Hijo de Teresa/Teresa’s Son,” which contained traditional salsa numbers, heavy doses of funk and an Afro-Caribbean cover of Kool and the Gang’s “Kool It (Here Comes the Fuzz).”
He continued to perform until last year as the lead singer of Son Boricua, the critically acclaimed band led by the percussionist and bandleader José Mangual Jr.
Mr. Sabater’s marriage to Carmen Sabater ended in divorce. In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, Terry, nine grandchildren and a goddaughter, Debbie Garay.
ANTHONY SHADID, REPORTER IN MIDDLE EAST
Anthony Shadid in Cairo for The New York Times, taking notes on top of a bus during the revolution in Egypt last February. More Photos »
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: February 16, 2012
Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent who died on Thursday at 43, had long been passionately interested in the Middle East, first because of his Lebanese-American heritage and later because of what he saw there firsthand.
At Work in Syria, Times Correspondent Dies(February 17, 2012)
The Lede Blog: From Readers and Colleagues, an Outpouring of Respect for Anthony Shadid(February 17, 2012)
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Editorial: Anthony Shadid(February 18, 2012)
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post
Anthony Shadid filed by moonlight and satellite modem on a hotel rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, in 2003.
Mr. Shadid spent most of his professional life covering the region, as a reporter first with The Associated Press; then The Boston Globe; then with The Washington Post, for which he won Pulitzer Prizes in 2004 and 2010; and afterward with The New York Times. At his death, from what appeared to be an asthma attack, he was on assignment for The Times in Syria.
Mr. Shadid’s hiring by The Times at the end of 2009 was widely considered a coup for the newspaper, for he had been esteemed throughout his career as an intrepid reporter, a keen observer, an insightful analyst and a lyrical stylist. Much of his work centered on ordinary people who had been forced to pay an extraordinary price for living in the region — or belonging to the religion, ethnic group or social class — that they did.
He was known most recently to Times readers for his clear-eyed coverage of the Arab Spring. For his reporting on that sea change sweeping the region — which included dispatches from Lebanon and Egypt — The Times nominated him, along with a team of his colleagues, for the 2012 Pulitzer in international reporting. (The awards are announced in April.)
In its citation accompanying the nomination, The Times wrote:
“Steeped in Arab political history but also in its culture, Shadid recognized early on that along with the despots, old habits of fear, passivity and despair were being toppled. He brought a poet’s voice, a deep empathy for the ordinary person and an unmatched authority to his passionate dispatches.”
Mr. Shadid’s work entailed great peril. In 2002, as a correspondent for The Globe, he was shot in the shoulder while reporting in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Last March, Mr. Shadid and three other Times journalists — Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks — were kidnapped in Libya by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces. They were held for six days and beaten before being released.
Later that year, as the Syrian authorities denounced him for his coverage and as his family was being stalked by Syrian agents in Lebanon, Mr. Shadid nonetheless stole across the border to interview Syrian protesters who had defied bullets and torture to return to the streets.
“He had such a profound and sophisticated understanding of the region,” Martin Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe, for whom Mr. Shadid worked during his tenure there, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “More than anything, his effort to connect foreign coverage with real people on the ground, and to understand their lives, is what made his work so special. It wasn’t just a matter of diplomacy: it was a matter of people, and how their lives were so dramatically affected by world events.”
Mr. Shadid was born in Oklahoma City on Sept. 26, 1968, the son of Rhonda and Buddy Shadid. The younger Mr. Shadid, who became fluent in Arabic only as an adult, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism from the University of Wisconsin in 1990. He later joined The Associated Press, reporting from Cairo, before moving to The Globe in 2001. He was with The Washington Post from 2003 until 2009.
Mr. Shadid joined The Times on Dec. 31, 2009, as Baghdad bureau chief, and became the newspaper’s bureau chief in Beirut, Lebanon, last year.
His first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include his second wife, the journalist Nada Bakri; their son, Malik; a daughter, Laila, from his first marriage; his parents; a sister, Shannon, of Denver; and a brother, Damon, of Seattle.
He was the author of three books, “Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats and the New Politics of Islam” (2001); “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War” (2005); and “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East,” to be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In a front-page article for The Times last year, Mr. Shadid, reporting from Tunisia amid the Arab Spring, displayed his singular combination of authority, acumen and style.
“The idealism of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, where the power of the street revealed the frailty of authority, revived an Arab world anticipating change,” he wrote. “But Libya’s unfinished revolution, as inspiring as it is unsettling, illustrates how perilous that change has become as it unfolds in this phase of the Arab Spring.
“Though the rebels’ flag has gone up in Tripoli,” he continued, “their leadership is fractured and opaque; the intentions and influence of Islamists in their ranks are uncertain; Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remains at large in a flight reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s; and foreigners have been involved in the fight in the kind of intervention that has long been toxic to the Arab world.” He added, “Not to mention, of course, that a lot of young men have a lot of guns.”
At Work in Syria, Times Correspondent Dies
By RICK GLADSTONE
Anthony Shadid, a prize-winning journalist, was reporting inside Syria when he suffered a fatal asthma attack.