EmptyAlvin Batiste, a clarinetist who played in avant-garde style as well as traditional New Orleans style, died May 6 at his home in New Orleans after an apparent heart attack. He was 74.
He died hours before he was scheduled to perform with Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Marsalis this year produced "Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste," which showcased Batiste's compositions.
Batiste performed with saxophonists Ornette Coleman and Cannonball Adderley as well as musicians as diverse as drummer Billy Cobham and pianist Dr. John. He toured in the 1980s with Clarinet Summit, a quartet that included John Carter, David Murray and Jimmy Hamilton.
Batiste doubled on piano and saxophone when he toured with such R&B artists as Ray Charles, Guitar Slim and Little Willie John.
Zola Taylor, who broke gender barriers in the 1950s as a member of the Platters, harmonizing with her male colleagues on hits like "The Great Pretender," died April 30 from complications of pneumonia at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside, Calif. She was 69.
Founding Platters member Herb Reed said he spotted Taylor, the sister of Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, rehearsing with a girl group in 1955 and knew immediately that she had the charisma and vocal chops his R&B group needed.
With Taylor in the lineup, the band's smooth, romantic songs started taking off. "Only You" reached No. 5 in the pop charts in 1955, and the group scored four No. 1 singles in the next three years: "The Great Pretender," "My Prayer," "Twilight Time" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."
Gordon Scott, a muscular former lifeguard who portrayed Tarzan in the 1950s, died April 30 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore of complications following heart surgery. He was 80.
Scott made 24 movies, including "Tarzan and the Lost Safari" (1957), "Tarzan's Fight for Life" (1958), "Tarzan and the Trappers" (1958) and "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure," starring Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle.
After the "Tarzan" movies, Scott appeared in Westerns and gladiator films.
Jill Richards, an actress-turned-fashion designer who was known for a feminine dress style that earned her the nickname "Ruffles Richards," died April 21 at Sunrise Senior Living in Beverly Hills. She was 85.
When she launched her first collection in 1970, Richards joined a small group of Los Angeles designers who helped expand the California market beyond swimsuits and shorts. Nearly every one of her collections included a version of her "Kitty Foyle" look: a dark-colored dress or suit with a white collar that was inspired by an outfit Ginger Rogers wore in the 1940 movie of the same name.
She had small parts in movies like "April in Paris." More often she worked in television, making guest appearances on "Dragnet," "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" and other series.
Dabbs Greer, a character actor who often was cast as television's everyman and was best known for playing the Rev. Robert Alden on "Little House on the Prairie," died April 28 at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena of complications from heart and kidney problems. He was 90.
His career spanned more than a half-century and included appearances in nearly 100 films and about 600 television episodes.
In his final film, "The Green Mile" (1999), Greer, then 82, took over the role of prison guard Paul Edgecomb when the character became too old for Tom Hanks to realistically play.