EmptyPatato Valdes, a pioneering Cuban conguero who became a Latin jazz star for more than half a century in the U.S., died Dec. 4 of respiratory failure in Cleveland. He was 81.
He came to the U.S. in the early 1950s and quickly established himself in New York, performing and recording with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Machito, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. He played with Herbie Mann from 1959-72.
Known for his fluid, melodic approach, Valdes tuned his drums tightly to play in tune with the rest of the orchestra, and he popularized the playing of multiple conga drums rather than one or two.
In the 1956 film "And God Created Woman," he is briefly seen teaching Brigitte Bardot to dance the mambo.
Cecil Payne, who in the 1940s was one of the first baritone saxophonists to master the intricacies of bebop and became a leading exponent of his ungainly instrument, died Nov. 27 of prostate cancer in Stratford, N.J. He was 84.
Payne was a sideman for most of his career, highly regarded by his fellow musicians — including Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Randy Weston and many others — and by the critics. In latter years, he led a combo of younger musicians.
He is remembered for the outstanding solos he recorded with Gillespie's groundbreaking big band in addition to anchoring the fleet saxophone section.
Danny Newman, the longtime press agent for Chicago's Lyric Opera who revolutionized the way live performances are marketed to audiences via subscription, died Dec. 1 of pulmonary fibrosis at his home near Chicago. He was 88.
Crisscrossing the globe as a consultant for the Ford Foundation and the Theater Communications Group beginning in 1961, Newman helped launch subscription campaigns at more than 500 arts organizations on five continents, in countries from Finland to the Philippines.
His 1977 book "Subscribe Now!" — used in 31 countries and printed in 10 editions — has become a textbook in many graduate schools of arts management.
Jeanne Bates, a veteran actress who played Nurse Wills on TV's "Ben Casey" in the 1960s and the mother in David Lynch's 1977 cult favorite "Eraserhead," died Nov. 28 of breast cancer at the Motion Picture and Television Fund hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 89.
Bates played the lead — and supplied the signature scream — on the radio mystery series "Whodunit." She married the program's writer, Lew X. Lansworth, in 1943.
Under contract to Columbia Pictures, Bates made her film debut in the 1943 Boston Blackie mystery "The Chance of a Lifetime," starring Chester Morris. That same year, she was the heroine in the 1943 serial "The Phantom," starring Tom Tyler.
"Philadelphia" Jerry Ricks, a blues guitarist who mastered the sound of 1930s Delta blues, died Dec. 10 in a clinic in Croatia. He was 67.
Ricks learned from and performed with such blues greats as Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee and Lightnin' Hopkins.
He and his wife, Nancy, moved to Croatia this year after performing a concert in the country. His death was announced by the Croatian Music Union, which said he had been hospitalized in August after a stroke.
Ricks was born in Philadelphia and began playing guitar in the coffeehouse where he washed dishes.
He played throughout Europe in the 1970s and '80s, recording albums in Germany, Hungary and Yugoslavia. In the '90s, he returned to the U.S. to live in the Mississippi Delta, before deciding this year to move to Kastav, Croatia.