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Hoppe on the Arts: Buddy Montgomery's passing


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Buddy Montgomery, a jazz master whose roots were planted in Indianapolis' jazz scene, has died in California. Montgomery was 79.

Buddy got his start in the rich cultural scene that was the mid-twentieth century Indiana Avenue African-American community, making music not only with his siblings, but with the legendary Hampton Family.

He was the younger brother to fellow musicians Wes and Monk, and sister Lena. He was a vibraphonist and pianist, as well as a jazz activist who organized his fellow musicians for free concerts and educational initiatives in Milwaukee and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Buddy played with Wes, Monk and Robert and Alonzo Johnson in the Montgomery-Johnson quintet. Then he and Monk formed the Mastersounds with Benny Barth and Richy Crabtree in 1957, recording for World Pacific Records. In 1958, Buddy won the Down Beat magazine awards for best new vibes player and best new arranger. The Mastersounds was named best new group in the nation.

Buddy continued recording through 2006, when he released A Day in the Life on Pony Canyon. Through the course of his career he worked with many of the greatest artists of his generation, including Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, George Shearing, Ron Carter, John Coltrane and David Fathead Newman.

Buddy Montgomery left a great legacy of recorded music, but he has also served as a mentor to untold numbers of younger jazz players who had occasion to work and study with him. He was famous for his efforts to make every scene he participated in inclusive and artistically nurturing.

He enriched our collective understanding of jazz and community.


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