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date: 15 November 2019

Flanagan, Tommy (Lee)locked

  • Bill Dobbins
  • , revised by Jonas Westover

Extract

(Lee)

(b Detroit, MI, March 16, 1930; d New York, NY, Nov 16, 2001). American jazz pianist. He began studying clarinet at the age of six and took up piano when he was 11. In his early years he performed professionally in the Detroit area with Milt Jackson, Thad Jones, and Elvin Jones, among others, playing in a style influenced by Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. After moving to New York in 1956 he occasionally substituted for Powell at Birdland and became a sought-after session player almost immediately. He also worked for brief periods with the double bass player Oscar Pettiford, the trombonist J.J. Johnson, and the trumpeter Miles Davis. Flanagan is perhaps best known as the pianist and music director for Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he worked intermittently from 1956 and recorded into the late 1970s. He was also Tony Bennett’s music director. In the 1980s and 90s Flanagan turned his attention towards performing in small ensembles and kept a regular recording schedule. A master of bop, a poetic interpreter of popular tunes, and an eloquent spokesman for the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Flanagan was one of the jazz world’s most sought-after pianists. His tasteful skills as an accompanist sometimes overshadowed his graceful but authoritative solo style. Although he never won the coveted prize, Flanagan was nominated for four Grammy awards....

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