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date: 13 November 2019

Neidlinger, Buellfree

  • Barry Kernfeld

(b New York, March 2, 1936; d Whidbey Island, WA, March 16, 2018). American bass player. He studied cello with Luigi Silva and Gregor Piatigorsky, and at the age of 12 won a competition to play with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. While attending Yale University, around 1954 he took up double bass and began to play in a dixieland and swing group, Eli’s Chosen Six. He then joined Conrad Janis’s band in New York, where he performed with such famous musicians as Joe Sullivan, Vic Dickenson, Ben Webster, and Billie Holiday. Leaping the boundary between genres once again (as did his colleagues Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd from that same period), in 1955 he joined Cecil Taylor’s group, with which he remained until the early 1960s, thereby playing a prominent role in the development of free jazz; he also recorded under the leadership of his fellow sideman Lacy. Neidlinger was a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra (1962–4) and then, after studying contemporary music at SUNY, Buffalo (1964–6), of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1966–70). In 1969 he went to Los Angeles for a jazz-rock recording session with Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty. He briefly led his own group, the Looney Toons, in Boston in 1970, and that autumn he settled in Los Angeles to teach at the California Institute for the Arts (1970–82) and to work as a studio musician, in which capacity he recorded prolifically on both double bass and electric bass guitar; from 1972 to 1978 he was also the principal bass player of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

In 1979 Marty Krystall and Neidlinger formed the record company and label K2B2, and in the late 1970s the two men began to lead bands together: Krystall Klear and the Buells, with Peter Erskine on drums; Buellgrass, consisting of clarinet, saxophone, harmonica, mandolin, double bass, and drums (again, Erskine) and performing mainly bluegrass-oriented interpretations of tunes by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker; a quartet with Billy Higgins, recording around 1980; from 1985, the quartet Thelonious, devoted to Monk’s music, with which the two musicians toured Europe in 1986; and from the late 1980s, small groups devoted to the compositions of Herbie Nichols, notably a quintet which recorded in 1994 and for which Neidlinger supplied arrangements and played cello rather than double bass. In 1987 Neidlinger recorded with Anthony Braxton, and in 1989 he gave a duo concert with Braxton in Santa Monica, California, and recorded for K2B2 as a sideman with Ivo Perelman.

Selected recordings

As leader

with C. Taylor: New York R&B (1961, Barnaby 31035)

with M. Krystall: Ready for the 90’s (1961, c1980, K2B2 2069), Thelonious (1986, K2B2 2569)

with M. Krystall and P. Erskine: Aurora (1988, Denon CY73148)

Big Drum (1990, K2B2 3069)

Blue Chopsticks: a Portrait of Herbie Nichols (1994, K2B2 3169) [cello]

As sideman with C. Taylor

Jazz Advance (1956, Tran. 19)

The Gigi Gryce–Donald Byrd Jazz Lab & Cecil Taylor at Newport: Jazz Lab (1957, Verve 8238)

Looking Ahead! (1958, Cont. 3562)

The World of Cecil Taylor (1960, Can. 9006)

The Complete Candid Recordings of Cecil Taylor (1960–61, Mosaic 127)

As sideman with others

S. Lacy: Soprano Sax (1957, Prst. 7125)

Reflections (1958, NewJ 8206)

J.-L. Ponty: King Kong (1969, PJ 20172)

I. Perelman: Ivo (1989, K2B2 2769)


  • A. B. Spellman: “Cecil Taylor,” Four Lives in the Bebop Business (New York, 1966/R1970 as Black Music: Four Lives), 1–76
  • A. Heineman: “The Many Sides of Buell Neidlinger,” Down Beat Music ’72 (Chicago, 1971), 13
  • L. Underwood: “Profile: Buell Neidlinger,” DB, 42/7 (1975), 28
  • Z. Stewart: “Buell Neidlinger,” DB, 48/6 (1981), 21
  • J. Weiss: “Buell Neidlinger,” Coda, no.188 (1983), 8
  • B. Rusch: “Buell Neidlinger: Interview,” Cadence, 12/6 (1986), 5
  • S. Yanow: “Riffs: Buell Neidlinger,” DB, 55/4 (1988), 15
  • B. Shoemaker: “Hearsay: Buell Neidlinger,” JT, 25/3 (1995), 14
J. Gray: Fire Music: a Bibliography of the New Jazz, 1959-1990 (New York, 1991)
Down Beat
Jazz Times (Washington, 1980-)