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Bassist Buell Neidlinger has died

The US musician who played on Cecil Taylor's debut album was 82 years old

American bassist, cellist and educator Buell Neidlinger died on 16 March, announced Avant Music News. Neidlinger, who performed with pianist Cecil Taylor in the 1950s and 60s, was a versatile musician who was equally at home playing jazz, pop, Dixieland or avant garde music.

Born in 1936 in Westport, Connecticut, Neidlinger learned to play the cello at a young age. He moved to bass when his teacher said it would strengthen his hand. A quick learner, he was soon described as a child prodigy, a status which caused him to suffer a mental breakdown. “The cello became, as is the case with many prodigies, a source of emotional and mental difficulty, [and when] I was 16 I flipped out and had to be hospitalised for a time,” he told Clifford Allen in All About Jazz in 2003. “They put me in this sanitarium where, strangely enough, the great Chicago jazz pianist Joe Sullivan was recuperating from alcoholism, and our therapy was [music]. I don’t know how they found out I could play the bass or whatever, but a bass was procured (probably the worst one I ever played on) and we would go down in this rotten old dusty gym in this sanitarium, where there was an upright piano, and play together. That’s when I learned one of the great lessons right off the bat – that if you want to play bass with a pianist, it’s best to stand at the left side of the keyboard so you can see what his left hand’s little finger is gonna do.”

After studying at Yale University, Neidlinger moved to New York where he gained experience performing with trombonist Conrad Janis. Janis’s band included Gene Sedric, Herman Autrey and Arthur Trappier (all from Fats Waller’s orchestra), and Dick Wellstood on piano, with Neidlinger joining them on Saturday nights. He went on to work with Roswell Rudd, Archie Shepp and Steve Lacy, who introduced him to Cecil Taylor. It was a significant moment – Neidlinger appears on the albums Taylor recorded between 1956–61, including his debut Jazz Advance (1956), Looking Ahead!, Love For Sale and In Transition (all 1959), as well as The World Of Cecil Taylor (1960). Neidlinger later worked with musicians as diverse as Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Giuffre and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Neidlinger died at his home on Whidbey Island, off the US West coast just north of Seattle, Washington.