Going Like 80 (+)

Rifftides reader Mark Mohr writes:

Sad about Motian, he was definitely one of a kind. Who else is still playing at 80?

Off the top of my head (more or less):

Phil Woods (80)

Ira Sullivan (80)

Ornette Coleman (81)

Richard Davis (81)

Jim Hall (81)

Bill Henderson (81)

Annie Ross (81)

Frank Strazzeri (81

Barry Harris (82)

Ernestine Anderson (83)

Junior Mance (83)

Bill Crow (84)

Dick Hyman (84)

Lee Konitz (84)

Martial Solal (84)

Jimmy Heath (85)

Med Flory (85)

Bill (William O.) Smith (85)

Eddie Duran (86)

Dave Pell (86)

Chico Hamilton (90)

Jon Hendricks (90)

Dave Brubeck (91)

Marian McPartland (93)

There must be others.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Rubén González says

    You could add a fantastic Belgian musician Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor “Toots” Thielemans (89); Roy Haynes (86) and of course the “messengers” Horace Silver (83) and Benny Golson (82).

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Thank you. All are still playing except for Horace, who, unfortunately, has been unwell for some time.

  2. mel says

    Not active as a musician, but still around at 99 is John O. Levy, formerly a bassist, later becoming a well-liked manager to jazz artists.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      This Rifftides post from last February has video of Levy in action with George Shearing nearly 60 years ago.

      And since John’s and Gerald Wilson’s inclusion expands this beyond the still-playing category established by Mark Mohr, I will add Bill Holman (83) and Johnny Mandel (86), composers, arrangers and, like Wilson, former players.

  3. Rob D says

    What a terrific list of talented people who are still with us and, in many cases, still contributing music to our world. Sometimes I focus on the myriad of talents who left us way too soon (with Motian’s passing, it’s hard not to remember LaFaro) but we should also count our blessings at times.

  4. says

    Pianist Irving Fields teamed up with percussionist Roberto Rodriguez for a pair of CDs on Tzadik released in 2006 and 2007 – he was 92 at the time of the latter recording and my understanding is that he was still playing on a regular basis (6 nights a week!) at a restaurant in Manhattan at the time of his 95th birthday in August of 2010. “Bagels and Bongos” indeed!

  5. says

    As far as I know:

    Gerald Wilson (93)
    Eddie Bert (89)
    Joe Wilder (89)
    Buddy Greco (85)
    Bucky Pizzarelli (85)
    Richard Wyands (83)
    Bob Brookmeyer (82 next month, still writing, I don’t know about playing)
    Marty Grosz (81)
    Kenny Wheeler (81)
    Ahmad Jamal (81)
    Kenny Burrell (just 80)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. says

    JACK REILLY (that’s me) will be 80 on JANUARY 1, 2012.

    THe whole world celebrates my birthday. And at midnight they’re screaming “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”! At least that’s what I think they’re saying!! ONE HEARS WHAT ONE WANTS TO HEAR.


  7. Red Sullivan says

    Frank Wess, Frank Wess, Frank Wess (89).
    Sam Most, Sam Most, Sam Most (81).
    AND, another of the greatest flute players of them all, Don Burrows (83), indisputably Australia’s giant of jazz.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Crotty, the original Dave Brubeck Quartet bassist, is 82 and still playing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s a Rifftides post about him from 2009. It includes reader updates from as recently as September.

  8. Mark Mohr says

    This is great! I knew that as soon as you started ruminating on jazz musicians who are 80+ the list would grow thanks to your dedicated and knowledgeable Rifftides readers. This expanding list is an excellent reminder about the rich history of this wonderful musical idiom we call “Jazz.”

  9. says

    Well, I can add the following offhand as well:

    Trumpeter Lionel Ferbos (100)
    Trombonist Tom Ebbert (92)
    Guitarist Frankie Federico–not absolutely sure if he’s still alive. If so, he would be 99 and still in a nursing home.
    Bassist Peter “Chuck” Badie (86)
    Trumpeter Dave Bartholomew (91)
    Saxophonist Al Belletto (83)
    Trombonist Wendell Eugene (88)
    Drummer Charlie Lodice (85)
    Drummer Lionel Batiste (80)
    Saxophonist/educator Harold Battiste (80)
    Clarinetist Pete Fountain (81)

    Give me some time and I can probably come up with a few more.

  10. says

    That would be “The Great Eighties”, a jazz orchestra with a lot of alternating guitarists, drummers, bassists, pianists throughout an imaginary concert, and complete horn sections without many subs, except for the saxophones.

    The trombone section would sound a bit thin, though, with only three protagonists of that instrument.

    Then we have more than three prolific composers/ arrangers and two songstresses plus two “boy” vocalists, when the great David Allyn (88) would join the fun.

  11. says

    As of my last Annual Fourth of July Tribute to Jazz Legends, here are a few octogenarians who seem to have been left out (admittedly not sure about which of them are still playing).

    Saxophonists: Herb Geller, Gabe Baltazar, Harold Ousley, Joe Temperley, Big Jay McNeely, Dick Hafer, Lou Donaldson, Red Holloway, Marshall Allen, Sam Rivers, Yusef Lateef, Hal Singer.
    Pianists: Mose Allison, Randy Weston, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Marty Napoleon, Cecil Taylor.
    Trumpeters: “Doc” Severinsen, Clark Terry.
    Drummers: Jimmy Cobb, Charlie Persip, Al Harewood, Chico Hamilton, Candido.
    Vocalists: Sheila Jordan,Tony Bennett, Jimmy Scott and Johnny Otis.
    Guitarists: Mundell Lowe and Johnny Smith.
    Vibists:Teddy Charles and Terry Gibbs.
    Clarinetists: Buddy DeFranco and Bob Wilber.
    Trombonist: Urbie Green.
    Bassists: Eugene Wright, Jymie Merritt and Howard Rumsey.

  12. Dick McGarvin says

    I’ve been away for a few days and just got caught up with Rifftides postings, so I hope this comment isn’t too much after the fact.

    What a great and inspiring list! I’d like to add a couple of names of LA based players. Saxophonist Plas Johnson turned 80 this year and is still going strong. And I recently learned of an upcoming gig by Kenny Dennis (81), drummer with Phineas Newborn and Nancy Wilson, and on the classic LEGRAND JAZZ by Michel LeGrand.

    Incidentally, the 80th birthday tribute concert for Kenny Burrell earlier this month at UCLA’s Royce Hall was a sold-out success and a wonderful musical evening. There is a nice review by Don Heckman at https://irom.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/live-jazz-kenny-burrell-80-years-young-at-royce-hall/

    Good to see Bob Dorough’s name mentioned. I saw him in April, sitting in for a couple of tunes on jam session night at the Deerhead Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA, and he sounded as vital and spry as ever.

  13. says

    Since the list is getting longer and longer and longer, I’d like to add two octogenarians friends and legends;

    1) JOEY CETANI, 83, living and gigging in in Las Vegas. Joey was my first major inspiration when I was 15. He played all styles of jazz piano better than the originals. He went on the road after high school with the “KRACKERJACKS”, a very musical show band and he was the featured soloist every night. His inspirations were Tristano, Powel, Shearing.

    For me there hasn’t been any other musician with such passion and love for Classical and Jazz. We are back in touch and great friends. I feel I’ve returned the inspiration.

    2) One more friend and 87 year old, LEE SHAW; a great pianist and composer. Lee is well known in Europe and was featured at the Kennedy Center’s “WOMEN IN JAZZ” series a few years back. She is an unsung hero for Jazz music; Passionate and still improving at 87.

    I am grateful for having JOEY and LEE in my life.

  14. Ken Franckling says

    Pianist, arranger, composer and conductor Tommy Goodman (86). [worked with Benny, but no relation]. Tommy is now based in Florida. I heard him last night in Venice FL.