New School News

The Night The Music Died: Jazz Loses Benny Powell

Longtime New School Jazz faculty member, trombonist, and composer Benny Powell died on Saturday, June 26, of complications related to back surgery. He was 80 years old.

Powell performed with King Kolax, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Clifford Jordan but is best known for his 12-year tenure with the legendary Count Basie and for his eight-bar contribution to the Count’s hit April in Paris., After leaving Basie, Powell embarked on a diverse musical career, working extensively on Broadway and television and making numerous recordings. During the sixties and seventies, Powell played in Duke Pearson’s New York big band and in the renowned Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. After a decade in Hollywood, where he worked on The Merv Griffin Show, Powell returned to New York in the early 1980s and connected with two visionary instrumentalist-composers, the late clarinetist John Carter and pianist Randy Weston, with whom he was still performing. As a band leader, Powell recorded with artists including Carter, Philly Joe Jones, and Jimmy Heath. In addition to winning renown as a performer and leader, Powell was a respected teacher and activist dedicated to jazz.

All of us who knew Benny feel his loss deeply, even as we recognize the musical gifts and positive human spirit that he contributed to the world around him in every moment of a full and productive life,, New School Jazz executive director Martin Mueller said. Benny played his horn like he lived his life: straight ahead, completely honest, and completely present.,

A public funeral will be held on July 12 at 7:00 p.m. in Saint Peter’s Church. For more information, visit or call 212.935.2200.

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