Monday, 27 February 2017

Elisabeth Welch born 27 February 1904

Elisabeth Margaret Welch (February 27, 1904 – July 15, 2003) was an American singer, actress, and entertainer, whose career spanned seven decades. Her best-known songs were "Stormy Weather", "Love for Sale" and "Far Away in Shanty Town". She was American-born but was based in Britain for most of her career.

Welch was born in Englewood, New Jersey, where her father was chief gardener of an estate. Her father was of indigenous American and African American ancestry; her mother was of Scottish and Irish descent. Welch was brought up in a Baptist Christian family, and began her singing in a church choir.
She first intended to go from high school into social work, but instead chose to become a professional singer. She started her career in America, in New York, in 1922, but in 1929 she went on to Europe - first to Paris and then to London, which became her base for the rest of her life. 

After her first appearance in America in Liza in 1922, Elisabeth Welch was the initial singer of the Charleston in the show Runnin' Wild (1923). During the 1920s she appeared in African-American Broadway theatre shows, including Chocolate Dandies (1924) and Blackbirds of 1928 (1928-9). She made relatively few recordings. Before moving to Europe she made only one record – "Doin' The New Lowdown", b/w 'Digga Digga Do", as vocalist for the Irving Mills-assembled Hotsy Totsy Gang (Brunswick 4014, 27 July 1928). 

One of these was taken to Paris, where in 1929 and 1930, following artist Josephine Baker, she was in cabaret shows, including performances at the Moulin Rouge.

She was asked to return to New York, where she replaced a singer in The New Yorkers (1930–1931) and sang Cole Porter's controversial song "Love for Sale". The composer met her afterwards in Paris, and later invited her to perform his song "Solomon" in Nymph Errant in London in 1933. That year, before this show was available, Welch was given permission to perform in London in Dark Doings, in which she sang "Stormy Weather", newly written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. She subsequently took the song as her signature tune. 
Welch's show-stopping performance in Nymph Errant was seen by Ivor Novello, and in 1935 he gave her a part in his show Glamorous Night, in which she stood out again singing his blues song "Far Away in Shanty Town". In 1931 she had included in her cabaret act the new song "As Time Goes By", almost a dozen years before it achieved screen fame in Casablanca. 


In the late 1930s Welch entered two media: she appeared in films – usually as a singer, including two with Paul Robeson – and was also one of the first artists to perform on television, appearing on the BBC's new TV service from Alexandra Palace.
During World War II she remained in London in spite of the Blitz. She entertained the armed forces along with many other artists. 

After the war she was in many West End theatre shows, including revues. She continued on both television and radio, and was even in one pantomime, Aladdin. She also had a series of one-woman shows, until 1990. She was in the Royal Variety Performance in 1979 and 1986. In 1979 her recording of "Stormy Weather" was used by Derek Jarman in his film version of Shakespeare's The Tempest. 

In 1980 she returned to New York to appear in Black Broadway after an absence of nearly fifty years, and she appeared there again in 1986, when her one-woman show earned her an Obie Award. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood. 

She was the subject of This Is Your Life in October 1985 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews outside London's Palace Theatre. 

Her final performance was in 1996, for a television documentary, in which she sang "Stormy Weather", at the age of 93.  She died at the age of 99 in Northwood, London, on July 15, 2003. (Info Wikipedia)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Harry Gold born 26 February 1907

Harry Gold (26 February 1907 – 13 November 2005), was a British dixieland jazz saxophonist and bandleader and a driving force behind Britain's postwar Dixieland revival, spreading the gospel of traditional jazz for more than 70 years.  

He was born Harry Goldberg, to a Romanian mother, Hetty Schulman, and a German father, Sam Goldberg. The family had first emigrated to England, but lived briefly in Dundrum, County Dublin, which is where Harry was born, the eldest of six children. His father was a tailor who loved music, often sewing while sitting cross-legged on a table to gain better proximity to the gaslight, and singing arias and popular music-hall songs. He also played the piano by ear, and sang with a remarkably wide range, which Gold always cited as his first introduction to music. 

In 1919 he attended an Original Dixieland Jazz Band date at the Hammersmith Palais, and decided then and there to become a professional musician himself. At 14 Gold dropped out of school to work in his father's tailoring business, and with his earnings purchased an alto saxophone, later studying at the London College of Music.

With violinist Joe Loss, he co-founded the Magnetic Dance Band, later forming the Florentine Dance Band with guitarist Ivor Mairants. By late 1923 Gold was able to quit his day job to pursue jazz full-time, and during a three-year stint with the Metronomes he established himself as a gifted arranger, exhibiting an understanding of form and structure uncommon among Dixieland musicians. While attending a gig headlined by American musician Fred Elizalde, Gold was so impressed by bass saxophonist Adrian Rollini that he immediately adopted the instrument for his own, buying Rollini's battered spare. Although the bass saxophone was almost as big as the 5'2" Gold, he loved its bold, spacious sound, and it remained his instrument of choice for the remainder of his career. 

With Mairants and trumpeter Les Lambert, Gold next surfaced in a vocal trio, the Cubs, that backed American bandleader Roy Fox. In 1936 he and Mairants quit following a salary dispute, and the experience made Gold an active member of the Musicians' Union, which he convinced to include jazz players alongside its traditional orchestral and theatrical constituency. Health issues conspired to keep Gold out of World War II, and from 1939 to 1942 he played with bandleader Oscar Rabin. Together they hatched a band within a band, Harry Gold's Pieces of Eight, a Dixieland outfit that served as its nominal leader's primary vehicle for the majority of his lifetime.  

In the waning years of WWII, he also served with Bert Ambrose's dance band, and landed work as an arranger for the BBC. After adding Gold's brother Laurie on saxophone, the Pieces of Eight made their recorded debut in late 1945, and early the following year became a fixture of the BBC light music program Music While You Work. In 1946, they were slated to make their television debut on the Alexandra Palace network, but were cut from broadcast after censors vetoed a duet pairing black trombonist Geoff Love and white singer Jane Lee. A performance at the 1947 Jazz Jamboree nevertheless launched the Pieces of Eight to belated national prominence, and a year later they accompanied the singer and composer Hoagy Carmichael on his well-received tour of the U.K. 

With the traditional jazz boom of the 1950s, Gold's Pieces of Eight enjoyed their commercial pinnacle. His arranging career was also flourishing, but he constantly butted heads with employers over fair negotiations, eventually to the detriment of his reputation and career. In 1955 Gold handed control of the Pieces of Eight to brother Laurie, concentrating on his work as a staff arranger at EMI Records. He also joined a classical saxophone quartet.  

In 1977, EMI forced the 70-year-old Gold into retirement, and he returned to performing full-time, joining cornetist Richard Sudhalter's big-band tribute, the Paul Whiteman Tribute Orchestra. He also formed a new incarnation of the Pieces of Eight, touring regularly and enjoying a particularly faithful following in Eastern Europe.

After dissolving the project for good in 1991 amid considerable acrimony, he regularly appeared at his London local, the Yorkshire Grey, and toured with renewed zeal following the death of wife Peggy, in 1998 playing several dates in the U.S. Gold published his autobiography Gold, Doubloons and Pieces of Eight in 2000 and continued performing until the months leading up to his death in London on November 13, 2005. He was 98. (Info edited mainly from All Music)

Here's Harry Gold (bassax) & His Pieces Of Eight, Al Wynette (t) Roy Crimmins (tb) Bob Layzel (cl,ts) Austin Malcolm (p) Gerry Ingram (b) Stan Daly (d); Dresdener Dixieland Festival 87/5/8/ DDR-TV,

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Fred Katz born 25 February 1919

Frederick Katz (February 25, 1919 – September 7, 2013) was an American cellist and composer. He was among the earliest jazz musicians to establish the cello as a viable improvising solo instrument.  

Frederick Katz was born on Feb. 25, 1919, in Brooklyn and reared in the Williamsburg section there. A prodigy on both the cello and the piano, he was performing in public by the time he was a teenager. As a young man he was a cello student of Pablo Casals and a member of the National Symphony Orchestra. 

But Mr. Katz found himself attracted increasingly to the jazz he had heard in the Manhattan nightclubs he had haunted as a youth. A Communist as a young man — for him, art, spirituality and progressive politics formed a seamless, imperative whole — he was also deeply drawn to folk music. 

During World War II, Mr. Katz was an entertainment director with the Seventh Army in Germany, conducting concerts and writing arrangements for musical revues. Afterward he moved to the West Coast and turned his attention to popular music. 

As a pianist, Mr. Katz accompanied Horne and Vic Damone. As an arranger and conductor, he was responsible for McRae’s 1958 album, “Carmen for Cool Ones.” As a composer, he wrote several songs sung by Laine, including “Satan Wears a Satin Gown,” written with Laine and with Jacques Wilson. 

He wrote music for a slew of Mr. Corman’s sanguinary low-budget films, including “The Wasp Woman” (1959), “A Bucket of Blood” (1959) and “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960).  

Mr. Katz joined the Hamilton quintet primarily as a pianist, playing the cello only on ballads. Between sets, he often took his cello and sat onstage alone, playing a classical work like an unaccompanied Bach suite. One night, playing between sets at a small club in Long Beach, Calif., Mr. Katz, his eyes closed in reverie, did not realize that his band mates had crept back onstage. The stage was tiny and crowded, and by the time the band swung into an up-tempo number and he realized what had happened, he could no longer get to the piano. So he stayed where he was, cello in hand, and played along — and with that the group had its new sound, and went on to become one of the most popular in jazz.
Mr. Katz’s great facility on the cello, combined with its capacious range of tone and pitch (its lowest note is two octaves below middle C, its highest more than two octaves above it), made his cello a singular sonic addition to the Chico Hamilton Quintet. The quintet appeared in the movies “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957), with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, and “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” (1960), Bert Stern’s documentary about the Newport Jazz Festival. 

An autodidact who left high school before graduating, Mr. Katz held faculty appointments at California State University, Northridge, and Cal State, Fullerton, teaching world music, anthropology and religion. He was a longtime Fullerton resident. 

His albums as an orchestrator and conductor include “Folk Songs for Far Out Folk,” originally recorded in 1958. Rereleased in 2007 to wide attention, it features his adaptations of American, African and Hebraic folk music. His recordings as a cellist include “Soul-o Cello” (1957) and “Fred Katz and His Jammers” (1958). 

Katz died on September 7, 2013, in Santa Monica, California. He was 94.

(Info mainly edited from an article by MARGALIT FOX for the NY Times)

Friday, 24 February 2017

Driftin' Slim born 24 February 1919

Driftin' Slim (February 24, 1919 – September 15, 1977) was an African American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. 

Born Elmon Mickle, he learned at a young age the guitar and the harmonica, his main instrument, under the very strong influence of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson whom he met several times. This influence is particularly prevalent in his playing and his repertoire (many titles come from Sonny Boy's songbook). 

By the mid-'40s, he was playing the local juke joint circuit with Sonny Boy Williamson II and King Biscuit Boy drummer Peck Curtis while doing radio stints with stations KDRK and KGHI. Living in Little Rock and working for the local railroad company, Elmon formed his own blues band with such great musicians like Junior Brooks, Baby Face Turner, Sunny Blair... and appeared quite often in local radio programmes, sometime alongside Country Music harp masters Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney.  

In 1951, he recorded his first sides for the Modern label. ‘My Little Machine’ was released as the first Driftin Slim record, while others were issued under his real name, and others under the name of Junior Brooks, the guitarist in the band. In 1952, Ike Turner, then a young talent scout for Joe Bihari and Sam Phillips went to Little Rock and decided to record Mickle,. The records have gained a worldwide reputation today but at that time they went almost nowhere and Mickle/ Slim moved to California in 1957, seeking better paid job opportunities. 

There he will record sporadically for small outfits, sometimes his own and very often paying himself the studio fares and under different names like his own and T-Model Slim. His recordings were released on the - amongst others - Modern, RPM, Blue Horizon, Styletone, Milestone, Kent, and Flyright record labels. 

In the mid-50s, Slim relocated to Los Angeles, where he put his harp in a neck rack, got a hi-hat and kick drum, then took up guitar to play as a one-man band. His first recordings on the West coast were for the Elco label, who released his version of TV Slim‘s ‘Flatfoot Sam’ in 1959 which enjoyed a small local airplay.. But for the most part Mickle played for private parties and rarely appeared in clubs. And for economical reasons, he performed mostly as a one-man band, playing harp with a rack, guitar and a kit drums with his feet.

The Folk/Blues revival gave Slim the chance to play a lot of student coffee houses and campus parties, and he recorded several singles for small labels, often under the name ‘Model-T Slim’. It will take the interest of a bunch of young local blues fans, Henry Vestine and Bob Hite (from the blues-rock band Canned Heat), Bruce Bromberg and Frank Scott for Elmon to be "rediscovered" in 1966. He then appeared in several venues, recorded a whole album for Pete Welding.  

When he finally cut an album for Milestone Records, ‘Somebody Hoo-Doo’d the Hoo-Doo Man?’ in 1968, several of the tracks featured a full Blues Band. However, this proved to be Slim’s swan-song as declining health forced his retirement soon afterwards. He had to tour Europe but a bad cancer prevented him to be able to do so  and when he passed away in 1977 in Los Angeles, California on September 17th, 1977  a chapter of American music -- that of the one-man band -- had virtually died with him.  (Info edited from Wikipedia, All Music, All about the     

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Isabel Bigley born 23 February 1926

Isabel Bigley (February 23, 1926 – September 30, 2006) was an American actress, perhaps best remembered for originating the partof Sarah Brown in Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls.

Bigley was born in New York, the daughter of a salesman, and was educated at Walton high school in the Bronx before going to the Juilliard School of Music in 1944. Her Broadway debut was in the chorus of Oklahoma! in 1946. She followed the show to Drury Lane, where a brief period in the chorus led to the small part of Armina in 1947. She was so good that by the time the show closed in 1949, she was playing the female lead, Laurey, serenaded in The Surrey with the Fringe on Top. 

News of her success got her recommendation to Feuer and his partner, Ernie Martin, for Guys and Dolls. Once the difficulty with Loesser was resolved, Bigley went on to be a sensation in the show, winning a Tony award in 1951. This was followed by a Theatre World award for the most promising newcomer.


When she sang Sarah's other hit, If I Were a Bell, critics remarked that that was how her voice sounded - like a bell. That same year, Bigley took part in the first television spectacular in colour. The show, Premiere, starred some of the most important American entertainment figures of the day.
When the Broadway production of Guys and Dolls ended in 1953, Rodgers and Hammerstein cast Bigley in the lead role of Jeannie in Me and Juliet, a show that ran for 358 performances. From then on, she concentrated on television, hosting the US version of the TV cabaret show Café Continental and appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. She was a regular, too, on the Paul Whiteman, Eddie Fisher and Abbott and Costello shows, and was on the team of the American What's My Line? She yearned to go back to the stage, but somehow the right part never cropped up at the right time. 

In July 1953, Bigley married Lawrence Barnett, an important theatrical agency boss. She retired in 1958 to raise their six children.

Barnett and Bigley made many charitable contributions to arts education, including establishing a graduate program in arts policy and administration at Ohio State University. They were also strongly involved in fund-raising for an organisation devoted to finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). 

Bigley lived in both Los Angeles and Rancho Mirage and in 2005 she was named chairwoman of the board of the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.  

She died in Los Angeles 30 September 2006, from undisclosed causes, aged 80. Her widower died on June 11, 2012, aged 98. (Info mainly edited from an article by Michael Freedland for The Guardian.)

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Billy Merrin born 22 February 1900

Billy Merrin (22February 1900 – 24 July 1980) was a British orchestra leader, composer and arranger.

William Herbert Merrin was born at Nottingham.  In his early years he studied the banjo, mandolin, piano and much later alto saxophone. He started out as a clerk in a local warehouse. When the First World War came, he went into the Royal Naval Air Service, where his talent with the piano and the banjo and as a vocalist was much appreciated by his comrades.

After demob from the R.N.A.S he formed a novelty dance group with bookings around Nottingham & Birmingham. After writing a musical play, he formed a long association with the Alan Green Band, providing musical arrangements and doubling on banjo, piano, alto saxophone and vocals.  Billy formed his own band the Commanders in Nottingham in 1931. 
Because of various broadcasts he became very popular. The Commanders recorded for various record labels in the early 1930s - recording over 80 sides for Sterno and Plaza during 1934 alone!  Crystalate's nine-inch Crown records first went on sale in Woolworths in September 1935.  One of the main dance bands featured was Billy Merrin and his Commanders. He was famous for his two signature tunes, "Troubles are like Bubbles" and "Cheerio", both composed by him. His talents as with the piano, the banjo and as a vocalist made him known as the undisputed 'King Of The Midlands'. 

He discovered singer Ken Crossley at a Nottingham crooning contest. Ken had previously worked as a bricklayer on building sites. The BBC paid tribute to Billy Merrin in 1939 with a life story  "From Banjo To Baton".   

A fairly successful songwriter, Billy ran a music publishing business, appeared as a solo artist and later in the war years played summer seasons at Herne Bay, Kent, UK.

From 1951 he teamed up with his singing protégé Penny Nichols and toured variety theatres for nine years.

In 1960 he was musical director of the hit revival of "No No Nanette".  In 1962 he took the touring version of the Black & White Minstrel Show to Australia and New Zealand.  Three years later back in England he wrote the entire score and conducted the orchestra for the Harry Worth Show.  Once the season ended he retired to Brighton.  He died 24 July 1980  at the age of eighty.
(Info scarce but edited from various sources)

A UK Pathescope 9.5mm sound 2 reel "home movie" release of a 1935 cinema short directed by Frank Dormand and featuring Billy Merrin & his Commanders with variety turns from Alice and Jimmy Dey.  Items include "Troubles Are Like Bubbles" (sung by Ken Crossley over the credits);
"March Winds & April Showers" Band intro medley: "Tiger Rag"; "Smile"; "Shine"
Alice Dey (vocals) "Nobody's Sweetheart" Alice & Jimmy Dey (tap dance) "Somebody Stole My Girl""Two Trumpet Toot" Alice & Jimmy Dey (song & dance) "Stylish Steps"
Ken Crossley sings "With My Heart In My Hand" "Cheerio" - finale

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Eddie Higgins born 21 February 1932

Edward Haydn Higgins (February 21, 1932 - August 31, 2009) was a jazz pianist, composer, and orchestrator.

Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Higgins initially studied privately with his mother. He started his professional career in Chicago, Illinois, while studying at the North-western University School of Music. An elegant and sophisticated pianist, his encyclopaedic harmonic approach and wide range of his repertory made him one of the most distinctive jazz pianists to come out of Chicago, gaining the respect of local and visiting musicians for his notable mastery of the instrument.  

Higgins also had the unusual ability to sound equally persuasive in a broad span of music, whether he was playing traditional swing, exciting bebop or reflexive ballads, providing the tone and stylistic flavour of each style, as both a soloist and as accompanist. 

For more than two decades Higgins worked at some of Chicago's most prestigious jazz clubs, including the Brass Rail, Preview Lounge, Blue Note, Cloister Inn and Jazz, Ltd. His longest and most memorable tenure was at the long gone London House, where he led his jazz trio from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, playing opposite jazz stars of this period, including Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing, among others.
Here’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To “ from above album.


Later, Higgins said the opportunities to play jazz music with

Coleman Hawkins and Oscar Peterson were unforgettable moments. Higgins' time spent at the London House Restaurant was with bassist Richard Evans and drummer Marshall Thompson. Higgins also worked for Chess Records as a producer. 

During his stay in Chicago, Higgins also recorded a significant number of albums under his auspices and many more as a sideman with a wide variety of musicians, ranging in style from tenor saxophonists Hawkins to Sonny Stitt to Wayne Shorter; trumpeters Bobby Lewis to Harry Edison to Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard; and trombonists Jack Teagarden to Al Grey. 

His versatility was captured on stage and records, backing up singers and leading his own projects as both pianist and orchestrator, working in every jazz circle from Dixieland to modal styles. Although he opted to decline the offer, Higgins was asked at one point by Art Blakey to join the seminal hard bop quintet, The Jazz Messengers. 

In 1970, Higgins moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and began spending winters in Florida and summers on Cape Cod, where he played in local clubs. Since the early 1980s, he traveled widely on the jazz festival circuit and performed frequently in Europe and Japan. His releases on the Japanese Venus label earned him number one in jazz sales on more than one album. After that, Higgins played his music mainly in East Asia including Japan and South Korea. During his career in East Asia, Higgins formed a successful trio with Joe Ascione (drums), and Jay Leonhart (bass). 

In 1988, Higgins and jazz singer and pianist Meredith d'Ambrosio were married and became a popular team at clubs and festivals, as well as recording for Sunnyside Records. In 2009, dates in Japan and Korea were on his calendar of upcoming concerts, which were suspended due to a long illness.

Higgins died from lung cancer in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 77.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Ibrahim Ferrer born 20 February 1927


Ibrahim Ferrer (February 20, 1927 – August 6, 2005) was a popular Afro-Cuban singer and musician in Cuba. He performed with many musical groups including the Conjunto Sorpresa, Orquesta Chepin-Choven and Afro-Cuban All Stars. Later in life, Ferrer became a member of the internationally successful Buena Vista Social Club. 

Ibrahim Ferrer was one of the greatest of Cuban singers. A charming and humble man, he was blessed with a voice that could tackle anything from Cuba's romantic ballads - boleros - to the up-tempo improvised son dance songs that were the speciality of his early career. Ferrer established his worldwide reputation late in life, after a transformation of his fortunes. In the 1990s, he moved from impoverished retirement, in which he supplemented his tiny pension by earning occasional money as an elderly shoeshine "boy" or selling lottery tickets, to the concert halls of the world, first as lead male singer with the bestselling Buena Vista Social Club, and then as a soloist in his own right. 

Ferrer's extraordinary switchback career began when he started singing professionally as a teenager. He was born, so he always insisted, at a social club dance in San Luis, just outside Santiago, where his mother suddenly went into labour. She died when he was 12 and he then supported himself as a street vendor, carpenter and docker, before his move into music. At first he played with a cousin's amateur band, and then moved on to work with Santiago's Orquesta Chepin-Choven. They became popular across the island, and Ferrer was their singer at the time of their greatest hit, El Platanal de Bartolo. Moving to Havana, he worked with some of Cuba's finest singers, including the great Beny Moré, and sang with Los Bocucos, famous for their percussive dance songs. 

By the early 1990s he had retired, and lived in a little flat in Havana. His life suddenly changed thanks to the passionate Cuban music enthusiast, composer and band leader, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, whose ideas about reviving classic Cuban music styles led to the project that was the Buena Vista Social Club. 

At first the project did not involve Ferrer, but during the recording of the Club's celebrated album, nine years ago, producer Ry Cooder needed a softer voice for the number Dos Gardenias. Juan de Marcos said he knew just the man. Nick Gold, the album's executive producer, said: "He dashed out, and then turned up with Ibrahim. The other musicians all knew him and started playing a song from Santiago in his honour. Ibrahim just fell in with what was going on, and about five minutes later he started recording." 

What followed is music history. Ferrer became a key member of the group, taking many of the male lead vocals on the album. He sang on Dos Gardenias, a bolero that he learned with Beny Moré in the 1950s, and he took the lead on his own song, De Camino a la Vereda, influenced by his strong belief in the Santeria religion. He also showed his skill in duets, notably with his female counterpart, Omara Portuondo. Both on stage, and in the Wim Wenders film, their songs together were show stoppers. 

                      Here's "Como Fue" from above album.
With Portuondo and other members of the Club, he went on to enjoy a successful solo career, recording two solo albums both produced by Cooder: Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer (1999, with a classic duet with Portuendo, Silencio) and Buenos Hermanos (2003, with a fine slow ballad, Mil Congojas). 

On stage, he was a dapper, moustachio'ed figure, sporting a cap and surrounded by Cuba's finest musicians, from Manuel Galban on guitar to bass player Cachaito Lopez. Nick Gold described Ferrer's work as "the most beautiful singing I'd ever heard. He was the last of the classic bolero singers, but he could also handle up-tempo, improvised material. A very rare talent."

His frailty was becoming evident on stage in recent years, but he was still a fine, sensitive singer. He died at age 78 of multiple organ failure on August 6, 2005 at CIMEQ hospital in Havana (Cuba)  soon after completing another European tour that featured a string of British dates, including an appearance at Kenwood House on London's Hampstead Heath at the end of July. He returned home to Cuba to record yet another solo album; it was to be devoted to the boleros that he had rehearsed in his latest shows.

Ferrer sold over 6m albums, with Buena Vista or as a soloist, but he said that his dream was to record the boleros album. Later in 2005  he had planned another extensive European tour, which would include a show at London's Barbican, but he died after returning from a European tour. He was buried in the Colón Cemetery, Havana.
His death, along with those of Buena Vista singer/guitarist Compay Segundo (obituary, July 16 2003) and pianist Ruben Gonzalez (obituary, December 10 2003), is the end of a golden era in Cuban music.    (Edited mainly from an article by Robin Denselow for The Guardian.)

Ibrahim Ferrer and a band featuring Orlando 'Cachaito' Lopez, Roberto Fonseca and Manuel Galban perform 'Perfidia' from his third and last album 'Mi Sueno'.