Our dear jazz friend and extraordinary musician, Art Hillery has passed away.
According to his dear friend, Richard Simon, he was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago with symptoms of feeling weak and disoriented, which he thought was a reaction to some medication. It was determined that it was cancer which had spread rampantly, and was inoperable. He was released. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the hospital for pain shots, and expired on Wednesday, November 23rd.
As a jazz promoter/ producer and founder of In-House Music, I have had the pleasure of having this incomparable pianist at many, if not all of my jazz venues, beginning with the first room I opened in 2004, The Westin LAX Hotel ” Jazz in the Lobby” series. He usually performed as an accompanist to many of the jazz greats here in town and not until recently did he put out a CD as leader. I remember just a few years ago I opened a little funky jazz space in an off the wall bar behind the airport called “Bar Melody.” You could find folks in there from all walks of life coming in for a drink until the new owners got rid of the brawlers and turned it into an ok place to feel safe. To there credit they agreed to add jazz in the back room. Art was so cool about playing in any room that served up jazz.
No matter that it had pool tables in the next room or TV’s blaring with sports, he was an old pro! With his quiet demeanor soft smile and identifiable cap on head, he toted in his baby organ , sat down at the keys and tore the place up with his “down home blues” great playing!
To my surprise when researching the web for information about this amazing musician, there was very little offered. The following is just a smittance of the accomplishments of Art Hillery.
ART HILLERY has had a long recording and performing career, with recording credits including Ella Fitzgerald, Milt Jackson, Sonny Stitt, Red Holloway, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and many others. He has also performed with, among others, Dexter Gordon, Blue Mitchell, Art Farmer, and Teddy Edwards. His ensemble includes DONALD DEAN on drums and LOUIS SPEARS on bass. A native of New Orleans, Mr. Hillery began his career as a concert pianist, but cites the legendary Oscar Peterson as his inspiration for turning to jazz.