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Billy Bauer, 89; Jazz Guitarist Played With Big Bands

June 25, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

Billy Bauer, a jazz guitarist who played with Woody Herman's First Herd band in the 1940s and later with bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden, has died. He was 89.

Bauer, who lived in Albertson, N.Y., died June 17 of complications from pneumonia, said his daughter, Pamela.

The Bronx-born Bauer, who first played banjo and then switched to guitar, was most closely associated with pianist Lennie Tristano, playing in his ensembles beginning in the 1940s. "Lennie was very fortunate to encounter guitarist Billy Bauer shortly after his move to the East Coast," Terry Martin wrote in the liner notes for "Intuition," the Tristano album with saxophonist Warne Marsh that was reissued in 1996.

Ben Ratliff, writing in the New York Times when "Intuition" was reissued, said the pieces featuring Lee Konitz on alto sax and Bauer on guitar "have a prickly, tentative beauty. They nearly fall apart in places, but you feel their daring as a chill wind."

Bauer recorded with many others, including J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding; Charlie Parker; and Bobby Hackett and Teagarden. He played in Europe with Goodman in the 1950s.

While playing with the Herd, Bauer improvised the solo features of "Billy Bauer's Tune," later called "Pam."

Bauer's "Plectrist" album, the only studio album recorded under his own name, was released in 1956. He founded a company to publish his compositions and those of others, including Konitz and Marsh.

Until shortly before his death, he taught at the Billy Bauer Guitar School in Roslyn Heights on Long Island. In the 1940s, he taught at the New England Conservatory of Modern Music, and in the 1950s, he played with the NBC staff orchestra. His autobiography, "Sideman," was published in 1997.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, William.

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