From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
William Marcel "Buddy" Collette (August 6, 1921 – September 19, 2010) was an American tenor saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist. He was highly influential in the West coast jazz and West Coast blues mediums, also collaborating with saxophonist Dexter Gordon, drummer Chico Hamilton, and his lifelong friend, bassist Charles Mingus.
Life and career
At age 12 Collette took up the alto-saxophone and led his first group which included Britt Woodman on trombone and Charles Mingus on bass. At 17 he started playing professionally. After serving as a U.S. Navy band leader, he played with the Stars of Swing (featuring Woodman, Mingus and Lucky Thompson). Along with saxophonist Dexter Gordon bassist Charles Mingus, and drummer Chico Hamilton, he helped keep bebop alive in Los Angeles' historic Central Avenue neighborhood. In the early 1950s he worked as a studio musician, also becoming the first African American musician to perform on television, on Groucho Marx's program, You Bet Your Life.
In 1955, he became a founding member of Chico Hamilton's legendary quintet. The unusual instrumented quintet also featured guitarist Jim Hall and cellist (and pianist) Fred Katz, and performed chamber jazz. A year later, Collette recorded Man of Many Parts, his first album as a bandleader.
Unlike other influential West Coast players Collette stayed in Los Angeles, recorded with his quintet, and became a noteworthy educator. His students included such renowned musicians as Eric Dolphy, Charles Lloyd, Frank Morgan, Sonny Criss, and James Newton.
In 1996, the Library of Congress commissioned Collette to write and perform a special big band concert to highlight his long career. Although a stroke in 1998 rendered him unable to play anymore, Collette remains active in jazz education, having founded numerous programs for kids in the Los Angeles area. Together with Steven Louis Isoardi he wrote an autobiography titled Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society (Bayou 2000).
Collette was a pioneer civil rights activist, working to desegregate the musicians union of Los Angeles. Gerald Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole, and saxophonist Benny Carter were some of his early supporters. He also helped organize a concert and rally protesting government repression of the legendary African American singer, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson.