How sad it was to get the news today from my good friend Arnaldo DeSouteiro about the passing of reed player Gerry Niewood, who shares my April 6 birthday, but his was in 1943, and guitarist Coleman Mellet, who grew up in my neck of the woods, the Washington, DC, area, and was only 33 or 34 years old.
Both were among the 50 who perished in the February 12 crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, New York. The two musicians, both New Jersey residents, were on their way to perform with Chuck Mangione for a concert in Buffalo, New York.
While Mellet was a veteran of the Sugarman Three, his wife Jeannie Bryson's group and an organ trio featuring Blue Note vet Ben Dixon, Niewood, a child friend of Mangione's, had played with Chuck Mangione since the late 1960s, when the reed player was still in high school.
I'm sorry to say that I don't know much about Mellet's music.
Niewood, however, had a beautiful tone on sax and an especially lovely touch for the flute. He also had a special knack for accompanying such singers as Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Cleo Laine and Esther Satterfield as well.
Niewood had tried making a go of a solo career several times, recording for A&M (Mangione's label at the time) in 1975 and 1976, DMP in 1985, Perfect Sound in 1988 and Native Language in 2002.
But while his solo career never really took off, he also accepted session work in the 1970s that led to some sessions for CTI Records (Grover Washington, Jr.'s A Secret Place, Lalo Schifrin's Towering Toccata, Patti Austin's Havana Candy) and Bob James's Heads (Tappan Zee) among others.