New Orleans Clarinetist Batiste Dies

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 6, 2007; 9:00 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- Clarinetist Alvin Batiste, who toured with Ray Charles, recorded with Branford Marsalis and taught pianist Henry Butler, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack. He was in his 70s.

Batiste died only hours before he was to perform with Harry Connick Jr. and Marsalis at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, festival officials said.

Marsalis' record label released Batiste's latest CD, "Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste," just a few weeks ago. Marsalis also played on the album.

Batiste, a jazz clarinetist, was considered one of the founders of the modern jazz scene in New Orleans. While his exact age was not immediately known, festival officials said he was born in New Orleans in 1932.

Batiste also wrote for and toured with Billy Cobham and Cannonball Adderley.

A longtime teacher at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he created the Batiste Jazz Institute _ one of the first programs of its kind in the nation _ and taught jazz at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

His students included Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Kent Jordan, Michael Ward, Herlin Riley, Charlie Singleton, Woodie Douglas and others.

"He was not only a teacher, he was my father away from home," Butler said. "He taught us about music, the history of music and the business of music. The ones who had the benefit of learning from him are better musicians and better people today."

Batiste toured with Charles in 1958, but remained largely unknown to the general population until he recorded with Clarinet Summit in the 1980s. The quartet also included John Carter, David Murray, and Jimmy Hamilton.

Batiste recorded an album, "Bayou Magic" in 1988, and made the 1993 album "Late." "Songs, Words and Messages, Connections" appeared in 1999.

The show at the jazz tent of the festival _ "Marsalis Music honors Alvin Batiste & Bob French" _ went on as planned. "The show will go on," festival spokesman Matthew Goldman said.

© 2007 The Associated Press