Charles M. (Cootie) Williams, 77, one of the nation's leading jazz trumpeters who was known internationally for his growling, muted horn, died of a kidney ailment Sept. 15 at a hospital on Long Island.
Mr. Williams, who had retired two years ago because of illness, was one of the last surviving members of the legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra of the 1920s. He had joined the Ellington Orchestra in 1928 when it was playing at Harlem's Cotton Club. For him, Ellington wrote "Concerto for Cootie," which, when lyrics were added, became, "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me." Mr. Williams also was featured in the Ellington composition "Echoes of Harlem," and the religious piece, "The Shepherd Who Watches Over the Night Flock."
In 1940, he left Ellington's group for the Benny Goodman Orchestra. A year later he formed his own big band, whose pianists included Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Mr. Williams and Monk cowrote the jazz standard, "Round Midnight." Mr. Williams formed a small group in 1948. In the 1950s, he spent seven years at the Savoy Ballroom until it closed to make room for a housing development.
Ellington's son, Mercer, who now leads the Ellington Orchestra, said Mr. Williams "in a sense, represented one of the most important devices that give identification to the Duke Ellington Orchestra: the sound of the band growling when he played the trumpet, sort of talking through the horn."
Mr. Williams, who lived in Queens, was a native of Mobile, Ala. He played the drums at age 5. He had wanted to play the trombone but his arms were too short to fully extend the slide. He took up the trumpet, even though he said he did not like the instrument.
He made his professional debut with the Eagle Eye Shields Band in Florida in 1925, at the age of 17. By 1928, he was in New York, then in the throes of the "Jazz Age," playing for Chick Webb and Fletcher Henderson. During the 1930s, Mr. Williams also made recordings with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Johnny Hodges and with groups of his own.
Survivors include his wife, Catherine Williams, and a brother, barner Leroy Williams.