New Orleans was shocked and saddened when on May 6, just 13 hours before a planned Jazz Fest performance, jazz legend Alvin Batiste died at home of a sudden heart attack. Batiste, considered one of the greatest pioneers in avant-garde jazz, originated the part of the clarinet in the modern sound. Along with Harold Battiste and Ellis Marsalis, Batiste helped to create the modern jazz community in New Orleans. His career touched many corners of the musical world as he played with or wrote songs for artists as varied as Ray Charles to Cannonball Adderley. Batiste earned a master's degree in performance and composition from LSU and went on to co-found the jazz studies program at Southern University and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where he taught until his death.
George Brumat, 63
It's a rare thing when musicians and their fans give equal props to those behind the scene. The July 7 passing of Snug Harbor owner George Brumat evoked just such a reaction. Brumat, who moved to New Orleans as a teen after a childhood in Italy, was known for an unusually open and generous way of running a club, for encouraging talent, and for being fair with the players. The memorial tribute to Brumat at UNO was a cultural highlight of the summer, as dozens of the town's musical luminaries participated. In a city that has often had little idea of how to market and present its gift of jazz, Brumat and Snug Harbor sounded the right note. The birth of Frenchmen Street as a music district can be traced to George Brumat as much as anyone.
Judge Adrian Duplantier, 78
U.S. District Judge Adrian Duplantier, a former state lawmaker and onetime candidate for mayor of New Orleans, died on Aug. 15 after a long battle with cancer. In politics and in law, Duplantier was not a man to be trifled with. Known in legal circles for his keen mind (he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court at age 25 " and won) and short fuse, his brusque manner hid a generosity of spirit. He founded Boys Hope, a home for troubled youth who needed a helping hand, and he often collected food and clothing for the boys " and delivered them himself. Once, when The Times-Picayune wrote a story identifying the three most arrogant people in town as Moon Landrieu, Dutch Morial and Duplantier, he called the paper to raise hell " not because he was on the list, but because his name didn't appear first. A graduate of Jesuit High School and Loyola Law School, he was a devoted alumnus of both institutions and taught law classes at Loyola for years. Even in his last days, his advice was sought by lawyers and judges alike.
Eluard Burt, 70
Eluard Burt, a jazz flautist and multi-instrumentalist, died at age 70 on Aug. 5. Burt played reeds throughout the '50s with bands such as Billy Ward's Dominoes, Big Joe Turner and Chick Willis. In the '60s, he was a bohemian arts and culture innovator, working with spoken-word artists and dancers to create multimedia avant-garde jazz performances in New Orleans. For most of his life, Burt was a force in the community, working with children on Afro-centric jazz, poetry, theater and dance as well as collaborating with the likes of conga player Uganda Roberts and percussionist Cyril Neville.
James J. Coleman Sr. , 92
A business and community leader, Coleman, a native New Orleanian, put his own generous stamp on numerous charitable efforts, including the Jimmy Club, a children's summer day camp, and the Adult Education Center, a vocational training and placement program. He died on Nov. 25. Coleman graduated from Tulane University Law School in 1937, and a year later, founded the firm now known as Coleman, Johnson, Artigues & Jurisich. Later, he started a tank-terminal company that became International-Matex Terminals. He also was involved in numerous local developments, including the Superdome, the World Trade Center, the New Orleans Hilton and the Windsor Court. Although a Republican, Coleman had friends on both sides of the political aisle; as chair of the Judicial Compensation Commission, he helped create a system of scheduled pay raises for judges. Coleman deservedly was awarded numerous accolades throughout his life, including The Times-Picayune Loving Cup and American Red Cross Humanitarian Award.
Harry Lee, 75
Longtime Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee was no shrinking violet. In a state known for colorful, combative and outspoken characters, Lee wrote his own unique chapter. Whether it was enraging black leaders by profiling young African-American males, singing a duet with Willie Nelson or shooting nutria in a public park, the seven-term sheriff made his mark and kept crime in check. He died of leukemia on Oct. 1. Lee came from humble beginnings "'I was born in the back room of a Chinese laundry [in the New Orleans Warehouse District]," he told an interviewer in 2006 " but he never let that hold him back. He graduated from LSU in 1956, played on the school's tennis team, earned his law degree from Loyola University in 1967, and in 1979 he upset incumbent Sheriff Al Cronvich in a campaign that featured Lee passing out fortune cookies and donning a cowboy hat. After this first victory, Lee's own fortune was cast. One thing is certain: loved or reviled, he will never be forgotten.
Max McGee, 75
On the eve of the first Super Bowl in 1967, Max McGee, a past-his-prime, second-string receiver for the Green Bay Packers and former All-Southeastern Conference running back at Tulane University, figured he wasn't going to play the next day, so he ignored team curfew and spent the night partying in Los Angeles. Early in the next day's game, the Packers' starting receiver went down and McGee took his place. Buoyed by only an hour's sleep, McGee went on to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history and finished the day with seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns for the victorious Packers. His performance was vintage McGee: accomplishing great things, but doing it on his own terms. How else do you explain a guy named 'McGee" opening a chain of Mexican restaurants (Chi Chi's) and making millions? He also was generous, founding the Max McGee National Research Center at Children's Hospital in Wisconsin.
Oliver 'Who Shot The La La" Morgan, 74
Lower Ninth Ward native Oliver Morgan, best known for the rollicking 1963 R&B hit that gave him his nickname, cut his first single, 'Nookie Boy," on Harold Battiste's legendary AFO label in 1961. He hit the local big time two years later with 'Who Shot The La La," a track made unforgettable by Morgan's gravelly vocals and lazy, feel-good beat. Though the track is credited to Eddie Bo, Morgan and others have claimed that it was he that penned the song. A perennial presence at second-line parades, Morgan remained a Lower Ninth Warder till the end of his life " a close neighbor to Al 'Carnival Time" Johnson and Fats Domino " when flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina forced him to relocate to Atlanta, where he passed away on July 31.
Ernest 'Doc" Paulin, 100
Centenarian Doc Paulin, a longtime bandleader and traditional-jazz player, enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest jazz musician in the city. Clarinetist Dr. Michael White, who started out playing in Paulin's band in the '70s, says the band functioned as a school for New Orleans jazz, educating dozens of musicians in the traditional style. His trumpet led the festivities at thousands of social aid and pleasure club functions, second-line parades and funerals over the 80-plus years he was an active player. Doc Paulin is survived by his 13 children, many of whom are also jazz musicians.
Thorny Penfield, 73
An original founder of Tipitina's, Thorny Penfield was a great preserver, promoter and fan of New Orleans music whose enthusiasm drew many into a love of the sound. Penfield was known as a true grassroots supporter of music and musicians, and he was famous for parties and jam sessions at his home that drew from his wide circle of musical friends, including the late James Booker. Penfield also was a former coordinator of the Crescent City Blues Club and the New Orleans Blues Society.
Harry Tervalon, 87
Back in 1946, when the Camellia Grill first began hiring staff for the soon-to-be legendary Riverbend diner, Harry Tervalon was first in line for a waiter's job. Tervalon knew a good thing when he saw it, and he stayed on for 49 years before retiring in 1996. The Camellia Grill could seem a little daunting to a newcomer, with its fast pace, the constant din of silverware hitting plates and the wait staff calling out orders to the line cooks. But Tervalon could put anyone at ease with his genuine smile and personal service. Regulars know to ask him for a weather report. 'It's chilly in Gentilly," he would begin. 'Rainin' hard in St. Bernard. Cold as hell in Slidell. Two below in Tupelo. A little slippy in Mississippi " and all wet in Chalmette." In time, Tervalon became as much a draw as the omelets, desserts and cheeseburgers. And when the restaurant re-opened after Katrina, it was Tervalon who cut the ribbon.
Earl Turbinton, 65
Saxophone pioneer Earl Turbinton died Aug. 3 in Baton Rouge after a prolonged bout with lung cancer, leaving behind a legacy of innovation in New Orleans' modern jazz scene. Nicknamed the 'African Cowboy," he was known as a highly spiritual man who marched to the beat of his own drum. In the '60s, he opened 'The Workshop," a bar in the French Quarter that he hoped would be a nexus for a local experimental jazz scene. Turbinton played in the much-sampled, seminal funk band the Gaturs, along with his brother, keyboardist Willie Tee. In the '80s, the two recorded Brothers for Life together.
Wilson 'Willie Tee" Turbinton, 63
Predeceased by only a month by his brother, saxophonist Earl Turbinton, funk and R&B piano man Willie Tee passed away Sept. 11, four weeks after a diagnosis of colon cancer. Making his mark early on with the sweet, sly R&B tune 'Teasin' You," he may be best known for the landmark early '70s recordings he co-wrote and produced for the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians, which introduced the legendary local tradition to the greater world. Up until the end of his life, Willie was active as both a teacher and as an artist. After Hurricane Katrina, he accepted a guest lecturer spot at Princeton University in its jazz studies program and gigged frequently in and around New Orleans.