|Birth: ||Dec. 4, 1929|
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
|Death: ||Feb. 13, 2000|
Tee Carson, 70, Pianist in Count Basie Orchestra
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: February 22, 2000
Donald Tecumseh (Tee) Carson, who inherited the piano chair from Count Basie after the band leader's health failed, died on Feb. 13 at his home in Cedar Park, Tex. He was 70.
Donald "Tee" Carson: Newspaper Obituary
San Francisco Chronicle (CA) - Saturday, February 19, 2000
Donald "Tee" Carson, a jazz pianist who performed regularly with Ella Fitzgerald and who replaced Count Basie in the bandleader's legendary orchestra, died Sunday of lung cancer in Cedar Park, Texas. He was 71.
Mr. Carson lived in the Bay Area for 22 years, until 1998, when he moved to Texas.
For almost 10 years, Mr. Carson hosted a popular Saturday radio show on Bay Area jazz station KCSM-FM. For 15 years, he taught students in Monterey, as part of his affiliation with the Monterey Jazz Festival.
"Even when we moved to Texas and he became ill, his students were always sending him notes and cards and tapes of their music," said Mr. Carson's wife, Robin. "He had a wonderful way with people. Not just students, but everyone who met Tee loved him."
Mr. Carson and Fitzgerald were especially close, performing together in the 1960s and early '70s. Because Mr. Carson worked during those years as a U.S. marshal in Washington, D.C., he flew to performances on weekends if Fitzgerald played out of town. During a two-month stint in New York, Mr. Carson flew from Washington every weekend, then caught a red-eye flight back home to return to his day job.
"He almost always had a day job," said Robin Carson. "A lot of jazz musicians will tell you they have to have a day gig. For many years, jazz didn't pay anything."
Mr. Carson, who was born and raised in Washington D.C., was named a U.S. marshal by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, with whom Mr. Carson was friends. When Mr. Carson moved to the Bay Area in 1976, he worked as an auditor for the Department of Justice. In 1978, his jazz career received a boost when Count Basie handpicked him to fill in on piano in the Count Basie Orchestra. When Basie died in 1984, Carson replaced Basie, to critical acclaim. Carson played with the orchestra for three years.
"No one could fill Basie's shoes," a Washington Post jazz critic wrote after watching the orchestra perform in 1985, "but pianist Tee Carson's subtle evocation of Basie's laconic style sauntered with style and dignity, successfully avoiding caricature and achieving inspired re-creation."
During his 50-year career, Mr. Carson also performed with Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway, Milt Jackson, Zoot Sims, Pearl Bailey, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett and many others. His recordings include "Live at El Morocco" with the Count Basie Orchestra and "Entre Nous" with fellow Basie sideman and tenor saxophonist Frank Wess.
Mr. Carson began his career in an era of segregation, when he was not allowed to walk into a hotel through the front door because of his race. During his KCSM radio show and with family and friends, he would talk about those difficult years -- and about the elation he felt at first playing Carnegie Hall, and about his other notable moments in jazz.
"He was an elegant, stylish, swinging, down-home, in-the- groove, high-class, dignified musician," said Melanie Berzon, the program director at KCSM.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Carson is survived by two daughters, Jadon Carson of Las Vegas and Jan Hill of Boise, Idaho; a son, Donald Carson Jr. of Austin, Texas; and two stepsons, Shane Stephens of San Jose, and Ezra Stephens of Juneau, Alaska.
Created by: Steven Laird
Record added: Nov 04, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 100133768