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Jazz icon

OW Staff | 9/22/2010, 5 p.m.

Jazz icon Buddy Collette (born William Marcel Collette) died Sunday Sept. 19 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering shortness of breath.

Buddy was a well-known saxophone, clarinet, and flute player who organized his own band at the age of 12 and started performing professionally by age of 17.

Collette contributed immensely to the jazz movement while he simultaneously rose to fame alongside life-long friends, bassist Charles Mingus, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and drummer Chico Hamilton.

Collette was also a political and cultural activist in the battle against segregation in the music industry, and led a grassroots campaign to desegregate the Los Angeles musician's union.
In the 1950's, Collette became the first African American musician to perform on television, when he was featured on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life."

Collette is survived by daughters Cheryl, Veda and Crystal, son Zan, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He was 89.