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Webster Young: 1932-2003
Webster Young

Born: December 3, 1932 in Columbia, SC
Died: December 13, 2003

Washington, DC trumpeter

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2003 Todd S. Jenkins

Jazz trumpeter Webster English Young died on December 13, 2003, in Vancouver, Washington of a brain tumor. He was 71 years of age.

Born in Columbia, South Carolina and raised in the D.C. area, Young was inspired to take up music after seeing the 1943 film "Cabin in the Sky". He managed to talk Louis Armstrong into a brief trumpet lesson, then continued his education more formally with classical groups and marching bands. Impressed by Dizzy Gillespie's style, Young emulated the bebopper in dress and technique to the point that he earned the nickname "Little Diz".

Young spent much of the Korean War serving in Japan, after which he began to gig around America with Hampton Hawes, R&B singer Lloyd Price, and other performers. He officially moved to New York City in the 1950s and began working clubs around town. Among his associates in the period were Lester Young, Bud Powell, Jackie McLean and John Coltrane. He was particularly active in the studio in 1957, recording the Billie Holiday tribute For Lady with Paul Quinichette, Mal Waldron, Joe Puma, Earl May and Ed Thigpen; McLean's A Long Drink of the Blues, Strange Blues and Makin' the Changes; Ray Draper's Tuba Sounds; and Coltrane's Interplay for Two Trumpets and Two Tenors (all of the above sessions are available on CD from Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics imprint).

Young began coming into his own around 1961 when he recorded Webster Young Plays the Miles Davis Songbook, Volumes 1 and 2 (VGM) in homage to his old friend, who had encouraged his move to New York. Work with Jerry Coker, Dexter Gordon, and Ike and Tina Turner followed. In 1965 he returned to Washington and married his second wife, Gretchen Isenhart, around that time. He continued his relationship with McLean in the house band for D.C. Black Repertory Company's "The Day of Absence". Young later became an educator, teaching music theory at the University of D.C. and directing the D.C. Music Center jazz workshop band.In the 80s he toured Europe with Dutch pianist Rein deGraaff while on hiatus from teaching.

In 2002 Young and his family moved to Portland, Oregon, where he effectively retired. He is survived by his wife Gretchen; their son, Dorian Young of Portland; and two children from his first marriage to Mary Marshall: son John Wardell Young of Washington, D.C. and daughter Terry Ann Powell of Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Thanks to Adam Bernstein and W. Royal Stokes for their contributions.)

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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