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Cornelius Bumpus: 1946-2004
Cornelius Bumpus
saxophones, organ

Born: 1946
Died: February 3, 2004

Saxophonist with Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Saxophonist and organist Cornelius Bumpus, best known for his work with the Doobie Brothers in the 1980s, died of heart failure on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2004. Bumpus was on a flight en route from New York to California, where he was to perform at Columbia College, when he suffered a heart attack. By the time the plane made an emergency stop in Sioux City, Iowa, Bumpus had already died.

Bumpus was so good as a saxophonist in his youth, he began playing live gigs at the age of twelve. In the early 1970s he worked with Bobby Freeman, Clifford Coulter, and a reassembled version of Moby Grape. In 1979 he was hired as the Doobie Brothers' saxophonist; his hard-edged, soulful blowing became a key element in the Doobie sound. Bumpus remained in the band until 1982, at which time he recorded his first album as a leader, A Clear View. Beacon followed in 1984. Both albums were well-conceived but fared poorly because of Bumpus' lack of name recognition and a general denouement in jazz interest. He kept in close contact with his Doobie brethren, recording with Michael McDonald (No Lookin' Back, 1985) and Patrick Simmons (Arcade, 1983). Bumpus frequently played electric organ as well when sax parts weren't called for.

After the Doobie Brothers ostensibly broke up, Bumpus and other ex-members attempted at times to keep working under the band's name. A lawsuit finally ended the ghost band in 1999. In the interim, Bumpus had moved from San Francisco to New York in 1986, working with diverse acts including Lacy J. Dalton, Boz Scaggs and Jeff Lorber. In 1990 Bumpus joined former Steely Dan leader Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue (Live, 1991), which also featured McDonald, Phoebe Snow, Charles Brown, and former members of The Rascals. Fagen also featured the saxophonist on Kamakiriad (1993), his second album outside of the Dan.

In '95 Bumpus performed with both the Doobies and the reunited Steely Dan (Alive in America), as well as jazz singers Jackie Cain and Roy Kral (Forever). In 2000 Bumpus and the rest of Steely Dan were honored with a Grammy for Album of the Year (Two Against Nature). That same year he issued his third album as a leader, the smooth Known Fact, which included covers of Dan and Doobies songs.

Cornelius Bumpus is survived by his wife, Linda, and their four children.

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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With 2 reader comments, latest April 8, 2006