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Guitarist with Pearl Djangoby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins
Guitarist Dudley Hill, a founding member of the Gypsy-jazz band Pearl Django, lost his battle with colon cancer on January 15, 2005. Hill was 56 years old.
Hill was born in Tacoma, Washington, which remained his home for life. He became a professional guitarist shortly after graduating high school. Some of his earliest work was with transplanted Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson. Later, Hill became a popular music instructor whose students included jazz-folk violinist Mark O'Connor. Among the Washington groups to benefit from Hill's profound sense of swing were Jon Belcher & Savoy Swing and Lance Buller & the Monarchs. He recorded his sole album as a leader, the folk-panorama From a Northern Family (Voyager), with Thomasson in 1976.
Besides Western swing and American folk forms, Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt was one of Hill's principal influences. In 1994 Hill and fellow six-stringer Neil Andersson (formerly of punk pioneers The Wailers) founded Pearl Django as a tribute to the late jazz icon. Never comfortable in the solo spotlight, Hill felt right at home in the rhythm pocket. The band cut their first record in 1995 and received validating accolades at the Django Reinhardt Festival in Samois-sur-Seine, France, in 1996. The band returned to that festival in 2002 and has performed at other Reinhardt festivals in Iceland, America and elsewhere.
Pearl Django's repertoire later evolved to include new tunes in addition to the Reinhardt canon. Hill penned many of those original pieces, and recorded seven albums with the band before quitting for health reasons in 2004. Pearl Django's eighth album will be dedicated to Hill's memory, as will the 2005 Django Fest Northwest in Whidbey Island, Washington.
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.