Willie Dennis

Willie Dennis (né William DeBerardinis, January 10, 1926 – July 8, 1965) was an American jazz trombonist[1][2][3][4] known as a big band musician but who was also an influential bebop soloist.[5]

Willie Dennis
Birth nameWilliam DeBerardinis
Born(1926-01-10)January 10, 1926
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedJuly 8, 1965(1965-07-08) (aged 39)
New York City, New York
Years active1950–1965
LabelsDebut Records


After working with Elliot Lawrence,[6] Claude Thornhill,[7] and Sam Donahue,[8] Dennis also performed with Charles Mingus,[9] appearing on two of Mingus's more successful albums in 1959, Blues & Roots[10] and Mingus Ah Um.[11] In 1953, Dennis recorded Four Trombones[12] (released in 1957) for Mingus's Debut Records. The other three trombones were J. J. Johnson,[13] Kai Winding[14] and Bennie Green.[15]

The fullest recorded example of Dennis's solo work, however, is on a little-known 1956 Savoy disc by English pianist Ronnie Ball[16] (like Dennis, a student of Lennie Tristano[17]), All About Ronnie,[18] in the company of Ted Brown,[19] Wendell Marshall[20] and Kenny Clarke.[21]

In the late 1950s Dennis returned to his big band roots, joining Buddy Rich[22] in 1959 after stints with Benny Goodman,[23] (with whom he travelled to the Soviet Union in 1962) and Woody Herman.[24]

In the 1960s, Dennis also performed often with Gerry Mulligan.[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Relationships and familyEdit

He married singer Morgana King in 1961. They had no children.

They had only been married for a few years when he died in 1965 in an automobile accident in Central Park, New York City.[26][27]


Style and influenceEdit

Dennis was renowned for his extremely fast articulation on the trombone, obtained by means of varying the natural harmonics of the instrument with minimal recourse to the slide (a technique known as "against the grain").


With Cannonball Adderley

With Manny Albam

With Al Cohn

With Mundell Lowe

With Gary McFarland

With Charles Mingus

With Gerry Mulligan

With Oliver Nelson

With Anita O'Day

With Buddy Rich

With Shirley Scott

With Zoot Sims

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ Carr, Fairweather, Priestley. The Rough Guide to Jazz (2004) pp. 209 - ISBN 1-84353-256-5
  2. ^ Berendt, Joachim Ernst The New Jazz Book, A History and Guide (1962), pp. 314
  3. ^ Porter, Lewis. John Coltrane, His Life and Music (2000) pp. 59 - ISBN 0-472-08643-X
  4. ^ Bogdanov, Woodstra, Erlewine. All Music Guide to Jazz, The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music (2002) pp. 877 - ISBN 0-87930-717-X
  5. ^ "Evolution of the Jazz Trombone", Part Three: Bebop, by David M. Wilken
  6. ^ Elliot Lawrence at Allmusic
  7. ^ Claude Thornhill at Allmusic
  8. ^ Sam Donahue at Allmusic
  9. ^ Charles Mingus
  10. ^ Blues and Roots 2008 record label Rhino CD Import release
  11. ^ Album titled" Mingus Ah Um 1999 record label Sony Records CD release
  12. ^ The Four Trombones, The Debut Recordings 1991 record label Prestige CD release
  13. ^ J. J. Johnson
  14. ^ Kai Winding at All About Jazz
  15. ^ Bennie Green at All About Jazz
  16. ^ Ronnie Ball at Allmusic
  17. ^ Lennie Tristano at All About Jazz
  18. ^ Album titled: All About Ronnie 1994 record label Savoy Jazz CD release
  19. ^ Ted Brown at All About Jazz
  20. ^ Wendell Marshall at Allmusic
  21. ^ Kenny Clarke at Allmusic
  22. ^ Buddy Rich
  23. ^ Benny Goodman
  24. ^ Woody Herman at Solid!
  25. ^ Gerry Mulligan
  26. ^ Jack, Gordon Fifties Jazz Talk, An Oral Retrospective (2004) pp. 85 - ISBN 0-8108-4997-6
  27. ^ Liner notes by Fr. Norman O'Connors - Morgana King album It's A Quiet Thing

External linksEdit