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Drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey, 1934-2013
Jazz drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey

Bay Area jazz drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey

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Bay Area drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey, best known for his work with jazz organist Jimmy Smith on the storied Blue Note label and a prolific recording career that spanned more than a half century, has passed away. He was 79.

Born March 26, 1934 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bailey began performing on drums at the age of 10.

His work with Smith from 1956 to 1963 defined the jazz organ trio, which earned him the title of "King of Organ Trio Drummers."

In 1965, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began playing immediately with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars. While in Los Angeles, Bailey performed and recorded with Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Kenny Burrell, Hampton Hawes, Ester Phillips, Monk Montgomery, and Jimmy Rowles.

"Jazz fans know Bailey's sound, even if they don't always remember his name," wrote jazz critic Scott Yanow. "[He] is one of the many important players who, for no good reason, haven't become all that famous. But that's Bailey floating beneath Smith on the organist's classic Blue Note albums... The generations of musicians who came up in Bailey's wake have all received potent and enduring musical wisdom from the drummer via his work with Jimmy Smith."

Relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area after a stint in Southern California, Bailey continued to astound and amaze behind the drum kit, despite financial hardships and relentless, ongoing back pain in the latter half of his life.

In 1999, Bailey -- along with fellow Bay Area drummers Vince Lateano and the late Eddie Marshall -- was honored at the 42nd annual Monterey Jazz Festival in a “Salute to Bay Area Drummers.” More recently, Bailey was feted in 2012 by the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music in a National Treasure Concert & Award Presentation featuring Steve Turre, Glen Pearson, Jeff Chambers, and Donald Robinson.

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