Memorials, tribute concerts set for St. Petersburg trombonist Buster Cooper
Buster Cooper is getting a farewell fit for a jazz hero.
The celebrated jazz trombonist, a former bandmate of Duke Ellington who died May 13 at age 87, will receive not one but two memorial celebrations in his hometown of St. Petersburg, where he spent his final decades entertaining fans at the Garden restaurant and elsewhere.
The family will host a public viewing from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at Lawson Funeral Home, 4535 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. On Saturday, following a private family service, there will be a memorial celebration and jazz jam starting at 5 p.m. at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave. S, St. Petersburg. The service is open to all, and musicians are encouraged to attend.
Then on June 20, the community will gather for a larger jazz jam dubbed "A Tribute to Buster Cooper" from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Palladium, 525 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Tampa Jazz Club president and former WUSF host Bob Seymour will serve as the host. Jazz musicians are encouraged to participate; the jam will be organized into groups. For more information, contact the Palladium at (727) 822-3590.
Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Cooper spent a decade in Ellington's big band, and appeared on several of his records. He also backed and toured with the likes of Benny Goodman, Josephine Baker and Ella Fitzgerald, and performed for multiple presidents.
"Nobody played the trombone like Buster Cooper," said guitarist Nate Najar, who played in his band at the Garden for several years. "You could tell Buster from a single note, and that's the best compliment you can pay any jazz musician."
-- Jay Cridlin