PASSINGS: Frank Foster, Joe Arroyo, Dean Faulkner Wells

Frank Foster

Jazz saxophonist and composer

Frank Foster, 82, a jazz saxophonist who played with the Count Basie Orchestra and composed the band’s hit “Shiny Stockings,” died Tuesday at his home in Chesapeake, Va., of complications from kidney failure, according to his wife, Cecilia.

Foster was recognized in 2002 by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor. His many compositions and arrangements include material for Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, and a commissioned piece written for jazz orchestra for the 1980 Winter Olympics: “Lake Placid Suite.”

Born in Cincinnati on Sept. 23, 1928, Foster “had an ear for music” from an early age, he said in an NEA interview in 2008. Jazz big bands caught his attention when he was 12. Foster’s first instrument was clarinet, but at age 13 he took up the sax. He played in a dance band at Wilberforce University and went on to join Basie’s band in 1953.


During his 11-year tenure with Basie, Foster not only played tenor saxophone and other woodwinds but also contributed numerous arrangements and compositions for the band, including the jazz standard “Shiny Stockings,” Down for the Count” and “Back to the Apple.”

Two years after Basie’s death in 1984, Foster returned to assume leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra from Thad Jones. He led the band until 1995, winning two Grammy Awards during his tenure.

Foster also led his own big band, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority, in addition to playing as a sideman in drummer Elvin Jones’ combo and co-leading a quintet with a fellow Basie veteran, saxophonist-flutist Frank Wess.

Foster also served as a musical consultant in the New York City public schools and taught at Queens College and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In the NEA interview, Foster said: “I had always had as much fun writing as playing.... But when you play something, if you mess up, you can’t make it right. But you can write something, and if it’s not right, you can change it. And I always had as much pleasure writing as playing because the thrill of hearing your music played back to you is almost indescribable.”

Joe Arroyo

Colombian singer and composer

Joe Arroyo, 55, a Colombian singer and composer who was one of the leading lights of the country’s music scene since the 1970s, died of multiple organ failure Tuesday, according to a medical clinic in the coastal city of Barranquilla where he had been admitted about a month ago after contracting pneumonia.

Arroyo had long struggled with a drug problem and diabetes.

The composer of some 200 songs, Arroyo was best known outside Colombia for his song “Rebellion.” It tells the story of an enslaved couple living in the Caribbean city of Cartagena in the 17th century. The song became an unofficial battle song for the oppressed, analyzed by music theorists and sociologists.

Arroyo, who was known as “El Joe” but whose real name was Alvaro Jose Arroyo, was born in a poor neighborhood of Cartagena in 1955.

Beginning his career singing salsa in local brothels at an early age, Arroyo moved on to perform with famous Colombian bands, including Fruko y sus Tesos and the Latin Brothers.

In 1981, he formed his own band, La Verdad (The Truth), becoming the most influential voice in tropical Colombian music in the 20th century, biographer Mauricio Silva said.

Dean Faulkner Wells

Author William Faulkner’s niece

Dean Faulkner Wells, 75, the niece of author William Faulkner who helped preserve his legacy, died Wednesday at a hospital in Oxford, Miss., from complications of a stroke, according to her husband, Larry Wells.

Faulkner Wells was born in 1936, four months after the death of her father, Dean Swift Faulkner, William Faulkner’s youngest brother, in a plane crash. William Faulkner, whom she called Pappy, became her legal guardian.

She worked on the renovation of Rowan Oak, the last home of William Faulkner, who died in Oxford in 1962. Rowan Oak is now a museum at the University of Mississippi.

Faulkner Wells also co-founded the Faux Faulkner parody contest, a cerebral competition that allowed aspiring writers to explore their inner Pappy with dense, stream-of-consciousness screeds. The competition ended a few years ago. She complied a number of the essays in “The Best of Bad Faulkner.”

Faulkner Wells and her husband were co-owners and editors of Yoknapatawpha Press, which co-hosts the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference at Ole Miss. The conference started in 1974 and annually draws Faulkner fans, scholars and writers from around the world to Oxford, Miss.

She wrote several books — the last of which was an autobiography, “Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi,” published by Crown in March.

— Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports