July-31st-2003, 10:28 AM
Aaron Bell - R.I.P.
Dr. Aaron Bell, who was bassist for Duke Ellington from
1960 to 1962 and worked with him later as an arranger, died
on Monday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. He was 82 and
had lived in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Dr. Bell celebrated the anniversary of Ellington's birth at a concert in 1983 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Manhattan. For that performance he assembled a 14-piece orchestra to play his own composition, "Memorial Suite for
Duke," along with pieces by Mr. Ellington, who died in 1974.
A native of Muskogee, Okla., Samuel Aaron Bell received a bachelor's degree from Xavier University in New Orleans and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia
University. He served in the Navy, in a Navy band in Indiana, during World War II.
After working with Ellington he taught music at EssexCounty College in Newark and later became chairman of its performing arts department, retiring in the early 1990's.
His career as a professional musician began after he left the Navy in 1946. He started out as a bassist with the Andy Kirk Orchestra and played with other groups, including
those of Lucky Millinder, Lester Young and Miles Davis.
Besides making many recordings with Ellington's orchestra,
he appeared on the records of pop and jazz artists ranging
from Buck Clayton and Billie Holiday to Sammy Davis Jr. For
a time in the 1950's he led the Aaron Bell Trio, based at
the Concord Hotel in the Catskills.
His survivors include his wife, De Lores; their daughters,
Pamela Lightsy of New Rochelle, N.Y., and Robin Stevens of
Manhattan; their son, Aaron W. Bell of White Plains; his
two other sons, Kenyatta and Rhahime; five grandchildren;
and a great-granddaughter.