By Matt Micucci
Donald Percy “Don” Rendell, acclaimed English saxophonist, flautist and clarinettist, died on Oct 20 at the age of 89 after a short illness.
Rendell started playing the alto sax at the age of fifteen, before switching to tenor. He was influenced by the style of Lester Young and John Coltrane.
After a start playing in US bases for the USO, where he started his professional career, Rendell joined several big bands from 1944. One of these was one of the most successful jazz and British dance bands of the time, the Oscar Rabin Band. In 1950, he became a key member of the Johnny Dankworth Seven, where he remained until Sir John decieed to put together a big band of his own.
Throughout his career, he played with some of the all time greats, such as Tony Crombie and Ted Heath, and went on tour in Europe with Stan Kenton in 1956. In 1959, he led a group accompanying the legendary vocalist Billie Holiday when she toured the United Kingdom.
As well as being a featured member of countless bands, he formed groups of his own throughout the years, and collaborated with such named as Graham Bond, who is regarded as being one of the founding fathers of the English rhythm and blues boom of the fifties, and esteemed saxophonist Barbara Thompson.
But he is perhaps best known for his co-leadership of the pioneering Rendell-Carr Quintet, which he formed with Scottish trumpeter Ian Carr and with whom he performed and recorded for some seven years.
Don Rendell has also been a leading jazz-educator, and had been teaching for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London since 1984.