Trombonist Al Grey Dies At 74

Mainstay of Count Basie Orchestra perfected the plunger mute style.

Al Grey, the prolific jazz trombonist whose unique plunger-mute style was recorded on nearly 100 albums, died Friday. He was 74.

"He was a world-class musician, and he went out at the top of the list," said Benny Powell, who served in the trombone section of the Count Basie Band along with Grey.

Grey, who began playing trombone at age 4 in the Goodwill Boys, a band led by his father, died in Scottsdale, Ariz., after suffering from a number of ailments, including diabetes.

The trombonist played with a who's who of jazz masters, including Benny Carter, Frank Sinatra, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. He also appeared on the soundtrack for the 1985 film "The Color Purple."

Grey joined Count Basie's band in 1957 and played with him in three separate time periods, the last being 1971–77. The trombonist's contributions to the band, especially his work on "Blues in Hoss' Flat," made him one of Basie's standout soloists.

Grey was the master of the plunger-mute technique, which produces a wah-wah sound. He published a book on the subject, "Plunger Techniques," in 1987.

Grey, who is heard to good advantage on "Mood Indigo" from Live at the Floating Jazz Festival, made 30 records under his own name and 70 more as a sideman.