Tribute to Pete Yellin

About a month ago my good friend and colleague Pete Yellin had a major stroke. He found himself paralyzed on one side and unable to speak.  I can only imagine what this must feel like to someone who was accustomed to playing all the time and leading an extremely active life. Pete is currently in a rehab fighting for whatever recovery he can muster. We’re all routing and praying for Pete.

I met Pete on Tito Puente’s band in 1974, although I had heard him play with Joe Henderson before that in 1972. In 1975 we both joined the Buddy Rich Big Band and quickly became hanging buddies. Pete was 10 years older than I, and had valuable experience and information that I wanted to hear about. We used to play music, talk music, and even play basketball together.

When I started my big band in 1984 Pete was there, and he stayed in the band until 2007 when I moved out to Los Angeles. He played on every one of my big band recordings during that period.

Pete Yellin has only to play a few notes and you know that it is Pete who is playing. He is of the generation where each player had a distinctive sound, and spent more time developing a personal vocabulary than copying other players.  Granted, Pete came out of the Bird, Coltrane, Rollins school. But the majority of Pete’s sound is his own. The best way to describe his playing is free flowing, expressive, quirky, and personal.  There is only one Pete Yellin!

Aside from being an active player on the jazz scene, Pete ran the jazz program at Long Island University in Brooklyn for many years. He did quite a lot of teaching out in Oakland, California after he moved out there in 2004 (not sure about this date).

Pete is one of the nicest cats you will ever meet. He will freely offer information about what he is doing musically at any time, and is quick to take an interest in whatever it is you are doing.

Let us all send positive vibrations towards Oakland California and wish Pete Yellin a speedy recovery.




  1. Linda Davis
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    I am a pianist and Pete and I played a concert together in the Brooklyn Museum in the late 60s. He is an expert in many genres, including classical, which was the genre in that concert. I remember the recording he made at that time “Dance of Allegra” in honor of his daughter. A fine man, a consummate musician, a great flutist.

    Give him my best and positive vibes are going to him.

    Linda Davis

  2. Max Braun
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Mintzer,

    please say hello to Pete and send him my best wishes to recovery. I met him in 1990 in Vermont at Attila Zoller’s Workshop and later he invited me to a recording session with you and your big band. One evening i was also listening to a grat big band concert of you both in N.Y. ( your parents came also listening that evening!). His way of teaching and talking about music and of course his own playing helped me a lot on my way as musician.

    Maximilian Braun, Tenosaxophonist, Munich

  3. admin
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I will see Pete this weekend, as the Yellowjackets are playing at Yoshi’s in Oakland. Pete is one of my oldest friends, and one of the most unique musicians I know.

  4. Posted November 24, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I had the pleasure of studying under Pete for a number of years, I was actually one of his first students when he moved to the SF Bay Area, and we continued to work and gig together until even after I graduated high school. I haven’t seen him in a while, this news is why I suppose, guess it’s time to pay him a visit…hope he’s doing okay…THANKS BOB!

  5. Lutz Bauer
    Posted January 6, 2014 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Mr Mintzer,

    I’m sad to learn about Pete’s stroke! I have met Pete on the same workshop in Vermont like Max Braun with Attila Zoller. Keith Copeland was my teacher then and he took me there. I learned a lot, one time he was challenging me during my drumsolo by playing an incredible duet with me! Afterwards he called me and offered me the opportunity to play in the LIU-BigBand, which was an unbelievable learning-situation. Please let him know that I’m thinking of him. My very best wishes for his health and recovery!!


    L. Bauer, drums, Berlin

  6. Phil Seltzer
    Posted March 18, 2015 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    So sad to read about Pete’s stroke. I studied under him for a while around 1973-ish in NYC, then he started giving me his second gigs (including Tito Puente). He was such a nice guy. Many years went by, and I ran into him at I forget which NYC club with whoever’s big band he was playing with (maybe 5 or more years ago). We both looked a lot older. It was so strange to see this “old guy” with Pete’s voice! Anyway he asks me if I was still playing (nope), and tells me I should sell my alto sax. I shrugged my shoulders, and he said “I mean to me!” (I had a good one I guess.) But I couldn’t part with it.

    I fervently hope Pete recovers.

    Phil Seltzer

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