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.

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