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Jazz Musician and Music Faculty Member Dies at 82

Barry Jagoda | January 22, 2007

Jimmy Cheatham, a member of the UC San Diego department of music’s faculty for 27 years, passed away Jan. 12. He was 82.

At UCSD, Cheatham taught improvisation and black music history, and directed the jazz ensemble. He was respected by students as a tough taskmaster who demanded their complete attention, and who provided inspiration through his stories of his involvement in many periods of jazz. Among jazz musicians who studied with Cheatham at UCSD and went on to successful careers is contrabassist Mark Dresser, a world-renowned performer and recording artist, who joined UCSD’s music faculty in 2004.

Jimmy Cheatham
Jimmy Cheatham

Cheatham, a highly regarded bass trombonist, was music director for drummer Chico Hamilton. He also performed with Count Basie, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and many other greats.

With his wife Jeannie Cheatham, he led the popular Sweet Baby Blues Band, which was featured at clubs and jazz festivals around the world. The band recorded several CDs for the Concord label. Their loose and swinging Kansas City brand of jazz showcased Jimmy’s bass trombone and Jeannie’s vocals and piano. The pair had been together since they met in Buffalo, NY, in the 1950s.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., on June 18, 1924, Cheatham attended the New York Institute of Modern Music. He taught music at Bennington College in Vermont and the University of Wisconsin in Madison before he was recruited to UCSD by pianist and music faculty member Cecil Lytle.

No services are planned for Cheatham. The department of music plans to host a memorial jam session later this year.
 
Donations can be made in Jimmy Cheatham’s name to the Jazz Society of Lower Southern California, which offers scholarships to department of music jazz students.

Make checks payable to U.C. Regents. Mail to: UC San Diego Department of Music, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA, 92093-0326, Attn: Publicity/Jazz Society.

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