Richard Merrill Sudhalter, musician and writer, Born 28th December, 1938, Boston, Mass, Died 19th September, 2008, New York. Son of Al Sudhalter, a leading alto saxophonist of the 1920s, he was brought up in a household where the likes of Bobby Hackett, Phil Napoleon and many other Jazzmen were frequent visitors. First instrument was piano but by the age of 12, having heard Paul Whiteman’s record of “San” featuring Bix Beiderbecke, he had switched to cornet and was soon playing around Boston with the likes of classmates Roger Kellaway and Steve Kuhn. Graduated from Oberlin College in 1960 with degrees in music and English. Worked in Austria teaching English and playing jazz on the side before becoming a reporter for United Press International. Was their European correspondent from 1964 to 1972 based at various times in Berlin, London and Belgrade. During his time in London he met many British Jazzmen including the members of the group that became the Anglo-American Alliance and who were later to form the core of the New Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Made his first records with the AAA. Divided his career between playing and writing. As a musician worked with many top combos including those of Vince Giordano and, notably, The Classic Jazz Quartet and The New York Repertory Company. As a writer wrote dozens of articles, liner notes (shared a Grammy Award with John Chilton in 1982 for their notes to a Bunny Berigan CD), was jazz critic for the New York Post for 10 years or so. Above all, 3 major books, “Bix, Man and Legend”
(1974), still regarded as a landmark in jazz biography, “Stardust-Melody” (2002) a superbly written biography of songwriter/pianist/singer Hoagy Carmichael; his masterpieces the controversial “Lost Chords - White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz” (1999), for which he faced accusations of racism, but only from people who had not read the book. He was anything but racist.
In 2003 he suffered a stroke, partially recovered, but sadly not long after began to show symptoms of Multiple System Atrophy, an incurable degenerative disease which slowly robbed him of all his physical functions. To those who loved and admired him his death came as a happy release.