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Obituaries: Joe Beck, Johnny Griffin and Artie Traum

Say farewell to jazz guitarist Joe Beck, jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin and veteran songwriter and guitarist Artie Traum.

Joe Beck, a jazz guitarist who collaborated with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and James Brown, died July 22, 2008, at a Connecticut hospice, after battling lung cancer. He was 62.

Beck was honored five times by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as a “Most Valuable Player.’’ He got his start as a teenager in the 1960s playing in a jazz trio in New York. By 1968, he was working with Miles Davis and other stars.

After taking a three-year break from music to run a dairy farm, Beck went back to music in the 1970s, working with artists such as Gloria Gaynor and Esther Phillips. He also composed and arranged for both film and television. He also taught guitar at a Connecticut community college.


Jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin, 80, died July 25, 2008, at his home in France. The cause of death was unclear.

A Chicago native, Griffin took up the sax early on, eventually preferring the tenor saxophone and taking on the nickname “the Little Giant.’’

After graduating from high school, Griffin toured with Lionel Hampton’s big band. After two years in the U.S. Army, he played in Chicago and New York, gaining a national reputation with his hard-bop improvisations. In the late 1950s, he played with Art Blakey and Thelonius Monk. Griffin’s 1958 album, A Blowing Session, remains among his signature works.

Griffin moved to France in the 1960s; he continued to tour into his later years.


Artie Traum, a veteran songwriter and guitarist who came out of the famous Greenwich Village folk music scene of the 1960s, died of cancer on July 20, 2008, at his home in Woodstock, N.Y. He was 65.

Traum performed publicly until May, when melanoma in his eye spread, his brother, Happy Traum, said. The brothers played together on and off for decades.

Artie Traum recorded a series of solo albums and produced or recorded with some of the biggest names in folk, rock and jazz, including Bela Fleck and Pete Seeger, according to his Web site.