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From Waterfront Blues Festival 2005 / Photo by Tracy Turner-Pain
From Waterfront Blues Festival 2005 / Photo by Tracy Turner-Pain
02/18/2016

Oregon Jazz Legend Sweet Baby James Benton, dead at 85

By TOM D'ANTONI // He passed on Sunday, February 14.

With a heavy heart, I wish to confirm the rumors: the great Sweet Baby James Benton passed away on February 14. His wife has asked me to simply state that James died peacefully after a long illness, that the burial was private, and that there will be an announcement soon about a public celebration of life event. More information will be disclosed soon in James' obituary.

I'd just like to add: James was the best friend and bandmate imaginable. Just being in his presence made everyone feel wonderful. God broke the mold after he made Sweet Baby James; he will be GREATLY missed.

--Louis Pain

 Listen to him sing "Mood Indigo" with Louis Pain and the band, from 2008.

 Me and Mr. Benton

We met while i was doing this story for Oregon Art Beat.Take a moment and watch it.

After that, he and some of the other guys in that band formed "The Original Cats. They had a nice run for a few years, before Baby James hooked up with Louis Pain and had a lovely run of nearly a decade.

I saw him dozens of times since I did that TV story in 2001 and unfailingly, every single time I saw him, he thanked me for helping him get back into performing music. I'm not sure I ever expressed my gratitude for those thanks. I would poo-poo the idea, telling him it was because he was good. Secretly, it made me happy every time I heard it.

That's the kind of man he was. His accomplishments are many and he taught several generations of Oregon Jazz musicians. But in the end, that he persisted in thanking me says it all. 

 

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Comments

Skip vonKuske

Thanks for the memory train Tom. RIP James, I'm glad I got to see you at Billy Reed's , with Ron Steen and company, and that Tom gave you a profile file piece. Peace.

Jof Lee

A true musical force and Northwest legend to be sure We will all miss his soulful voice and his unique humor. We will never see his like again . On a far lighter note: I remember a hilarious comment he once made to me after a great gig we did together with the late great Marianne Mayfield: He said: ."Man, you play so good, I just wanna throw you on the ground and stick my tongue in your mouth! " Those of you who knew him would not be offended by that. Apologies to those who may be.... James Benton, you will be greatly missed.

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