Tommy Flanagan (b. 16 March 1930 -- d. 16 November 2001) was an accomplished jazz pianist best known for his years as Ella Fitzgerald's accompianist from 1963-65 and 1968-78. In the 1980's Flanagan's talents as a soloist achieved greater recognition through his many solo and trio gigs. His style was a lyrical, delicate yet rhythmic approach to bebop.

Flanagan was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1930, studying clarinet at the age of six, until switching to piano at age 11. He grew up and cut his teeth in the active Detroit scene playing with the likes of vibraphonist Milt Jackson, trumpeter Thad Jones, drummer Elvin Jones, and guitarist Kenny Burrell. He moved to New York City in 1956 where he recorded with such talents as bassist Oscar Pettiford, trombonist J.J. Johnson, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and tenor sax giant Coleman Hawkins. From 1956 through 1968 Flanagan made more than 100 recordings, many of them essential for the serious collector. My friend, who studied under Kenny Barron said that Barron recommended that his students listen to and learn from Tommy Flanagan's playing.

Since 1978 Flanagan performed almost exclusively in a piano trio setting. One notable and frequent collaborator is bassist George Mraz with whom Flanagan has a wonderful raport; the two have an uncanny ability to follow one another's creative leads.

Tommy Flanagan died on 16 November 2001 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City from complications due to an aneurysm he suffered about a decade before. R.I.P.

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