from Kansas City, MO
November 3, 1926 - April 18, 2001 (age 74)
A hard-swinging tenor saxophonist (who is no relation to the crossover keyboardist of the same name), Billy Mitchell made his mark in several settings. He worked in Detroit with Nat Towles' band and in the late '40s, he played with Lucky Millinder's Orchestra in New York. In 1949, Mitchell recorded with Milt Jackson, worked in the big bands of Milt Buckner and Gil Fuller, and toured with Woody Herman's Second Herd for two months. He spent the first half of the 1950s playing locally in Detroit and then was with Dizzy Gillespie's big band during 1956-1957, taking a memorable solo on Cool Breeze at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. Mitchell was with Count Basie's Orchestra during 1957-1961 and in the early '60s led a sextet with Al Grey that featured a young Bobby Hutcherson. He played again with Basie during 1966-1967, worked as an educator, and recorded frequently on Xanadu in the late '70s. Billy Mitchell cut sessions as a leader for Dee Gee, Jubilee, Smash, Catalyst, and Xanadu. The influential saxophonist passed away as a result of lung cancer while in his home in New York on April 18, 2001. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
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