Aaron Bell, a bassist who played with Duke Ellington and other musical greats, died Monday July 28 in Gotham. He was 82.
Bell was Ellington’s bassist from 1960-62 and later worked with him as an arranger. He also recorded with Buck Clayton, Billie Holiday and Sammy Davis Jr., among others.
Born Samuel Aaron Bell, he grew up in Muskogee, Okla., and served in a Navy band in Indiana during WWII. In 1946, he went to work as a bassist with the Andy Kirk Orchestra, going on to play with the groups of Lucky Millinder, Lester Young and Miles Davis as well as with his Aaron Bell Trio.
In 1983, Bell assembled a 14-piece orchestra at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan to play a piece he had written, “Memorial Suite for Duke,” for the anniversary of Ellington’s birth.
Bell, who earned a B.A. from Xavier U. and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia U., taught music at Essex County College in Newark, N.J., and was chairman of the school’s performing arts department until he retired in the 1990s.