Avant-garde jazz trombonist Grachan Moncur III passed away on his 85th birthday
News broke on Friday that jazz trombonist Grachan Moncur III passed away in a Newark hospital. Mocur was a trombonist and composer who rose to prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s and paved the way for modern jazz by playing a hybrid of free jazz and post-bop.
Moncur was born on June 3, 1937 in New York City and grew up in Newark, New Jersey where he began playing the trombone at the Laurinburg Institute, a historically Black prep school in North Carolina where legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie also studied. Inheriting a love for music from his father, Moncur returned to New York and attended the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School, then began touring with Ray Charles from 1959 to 1962.
Moncur also toured with Art Blakey and Jackie McLean, as well as Art Farmer and Benny Golson’s Jazztet in 1962 and Sonny Rollins. He recorded two albums under Blue Note Records: 1963’s “Evolution” with Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan, and 1964’s “Some Other Stuff” with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.
His style was reflected in the unconventional meters and structures of his compositions, with abrupt transitions and harmonic dissonances. When he didn’t see eye to eye with Blue Note, Moncur began a quiet phase in which he did almost no recording but instead organized jazz workshops at Harlem’s Space Station studio. He also performed in Europe and taught jazz at the Newark Community School of the Arts.
Before Grachan Moncur III passed away, he was at peace with both himself and his career. On the topic of his relationship with Blue Note, Moncur said, “I’d love to see dealing with Herbie and Wayne and them cats, and I’d like to get that kind of recognition. Then again, I like being able to do what I want to do. I’ve seen what’s happening with them. Something didn’t make me envy that.”
As jazz trombonist Grachan Moncur III passed away, he’s remembered by his two sons, Kenya and Grachan Mocur IV, his two daughters Ella and Vera, and his two brothers, Loften and Lonnie, and several grandchildren.