NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Sherwood Mangiapane, a long-time New Orleans jazz musician known for playing his bass fiddle ''backwards,'' died Thursday of complications from diabetes. He was 79.

''He picked it up by ear and played it his own way,'' said jazz historian Dick Allen. ''He played left handed and it looked like he was playing it backward. He didn't restring it. It was just the way he learned.''

Mangiapane quit playing about two years ago when his health deteriorated.

He was last associated with the Louisiana Reperatory Jazz Ensemble, a jazz group dedicated to playing early jazz standards researched at the archives of Tulane University.

Mangiapane was a living encyclopedia with first-hand knowledge of New Orleans music. He started out on drums while a schoolboy and switched to the bass in his teens.

He never learned to read music but his ear was so good that in the early part of his career he played with a band of all-readers called the Blue Parody Orchestra.

During his career, he played with Dutch Andrus, Johnny Wiggs, Edmond Souchon, Tony Almerico and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.