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Noted Jazz Musician Red Norvo Dies

April 7, 1999

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Red Norvo, who performed with such greats as Charles Mingus and Frank Sinatra and is credited with introducing the xylophone to jazz, has died. He was 91.

Norvo died Tuesday at the Fireside Convalescent Home, grandson Aaron Corlin said.

``He was a fabulous man,″ Corlin said. ``He was always thinking about music, it was his life. ... His position in jazz history says a lot for itself.″

Born Kenneth Norville in Beardstown, Ill., he taught himself how to play piano and xylophone. By age 17, he was touring with a vaudeville show and later joined the Paul Ash Orchestra.

His last name changed to Norvo after Ash mispronounced it to a reporter and Norvo’s manager decided the shorter name was more fitting.

During Norvo’s tenure with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, which he joined in 1932, he met singer Mildred Bailey, whom he later married. By 1935, he formed his own sextet that played in clubs on New York City’s 52nd Street.

In subsequent years, Norvo and his wife, who were known as ``Mr. and Mrs. Swing,″ formed several groups in New York and Chicago. Among their hits in the 1930s were ``Rockin’ Chair,″ ``Please Be Kind,″ ``Says My Heart″ and ``Have You Forgotten So Soon?″

In 1943, he switched from xylophone to vibraphone, which he played almost exclusively for the rest of his career.

In 1945, Norvo joined the Benny Goodman orchestra, and a year later played with Woody Herman’s orchestra.

He returned to leading his own small groups, forming a trio in 1950 that included Tal Farlow on guitar and Mingus on bass. He also toured and appeared on television with Sinatra.

Norvo continued to perform through the early 1990s, when he suffered a stroke that ended his public performances.

Ms. Bailey, whose likeness was featured on a 1996 U.S. postage stamp, died in 1951. Norvo later married Eve Rogers, who died in 1992.

Besides his grandson, Norvo is survived by his daughter, Portia. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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