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Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Like many other jazz fans, I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great violinist and composer Billy Bang at the age of 63. Bang’s story was a harrowing and inspiring one, after surviving traumatic experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War, Bang returned to the States, and employed his violin in many jazz contexts from swinging tributes to Stuff Smith to experimental recordings as a leader and a member of the String Trio of New York. Bang was able to courageously recover from drug and alcohol addiction and confront his wartime demons with a duo of extraordinary albums, Vietnam the Aftermath and Vietnam: Reflections, which cathartically allowed him to finally make peace with is experiences through music. Bang also recorded several albums for the Italian Soul Note label, which remain in print, and are all worthwhile. He was a musician with true heart and soul and will be missed.