The Eastman School of Music community was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of prominent jazz saxophonist Gerry Niewood in an airplane crash on Thursday, Feb. 12. Mr. Niewood earned his Bachelor of Music degree in music education, with an emphasis in saxophone, at Eastman in 1970.
Best known for his association with Chuck Mangione (BM ’63), Mr. Niewood was an instrumentalist who performed the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones as well as the flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, and clarinet. He was twice voted Downbeat International critic’s poll winner in the category “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” on soprano saxophone.
Mr. Niewood performed with the Chuck Mangione Quartet for a total of nearly 14 years. In 2007, he joined Mangione and many of the original performers for a recreation of the Friends and Love concert with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, which was originally presented and taped in the Eastman Theatre in 1970.
Among the many diverse artists with whom Mr. Niewood performed were Peggy Lee, Simon and Garfunkel, Thad Jones, Sinead O’Connor, Anne Murray, Mel Lewis, Gil Evans, Judy Collins, Frank Sinatra, and Gerry Mulligan. As a tenor saxophonist, he was heard on the sound track to the Robert De Niro film A Bronx Tale. He played woodwinds in the orchestra for the films When Harry Met Sally, Annie, King of Comedy, and many others.
Mr. Niewood’s compositions were recorded by the Chuck Mangione Quartet, Lena Horne, Rare Silk, and others.
Mr. Niewood was a passenger on a commuter plane that went down in Clarence Center, N.Y. He was on his way to Buffalo for a concert with Chuck Mangione and the Buffalo Philharmonic.
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