Peter Ecklund (1945–2020)

Longtime HBS member trumpeter Peter Ecklund passed away on April 8, 2020 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Peter was a rare musician who possessed a reserved personality, sharp wit, inquisitive mind, and was one of the most inventive and brilliant cornet players in the early jazz world. He was eager to explore a wide range of musical genres from natural trumpet, English slide trumpet, 19th century cornet repertoire to the world of early jazz, where he was a true star.

Born on September 27, 1945, Peter earned a degree in history from Yale University in 1967. He developed an expertise in the improvisational language of Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong and published a number of transcription books of their famous solos. He formalized some of his ideas on this topic at a memorable talk he gave at the HBS session at the 2000 AMS meeting in Toronto assisted by John Wallace and Joshua Rifkin. The talk was developed into an important essay, “'Louis Licks' and Nineteenth-Century Cornet Etudes: The Roots of Melodic Improvisation as Seen in the Jazz Style of Louis Armstrong (HBS Journal vol. 13, 2001).

Ecklund can be heard on numerous Woody Allen film scores and often played with the comedian at his gigs in New York. Peter went on to perform and record with a wide range of musicians including Dr. John, Dave Bromberg, Leon Redbone, Bob Dylan, Bonny Rait, Maria Muldour, Marty Grosz and the Orphan Newsboys, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Loudon Wainwright III, Terry Waldo, and Murray Wall to name a few. Peter also made five recordings as a leader of his own groups: Melody Makers (1988), Laughling at Life (1991), Ecklund at Ecklund (1995), Strings Attached (1996), Christmas at the Almanac Music Hall (1999).  He is survived by three siblings, Lisa Berger, Jack Ecklund, and Hilda Ollmann.

Peter was a dear friend and I along with many others will miss him.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum