Herb Ellis, 88, a jazz guitar virtuoso who swung hard behind such jazz luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Stan Getz and was a member of the celebrated Oscar Peterson Trio in the 1950s, died March 28 at his home in Los Angeles. He had Alzheimer's disease. His last performance was in 2000.
In a career than spanned six decades, the Texas-born Ellis was regarded as one of the finest jazz guitar soloists. Innovative guitarist Les Paul paid him the compliment: "If you're not swinging, he's gonna make you swing."
After an early stint with the Jimmy Dorsey big band, Ellis formed the Soft Winds trio in 1947 with two Dorsey colleagues, pianist Lou Carter and bassist Johnny Frigo.
The trio was not a major commercial success during its five-year existence, but the group recorded many songs and developed a fine reputation in later years among aficionados. The members co-wrote "Detour Ahead" and "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out," both of which have been widely performed by other artists.
Peterson, who often sat in with the Soft Winds, recruited Mr. Ellis as a replacement for guitarist Barney Kessel in 1953. Mr. Ellis was an ideal accompanist for Peterson, supplementing the often flamboyant playing of the pianist with precise, uncluttered chord work and economical but swinging solos. They were joined by bassist Ray Brown.
"It was probably the highlight of my career to work with those guys," Mr. Ellis once said. "Oscar's a mental giant. He'd give me stuff to play and I'd say, 'I can't play this Oscar.' He'd say, 'Yes, you can. I know how much you can play.' " ........http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/30/AR20100330038...