Barrie Hall Jr., TSU And Duke Ellington Alum, Dies At 61

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

UPDATED at 4:49 p.m. with more information.

Barrie Lee Hall Jr., whom Duke Ellington plucked out of Texas Southern University to join his orchestra and later became its leader, passed away Monday at age 61.

The cause was complications from diabetes, Hall's wife Lula told Billie Duncan of the Billie Duncan Company.

"He was known as perhaps the greatest plunger player of all time, and his trumpet style was both intelligent and passionate," Duncan said via email.

Hall was born in Mansfield, La., and attended Crispus Attucks middle school and Worthing High School in Houston. His high school band director, Sammy D. Harris, "pointed a few of us in the direction of jazz," Hall wrote in the biography on his Web site.

While at TSU, Hall studied piano and trumpet and won a few soloist awards in various big-band festivals and competitions. Houston saxophone legend Arnett Cobb took Hall to see Ellington and introduced the two. Ellington, Hall wrote, "How come you're not playing in my band?"

Hall joined the Ellington Orchestra in June 1973. Duke Ellington died in 1974, at which point his son Mercer took over leadership until his death in 1996, at which point Hall took over for a year and occasionally relieving current conductor Paul Mercer Ellington.

Also a composer and arranger, Hall was still a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the time of his death. He had also been music director at Liberty Baptist Church for the past five years, his Web site said.

"I love working in the church. It brings out of me my essence," he wrote. "I use the music to gladden the spirit of people. I have always wanted to work in the church and like magic I have ended up there."

Hall is survived by his wife and childhood sweetheart, Lula, and four sisters. This year's Trinity Jazz Festival, scheduled for this weekend at Trinity Episcopal Church (1015 Holman), will be dedicated to Hall's memory, Duncan said.

We were married for 41 years, and we knew each other for 45 years," Lula Hall told Duncan. "We met in the marching band in high school. And he was with me until the end, in my arms. Death did us part."

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.