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Celebrity Death

Drummer Jerry Granelli’s Cause of Death: Still Behind Shadows


One of the legends of the world of jazz and creative improvisation, teacher and drummer Jerry Granelli’s cause of death is still unknown after he passed away today (July 20) at the age of 80.

A powerful presence behind a drum kit and revered source of inspiration for players of all ages learning to cut themselves loose from the bonds of musical convention, the San Francisco-born artist died suddenly at his Halifax home on Tuesday morning.

Granelli’s playing became known to the world in 1965 after he joined the trio of California pianist Vince Guaraldi in time to record the soundtrack for the beloved holiday TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, although he wouldn’t get proper credit for his work until it received a deluxe reissue decades later. 

teacher and drummer Jerry Granelli's cause of death is still unknown
Image source: Expose

He also toured and recorded with jazz/blues great Mose Allison and trio leader Denny Zeitlin before fronting his own groups starting in the 1970s, eventually moving to Halifax to join the Nova Scotian Buddhist community and become a galvanizing influence for the East Coast jazz scene.

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Story of Drummer Jerry Granelli’s Cause of Death

“Originally he came as part of that Buddhist migration, but he loved the history, he loved the stories. He took holidays in Cape Breton almost every summer, it was an important part of what he did,” announced MacKenzie, who would eventually become Granelli’s manager/collaborator.

“He loved the community; the musicians that came up around him over the time that he’d been in Halifax, he continued to work with a lot of them down the road.”

Besides performing and recording with musicians like Bill Frisell and David Tronzo, and his son, bassist J. Anthony Granelli, Granelli’s creative energy found one of its most powerful outlets in the program he created with what was then known as the Atlantic Jazz Festival, now the Halifax Jazz Festival: the Creative Music Workshop. 

Creatively, Granelli was always pushing his art forward, and bringing other musicians along with him, hurdling the boundaries of what jazz performance and composition could be and where they could go.

teacher and drummer Jerry Granelli's cause of death is still unknown
Image source: Global News

But he’d also learned to make peace with his musical past, returning to the sounds of the Vince Guaraldi Trio and A Charlie Brown Christmas for a series of popular yearly concerts that raised money for music education, and paying tribute to both of his early mentors, Guaraldi and Allison, on a 2020 trio release.

Over the past year, Granelli’s health issues were obvious and they probably became his cause of death; his son set up a GoFundMe page to provide some assistance after he’d spent two months in ICU with a near-fatal case of internal bleeding and a collapsed lung at the start of the year.

But MacKenzie says over the past few months he’d been exercising regularly, getting ready to resume teaching and performing on stage.

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