Tag Archives: Jim Rothermel


In happier times -- Jim at an outdoor gig, 1977

The sad news — courtesy of Dawn Lambeth and the Dixieland Jazz Mailing List:

Dear Jazz Family,

We are sad to announce that the great reed player, Jim Rothermel, has passed away last night (Monday, May 16) from leukemia. Marianna August, his loving partner for the past 10 years, called with the sad news. Jim had been diagnosed with cancer of the blood in June, 2010, but continued to play with his and other bands up through early this month, when he made a valiant rally to record at his home with some of his band mates, including Larry Vuckovich, Shota Osabe, Al Obidinski, Tony Johnson and Randy Vincent. Marianna will have more details later, but Jim’s son and daughter will need finances now to help pay his medical expenses. We ask if you are able to contribute to this fund, that you write a check to Jim Rothermel and mail it to his address at 14 Seibel St., San Rafael, CA 94901.

Jim took an active part in the San Francisco music scene since the mid-60s, and was an accomplished and talented musician, proficient on saxophones, clarinet, flute, recorder and harmonica. He was adept in a variety of musical styles: Dixieland, Swing, Big Band Jazz; Western Swing, Rock and Roll, Blues and Folk. Jim had toured and performed extensively with numerous major artists in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada, and was a seasoned studio musician with featured performances on more than 100 recordings. He led two recordings of his own: NeoClassic Swing (2001) and Memories of You (2011).

Jim played at prestigious festivals and concert halls, including Monterey Jazz Festival, San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Bix Beiderbecke Festival, Indianapolis Jazz Festival, Sacramento Jubilee, Carnegie Hall, Universal Amphitheater, The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, The Great American Music Hall, as well as several Bread and Roses festivals.

He had performed/toured with Bucky Pizzarelli, Charlie Byrd, Jay McShann, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Steve Allen, Charles Brown, Dr. John, Norton Buffalo, Steve Allen, Bob Crosby and the Bob Cats, Maria Muldaur, Boz Scaggs, Jesse Colin Young, Van Morrison, David Grisman, and many others. He had played on several film and TV productions, including CKVU’s Vancouver Live; and specials for CBS (Canada), NTV (Japan) and Belgian National TV. He was two-time Bay Area Music Awards (BAMMY) nominee, and was a featured performer on the 1987 Grammy Award winning album, A Tribute to Steve Goodman. Jim was also an educator, having worked in the Bay Area Music in the Schools program, and as a jazz saxophone instructor at Sonoma State University, and a guest artist-clinician at Santa Rosa and Delta junior colleges.

The late San Francisco music critic Phil Elwood called Jim “the Bay Area’s most versatile and brilliant woodwind performer – among the best instrumentalists in the country, and in the studios”. Randall Kline, director of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, called Jim Rothermel: “a Bay Area treasure”. Jim led his band in a fantastic Benny Goodman centennial tribute at the San Francisco Jazz Festival in October, 2009, on which Larry was honored to play; Jim’s band opened for clarinetist Eddie Daniels and his quartet.

Jim led his own Jim Rothermel Swingtet, and his Neo Classic Swing Quintet, and played with many other outstanding Bay Area bands, including the Larry Vuckovich All-Star Big Band, Harold Jones and the Bossmen, Mike Vax’s Great American Jazz Band, Full Faith and Credit, The Oakland A’s Swingers, Don Neely’s Royal Society Six, The Golden Gate Rhythm Machine, Warren Gale Sextet, Peter Welker Sextet, Bryan Gould’s Swing Fever, and in a special combo with his sweetheart vocalist, Marianna August and her Jazz Pals.

This is a deep, personal loss for us. We will miss Jim’s beautiful playing and his sunny sense of humor. The closer we’ve become to both Jim and Marianna, the more our respect has grown for the depth of their courage, love and determination during this struggle. We will let you know more details as they unfold. We send our deepest love to Marianna and Jim’s children, Diana and David, and grandchildren. You can read more about this talented, warm-hearted, courageous man at:www.jimrothermel.com

Warm hugs,

Larry& Sanna

Larry Vuckovich / Sanna Craig

Tetrachord Music




Jazz musicians give us so very much.  And sometimes all they get back is our applause, thirty dollars at the end of the night, a burger, a beer.  It seems to me that there ought to be a way to do better, especially in the case of reedman Jim Rothermel. 

I missed the benefit held on January 17 for Jim — someone I’ve admired in a variety of jazz contexts although I’ve never had the opportunity to hear him in person.  But here’s what Scott Anthony of the Golden Gate Rhythm Machine wrote:

As you may know, Jim Rothermel, the Golden Gate Rhythm Machine’s fabulous reed-man since 1984, has undergone almost 6 months of chemotherapy to combat acute leukemia.  He has been accepted at Stanford Medical Center for a bone-marrow transplant as soon as an acceptable donor is found, probably early in 2011.  Recovery from this procedure will take a number of months, possibly up to a year, during which time he will be unable to work or have any income at all.  We are hoping this benefit will raise money for his support during his recovery period.

Click here https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=BJVUPK7HXLFGL to donate money for Jim: any amount will help!  And if you distrust online transactions, the old-fashioned method will do nicely, Checks made out directly to Jim can be sent to him at Jim Rothermel, 14 Seibel Street, San Rafael, CA 94901. 

Think of the music — and of the people who so heroically create it for us! 


On June 26, 2009, SFRaeAnn, that generous jazz videographer, took her camera to “America’s Festival,” in Lacey, Washington, and captured cornetist Bob Schultz’s Frisco Jazz Band playing the now-rare Irving Berlin song, “I’ll See You in C-U-B-A.” 

Berlin wasn’t an anarchist; this 1920 song teasingly proposes a visit to a country where Prohibiition wasn’t law.  (Other songs looked to Montreal for rehydration.) 

The performance has an easy, tango-inflected swing, helped immeasurably by Hal Smith on drums — a master chef behind his set, mixing and flavoring with his wire brushes, swinging without getting louder or faster.  I thought of Walter Johnson, among others: watch the way Hal moves!  Cornetist Schultz has a fine Spanier-Marsala passion, matched by trombonist Doug Finke, whom I associate with rousing Stomp Off CDs by his Independence Hall Jazz Band. 

I recently reviewed a Fifties jazz-goes-medieval effort where the participants earnestly jammed on recorders: they should have studied Jim Rothermel, sweetly wailing away.  Thanks to Scott Anthony on banjo, who delivers the song stylishly, Chuck Stewart on tuba, and another one of my heroes, pianist Ray Skjelbred, for keeping the ship rocking but afloat. 

Our travel plans for the summer have us heading north, not south — so I’ll content myself with this YouTube clip, spicy and sweet.