Principal bass who played for movies and John Cage dies at 82

Principal bass who played for movies and John Cage dies at 82


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2018

The death has been announced of Buell Neidlinger, former principal bass of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,  a versatile character who wrote songs for Barbara Streisand, conducted experiments for John Cage and earned his daily bread at the Warner Brothers studios.

His discography extends from a Trout Quintet with Peter Serkin to sets with Streisand and Frank Sinatra.

A musical life.


  • Paul Kelly says:

    Jazz and rock critic Richard Williams relates a wonderful tale in his blog about Buell Neidlinger’s bass which is worth relating (just as Richard’s blog is worth reading).

    “As a young cello prodigy, born in New York City and brought up in Connecticut, Buell studied with Gregor Piatigorsky and had lessons from Pablo Casals. After switching to double bass, he played with Billie Holiday and Lester Young… and with Igor Stravinsky and Leopold Stokowski, with Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, with Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra, with John Cage and George Crumb, with Duane Eddy and Roy Orbison, with Sir John Barbirolli’s Houston Symphony and Neville Marriner’s LA Chamber Orchestra, with the Beach Boys and Earth Wind & Fire, with Frank Zappa and the Eagles.”

    The instrument he played on [Cecil Taylor’s] “This Nearly Was Mine” [and quite possibly in the You Tube clip you have posted] was the same one he used on “Hotel California”. Once owned by King George III, it had been played in the first performance of Handel’s Messiah.” [In Dublin in 1742].

    From The Messiah in 1740s Dublin to 1970s California. That’s quite some journey. If instruments could talk….

  • Larry says:

    A wonderful talent, a true “crossover” musician before the term was invented.

    • Adam Stern says:

      …and a Character with a capital and italicized “C”! Many fond memories of Buell from my days as a CalArts student. A terrific musician with a potent personality.

      My condolences to his lovely wife and family.

  • Ben G. says:

    Back in 1970, I had one lesson with Buell at the Indian Hill Arts camp in Stockbridge Mass. He was playing with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood that summer.

    I’ll never forget how he arrived on a motorcycle with his ponytail bunched up into a man-bun. Our lesson took place next to an old oak tree outside. Then he left and I never saw him again.

    It was a very colorful experience when I think about it.