Saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, a former member of the Doobie Brothers who has performed with Steely Dan since 1993, died yesterday (Feb. 4) en route to a series of performances in California. He was 58. Bumpus had a heart attack on a commercial flight from New York, said his friend, Rod Harris, an organizer of the Columbia College Jazz Concert Series, where Bumpus was to perform this week.
Bumpus’ wife, Linda, told Harris that her husband was dead when the plane made an emergency landing. “Cornelius was a man of great modesty and simplicity,” she writes on her husband’s official Web site, she says. “His life was music, family, and church. He never liked giving talks or speeches. He always felt more articulate with a horn in his mouth.”
On its site, Steely Dan expressed its “profound sorrow and sympathy to Cornelius’ wife and family.”
Bumpus began his career at age 10, playing alto saxophone in the school band in Santa Cruz, Calif. In 1966, he spent six months performing with Bobby Freeman, and joined Moby Grape in 1977, writing one tune for the “Live Grape” album. Bumpus also recorded two solo albums and toured with his own band.
Since performing with the Doobie Brothers in the early 1980s, Bumpus played with a number of bands, most recently with Steely Dan, which won the album of the year Grammy award for its 2000 release, “Two Against Nature.”
His relations with his former Doobie Brothers bandmates turned contentious in the late 1990s, when they sued him and several other musicians over their use of the band’s name. A federal judge in 1999 ruled against Bumpus and the other musicians, ordering them not to use the name.