Johnny Raducanu (AP Photo)
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — He was known as "Mr. Jazz of Romania" and his family had been making music in the country for centuries.
Celebrated jazz musician Johnny Raducanu, 79, died of a heart attack at home Monday, said Dr. Bogdan Oprita.
Raducanu was beloved by Romanians for his gentle wit, his irreverent comments about politics, and his humanity as much as his music, said Bucharest National Theater director Ion Caramitru.
Raducanu was born into a Roma, or Gypsy, family who had been musicians for 300 years.
"God gave him imagination, rhythm and passion. His passion for jazz was extraordinary," composer Horia Moculescu, a friend for more than half a century, told the national news agency Agerpres.
Raducanu's career as a jazz musician spanned 60 years. He was first spotted as a 19-year-old playing the contrabass and he went on to formally study music in Bucharest and in the cities of Iasi and Cluj. Over the decades he inspired generations of young Romanian musicians.
He loved playing the piano in smoky Bucharest bars and hotels but performed with equal ease around the world, in the former Soviet Union, Sweden, Spain, France and the United States, among others.
In 1987 he received an honorary membership from the Louis Armstrong Academy in New Orleans.
British journalist and musician Leonard Feather called Raducanu "Mr. Jazz of Romania."
There was no immediate word about survivors or funeral arrangements.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press