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Roberta Mandel

1920 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Roberta Mandel Obituary
Roberta Mandel

December 29, 1920 - September 5, 2017

Roberta Mandel's 75-year jazz career came to a close upon her death on September 5, 2017 at age 96. Roberta was a talented pianist, arranger, and composer.
Roberta was the first female pianist to sit in with Count Basie's band. The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian acknowledged Roberta's 1982 piano transcription of Billy Strayhorn's Blood Count from Duke Ellington Orchestra's recording. Her transcription is part of their Archives Center Collection of Music Transcriptions of Duke Ellington's and Billy Strayhorn's Compositions. With her ability to hear chords and melody, Roberta deciphered the complex orchestra music and created a solo piano version of the tune.
After her music degrees from San Francisco State College, Roberta toured with her trio. On one tour outside Chicago, she met physician Bill Mandel, who Roberta later married. They shared her life of jazz until his death in 1992.
In 2001, Roberta honored her jazz friends with a book of her compositions, Jazz Tunes for Friends, where she added vignettes about each musician. Arturo Sandoval performed Oscar at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the New York School Music Association selected Blues for James and For Billy Strayhorn for the festival manual. Roberta played 32 years with the Junius Courtney Big Band and twice a month with the Thursday Night Band.
Roberta Mandel supported freethinking, the visual arts, education and volunteer work. She was on a constant journey to learn about the brain, civil rights, our political system (a self-proclaimed news junkie), philosophy, science, nutrition, and cats (especially Siamese). In memory of Roberta Mandel, please give to the organization of your choice. Her memorial/celebration event will occur in January 2018 (exact date yet to be determined).

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Sept. 24, 2017
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