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In Memoriam

Sherman Ferguson, a jazz drummer and a member of the faculty in the UCLA Jazz Studies Program, died from complications of diabetes on Jan. 22 at his home in La Crescenta, Calif. He was 61. Ferguson joined the UCLA faculty as a lecturer in January 2001 and taught a jazz ensemble class and private drum lessons.

“Sherman Ferguson was an extraordinary talent and a major figure in the Los Angeles music scene,” said Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program and a distinguished jazz guitarist. “He was a vital and well-loved member of the jazz faculty here at UCLA. Sherman represented the best of what a jazz musician should be. He was a master drummer whose talent and versatility allowed him to work with a large variety of musical artists. His passion for music and his deep interest in helping others made him one of the most respected teachers in the UCLA Jazz Studies Program. Sherman loved teaching, he loved performing and he loved people. He will be sorely missed.”

Born in Philadelphia, Ferguson was a serious musician from a young age. His early influences were Max Roach and Roy Haynes. He studied privately and performed on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles in 1976. He performed and recorded with a virtual who’s who of jazz musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, Benny Carter, Horace Silver, Ahmad Jamal, Freddie Hubbard, Bud Shank, Eddie Harris, Jimmy Smith, Buddy Collette, Joe Williams, Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Pharoah Sanders, Gabor Szabo, Sonny Stitt and George Shearing. He toured extensively throughout the United States as well as Europe, Japan, Brazil, Martinique, Malta and Greece. He performed on various TV shows, including “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.”

His discography numbers more than 80 recordings. In 1999, Catalyst, a Philadelphia group he co-directed, re-released four 1970s LPs in a two-CD set called “Catalyst, the Funkiest Band You Never Heard.” He collaborated in a group with John Heard and Tom Ranier on the LP “Hear, Ranier and Ferguson.” With his band, JazzUnion, he released the CD “Welcome to My Vision” on his own label, Jazz-a-zance Records.

In addition to UCLA, Ferguson taught at the University of California, Irvine; the California Institute of the Arts; Long Beach Community College; the Los Angeles Music Academy; and Jackson State University in Mississippi. He taught privately in his home studio, and performed at many schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District under the auspices of “Jazz America.” He also wrote liner notes and articles for jazz magazines such as Bird and L.A. Jazz Scene.

Ferguson is survived by his wife, Anni, and his sister, Dolores.

Peter Ladefoged, 80, the world’s foremost linguistic phonetician and one of the most important figures in linguistics in the 20th century, died Tuesday, Jan. 24 at a London hospital after an illness on his way home from a research trip to India. Ladefoged, published 10 books and 130 scholarly articles on various aspects of the theory and practice of phonetics and the phonetic properties of specific languages. He also documented the speech sounds of more than 50 of the world’s “endangered languages.

After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh in 1959, Ladefoged taught in Nigeria and Edinburgh before becoming an assistant professor of phonetics at UCLA in 1962. He established and directed, until 1991, the UCLA Phonetics Laboratory, which became the world’s most prominent linguistic phonetics laboratory. He served as chair of UCLA’s linguistics department from 1977 to 1980, and was widely regarded as the world's foremost scholar of phonetics. He also served as the linguistic consultant to the movie “My Fair Lady.”

Ladefoged will be remembered for his distinguished contributions to phonetics and linguistics, his lively and impassioned teaching, his service as mentor to a many graduate students and to his younger colleagues, and his sense of humor (his e-mail address was oldfogey@ucla). Ladefoged melded pioneering linguistic fieldwork with linguistic theory and a desire to explore how the sounds of human language can be presented within a unified framework of classification.

He was also a pioneer in modeling the relationship between speech acoustics and the positions of the tongue, lips and other articulators responsible for producing speech sounds. In early work on vowels he showed how traditional ‘articulatory’ phonetic descriptions corresponded more closely with their acoustic properties than with the supposed position of the tongue in their production, and he continued to insist on the importance of acoustic and perceptual factors in classifying sounds.

“Peter Ladefoged was a top-flight researcher who worked tirelessly to document the world’s languages,” UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale said. “We owe him a debt of gratitude and mourn his passing.”

“The thousands of UCLA students who took Linguistics 1 from Peter Ladefoged probably had no idea that their professor was the president of the Linguistic Society of America or the International Phonetic Association, but they knew why he had won the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award,” said Patricia Keating, UCLA professor of linguistics.

Ladefoged began his phonetic field studies while teaching in Nigeria in 1959; within a few years Ladefoged had traveled not only in West Africa, but in Mexico, India, and Uganda as well. Later trips took him to Australia, Papua New Guinea, China, Brazil and many other countries.

“Every language that dies represents a loss of human culture and a loss of a way of organizing life,” Ladefoged once said. “In a few decades, or sooner, the opportunity to study many of these languages will no longer be available. By the time the next millennium comes around, probably all but a handful of the world’s languages will have disappeared. This is the price of globalization. Linguists view language as a window into the way that the mind works, and every language that disappears means the shutting of another window with a slightly different view. We can only scrape the surface of recording dying languages. There is no earthly way we can record several thousand of them, but we will do what we can.

“As one young Apache put it to me, ‘We can no longer speak to our ancestors,’ a tragedy that violated his soul.”

Speaking about his field research, Ladefoged said, “Throughout my years at UCLA, I spent much of my time wandering around the world trying to hear and analyze all the sounds that could distinguish words in some language or other. To begin with I had a portable phonetics lab which required a porter. It weighed more than 100 pounds, and included a Nagra tape recorder, a battery powered oscilloscope, and an ultra violet recorder, plus all the paraphernalia required for palatography and pressure and flow recording.

“I have enjoyed wandering to many corners of the earth, though fieldwork has not always been comfortable. I remember once sitting in a small boat in the Niger delta, made for perhaps 12 people. The 24 of us crammed in there were huddled under a ground sheet as torrential rain was pouring down. I had my expensive tape recorder and microphones in a theoretically waterproof bag in the bottom of the boat, with the water slowly rising. Wet and worried, I wondered whether our insurance really covered the thousands of dollars of equipment. But later we sat in the village chief’s hut, poured a libation of some strange potent liquor, and recorded a dozen speakers of Defaka, a dying language spoken by only a few hundred people on one of the islands in the Niger delta. When the skies had cleared we went back in an old dugout canoe. Warm and dry I watched the sun setting, thinking how lucky I was to have these opportunities."

Married for more than 50 years, Ladefoged is survived by his wife and colleague Jenny (“a much more talented and wonderful woman than any I had ever known before,” he said); their daughters Lise Friedman and Katie Weiss; son Thegn; and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be sent to the Endangered Language Fund: http://www.ling.yale.edu/~elf/.

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