‘Smokey Joe’s Cafi’ saxophonist Gil Bernal dies

Posted July 27, 2011, at 6:31 p.m.
Last modified July 27, 2011, at 9:16 p.m.

GLENDALE, Calif. — Versatile saxophone player Gil Bernal has died at age 80. He performed on the 1950s pop song “Smokey Joe’s Cafi” and worked with Spike Jones, Lionel Hampton and Ry Cooder.

His family tells the Los Angeles Times that Bernal died of congestive heart failure on July 17 at a Glendale hospital.

Bernal was born in the Watts area of Los Angeles. He joined a band after high school, then sang with Lionel Hampton’s band, leaving in the early 1950s to form his own group and later joining bandleader Spike Jones.

A tenor saxophonist, Bernal worked on several projects with Ry Cooder, including his 1997 Cuban music album, “Buena Vista Social Club.”

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