HERRIN - Joel Edward Helleny, 52, died Saturday, June 20, 2009, at his home.
He was born Oct. 23, 1956, in Paris, Texas, to Edward and Sara Helleny. The family moved back to Herrin, and Joel attended grade school and high school in Herrin. He also spent a year at University of Illinois before he joined a band and started his career. He attended the Herrin First Presbyterian Church as a young man.
Joel was introduced to music at the age of four when his mother sat him down at the piano. However, it was in grammar school that he first began to play the trombone and found his instrument and his calling. He developed an interest in jazz while playing in junior high and also participated in the jazz band in high school.
Joel moved to New York in 1979 and there he frequented the clubs and decided jazz was what he loved. He worked with Roy Eldridge at Jimmy Ryans and made his first national appearance in the 1980s playing with the Benny Goodman Sextet and later toured with Lou Rawls and Natalie Cole. Since then, he has performed with some of the biggest names in jazz - names like Buck Clayton, Jay McShann, Dick Hyman, Ruby Braff, Frank Weds, Mel Lewis, Milt Hinton, Doc Cheatam, Warren Vache, Scott Hamilton and Steve Allen in clubs throughout the world. He has been featured soloist with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and played several performances at the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, the Town Hall Jazz, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the first jazz concert in the Osaka Symphony Hall in Japan. He also played a concert at the Herrin Civic Center. He played numerous jazz festivals in the United States and abroad, including the JVC Festival in New York, the Greenwich Festival, the Kansas City Jazz Festival with Jimmy McGriff, the FUJITSU?Concord Festival and Montreal Jazz Festival, the Guinness Jazz Festival in Cork County, Ireland, Brecon Festival in Wales and the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, Netherlands.
He was the featured soloist on the soundtracks for such films as "Cotton Club," "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Fried Green Tomatoes." He has also played for several movies written and directed by Woody Allen. He has appeared on Broadway with Allan Toussaint in "Rhythm and Blues," featuring the music of the legendary New Orleans songwriter and pianist and in the PBS television program "11th Hour" and the Newport Jazz and the Newport Jazz all stars.
He recorded his first album under his own name, "Lip Service," with Richard Wylands and Leroy Williams. Since then he has recorded with Widespread jazz orchestra on "Paris Blues," Kenny Davern on "East Side, West Side," Warren Vache on "Horn of Plenty" and "Talk to Me Baby," with Scott Hamilton at the Fujitsu Camcord 27th Jazz Festival, and "My Romance."
Joel moved back to Herrin in 2007 to care for his elderly father.
He was preceded in death by his mother and father; grandparents, Phillip and Mary Grant and Joseph and Katie Helleny; uncle, Louis Helleny; aunt, Sharon Helleny; and aunt and uncle, James and Jean Helleny.
He is survived by aunt, Zella Helleny; aunt and uncle, Taffie and E.J. Helleny; and uncle, Charles Helleny; and several cousins, James and Cathy Helleny, James and Jamie Bushong, John and Sharon Helleny, Craig and Dr. Jane Herman, Joey Helleny, Robert and Cathy Helleny, Marjo Bono, Kay Gage; and his ex wife, Toni Helleny.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28, 2009, in First Presbyterian Church in Herrin.
Memorial contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church in Herrin or to the donor's choice.
Van Natta Funeral Home in Herrin is in charge of arrangements.