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British jazzman John Dankworth

Matt Schudel

Sir John Dankworth, 82, a British jazz saxophonist, composer and band leader who was married to the sensational singer Cleo Laine, died Feb. 6 in London.

Mr. Dankworth may be best known in the United States for his work with his wife, but he was a formidable presence in music in his own right. He started out as a bebop saxophonist who played alongside Charlie Parker and became perhaps the leading British bandleader of the 1950s. He also wrote music for TV and film and composed music for symphony orchestras.

In 1958, Mr. Dankworth and Laine were married, and they enjoyed a remarkable musical partnership for more than 50 years. You can see them here at their prime in the 1960s performing "Lady Be Good."

Here, in a relatively recent performance, they dash through a rousing version of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," with an amazingly intricate saxophone-vocal duet:

By Matt Schudel  |  February 9, 2010; 4:56 PM ET
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