Legendary Chicago jazz pianist Willie Pickens has died

The legendary jazz pianist Willie Pickens has passed. His daughter, Bethany Pickens, announced the news of his death in an Instagram post today. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying, "Willie Pickens was a towering figure in our city’s cultural landscape, lighting the keyboard on fire with splashy chords and lightning runs over a career that spanned more than half a century. But Willie was more than an artist. He was a CPS teacher, a grandfather, an active member of his church, and a mentor to generations of countless young Chicago musicians who learned, grew, and were inspired by his training and guidance."

Pickens moved to Chicago in 1958 from his hometown of Milwaukee, where he began his music career. He played the saxophone on recording for Eddie Harris. He used his talent to teach and inspire students. He taught music at Lindblom High School on the South Side and later taught at Wendell Phillips High School. He was a long-time resident of the Hyde Park community.