Saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, a former member of the Doobie Brothers who has performed with Steely Dan since 1993, died Tuesday en route to a series of performances in California. He was 58.
Bumpus had a heart attack on a commercial flight from New York, said his friend, Rod Harris, an organizer of the Columbia College Jazz Concert Series, where Bumpus was to perform this week.
“I was expecting to hear from him today, then his wife called,” Harris said. “She told me that they landed in Kansas City. We spoke for maybe about three or four minutes about the shock of it all.”
Bumpus’ wife told Harris that her husband was dead when the plane made an emergency landing.
Steely Dan, on its Web site, expressed its “profound sorrow and sympathy to Cornelius’ wife and family.”
Bumpus began his career at age 10, playing alto saxophone in the school band in Santa Cruz, Calif. In 1966, he spent six months performing with Bobby Freeman, and joined Moby Grape in 1977, writing one tune for the “Live Grape” album. Bumpus also recorded two solo albums and toured with his own band.
Since performing with The Doobie Brothers in the early 1980s, Bumpus played with a number of bands, most recently with Steely Dan, which won the “Album of the Year” Grammy for its 2000 “Two Against Nature” release.
His relations with his former Doobies bandmates turned contentious in the late 1990s, when they sued him and several other musicians over their use of the Doobies name. A federal judge in 1999 ruled against Bumpus and the other musicians, ordering them not to use the name.