Arthur Eugene Simmons passed away on Monday, April 23, 2018 at his home in Beckley, WV.
He was the eldest child born to Rev. Albert E. and Hettie Bennett Simmons on February 5, 1926 in Glen White, West Virginia.
Art accepted the Lord at a young age and began playing the piano at age 4, studying with Mrs. Bessie Smoot of Beckley. He graduated Stratton High School at the age of sixteen and continued his musical studies into classical music as a student at Bluefield State College and West Virginia University. On February 5, 1944 at the age of 18, Art was drafted in the US Army. While serving in the armed forces he conducted and played in the 17th Special Services Band. He was an active member of the Paris Chapter of the American Legion and on the U.S.O. Council while abroad. He traveled throughout Europe and Africa on goodwill tours to entertain the troops, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Art remained in Germany after the war as an American jazz pianist, arranger, and accompanist where he formed the group, Four Stars Quartet.
Upon moving to Paris in 1949, Art studied at the Paris Conservatory and the Ecole Normale de Musique, playing with Charlie Parker and Kenny Clarke at the Paris Jazz Festival; he also played with Aaron Bridgers, Don Byas, Robert Mavounzy, and Nelson Williams. Art recorded his first album in Lausanne, Switzerland with a group led by James Moody. He later led his own group, a trio at the Paris Ringside Club in 1951. In the early 1950s he played with Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, and toured London with singers such as Bertice Reading. As resident pianist at the Mars Club, he worked with Michel Gaudry, Pierre Cullaz, and Elek Bacsik, and accompanied touring singers such as Carmen McRae and Billie Holiday (1958).
In the early 1960s Art played in a duo with Art Taylor. During the mid-1960s, he played with Aaron Bridgers in the very popular jazz venue, The Living Room, Rue du Colisée, between the Champs-Elysées and Faubourg Saint Honoré, in the 8th Arrondissement. Art also did arranging work for Barclay Records. In 1965, Art helped organize and participated in the Paris Jazz Stars benefit concert to raise money for the civil rights movement. The festival raised over several hundred dollars for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1967-1971, Art was contributing writer for Jet Magazines Paris Scratch Pad. In 1971, he played in Spain; soon after he returned to the United States and retired in Beckley.
Art is preceded in death by his parents, a sister, Doris Green of Lester, and daughter, Audrey Simmons of Montpellier, France.
He is survived by daughter, Maya Simmons of NYC; son, Patrick Simmons and two granddaughters, Emilie and Marie all of Marseille, France; sister, Evang. Regina Carter of Joliet, IL; two brothers, Kermit (Sue) Simmons of Virginia and Joseph (Greta) Simmons of Orlando, FL; special friend, Sandra Anderson of Beckley and a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors and friends.
A memorial service for Arthur E. Simmons affectionately called the Piano man and Mayor of Wildwood will be held at 12:00pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at Heart of God Ministries, 1703 South Kanawha Street, Beckley.
In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be made payable to Heart of God Ministries. Please state: In memory of Arthur E. Simmons.
Published on April 27, 2018