Lloyd McNeill Jr. was often described as a man of many talents—musician, artist, photographer, poet and professor—but for jazz lovers it was his facility on the flute that was most commanding. McNeill, 86, died on Oct. 5, at an assisted living residence in Brooklyn. According to an obituary in the New York Times, he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the last five years. Born in Washington, D.C., McNeill attended Morehouse College, studied at L’Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, and was the first recipient of an MFA from Howard University. He traveled the globe, always armed with his pen, flute, palette and camera. When he wasn’t performing in jazz clubs, including a notable stay at the Tin Palace in New York City, he was hobnobbing with Pablo Picasso or taking flute lessons from Eric Dolphy and Harold Jones.

Paul Pines, the owner of the Tin Palace, recalled his acquaintance with McNeill, who asked to perform at the club. “I’d heard him with guitarist Allan Gittler,” Pines said, “who’d built his own kind of space-age guitars. He then asked if he could bring in a larger group. They were Brazilians: guitarist Amaury Tristao, pianist Dom Salvador, some really fine players. People began to flock to hear the Brazilians.” 

Some of that festive music can be heard on McNeill’s album “Tori” and other recordings. His competence as a visual artist is colorfully displayed on a number of albums by Sun Ra and Wes Montgomery, et al. In 2001, he retired from Rutgers University where he was Professor Emeritus of Mason Gross School of Arts. At Rutgers he was instrumental in launching the Jazz Studies Program. The Rev. William Howard reminded me that McNeill was also a remarkable artist in mosaics. 

McNeill published two volumes of poetry, including “Blackline: A Collection of Poems, Drawings, and Photographs,” and “After the Rain: A Collection of New Poems.” In 2001, he was chosen by the USPS to design a postage stamp for the celebration of Kwanzaa in 2009. He leaves behind his wife, Svetlana Davidovich-McNeill, his sisters Glenda McNeill and Melba McNeill and his brother Albert McNeill and their families.

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  1. I knew, and had the pleasure of working with Lloyd McNeill, in Washington, D.C.
    Both of us were attending Howard University, at the time. We formed a trio, which consisted of two Drummer/ Percussionists (Richard Spencer, Bongos, Ric Powell, Congas & African drums 🪘), and Lloyd McNeill, on Flute. We performed around the District/ Maryland and Virginia areas, at the Coffee Houses and Nite Spots. Eventually, the three of us moved on in different directions. I am saddened to hear about Lloyd McNeill’s transition to the Spiritual World.

  2. I worked as a bartender at the Blue Willow restaurant on the corner of Bleeker and Broadway. Lloyd lived across the street in a loft and was a frequent presence at the bar where we all grew to know and love him. He was a prince of a guy, kind and gentle, and talented in so many areas. Music, art, poetry, Lloyd did it all. He rode an old white BMW motorcycle, and was one of the most unique characters in NoHo as it later became known in the 1970’s and 80’s and 90’s. He was a great friend and accomplished artist and I’m sad to hear of his passing.

  3. Lloyd McNeil was the subject of an iconic Jill Freedman photographer taken in 1968 during the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, Dc. It is an image of Lloyd playing the flute at the edge of Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool.

  4. I just learned of Lloyd’s passing today. Realized he may have passed when an email I sent came back undeliverable. Lloyd was a regular customer at Bradley’s, a jazz club on University Place where I waited tables for several years in the late ’80’s. Lloyd was a lovely human being, smart and funny, and always a delight to speak with and be around. Last time I saw him was on the street a few years back and he was as kind and as interested in what I was doing as I remembered. RIP Lloyd.

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