VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Austrian-born jazz legend Oscar Klein, who fled when the Nazis took power and recorded with Lionel Hampton and other greats during a career that spanned four decades, has died at the age of 76, local media reported Wednesday.

Klein died Tuesday in Germany, the Austria Press Agency quoted a sister as saying. He had lived with his wife in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Born Jan. 5, 1930, to a Jewish family in the southern Austrian city of Graz, Klein and his family fled the country after the Nazi regime annexed Austria just before World War II and settled in Switzerland.

He had planned to celebrate his 77th birthday next month with a concert in Innsbruck, APA said.

Best known for his aggressive and expressive Chicago-style trumpeting, which made him a fixture on the European club and festival scene, Klein also played clarinet, guitar and harmonica and began his career when jazz was just taking hold in Vienna in the 1950s.

He teamed up with Joe Zawinul in the band Fatty George, later moved to the Tremble Kids and the Dutch Swing College Orchestra, and went on to play with Hampton, Wild Bill Davison, Bill Coleman, Dexter Gordon and other jazz greats.

Klein, who was self-taught, never learned to read music, but he made nearly 200 recordings in his 40-year career, specializing in “old” jazz, Dixieland, swing and blues.

Trained as a graphic artist, he spoke seven languages and worked as an art teacher in Florence, Italy, when he was 18.

In 1996, the late Austrian President Thomas Klestil presented Klein with the nation’s silver Medal of Honor, one of Austria’s highest decorations.


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