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Jazz bassist Joe Byrd dies after Annapolis crash

Joe Byrd played bass for 50 years. (Courtesy of Bill Crandall )

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A driver with a long history of traffic offenses ran a red light in the fatal crash involving renowned jazz bassist Joe Byrd — the youngest brother of late guitar great Charlie Byrd — according to police.

Joe Byrd was 78.

Anne Arundel County Police say its initial investigation shows Byrd’s Volvo SW was struck by the 2003 GMC Yukon driven by Edward Mark Cramer, 27, of Lothian, Md.

Court records obtained by WTOP show Cramer is due to stand trial for a January 2012 arrest in Calvert County for driving on a suspended license. He has been arrested several times for driving on a suspended license and registration, and failure to stay on his side of the road.

Cramer has been arrested several times after 2006 on traffic charges, including driving an uninsured and unregistered vehicle.

He pleaded guilty in January 2012 of speeding in Calvert County, and was fined $80.

Police say there’s no evidence speed or alcohol were factors in the crash involving Byrd, but the investigation continues.

Byrd was trapped in the crash on southbound Md. Route 2, near Lee Airport. After being extricated, Byrd was transported to the hospital in cardiac arrest, where he died.

Byrd, of Edgewater, Md., was known for playing sophisticated American jazz.

In a statement, police say their initial investigation “reveals driver error to be a possible contributing factor in the crash.”

Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, says prosecutors will have to wait for a complete police investigation before determining whether to charge Cramer in connection with Byrd’s death.

According to his website, Byrd played at the White House for Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. In addition to his brother, Joe Byrd accompanied Jimmy Witherspoon, Mose Allison and Coleman Hawkins.

Byrd is survived by his wife, Elana.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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