Looking back on 2006 it's been another busy year for jazz and blues obituarists. Sadly, the past 12 months have taken some of the greats, with recent weeks claiming two of our last living - and until recently still performing - links to the music of the 1930s. On December 7 we lost band leader, pianist and singer Jay McShann, and on November 21 bluesman Robert Lockwood Jnr. McShann was born in 1916 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, but is forever associated with Kansas City, Missouri, where he moved to in 1936 and established one of the hottest big bands of the era. Its ranks included, at various times, vocalist Walter Brown and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, but its place in jazz history was assured when in 1937 McShann engaged the services on alto of a fledgling Charlie 'Bird' Parker. Parker made his recorded debut with the band, and although few at the time had any idea of what a revolutionary innovator he would become, the association with his protege would overshadow McShann for the rest of his own much longer career. The McShann band was at the peak of its form when the leader was drafted into the wartime US army, and the big-band era was effectively over by the time he returned to civilian life. Undaunted, McShann took to fronting small groups as a pianist and eventually singer, developing a style which was said to owe something to Walter Brown. He also got used to being thought of as the leader of the band with which Parker cut his teeth. His career seemed becalmed from the mid-50s to mid-60s, but as one of the great Kansas City bluesmen he was lifted on the crest of the wave of the late 60s revival of interest in that music, and he continued to record and perform well into his 80s. 'Hootie', as McShann was also known, features in Clint Eastwood's 2003 film Piano Blues - a contribution to Martin Scorsese's series of blues documentaries. In the same year he made the Grammy-nominated Goin' to Kansas City. It was a long and richly worthwhile career. Bird died as a burned-out case at 34. McShann worked until he was almost 90. Robert Lockwood Jnr was a link to an earlier, earthier blues era. Born in 1915 he was also known as 'Robert Jnr' Lockwood because, after her divorce from Robert Lockwood Snr, his mother entered into a sporadic cohabitation arrangement with Robert Johnson from whom young Robert learned his trade. Lockwood played Delta gigs with the man he called his stepfather, and went on to work with the next generation of blues greats - Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters among others. He also became something of a mentor to another bluesman about 10 years his junior - B.B. King. After a long period in the 50s in Chicago playing sessions for Chess, he moved to Cleveland in 1960 and played duo gigs with Otis Spann, later establishing a durable partnership on stage and record with Johnny Shines. Until a few weeks before his death he was playing regular club gigs in Cleveland, and can be seen in the DVD of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival playing a powerful version of his 'stepfather' Robert Johnson's Love in Vain. The other casualty of recent weeks was not a musician, but he was a towering figure in post-war jazz, blues and R&B nevertheless. RIP Ahmet Ertegun, who died on December 14, aged 83. He had been in a coma for weeks after a fall sustained backstage at Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party. The co-founder, back in the 40s, of Atlantic Records, was there to see a performance by the Rolling Stones, whose independent label he signed to an Atlantic distribution deal in 1970. Other rock acts with which Ertegun was involved included Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Led Zeppelin, but black music was what intoxicated him as a young Turkish immigrant to the US in the 30s. He'll be remembered most for his involvement with the acts that Atlantic recorded in the 50s and early 60s, including Ray Charles. Other noteworthy artists now lost to us, but for one reason or another not previously remembered here, include percussionist Don Alias, pianists Floyd Dixon, John Hicks and Billy Preston, British trumpeter and bandleader Hank Shaw and another notable British brass player, trombonist Don Lusher. However, even that list is almost certainly not complete. All leave us memories and some fine recordings. Next week, on a more cheerful note, the best jazz releases of the year. In the meantime, a very merry Christmas.