In Memoriam:  Bill Douglass

Our beloved Bill Douglass, jazz master and co-founder of the Sierra Jazz Society, passed away quietly in his sleep at 5 AM on 2/25/24.  Bill’s wife, Nora Nausbaum, had been a steady presence at his side through his years-long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.  Starting from his childhood in Grass Valley, Bill developed a unique and remarkably deep immersion in jazz.  From the time he went to the Bay Area in his late teens, he was recognized as a strong and melodic bass player with a beautiful tone, and he had early successes in the late 1960’s, landing with the Mose Allison trio in 1970-73.  He went on to play and record with many jazz greats.  He was Marian McPartland’s bassist on her West Coast tours, and recorded with her numerous times, including several live CDs with her and other musicians such as Chris Potter.  He played at many international jazz festivals, including Eindhoven in 1974, Montreux in 1985, and closer to home at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Paula West in 2002.  He played at Davies Symphony hall in a trio with Bobby McFerrin.  He  also recorded with Tom Waits, with Hemispheres, and recorded a duet CD with Nevada County’s own John Girton.

In addition to his work on bass, Bill developed a high level of skill on the Bamboo Flute, and he both performed and recorded on this instrument as well.  This led to him recording on a number of major film scores on bamboo flute, including The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf, and Blue Velvet.

Bill was also a great educator, and shortly after he and Nora moved back to Grass Valley, they founded the Sierra Jazz Society and worked hard to offer a yearly summer jazz camp here.  Those of us who were able to attend this camp, as well as some of Bill’s master classes at his home over the years were fortunate indeed.  He was a warm and often humorous guide to jazz playing, and his welcoming attitude was always inspiring.  He spent a lot of time making sure everyone got the melody right.

In the spirit of Bill Douglass, the Sierra Jazz Society continues his mission to encourage jazz performance and education in Nevada County.  Our annual jazz picnic in June, summer jazz camp, and select live performances throughout the year will continue to be a tribute to Bill and his lived understanding of the powerful effect of music on  our lives.

Make a donation to the SJS in Memory of Bill Douglass

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Level Price  
Jazz Fan $25.00 per Year. Select
Freelancer $75.00 per Year. Select
Band Leader $150.00 per Year. Select
Club Owner $300.00 per Year. Select
Presenter $500.00 per Year. Select
Promoter $1,000.00 per Year. Select
Sierra Jazz Camp 2024 $100.00 now.
Membership expires on June 25, 2024.
info @ sierrajazzsociety.com.

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Many thanks!

The Sierra Jazz Society has been a labor of love for Bill Douglass and Nora Nausbaum for many years now. Nora has passed the torch and now a new team of music lovers will keep the Sierra Jazz Society happening. Check back for more news or sign up for the mailing list and we’ll keep you posted on upcoming events. Jazz LIVES!

Photo by Miti on Unsplash


The Sierra Jazz Society is a California 501C3 non profit organization dedicated to Jazz education, presentation and promotion in Nevada County and the surrounding areas.  

Bill Douglass was the artistic director of the Sierra Jazz Society from its inception, around 2005, until sometime in early 2020. Bill is renowned in the Bay Area and the Sierras as a fine bass player and bamboo flute player.

Bill Douglass and Nora Nausbaum are the folks that launched the SJS and, after doing some research online, Nora helped us out by forwarding this bio that was on the previous SJS website. We’re maintaining a digital copy here with some links to content available on the internet so you can check out some of Bill’s work. If you have any additional content, links, stories, photos, etc. we’d love to see it!

Bill Douglas Highlighted Discography & Performances

w/Marian McPartlandSingle Petal of a Rose (CD)
w/Marian McPartland – Live at Yoshi’s Nitespot (CD)
w/Marian McPartland – Plays the Music of Mary Lou Williams (CD)
w/Marian McPartland – Live at Concord Jazz Festival w/Chris Potter (CD)
w/Mose Allison Trio – 1970 – 1973 and 2005 – 2018
w/Mose Allison Trio – American Legend – Live in California (CD)
w/Ian Dogole – Night Harvest (CD)
w/Ian Dogole – Ionospheres (CD)
w/IanDogole – Hemispheres (DVD)
w/Paula WestTemptation (CD)
w/Paula West – Restless (CD)
w/Shweta JhaveriAnahita (CD)
w/Gabriela Marrone – 
Detrás Del Sol (EP) featuring Bill Frisell & Alex Acuña
w/Tom WaitsThe Black Rider (CD)

Filmwork, Bamboo Flute:

The Five Chinese Brothers, Rabbit Ears Productions with John Lone narrator The Emperor and the Nightingale, Rabbit Ears Productions, music by Mark Isham, narration by Glenn Close
The Boy Who Drew Cats, Rabbit Ears Productions, music by Mark Isham,  narration by William Hurt
1,000 Pieces of Gold, directed by Nancy Kelly, music by Gary Malkin
The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard, music by Mark Isham
Never Cry Wolf, directed by Carroll Ballard, music by Mark Isham
Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, directed by Wayne Wang, music: Todd Boekelheide
Eat a Bowl of Tea, directed by Wayne Wang,
Life is Cheap, directed by Wayne Wang, music: Mark Adler
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, directed by Phillip Kaufman
Dear America, directed by Bill Couturie, music by Todd Boekleheide
Tibet, music by Mark Isham
National Geographic Specials:
Reflections on Elephants, Zebras: Patterns in the Grass,
Filmed by Beverly and Dereck Joubert, music by Mark Adler

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Photo by Jael Rodriguez on Unsplash