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Blythe, Arthur  

Bruce Barnhart

composer, alto saxophonist, bandleader, and teacher, was born Arthur Murray Blythe in Los Angeles, California, the second of three surviving sons of Charles Blythe, an auto mechanic, and Nancy Blythe, a homemaker and part-time seamstress. Some sources, including his obituary, give a birth date of 5 July 1940. His parents divorced, and when he was four years old he moved with his mother to San Diego. Blythe's first musical inspiration was the rhythm and blues music he heard on local jukeboxes. His mother's passion for the music of Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, and Tab Smith led her to purchase an alto saxophone for Blythe despite his desire to play trombone Upon receiving his first saxophone at the age of nine Blythe began to play in school bands and at the age of thirteen he was performing in a local blues band Blythe s early experience ...

Article

Coleman, Steve  

Norman Weinstein

alto saxophonist, band leader, and educator, was born on Chicago's South Side. While Coleman has chosen not to reveal many details about his childhood, he has underscored his father's love of jazz and his encouragement of his son's violin study in elementary school. At fourteen Coleman switched to the alto saxophone, but rejected his father's advice to explore Charlie Parker. Instead, Coleman adopted Maceo Parker, a saxophonist in James Brown's band, as his idol. He then organized a group of schoolmates in a funk band that emulated the Brown sound.

During his freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan University Coleman experienced a watershed moment The school s jazz band rejected his candidacy citing his lack of proficiency in improvisation This rejection moved Coleman to study Charlie Parker s recordings in the hopes of acquiring Parker s seemingly intuitive ability for spontaneous innovation He combined an immersion in Parker ...

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Collette, Buddy  

Elliott S. Hurwitt

alto and tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, bandleader, arranger, composer, music teacher, and one of the leading jazz musicians in Los Angeles since the early 1940s, was born William Marcell Collette in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Willie Hugh Collette, who came from Knoxville, Tennessee, and drove a garbage truck. Both he and a brother dabbled in music. Collette's mother, Goldie Marie Dorris came from Kansas City and sang in church She had a degree in cosmetology but was primarily a homemaker Collette had an older sister Doris and a younger brother Patrick As a child he took piano lessons but rebelled against further lessons on the instrument after coming under the sway of big band recordings which inspired him to take up the saxophone Collette bought his first horn at the age of eleven using money he made shining ...

Article

Green, Bunky  

Scott Yanow

jazz alto saxophonist and educator, was born Vernice Green Jr. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The names and occupations of his parents are not recorded. He was mostly self-taught on the alto sax and considered Charlie Parker to be his main early influence. By the time he was 15, Green had memorized most Charlie Parker solos and was sitting in at clubs.

Green mostly played local jobs in Milwaukee, including at a club called the Brass Rail for several years. In 1960 he had a brief stint with Charles Mingus, where he replaced Jackie McLean. Mingus was a strong inspiration, and Green credited Mingus with helping him find his own style. Green moved to Chicago later that year and became a significant part of the local scene. He played with the top Chicago musicians of the period, including Ira Sullivan; tenors Eddie Harris Nicky Hill and Red Saunders ...

Article

Heath, Jimmy  

James Fargo Balliett

jazz saxophonist, composer-arranger, and teacher, was born James Edward Heath, one of four children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Percy Heath Sr., an auto mechanic and amateur clarinetist, and Arlethia, a hairdresser who sang in the church choir. His brothers Percy and Albert (Tootie Heath) also went on to become noted jazz musicians. His parents bought their first home in 1945 on the south side of Philadelphia, and it became a place for musicians to gather, make music, and have meals.

Heath was sent to Wilmington North Carolina to attend school when he was fourteen This was where his grandparents lived and owned a local food market It was during this time that he began to pursue music playing an alto sax his father sent him as a Christmas present Just five feet three inches tall Heath was considered too small to play ...

Article

Henderson, Joe  

Brian P. Hochman

jazz saxophonist, composer, and educator, was born Joseph Arthur Henderson in Lima, Ohio, the son of Dennis Lloyd Henderson, a worker in a steel mill, and Irene Farley. Henderson was one of fifteen children, and much of his introduction to the world of jazz came as a result of the musical interests of his many siblings. An older brother, James T., was an especially important influence: his collection of jazz recordings sparked Joe's curiosity, and James eventually helped Joe, then around nine, to transcribe a solo by Lester Young. Joe was precocious from the beginning. By the age of sixteen he was performing professionally, and he had already penned what eventually became his best-known jazz composition, “Recordame.”

After graduating from high school Joe Henderson left Lima for Frankfort Kentucky to study music at Kentucky State College He moved to Detroit just a year ...

Article

Land, Harold  

Scott Yanow

He grew up in San Diego and began playing tenor sax when he was sixteen.

Land made his recording debut on his own record date for Savoy in 1949. He worked locally in Southern California for several years, developing a cool-toned hard bop style influenced by Lucky Thompson, Wardell Gray, and Dexter Gordon. In 1954 he became a member of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, his first opportunity to become prominent. Land moved to Philadelphia, where the group was based, he remained there for two years and appeared on some classic albums, such as Study in Brown (1955). However, following news of his grandmother’s health problems, he left the band in late 1955 and moved back to Los Angeles where he rejoined his wife, Lydia, and young song. He was succeeded by Sonny Rollins.

Land was based in Los Angeles for ...

Article

Shepp, Archie Vernon  

Ronald P. Dufour

saxophonist, playwright, and educator, was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied clarinet in his youth but switched to alto saxophone at about the age of fifteen; as a teenager he played in local rhythm-and-blues bands and also apprenticed with Cal Massey, who had earlier influenced John Coltrane. Shepp graduated from Goddard College with a BA in Dramatic Literature in 1959 and moved to New York City in search of theater work, playing alto saxophone in dance bands to earn money.

Influenced by Coltrane, Shepp switched to tenor sax and immediately began to make a name for himself. Coltrane's emphasis on the African American spiritual values of jazz certainly shaped his approach to the music, but by Shepp's own account it was his playing with Cecil Taylor, from 1960 to 1962 that truly transformed him musically ...

Article

Snowden, Elmer  

William Thomson

banjo, guitar, and saxophone player, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names are unknown and his exact birth date varies depending on the source. In 1915 he began his career in his hometown playing a New Orleans–derived jazz with Eubie Blake and later with the pianist Gertie Wells, to whom he was married for several years during the early 1920s. By 1921 he had moved to nearby Washington, D.C., where he jobbed with Louis Thomas and Claude Hopkins and his own eight-piece group, which played alternately with Duke Ellington's trio. Snowden also appears to have played banjo with Ellington's group earlier, from 1919 to 1920, but this is not reported conclusively. Snowden's Washington band included Sonny Greer on drums, Arthur Whetsol on trumpet, and Otto Hardwick on sax. The three would later be long-term members of the Ellington orchestra.

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