Damon Rentie / Blog
"Illinois Jacquet"Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v16
Jacquet was born to a Sioux mother and a Creole father in Broussard, Louisiana and moved to Houston, Texas, as an infant, and was raised there as one of six siblings. His father, Gilbert Jacquet, was a part-time bandleader. As a child he performed in his father's band, primarily on the alto saxophone. His older brother Russell Jacquet played trumpet and his brother Linton played drums. At 15, Jacquet began playing with the Milton Larkin Orchestra, a Houston-area dance band. In 1939, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met Nat King Cole. Jacquet would sit in with the trio on occasion. In 1940, Cole introduced Jacquet to Lionel Hampton who had returned to California and was putting together a big band. Hampton wanted to hire Jacquet, but asked the young Jacquet to switch to tenor saxophone. In 1942, at age 19, Jacquet soloed on the Hampton Orchestra's recording of "Flying Home", one of the very first times a honking tenor sax was heard on record. The record became a hit. The song immediately became the climax for the live shows and Jacquet became exhausted from having to "bring down the house" every night. The solo was built to weave in and out of the arrangement and continued to be played by every saxophone player who followed Jacquet in the band, notably Arnett Cobb and Dexter Gordon, who achieved almost as much fame as Jacquet in playing it. It is one of the very few jazz solos to have been memorized and played very much the same way by everyone who played the song.He quit the Hampton band in 1943 and joined Cab Calloway's Orchestra. Jacquet appeared with Cab Calloway's band in Lena Horne's movie Stormy Weather.
"Gene Ammons"Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v15
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Ammons studied music with instructor Walter Dyett at DuSable High School. Ammons began to gain recognition while still at high school when in 1943, at the age of 18, he went on the road with trumpeter King Kolax's band. In 1944 he joined the band of Billy Eckstine (who bestowed on him the nickname "Jug" when straw hats ordered for the band did not fit), playing alongside Charlie Parker and later Dexter Gordon. Notable performances from this period include "Blowin' the Blues Away," featuring a saxophone duel between Ammons and Gordon. After 1947, when Eckstine became a solo performer, Ammons then led a group, including Miles Davis and Sonny Stitt, that performed at Chicago's Jumptown Club. In 1949 Ammons replaced Stan Getz as a member of Woody Herman's Second Herd, and then in 1950 formed a duet with Sonny Stitt. The 1950s were a prolific period for Ammons and produced some acclaimed recordings such as "The Happy Blues" (1955), featuring Freddie Redd and Lou Donaldson. Musicians who played in his groups, apart from Stitt, included Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Mal Waldron, Art Farmer, and Duke Jordan. His later career was interrupted by two prison sentences for narcotics possession, the first from 1958 to 1960, the second from 1962 to 1969. He recorded as a leader for Mercury (1947-1949), Aristocrat (1948-1950), Chess (1950-1951), Prestige (1950-1952), Decca (1952), and United (1952-1953). For the rest of his career, he was affiliated with Prestige. After his release from prison in 1969, having served a seven-year sentence at Joliet penitentiary, he signed the largest contract ever offered at that time by Prestige's Bob Weinstock. Ammons died in Chicago in 1974, at the age of 49, from cancer.[4
"David Sanborn" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v14
David Sanborn was born July 30, 1945 in Florida. He suffered from polio as a child and at his doctor's recommendation, Sanborn started playing the saxophone as a way to strengthen his weakened chest muscles and to improve his breathing. Little did he know that this exercise would lead to a lifelong career as an alto saxophonist. Growing up in Missouri, Sanborn was inspired by great Chicago blues artists. While still a teenager, he had the opportunity to play with some of these great musicians, including Albert King and Little Milton. By the time he was 18, Sanborn knew that he wanted a career in music.He studied music for a year at Northwestern University before transferring to the University of Iowa to continue his studies.
By the age of 20, Sanborn was married with a child. Shortly after, he moved to California, where he spent five years playing with the Butterfield Blues Band. The break-up of the band led to tours with Stevie Wonder and David Bowie. Sanborn also played with many others, including The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and James Taylor.
In 1975, Sanborn released his first solo album, Taking Off. While he continued on with solo work and produced many more albums, Sanborn also began to get into the film and TV industry in the 1980s, where has worked as a composer, a musician, an actor and a host. Though his career has spanned over four decades, Sanborn shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to tour and perform in typical venues as well as at festivals, clubs and even on cruises.
"Ornette Coleman" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v13
Rarely does a musician emerge who dramatically changes the way we listen to music, but such a man is Ornette Coleman. Ever since the late 1950's when he burst on the New York scene, his artistic vision has helped to expand contemporary musical boundries. Most people think of Ornette Coleman as the revolutionary saxophonist who created "free jazz", but in truth, his music and his approach to making music have always defied simple categorization. Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930, Ornette Coleman bought his first saxophone at the age of 14. Having taught himself how to play the instrument, he performed with various rhythm and blues bands and by the time he was nineteen he left Fort Worth to hook up with Silas Green's traveling minstrel show. It was not until Coleman joined Pee Wee Crauton's band that he was able to make it out of the honky-tonks and blues bars of the South. Apparently, even then, the young saxophonist style was controversial, and rumor has it that by the time the band reached Los Angeles, Crayton was paying Coleman not to solo. Bebop ruled jazz in the 1950's and initially while in Los Angeles, Coleman, like everybody else, playing bebop at jam sessions. "I could play and sound like Charlie Parker note-for-note, but I was only playing it from method. So I tried to figure out where to go from there," Coleman said. As he started exploring musical possibilities of extending and fusing elements of honky-tonk, blues, funk, and bebop, Coleman created personal musical vocabulary free from the prevailing conventions of harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic structures. Coleman's musical style so alienated him from the jazz community that musicians literally walked off stage whenever Coleman showed up to play. In retrospect, Coleman's innovations, later to be known as "harmolodics", not only helped to revitalize jazz by pointing a new direction away from the rigid role of harmony in bebop, but also established his place in a select group of major 20th Century American composers, such as Charlie Parker, Harry Partch, Charles Ives and John Cage. In Los Angeles during the early 50's Coleman had to support himself with menial jobs. However, he was fortunate enough to find a core of talented musicians, trumpeters Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden, who embraced his musical concepts. Although the musicians rarely found opportunities to perform the music, they spent a great deal of time improvising and rehearsing. Things changed dramatically for Coleman in 1958 with the release his debut album, Something Else, and while he could still be scorned, he could not be ignored. One year later a second album, Tomorrow is the Question, was released and the original quartet was firmly established: Coleman on alto sax, Don Cherry on trumpet, Billy Higgins on drums, and Charlie Haden on bass.
"Houston Person" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v12
Houston Person, jazz tenor saxophonist and record producer is most experienced in and best known for his work in soul jazz with his distinctive sassy sound and his expressive style of playing. Early in his career while in the U.S. Air Force, he played with Don Ellis, Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, and Leo Wright. He spend many years as Etta Jones' musical partner, record producer, they performed, recorded and toured together for more than 30 years, receiving equal billing. Housten has more than 75 albums under his own name on Prestige, Westbound, Mercury, Savoy, Muse, and is currently with High Note Records. He has also recorded with Charles Brown, Charles Earland, Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Horace Silver, Dakota Staton, Billy Butler amoung others and in 1982 he received the Eubie Blake Jazz Award. And a little inside information he likes his Harvey's Bristol Cream!!
"Eddie Harris" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time v11
Long underrated in the pantheon of jazz greats, Eddie Harris was an eclectic and imaginative saxophonist whose career was marked by a hearty appetite for experimentation. For quite some time, he was far more popular with audiences than with critics, many of whom denigrated him for his more commercially successful ventures. Harris' tastes ranged across the spectrum of black music, not all of which was deemed acceptable by jazz purists. He had the chops to handle technically demanding bop, and the restraint to play in the cool-toned West Coast style, but he also delved into crossover-friendly jazz-pop, rock- and funk-influenced fusion, outside improvisations, bizarre electronic effects, new crossbreedings of traditional instruments, blues crooning, and even comedy. Much of this fell outside the bounds of what critics considered legitimate, serious jazz, and so they dismissed him out of hand as too mainstream or too gimmicky. To be fair, Harris' large catalog is certainly uneven; not everything he tried worked. Yet with the passage of time, the excellence of his best work has become abundantly clear. Harris' accomplishments are many: he was the first jazz artist to release a gold-selling record, thanks to 1961's hit adaptation of the "Exodus" movie theme; he was universally acknowledged as the best player of the electric Varitone sax, as heard on his hit 1967 album The Electrifying Eddie Harris; he was an underrated composer whose "Freedom Jazz Dance" was turned into a standard by Miles Davis; he even invented his own instruments by switching brass and reed mouthpieces. Plus, his 1969 set with Les McCann at the Montreux Jazz Festival was released as Swiss Movement, and became one of the biggest-selling jazz albums of all time.
"Eric Dolphy" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time Tribute v10
Eric Dolphy was one of the most diverse jazz musicians who ever lived. Not only a groundbreaking alto saxophone player, he was also one of the first bass clarinet and flute soloists. But his work on the saxophone was what made him a legend. Along with musicians like Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman, he pushed the genre of jazz into new stratospheres in the 60s with the emergence of free and avant-garde jazz. His personal sound ran the gauntlet from twelve tone scales, tonal bebop, and lifelike human and animal sound effects. Also a competent bandleader and composer, his work would inspire the likes of Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, and Frank Zappa. Never touching drugs or alcohol, it was said that they only thing he was addicted to was practicing. Such is a fitting tribute to one of jazz’s bravest pioneers.
"Maceo Parker" Damon' s Greastest Saxophonist of our time salute v9
Maceo Parker ( /ˈmeɪsiːoʊ/; born February 14, 1943) is an American funk and soul jazz saxophonist, best known for his work with James Brown in the 1960s, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970s. Parker was a prominent soloist on many of Brown's hit recordings, and a key part of his band, playing alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Since the early 1990s, he has toured continuously under his own name.
"Sonny Stitt" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time salute v8
Edward Boatner was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. He had a musical background; his father, Edward Boatner, was a baritone singer, composer and college music professor, his brother was a classically trained pianist, and his mother was a piano teacher. Boatner was soon adopted by another family, the Stitts, who gave him his new surname. He later began calling himself "Sonny". In 1943, Stitt first met Charlie Parker, and as he often later recalled, the two men found that their styles had an extraordinary similarity that was partly coincidental and not merely due to Stitt's emulation. Stitt's improvisations were more melodic/less dissonant than those of Parker. Stitt's earliest recordings were made in 1945 with Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie. He had also played in some swing bands, though he mainly played in bop bands. Stitt was featured in Tiny Bradshaw's big band in the early forties. Stitt replaced Charlie Parker in Dizzy Gillespie's band in 1945. Stitt played alto saxophone in Billy Eckstine's big band alongside future bop pioneers Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons from 1945 until 1956, when he started to play tenor saxophone more frequently, in order to avoid being referred to as a Charlie Parker imitator. Later on, he played with Gene Ammons and Bud Powell. Stitt spent time in a Lexington prison between 1948–49 for selling narcotics. Stitt, when playing tenor saxophone, seemed to break free from some of the criticism that he was imitating Charlie Parker's style, although it appears in the instance with Ammons above that the availability of the larger instrument was a factor. Indeed, Stitt began to develop a far more distinctive sound on tenor. He played withBud Powell and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, a fellow tenor with a distinctly tough tone in comparison to Stitt, in the 1950s and recorded a number of sides for Prestige Records label as well as albums for Argo, Verve and Roost. Stitt experimented with Afro-Cuban jazz in the late 1950s, and the results can be heard on his recordings for Roost and Verve, on which he teamed up with Thad Jones and Chick Corea for Latin versions of such standards as "Autumn Leaves." Stitt joined Miles Davis briefly in 1960, and recordings with Davis' quintet can be found only in live settings on the tour of 1960. Concerts in Manchester and Paris are available commercially and also a number of concerts (which include sets by the earlier quintet with John Coltrane) on the record Live at Stockholm (Dragon), all of which featured Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers. However, Miles fired Stitt due to the excessive drinking habit he had developed, and replaced him with fellow tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. Stitt, later in the 1960s, paid homage to one of his main influences, Charlie Parker He recorded a number of memorable records with his friend and fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons, interrupted by Ammons' own imprisonment for narcotics possession. The records recorded by these two saxophonists are regarded by many as some of both Ammons and Stitt's best work, thus the Ammons/Stitt partnership went down in posterity as one of the best duelling partnerships in jazz, alongside Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Johnny Griffin with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Stitt would venture into soul jazz, and he recorded with fellow tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin in 1964 on the Soul People album. Stitt also recorded with Duke Ellington alumnus Paul Gonsalves in 1963 for Impulse! on the Salt And Pepper album in 1963. Around that time he also appeared regularly at Ronnie Scott's in London, a live 1964 encounter with Ronnie Scott, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, eventually surfaced, and another in 1966 with resident guitarist Ernest Ranglin and British tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey. Stitt was one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with an electric saxophone (the instrument was called a Varitone), as heard on the albums What's New in 1966 and Parallel-A-Stitt in 1967.
"Grover Washington, Jr" Damon's Greatest Saxophonist of our time salute v7.
Grover Washington, Jr. (December 12, 1943 - December 17, 1999) was an American jazz-funk / soul-jazz saxophonist. Along with George Benson, John Klemmer, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Herb Alpert, and Spyro Gyra, he is considered by many to be one of the founders of the smooth jazz genre. He wrote some of his material and later became an arranger and producer. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Washington made some of the genre's most memorable hits, including "Mister Magic," "Reed Seed," "Black Frost," "Winelight," "Inner City Blues" and "The Best is Yet to Come". In addition, he performed very frequently with other artists, including Bill Withers on "Just the Two of Us" (still in regular rotation on radio today), Patti LaBelle on "The Best Is Yet to Come" and Phyllis Hyman on "A Sacred Kind of Love". He is also remembered for his take on the Dave Brubeck classic "Take Five", and for his 1996 version of "Soulful Strut". Washington had a preference for black nickel-plated saxophones made by Julius Keilwerth. These included a SX90R alto and SX90R tenor. He also played Selmer Mark VI alto in the early years. His main soprano was a black nickel plated H.Couf Superba II (also built by Keilwerth for Herbert Couf) and a Keilwerth SX90 in the last years of his life.