Category Archives: 2019 Advent Calendar

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #10 – Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker 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 altotenor and baritone saxophones. Since the early 1990s, he has toured under his own name.

Parker and his brother Melvin joined James Brown in 1964; in his autobiography, Brown claims that he originally wanted Melvin as his drummer, but agreed to additionally take Maceo under his wing as part of the deal. In 1970, Parker, his brother Melvin, and a few of Brown’s band members left to establish the band Maceo & All the King’s Men, which toured for two years.

In January 1973, Parker rejoined with James Brown. He also charted a single “Parrty – Part I” (#71 pop singles) with Maceo & the Macks that year. In 1975, Parker and some of Brown’s band members, including Fred Wesley, left to join George Clinton’s band Parliament-Funkadelic. Parker once again re-joined James Brown from 1984 to 1988.

In the 1990s, Parker began a solo career. His first album of this period “Roots Revisited” spent 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. To date he has released 11 solo albums since 1990. His band has been billed as “the greatest little funk orchestra on earth” and the “million-dollar support band”. Parker’s 1992 live album “Life on Planet Groove” is considered to be his seminal live album, marking his first collaboration with Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer.

In 1993, Parker made guest appearances on hip hop group De La Soul’s album Buhloone Mindstate. In the late 1990s, Parker began contributing semi-regularly to recordings by Prince and accompanying his band, The New Power Generation, on tour. He also played on the Jane’s Addiction track “My Cat’s Name Is Maceo” for their 1997 compilation album Kettle Whistle. In 1998, Parker performed as a guest on “What Would You Say” on a Dave Matthews Band concert, which also became one of their live albums, Live in Chicago 12.19.98.

In 2007, Parker performed as part of Prince’s band for Prince’s 21 nights at the O2 arena. Parker also played as part of Prince’s band for his 21-night stay at LA’s Forum in 2011.

Parker’s album Roots & Grooves with the WDR Big Band is a tribute to Ray Charles, whom Parker cites as one of his most important influences. The album won a Jammie for best Jazz Album in 2009. Parker followed this up with another collaboration with WDR Big Band in 2012 with the album Soul Classics.

In October 2011, Parker was inducted in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

In July 2012, Parker was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Victoires Du Jazz in Paris. He continues touring, headlining many jazz festivals in Europe and doing as many as 290 concerts a year.

In May 2016, Parker received The North Carolina Heritage Award from his home state

Sax Advent Calendar #9 – Stanley Turrentine

Stanley William Turrentine (April 5, 1934 – September 12, 2000) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He began his career playing R&B for Earl Bostic and later soul jazz recording for the Blue Note label from 1960, touched on jazz fusion during a stint on CTI in the 1970s. He was described by critic Steve Huey as “renowned for his distinctively thick, rippling tone [and] earthy grounding in the blues.” Turrentine was married to organist Shirley Scott in the 1960s, with whom he frequently recorded, and was the younger brother of trumpeter Tommy Turrentine.

He began his prolific career with blues and rhythm and blues bands, and was at first greatly influenced by Illinois Jacquet. In the 1950s, he went on to play with the groups of Lowell Fulson and Earl Bostic. In Bostic’s group, he replaced John Coltrane in 1953 and also played in groups led by the pianist and composer Tadd Dameron.

Turrentine received his only formal musical training during his military stint in the mid-1950s. In 1959, he left the military and went straight into the band of the drummer Max Roach.

He married the organist Shirley Scott in 1960 and the two frequently played and recorded together. In the 1960s, he started working with organist Jimmy Smith, and made many soul jazz recordings both with Smith and as a leader.

Scott and Turrentine divorced in 1971. Turrentine turned to jazz fusion and signed for Creed Taylor’s CTI label. His first album for CTI, Sugar, recorded in 1970, proved one of his biggest successes and a seminal recording for the label. He worked with Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, George Benson, Bob James, Richard Tee, Idris Muhammad, Ron Carter, Grant Green and Eric Gale, to name a few. He returned to soul jazz in the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Turrentine lived in Fort Washington, Maryland, from the early 1990s until his death.

He died of a stroke in New York City on September 12, 2000, and was buried in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #8 – James Carter

Carter was born in Detroit, Michigan, and learned to play under the tutelage of Donald Washington, becoming a member of his youth jazz ensemble Bird-Trane-Sco-NOW!! As a young man, Carter attended Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, becoming the youngest faculty member at the camp. He first toured Europe (Scandinavia) with the International Jazz Band in 1985 at the age of 16.

On May 31, 1988, at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), Carter was a last-minute addition for guest artist Lester Bowie, which turned into an invitation to play with his new quintet (forerunner of his New York Organ Ensemble) in New York City that following November at the now defunct Carlos 1 jazz club. This was pivotal in Carter’s career, putting him in musical contact with the world, and he moved to New York two years later. He has been prominent as a performer and recording artist on the jazz scene since the late 1980s, playing saxophones, flute, and clarinets.

On his album Chasin’ the Gypsy (2000), he recorded with his cousin Regina Carter, a jazz violinist.

Carter has won Down Beat magazine’s Critics and Readers Choice award for baritone saxophone several years in a row. He has performed, toured and played on albums with Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill, Frank Lowe & the Saxemble, Kathleen Battle, the World Saxophone Quartet, Cyrus Chestnut, Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Mingus Big Band.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #7 – Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz was born October 13, 1927. He has performed successfully in a wide range of jazz styles, including bebopcool jazz, and avant-garde jazz. Konitz’s association with the cool jazz movement of the 1940s and 1950s includes participation in Miles Davis‘s Birth of the Cool sessions and his work with pianist Lennie Tristano. He was notable during this era as one of relatively few alto saxophonists to retain a distinctive style when Charlie Parker exerted a massive influence.

Like other students of Tristano, Konitz was noted for improvising long, melodic lines with the rhythmic interest coming from odd accents, or odd note groupings suggestive of the imposition of one time signature over another. Other saxophonists were strongly influenced by Konitz, notably Paul Desmond and Art Pepper.

Check out the playlists and find out more about Lee Konitz here.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #6 – Ben Webster

Ben Webster is one of the three most important tenor players of the pre-war era alongside Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

Webster started on violin as a child, moving to the piano where he later played in a number of bands before finding himself playing for silent movies in Amarillo, Texas. Whilst in Texas the sax player Budd Johnson introduced him to the saxophone and gave ‘Bean’ his first lesson. Shortly afterwards Ben Webster was invited to join the ‘Young Family Band’ by Lester’s father Willis. After this he toured with some of the best swing orchestras of the time including Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Andy Kirk and others. In 1940 he joined Duke Ellington’s Orchestra becoming a permanent fixture and the featured tenor soloist.

In the late 1940s he went out on his own and could be found playing in many of the legendary 52nd St Clubs in New York City. In the early 1950s he returned to Kansas and recorded with Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holliday and Oscar Peterson.

By the 1960s Ben Webster’s sound and style had fallen out of fashion and he moved to Europe. He died in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1973.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #5 – Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson was one of the few jazz musicians able to navigate the tightrope from the mainstream jazz of the 1950s and 60s to the Avant Garde of the 70s – right back to the Neo Bop school of the 80s and 90s. That he did it with such skill and flair is to his credit, and is well worth studying!

Henderson was born in Lima OH, USA – one of fifteen children! After a two year spell in the army (1960-62) he moved to New York City. Soon after he made his recording debut with Kenny Dorham on Blue Note. From 64-66 he was a member of Horace Silver’s quintet, following this he went freelance and made nearly thirty recordings for the Blue Note label. In 1967 he briefly joined Miles Davis’ second great quintet, (alongside Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter.)

In 1971 Joe Henderson moved to San Fransico where he continued to tour and also take on students, (listen to Greg Fishman’s reflections on his time as a student of Joe here.) In the 90s Henderson made a number of recordings for the Verve label which were critically acclaimed, giving Joe Henderson the acclaim he so richly deserved. He died in 2001.