Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman is a saxophone player who can certainly divide opinion! Born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930 he was one of the pioneers of the Free Jazz movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. His album The Shape of Jazz to Come still sounds modern and hip some sixty years after it was recorded and released.
Hank Mobley was born in Eastman, Georgia in 1930, but grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He started playing professionally aged 19 with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach, but it is with Horace Silver, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers that he made his name.
In 1961 he briefly replaced John Coltrane in Miles Davis’ band, but it was as a leader and sideman on the Blue Note album that Mobley’s sound came to be synonymous. Recording over 20 albums with Blue Note Records, arguably Mobley’s finest work was his ‘Soul Station’ album in 1960.
Mobley had to retire from playing full time in the mid 1970s, but he did continue to occasionally play live until his death from pneumonia in 1986.
George Garzone was born in Boston, MA, USA in 1950. He has a prolific output and is one of the most highly regarded saxophonists of his generation. Garzone has taught some of the most famous saxophonists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman and Melissa Aldana have all studied with Mr Garzone during their careers.
Garzone is well-known as a sought-after jazz educator, who, in addition to teaching at Berklee, has taught at the New England Conservatory, Longy School of Music, New York University, and the Manhattan School of Music. He is a member of the Grammy-winning Joe Lovano Nonet, and performed and recorded with this group at the Village Vanguard in September 2002.
In his own words…
“I think tradition is something I learned here at Berklee when I was a student. I think the tradition is responsible for how you play, no matter how far out you go. But at the same time, my job is to get the kids to stretch out. I want to take them away from the tradition.”
“Avant-garde is still a dirty word among a lot of academics. Their attitude is, ‘How can you teach the kids all the crazy stuff, when they don’t even know bebop?’ Well, I give them the tunes sometimes, but then I ask them to go beyond that. I also expose them to something that’s a little different.”
“If you’re going to play free, it’s up to you. You got it. I’m not going to yell directions to the ensemble or the soloists as they play. You got it. If the music stops and you’re flailing, that’s your problem. It’s up to you to pick it up and make it happen. That happens to everyone; the music comes to a settling point and now it’s up to someone to pick the ball up and go with it. You can’t leave it there. So one thing they’re learning is how to keep the momentum going. They’re learning how to keep the music in motion, and it doesn’t have to be with a lot of notes, either. It’s something that transcends paper, the staff, the lines, the key. It’s stuff that a lot of people don’t learn in school. My ensemble gives them an opportunity to do that.”
We’ve come to the final day of our Sax Advent Calendar, day 24 and it could be no other person but John Coltrane.
John Coltrane was born on 23rd September 1926 in Hamlet, North Carolina. He grew up in Philadelphia and made his name alongside Miles Davis, before becoming a superstar in his own right. Coltrane, like Charlie Parker has influenced every saxophonist who has come after them, be it in jazz or classical music.
As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians, and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in music history. He received many posthumous awards and recognitions, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane and a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007. His second wife was pianist Alice Coltrane and their son, Ravi Coltrane, is also a saxophonist.
Charlie Parker is the most important saxophonist and musicians in jazz – he’s our Mozart and he is someone you need to listen to.
Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique and advanced harmonies. Parker was a blazingly fast virtuoso, and he introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions.
Enjoy the Advent Vlog, a video from August celebrating Parker’s birthday and these two playlists – it’s nearly Christmas!
Wayne Shorter is one of the most unique saxophonists on our Advent List.
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Wayne Shorter first shot to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, becoming the bands musical director in the later 1950’s. When John Coltrane left Miles Davis’ band, it was Wayne Shorter that he recommended to Miles, but Miles couldn’t get Shorter to leave Art Blakey until 1964. Wayne joined Miles’ ‘second quintet’ alongside Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums.
Wayne also made some significant recordings as a band leader on Blue Note records during this time, before leaving Miles to form the fusion group Weather Report in 1971.
Shorter remains one of the greatest composers and most important saxophonists as he continues to perform in his ninth decade.