Tag Archives: 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 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 #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.

Sax Advent Calendar 2019 #2 – Gregory Tardy

Gregory Tardy was born in New Orleans in 1966. He has played with the likes of Elvin Jones, Ravi Coltrane, Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau. Gregory now teaches at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville having spent decades on the New York scene.

Born into a musical family, Gregory Tardy began his musical career studying classical clarinet. In high school, Gregory excelled in music, winning many awards and scholarships offers. While studying with renowned clarinetists Russell Dagon and Jack Snavely, Tardy began preparing for a symphony career. Over time, he began to be asked to play saxophone, to fill in missing gaps in various ensembles. Although he never practiced the saxophone seriously, Tardy began getting calls to play local funk gigs in the Milwaukee area. At the prodding of his older brother, Tardy finally listened to the duo recording of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk playing “Monk’s Mood”, and then immediately determined to be a jazz musician.

In 1992, he started playing with the legendary drummer, Elvin Jones, and he recorded his first CD, Crazy Love. As a sought after sideman he has played with many prominent jazz artists including: Andrew Hill, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali, Ellis Marsalis, Brian Lynch, John Patitucci, and many more. He has also performed and/or recorded along with many other notable saxophonists, such as Joe Lovano, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Dewey Redman, Ravi Coltrane, and others. In more recent years, Tardy has gone full circle, by focusing on his clarinets more, using them on recordings by Tom Harrell, Ohad Talmor/Steve Swallow, Stefan Harris, Chris Potter and Andrew Hill.   

His performance schedule has taken him all over the world, playing at all of the major jazz festivals and on some of the biggest stages in jazz.  As a sideman, he has been featured on several Downbeat Albums of the Year and also several Grammy nominated recordings; including a Grammy winning CD with Brian Lynch in 2006.  He also has recorded fourteen CDs under his own name featuring his unique compositions, blending his love of traditional jazz with a more modern seeking style. His latest release “Chasing After The Wind” was released in the fall of 2016.

Dan’s Advent Saxophone Calendar #11 – Lou Donaldson

Lou Donaldson is another of those ‘hidden gems’ that you might not have come across before.

Born in 1926 in Badin, North Carolina, Lou Donaldson grew up playing church music.  His father was a minister and his mother a music teacher and it was whilst serving in the Navy during the Second World War that he was introduced to the Be Bop music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Donaldson is best known now for his soulful, funky 1960s recordings that feature some of the greatest soul jazz players ever to record. These include guitarists Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, Jimmy Ponder and George Benson, organists John Patton, Billy Gardner, Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland and Leon Spencer, Jr., drummers Ben Dixon (one of the great underrated groovers), and Leo Morris/Idris Muhammad, whose work on the kit defined the funky boogaloo soul jazz sound of the late 1960s. Records like Good Gracious (1963, Blue Note), Musty Rusty (1965, Cadet), Alligator Bogaloo [sic], Mr. Shing-a-ling (1967, Blue Note) and Hot Dog (1970, Blue Note), among others, are quintessential examples of the jukebox, funky, soulful 1960s jazz that came to define “rare grooves” in the soul jazz revival period of the 1990s.

He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012.[9] Also in 2012, he was named a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, United States’ highest honor in jazz music.[10]