[JPL] Illinois Jacquet, 81, Sax-Playing Bandleader, Dies
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 24 15:47:00 EDT 2004
Illinois Jacquet, 81, Sax-Playing Bandleader, Dies
July 23, 2004
By BEN RATLIFF
Illinois Jacquet, the influential tenor-saxophone star who
bridged swing and rhythm and blues and persevered as a big
band leader into his early 80's, died yesterday at his home
in Queens. He was 81.
The cause was a heart attack, said his companion of 23
years, Carol Scherick.
Only a handful of instrumental solos in jazz have inspired
anyone beyond a small coterie of musicians and rabid fans
to memorize them; one of them is "Flying Home," a lusty,
brick-throwing solo by the 19-year-old Mr. Jacquet
(pronounced Ja-KETT, but often rendered as JACK-et by his
friends). Recorded on the first take in 1942, with Lionel
Hampton's orchestra, his 80-second solo on "Flying Home"
was carefully structured, building its energy precipitously
and cresting on a single note, repeated 12 times in a row.
The tune became a national hit, and was demanded of Mr.
Jacquet night after night. He left the band less than two
years later, pleading physical exhaustion.
"Sometimes you have to quit to save your life," he said in
an interview much later with Texas Monthly magazine. "I
looked in the mirror and said, 'You're dying, and Hampton
is getting rich.' "
His replacement in the Hampton band, Arnett Cobb, assumed
his role, playing the solo note for note. The Texas-tenor
style, big-toned and earthy, came out of that solo, with
Cobb and Buddy Tate the primary descendants of Mr. Jacquet.
"Flying Home" established Mr. Jacquet as a house-rocker,
honking low notes and wailing in the highest, or altissimo,
register; he climbed two and a half octaves above the tenor
saxophone's normal range by using overtones. But this kind
of playing represented only one part of his art.
"He was so much more than that," the saxophonist Benny
Golson remembered in an interview yesterday. "He started
touring with Norman Granz and Jazz at the Philharmonic, and
could assume the role of entertainer, rather than artist,
screeching for two or three choruses. But he was a
cutting-edge saxophone player. He knew that horn."
Mr. Jacquet's slow ballads, especially, argued his breadth;
he revealed a mastery of harmony through a velvety tone.
Jean Baptiste Illinois Jacquet was born in Broussard, La.,
to an American Indian mother and a French-Creole father. He
entered show business at 3, singing and dancing with his
three brothers. His father, Gilbert, a railroad mechanic,
also led a big band after the family moved to Houston, and
young Illinois danced in front of the band and also learned
soprano and alto saxophone.
When he was 15, he took his first regular job with the
Milton Larkin Orchestra, playing around Houston, and word
of his talent began to spread.
Frustrated with segregation, he moved to Los Angeles with
his brother Russell in 1940. He met Nat King Cole, who
recommended him to Hampton, who in turn offered him a job
filling the tenor-saxophone chair.
Mr. Jacquet earned the nickname the Beast because of
intemperate playing, but also because he tended not to
suffer fools gladly. Though he remained a critic of his
critics and a stern bandleader into old age, those who met
him socially in later years found a much softer-tempered
man. From 1947 to his death he lived in Queens, in the
Addisleigh Park neighborhood, near the homes of Count Basie
and Ella Fitzgerald.
Besides Ms. Scherick, he is survived by a daughter, Pamela
Jacquet Davis, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and a granddaughter.
After the job with Hampton, Mr. Jacquet toured for a year
with Cab Calloway's band and then with Count Basie; then he
worked with Jazz at the Philharmonic, the touring jazz
extravaganza produced by Granz. In 1944, at a famous Jazz
at the Philharmonic concert, he recorded his
second-most-famous solo, on the tune "Blues (Part 2)," an
elaboration of the altissimo-register style. He led some
small groups in the late 1940's, recording the hits
"Robbins' Nest" and "Port of Rico."
With the decline of big bands, Mr. Jacquet worked
constantly in all kinds of formats, including a popular
trio in the 1970's with the pianist Milt Buckner and the
drummer Jo Jones. It was not until 1983, when he was artist
in residence at Harvard, that he formed a big band, his
first in 30 years, which included the veteran saxophonists
Eddie Barefield and Marshal Royal.
Mr. Jacquet's charisma and the slugging intensity of the
music made converts: his band had sold-out engagements at
the Village Vanguard in Manhattan, started touring Europe
regularly, and made a series of new albums, including the
Grammy-nominated "Jacquet's Got It!" originally released on
Atlantic and recently rereleased on CD by Label M.
Mr. Jacquet received an honorary doctorate of musical arts
from the Juilliard School of Music on May 21. He played his
final performance with his big band last Friday at Lincoln
Center, in the last concert of the "Midsummer Night Swing"
series, which he had closed for the last 16 years.
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
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