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Trivia Archive

September 2003 Sax Trivia Contest


  • Olegature - your choice ($ 82.00 value)
  • $10 Saxquest gift certificate ($ 10.00 value)


Alicia Harmon from Fairfield, OH US

Contest background

This great saxophonist is an authentic 1st generation apostle of Charlie Parker. His unique approach to playing bop has always been unmistakable. He first learned to play music on the guitar at the age of two. However, when he was seven he met CHarlie Parker who was a long time friend of his father. Then he began playing the clariet at the suggestion of Charlie Parker himself. Before he turned 21, he had recorded with Teddy Charles and Kenny Clarke and completed an album of his own with Wardell Gray, Conte Candoli, and Carl Perkins. Unfortunately, heroin dealt him a tough hand in life. Below are a few quotes from this master saxophonist.

When I first heard that Charlie Parker had died it was a Monday night and I was on the bandstand at the California Club in Los Angeles. I was blessed enough to be working with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray. James Moody and Gene Ammons came to see us that night. Conte Candoli was there and Hampton Hawes, though I don't remember if he was playing piano. But we were all there at the California Club when we heard that Bird had died and we took advantage of the fact to announce a long intermission. We proceeded--except Moody and Candoli--to celebrate Bird's death by doing the very thing that killed him. That's the way we celebrated Bird's passing, to go out and do some junk. It would have been better if we'd realized it was time to stop. If Bird's passing could have made us say none of us will use heroin from this point on, maybe Wardell wouldn't have died later that same year... and Gene Ammons....

Yet except for periods in the Los Angeles County jail system, he never strayed too far from music. At most penal institutions, there were bands made up of inmates, and he was greeted as a celebrity. He was constantly made gifts of mouthpieces, drugs, food, cigarettes.

The greatest big band I ever played with was in San Quentin. Art Pepper and I were proud of that band. We had Jimmy Bunn, who still plays around California, and Frank Butler, and some other musicians who were known and some who weren't, but they could play. We played every Saturday night for what they called a Warden's Tour, which showed paying visitors only the cleanest cell blocks and exercise yards. But people would take that tour just to hear the band. For the rest, I read a lot, played chess a lot. I was in San Quentin for two years. And now the Creator has given me the chance to play the music that Charlie Parker made it possible for us to play. I don't want to play like Charlie Parker. I want to play as well. I want to play my own soul, which is what Bird told me I was doing all the time. He felt I might have been taking some of his ideas but he said, 'Listen, when it filters itself though your system, then it comes out as you. It might have me going in, but it's you going out.' The music he's given us has had a tremendous effect on all of life. Even though he was a drug addict, his music spoke of many things, and it comes out so strongly--it's a very beautiful, peaceful message in his music. That's why it's so alive. Now I'm playing it and people are coming to listen, and they really listen. I'm working with musicians like Cedar Walton, Buster Williams, and Billy Higgins. There have been offers from Europe, but I haven't been able to get the change in parole status to do that. But I'm finally getting to New York, and I don't feel I have to fail anymore. It's like a beautiful dream. My life has changed so drastically, each day I have to question myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.

Contest Question

Who is this musician?

Correct Answer

Frank Morgan

Where You Could Have Found The Answer

Frank Morgan interview/biography
Thanks to everyone who played this month's Saxquest trivia contest.