Hal Stein (born Harold Jerome Stein on September 5, 1928 in Weehawken, N.J.) was an American jazz musician and Bebop saxophone player. He died of lung cancer on April 27, 2008 in his home in Oakland, CA, at the age of 79.
Stein began performing on the tenor saxophone in the early 1940s in New York City. As a teen he frequently sat in with Don Byas, who he considered a mentor, and Erroll Garner at The Three Deuces on 52nd Street. In 1945 he was featured in concert with pianist Teddy Wilson at Town Hall (while still a high school student) on the same bill with Byas, Stuff Smith, and Charlie Parker. During the same year, Stein recorded with Doc Pomus, Tab Smith and Leonard Feather. He went on to work with Gene Krupa, Buddy Morrow, Les Elgart, Artie Shaw, Charles Mingus, Rudy Williams, Roy Haynes, Georgie Auld, Claude Thornhill, J. C. Heard and others. He also played the alto saxophone, recording on it with Al Cohn (1954), in his own session with Warren Fitzgerald (1955), on "Word From Bird" with the Teddy Charles Tentet (1956) and as one of the "Four Altos" with Phil Woods, Sahib Shihab and Gene Quill (1957). The record made with Fitzgerald was reissued decades later after becoming something of a cult classic in Japan.
He studied at Juilliard during 1950–51. During his stint in the Army jazz band in Japan during the Korean War (1951–1953), he was a regular member of Toshiko Akiyoshi's quartet. Upon his return he realized that the GI bill would not cover the cost of completing his degree at Juilliard, so he went to Manhattan School of Music, where he achieved his Masters degree in 1960. Stein embarked on a career as an educator, while continuing to perform regularly. During the '60's he taught in public schools in New York and California. Starting in the 70's, he taught at Stanford University, Mills College, University of California at San Francisco and San Francisco State University, as well as privately. During the late 70's and early '80's he taught in Jamey Aebersold workshops around the world.
During the 60's he moved back and forth between the East and West Coasts; in 1968 he moved out West for good, living first in Las Vegas, and then in Seattle, before settling in the Bay Area in California in 1971, where he remained for the rest of his life. Some of the musicians he worked with in this period include Benny Carter, Chick Corea, Sammy Davis Jr., Kenny Dorham, James Brown, Kenny Drew, Elvin Jones, Louis Hayes, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, Joe Farrell, Nancy Wilson, Jessica Williams, and Rob Schneiderman. He led his own quartet during the 70's and 80's, "Plank 'n Stein" featuring Al Plank on piano; later incarnations of his quartet were eponymous. In the late 80's and early '90's he made several solo tours of Europe, playing in France, Germany, and Italy.
His father, Ralph Stein, was born Raphael Eisenstein in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) in 1898; his surname was shortened at some point after emigrating to the U.S. His mother, Jeanette Weiss, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, was born in New York City in 1903. They raised him and his sister, Marilyn (Zatz) in a Conservative Jewish home, but he rejected religion as an adult. He married singer Shae Bevan in 1957; they divorced in 1977, and he did not remarry. They had three children: Greg (b. 1957), Jennie (b. 1959), and Naomi (b. 1968). All three children have followed in his footsteps as artists and educators in their respective fields. He had three grandchildren: Rebecca, the daughter of Jennie, b. 1989; Madelyn, b. 2008, (a few months after his death), and Benjamin, b. 2010, both children of Naomi.
He was still active teaching and performing until just a few months before his death.
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With Phil Woods