Critic Alex Henderson wrote, "Though he was never an innovator, Quebec had a big, breathy sound that was distinctive and easily recognizable, and he was quite consistent when it came to down-home blues, sexy ballads, and up-tempo aggression."
Born Ike Abrams Quebec in Newark, New Jersey, United States, and an accomplished dancer and pianist, he switched to tenor sax as his primary instrument in his early twenties, and quickly earned a reputation as a promising player. His recording career started in 1940, with the Barons of Rhythm.
Later on, he recorded or performed with Frankie Newton, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Trummy Young, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins. Between 1944 and 1951, he worked intermittently with Cab Calloway. He recorded for Blue Note records in this era, and also served as a talent scout for the label (helping pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell come to wider attention). Due to his exceptional sight reading skills, Quebec was also an uncredited impromptu arranger for many Blue Note sessions.
Due in part to struggles with drug addiction (but also due to the fading popularity of big band music), Quebec recorded only sporadically during the 1950s, though he still performed regularly. He kept abreast on new developments in jazz, and his later playing incorporated elements of hard bop, bossa nova, and soul jazz. Quebec also occasionally recorded on piano, as on his 1961 Blue & Sentimental album, where he alternated between tenor and piano, playing the latter behind Grant Green's guitar solos.
In 1959 he began what amounted to a comeback with a series of albums on the Blue Note label. Blue Note executive Alfred Lion was always fond of Quebec's music, but was unsure how audiences would respond to the saxophonist after a decade of low visibility. In the mid-to-late 1950s, Blue Note issued a series of Quebec singles for the juke box market; audiences responded well, leading to a number of warmly-received albums.
Quebec's comeback was cut short by his death from lung cancer.
- From Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs (1959 released 2000, Blue Note)
- The Complete Blue Note 45 Sessions (1959-62, released 2005, Blue Note)
- Heavy Soul (1961, Blue Note)
- It Might as Well Be Spring (1961, Blue Note)
- Blue & Sentimental (1961, Blue Note)
- Easy Living (1962 released 1987, Blue Note) containing all tracks on Congo Lament (released 1981)
- Soul Samba (1962, Blue Note)
with Sonny Clark:
- Leapin' and Lopin' (1961; Blue Note)
with Grant Green:
with Dodo Greene:
- My Hour of Need (1962; Blue Note)
With Jimmy Smith