Al Grey

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Al Grey
Al Grey, 1980s, photographed by William P. Gottlieb
Al Grey, 1980s, photographed by William P. Gottlieb
Background information
Birth nameAlbert Thornton Grey
Born(1925-06-06)June 6, 1925
Aldie, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMarch 24, 2000(2000-03-24) (aged 74)
Scottsdale, Arizona
Years active1946–1990
LabelsArgo, Black & Blue, Tangerine, Chiaroscuro, Arbors, Columbia

Al Grey (June 6, 1925[1] – March 24, 2000)[2] was an American jazz trombonist who was a member of the Count Basie orchestra. He was known for his plunger mute technique and wrote an instructional book in 1987 called Plunger Techniques.[2]


Al Grey, the last great big time plunger by Gwendolyn Lanier-Gardner, 2015

Al Grey was born in Aldie, Virginia, United States,[1] and grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He was introduced to the trombone at the age of four, playing in a band called the Goodwill Boys, which was led by his father.[2] During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy, where he continued to play the trombone.[1] Soon after his discharge, he joined Benny Carter's band,[1] then the bands of Jimmie Lunceford, Lucky Millinder, and Lionel Hampton.[3] In the 1950s, he was a member of the big bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie.[3] He led bands in the 1960s with Billy Mitchell and Jimmy Forrest.[3] Later in life he recorded with Clark Terry and J. J. Johnson.[3] He made thirty recordings under his own name and another seventy with bands.[2]

Grey's early trombone style was inspired by Trummy Young. He developed a wild, strong, and full sound. Solos often consisted of short, pronounced phrases with precisely timed syncopation. However, when playing with the plunger, he would produce the most mellow fill-ins and shape melodic answers to the lead voice. This aspect of his playing can be heard to great effect in response to Bing Crosby's vocals on the 1972 album, Bing 'n' Basie.[citation needed]

He died in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 74 after suffering from several ailments, including diabetes.[2]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie

  • The Atomic Mr. Basie (Roulette, 1957)
  • Basie Plays Hefti (Roulette, 1958)
  • Basie (Roulette, 1958)
  • Breakfast Dance and Barbecue (Roulette, 1959)
  • Basie One More Time (Roulette, 1959)
  • Chairman of the Board (Roulette, 1959)
  • Strike Up the Band (Roulette, 1959)
  • Dance Along with Basie (Roulette, 1959)
  • Kansas City Suite (Roulette, 1961)
  • Count Basie/Sarah Vaughan (Roulette, 1961)
  • Easin' It (Roulette, 1963)
  • Basie Picks the Winners (Verve, 1965)
  • Pop Goes the Basie (Reprise, 1965)
  • Big Band Scene '65 (Roulette, 1965)
  • Basie Swingin' Voices Singin' (ABC-Paramount, 1966)
  • Basie Meets Bond (United Artists, 1966)
  • Arthur Prysock/Count Basie (Verve, 1966)
  • Broadway Basie's...Way (Command, 1966)
  • Have a Nice Day (Daybreak, 1971)
  • Bing 'n' Basie (20th Century Fox, 1972)
  • Count Basie Plays Quincy Jones & Neal Hefti (Roulette, 1975)
  • Basie Big Band (Pablo, 1975)
  • I Told You So (Pablo, 1976)
  • Montreux '77 (Pablo, 1977)
  • Prime Time (Pablo, 1977)
  • Basie Jam #2 (Pablo, 1977)
  • Basie/Eckstine Incorporated (Roulette, 1979)
  • Basie Jam #3 (Pablo, 1979)
  • Count On the Coast (Phontastic, 1983)
  • Count On the Coast Vol. II (Phontastic, 1984)
  • Autumn in Paris (Magic, 1984)
  • Count On the Coast '58 (Polydor, 1985)
  • Live in Stockholm (Magic, 1985)
  • Loose Walk (Pablo, 1988)
  • Basie in Europe (LRC, 1985)

With Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

  • San Antonio Ballbuster (Red Lightnin', 1974)
  • Atomic Energy (Blues Boy, 1983)
  • More Stuff (Black and Blue, 1985)
  • Pressure Cooker (Alligator, 1985)

With Ray Charles

  • The Genius of Ray Charles (Atlantic, 1959)
  • Genius + Soul = Jazz (Impulse!, 1961)
  • At the Club (Philips, 1966)

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Lionel Hampton

  • Newport Uproar! (RCA Victor, 1968)
  • Hamp's Big Band Live! (Glad-Hamp, 1979)
  • Live at the Blue Note (Telarc, 1991)

With Jon Hendricks

  • Fast Livin' Blues (Columbia, 1962)
  • Freddie Freeloader (Denon, 1990)
  • Boppin' at the Blue Note (Telarc, 1995)

With Quincy Jones

  • Golden Boy (Mercury, 1964)
  • Gula Matari (A&M, 1970)
  • I Heard That!! (A&M, 1976)
  • Quincy Jones Talkin' Verve (Verve, 2001)

With Oscar Pettiford

With Clark Terry

  • Squeeze Me! (Chiaroscuro, 1989)
  • What a Wonderful World (Red Baron, 1993)
  • Shades of Blues (Challenge, 1994)

With others


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 174. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b c d e Margolis, Bob (March 28, 2000). "Trombonist Al Grey dies at 74". MTV News. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Yanow, Scott. "Al Grey". AllMusic. Retrieved March 24, 2020.

External links[edit]

Media related to Al Grey at Wikimedia Commons