Al Grey

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Al Grey
Al Grey (Gottlieb).jpg
Al Grey, c. 1980s
Background information
Born (1925-06-06)June 6, 1925
Aldie, Virginia
Died March 24, 2000(2000-03-24) (aged 74)
Genres Orchestral jazz, swing, big band
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trombone
Years active 1946–1990
Associated acts Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie

Al Grey (June 6, 1925 – March 24, 2000) was a jazz trombonist who is most remembered for his association with the Count Basie orchestra.

Grey is known for his plunger mute technique (comparable to Tricky Sam Nanton, Bob Hunt and Wycliffe Gordon), and also wrote an instructional book called Plunger Techniques.

Music career[edit]

Al Grey was born in Aldie, Virginia and grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. During World War II he served in the Navy where he started playing the trombone. Soon after his discharge, he joined Benny Carter's band and later the trombone section of Lionel Hampton.

After some solo work Grey joined Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1956.[1] In October 1957, Count Basie needed a fill-in for his European tour and hired Grey. After 1961, Grey performed only occasionally with Basie. He is featured on Count Basie recordings with Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra and recorded "Snap your Fingers".

Apart from leading his own combos, he appeared with many jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and even Ray Charles. His trombone skills were also featured on the soundtrack for The Color Purple.


Al 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. When playing with the plunger, however, 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 ("Gonna Build a Mountain" and "Put Your Hand in the Hand").


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

As leader[edit]

  • The Last of the Big Plungers (Argo 1960)
  • The Thinking Man's Trombone (Argo, 1961)
  • The Al Grey/Billy Mitchell Sextet (Argo, 1961)
  • Snap Your Fingers (Argo, 1962)
  • Having a Ball (Argo, 1963)
  • Night Song (Argo, 1963)
  • Boss Bone (Argo, 1964)
  • Shades of Grey (Tangerine, 1965)
  • Key Bone (Black & Blue, 1972)
  • Grey's Mood (Black & Blue, 1975)
  • Struttin' and Shoutin' (Columbia, 1976)
  • Featuring Arnett Cobb and Jimmy Forrest (Black & Blue, 1977)
  • Live at Rick's (Aviva, 1978)
  • Truly Wonderful (Vintage Jazz, 1978)
  • Night Train Revisited (Storyville, 1978 [1999])
  • O.D. (Out 'Dere) (Grey Forrest, 1980)
  • Things Are Getting Better All the Time (Pablo, 1983)
  • Al Grey and Jesper Thilo Quintet (SLP, 1986)
  • The New Al Grey Quintet (Chiaroscuro, 1988)
  • Al Meets Bjarne (Gemini, 1988)
  • Christmas Stockin' Stuffer (Capri, 1990)
  • Fab (Capri, 1990)
  • Live at the Floating Jazz Festival (Chiaroscuro, 1990)
  • Me N' Jack (Pullen, 1995)
  • Matzoh and Grits (Arbors, 1996)
  • Echoes of New Orleans (Progressive, 1998)

As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie

With Ray Bryant

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Johnny Hodges

With Melba Liston

  • Melba Liston and Her 'Bones (1958)

With Joe Newman

With Oscar Pettiford

With Pony Poindexter

With Randy Weston


  1. ^ "Swing Music History", last accessed Jan 12, 2010

External links[edit]