Anthony Ortega (musician)

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Anthony Ortega
Birth nameAnthony Robert Ortega
Also known asTony Ortega
Born(1928-06-07)June 7, 1928
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 30, 2022(2022-10-30) (aged 94)
Encinitas, California, U.S.
InstrumentsClarinet, saxophone, flute

Anthony Robert "Tony" Ortega (June 7, 1928 – October 30, 2022)[1] was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and flautist.

Early life[edit]

Ortega was born in Los Angeles. He began to play the saxophone at age 14 and studied the instrument under Lloyd Reese.[2] He was heavily-influenced by and introduced to musicians by his cousin, Ray Vasquez.[3]


In 1947, Ortega played with Earle Spencer. From 1948 to 1951, he served in the United States Army. He became a member of Lionel Hampton's group, which toured Europe; while there he also recorded with Gigi Gryce, Art Farmer, and Milt Buckner, as well as with Norwegian players while in Oslo in 1954. He also met his future wife, pianist and vibraphonist Mona Ørbeck, at the Penguin jazz club in Oslo; they married later that year.[2] Upon his return to southern California, he put a band together and worked briefly in Los Angeles, but relocated to New York City in 1955, playing with Nat Pierce for two years. In 1958, he returned to Los Angeles, where he worked with Paul Bley, Claude Williamson, and the Lighthouse All Stars.

In the 1960s, he played mostly in the Southwest and California, and worked on film soundtracks such as The Pawnbroker (1964).[4] Ortega recorded the soundtrack for the movie Gloria (1980) starring Gena Rowlands. He can be heard playing throughout the movie with Tommy Tedesco on guitar.

He worked with Don Ellis and Gerald Wilson in 1965 and with Lalo Schifrin in 1968. In the early-1970s, he toured internationally with Quincy Jones and continued working with Wilson into the 1980s. He toured and recorded in Paris several times in the 1990s. As of October 2021, he was still performing actively at Mr. Peabody's in Encinitas, California.[5][6]


  • A Man and His Horns (1956)
  • Chamber Music for Moderns with the Nat Pierce Quintet (Coral, 1957)
  • Jazz for Young Moderns (And Old Buzzards, Too) (Bethlehem, 1958?)
  • New Dance (Revelation, 1967)
  • Permutations (Revelation, 1968)
  • A Delanto (Jazz Chronicles, 1976)
  • Rain Dance (Discovery, 1978)
  • On Evidence (Evidence, 1992)
  • Neuf (Evidence, 1996)
  • Bonjour (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
  • Scattered Clouds (hatOLOGY, 2001)
  • Afternoon in Paris (hatOLOGY, 2007)


  1. ^ Sax great Anthony Ortega dies at 94; from Sinatra to Zappa, he played with them all
  2. ^ a b Anthony Ortega: Encinitas reedman calls himself a ‘lucky man’. The Coast News, April 5, 2012.
  3. ^ "Central Avenue Sounds: Anthony Ortega". Retrieved 2022-07-01.
  4. ^ "Anthony Ortega". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 2nd edition, ed. Barry Kernfeld.
  5. ^ "Live Jazz Returns in May". Mr. Peabody's. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  6. ^ Meek, Tom (18 October 2021). "About & Out – What's Hot In SoCal Jazz – The Week Of October 18, 2021". Retrieved November 8, 2021.

External links[edit]