Benny Golson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Benny Golson
Golson playing in New York City, 2006
Golson playing in New York City, 2006
Background information
Born (1929-01-25) January 25, 1929 (age 94)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
GenresJazz, bebop, hard bop
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone

Benny Golson (born January 25, 1929)[1] is an American bebop/hard bop jazz tenor saxophonist, composer, and arranger.[2] He came to prominence with the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, more as a writer than a performer, before launching his solo career. Golson is known for co-founding and co-leading The Jazztet with trumpeter Art Farmer in 1959. From the late 1960s through the 1970s Golson was in demand as an arranger for film and television and thus was less active as a performer, but he and Farmer re-formed the Jazztet in 1982.[3]

Many of Golson's compositions have become jazz standards including "I Remember Clifford", "Blues March", "Stablemates", "Whisper Not", "Along Came Betty", and "Killer Joe". He is regarded as "one of the most significant contributors" to the development of hard bop jazz,[4] and was a recipient of a Grammy Trustees Award in 2021.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Philadelphia, Golson began learning the piano at age nine, then switched to the saxophone when he was 14.[3] While a student at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia,[6] he played with several other promising young musicians, including John Coltrane, Red Garland, Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Philly Joe Jones, and Red Rodney. He later attended Howard University.


After graduating from Howard University, Golson joined Bull Moose Jackson's rhythm and blues band; Tadd Dameron, whom Golson came to consider the most important influence on his writing, was Jackson's pianist at the time.[1]

From 1953 to 1959, Golson played with Dameron's band and then with the bands of Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers,[1] with whom he recorded the classic Moanin' in 1958.[7]

Golson was working with the Lionel Hampton band at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1956 when he learned that Clifford Brown, a noted and well-liked jazz trumpeter who had done a stint with him in Dameron's band,[8] had died in a car accident. Golson was so moved by the event that he composed the threnody "I Remember Clifford", as a tribute to a fellow musician and friend.

In addition to "I Remember Clifford", many of Golson's other compositions have become jazz standards. Songs such as "Stablemates", "Killer Joe", "Whisper Not", "Along Came Betty", and "Are You Real?", have been performed and recorded numerous times by many musicians.[9]

Golson at "Kimball's" Jazz club, San Francisco, with the Jazztet, July 21, 1985.

From 1959 to 1962, Golson co-led the Jazztet with Art Farmer,[1] mainly playing his own compositions.[10] Golson then left jazz to concentrate on studio and orchestral work for 12 years.[1] During this time he composed music for such television shows as Mannix, Ironside, Room 222, M*A*S*H, The Partridge Family and Mission: Impossible. He also formulated and conducted arrangements to various recordings, such as Eric Is Here, a 1967 album by Eric Burdon, which features five of Golson's arrangements, conducted by Golson.[11]

During the mid-1970s, Golson returned to jazz playing and recording. Critic Scott Yanow of AllMusic wrote that Golson's sax style underwent a major shift with his performing comeback, more resembling avant-garde Archie Shepp than the swing-era Don Byas influence of Golson's youth.[12] In 1982, Golson re-organized the Jazztet.[13]

Golson played a cameo role in the 2004 movie The Terminal, related to his appearance in "A Great Day in Harlem", a group photograph of prominent jazz musicians taken in 1958.[14] Main character Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) travels to the US from Europe to obtain Golson's signature; Golson was one of seven musicians then surviving from the photo, the others being Johnny Griffin (died 2008), Eddie Locke (died 2009), Hank Jones (died 2010), Marian McPartland (died 2013), Horace Silver (died 2014), and Sonny Rollins. Golson's song "Something in B Flat" (from the album Benny Golson's New York Scene) can be heard during a scene where Viktor is painting and redecorating part of an airport terminal; in a later scene, Golson's band performs "Killer Joe".[15] The album Terminal 1 was released by Golson shortly after the film, as a "homage to Steven Spielberg", its director.[16]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1996, Golson received the NEA Jazz Masters Award of the National Endowment for the Arts.[17]

In 1999, Golson was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Berklee College of Music.[18]

In October 2007, Golson received the Mellon Living Legend Legacy Award,[17] presented by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center. Additionally, during the same month, he won the University of Pittsburgh International Academy of Jazz Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award at the university's 37th Annual Jazz Concert in the Carnegie Music Hall.[19]

In November 2009, Golson was inducted into the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame, during a performance at the University of Pittsburgh's annual jazz seminar and concert.[citation needed]

The Howard University Jazz Studies program created a prestigious award in his honor called the "Benny Golson Jazz Master Award" in 1996. Many distinguished jazz artists have received this award.[20]

Notable compositions[edit]

  • "And You Called My Name", 1954
  • "Stablemates", 1955
  • "Whisper Not", 1956
  • "Are You Real?", 1958
  • "I Remember Clifford", 1957
  • "Just by Myself", 1957
  • "Blues March", 1958
  • "Park Avenue Petite", aka "From Dream to Dream", 1959
  • "Along Came Betty", 1958
  • "Killer Joe", 1960
  • "Beauty And The Blues"
  • "Blues After Dark"
  • "Five Spot After Dark"
  • "Gipsy Jingle-Jangle"
  • "Minor Vamp"
  • "Step Lightly"
  • "Strut Time"
  • "Reggie of Chester"
  • "The Stroller"[21]


Benny Golson in Denmark (2007)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Larkin, Colin (2006). "Golson, Benny". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Vol. 3 (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 806. ISBN 9780195313734. Retrieved December 30, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "Benny Golson | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Benny Golson (1996)". NEA Jazz Masters: America's Highest Honour in Jazz (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts. 2004. p. 41. OCLC 1049898284. Retrieved December 30, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael (2017). "Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson". ARSC Journal. Association for Recorded Sound Collections. 48 (1): 47–50, 86. ISSN 2151-4402. ProQuest 1961322977. Retrieved December 30, 2022 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "The Recording Academy Announces 2021 Special Merit Awards Honorees: Selena, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Talking Heads, Lionel Hampton, Marilyn Horne, Salt-N-Pepa And More". Grammy Awards. Santa Monica, CA: The Recording Academy. December 9, 2020. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  6. ^ Merod, Jim & Golson, Benny (1995). "Forward Motion: An Interview with Benny Golson". Boundary 2. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 22 (2): 53–93. doi:10.2307/303820. ISSN 1527-2141. JSTOR 303820. Retrieved December 30, 2022 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ "Moanin' - Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Art Blakey | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  8. ^ "Clifford Brown Discography". Jazz Discography Project.
  9. ^ Bailey, Phil and Hancock, Benny (1979) Benny Golson: Eight Jazz Classics, p. iii. Jamey Aebersold Jazz.
  10. ^ Postif, François (1998). Jazz me blues: Interviews et portraits de musiciens de jazz et de blues (in French). Paris: Outre Mesure. p. 418. ISBN 2907891162. OCLC 1035905400. Retrieved December 30, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ Credits - Eric Is Here; Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  12. ^ Yanow, Scott. AllMusic biography, accessed 06 April 2019
  13. ^ Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, p. 261. Oxford University Press.
  14. ^ Myers, Marc (November 2, 2018). "A Great Day in Harlem, Revisited". Wall Street Journal. New York. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  15. ^ Grandt, Jürgen E. (2018). Gettin' Around: Jazz, Script, Transnationalism. University of Georgia Press. pp. 113–120.
  16. ^ Fordham, John (July 29, 2004). "Benny Golson, Terminal 1". The Guardian. London. Retrieved December 30, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Benny Golson". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  18. ^ Media, Mountain. "Golson, Benny". Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  19. ^ Blake, Sharon S. (November 12, 2007). "Jazz Week Capped With Sold-Out Concert". Pitt Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "Benny Golson Award". Howard University Jazz Ensemble. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  21. ^ "Benny Golson | Songs". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2021.

External links[edit]