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He was born in Springfield, Ohio, United States. He played lead alto saxophone in the Basie orchestra throughout its formative years and its heyday from 1937 until 1945, and returned spasmodically throughout the balance of the 1940s. After the break-up of Basie's band in 1949, he worked with former Basie trumpeter Buck Clayton.
Warren played rock and roll in Alan Freed's Christmas Jubilee, December 1959, the last big show before a payola scandal put an end to Freed's career. Warren appeared in Born to Swing, the 1970s film about Basie.
In his later years, Warren performed often at the West End jazz club at 116th and Broadway in New York City, leading a band called The Countsmen, which featured former Basie band member Dicky Wells on trombone and Peck Morrison on double bass. He lived part of the time in Switzerland, until his return to Springfield in 1992 to spend the final two years of his life.
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With Count Basie
With Buck Clayton
- Songs for Swingers (Columbia, 1958)
- Copenhagen Concert (SteepleChase, 1959 )
- One for Buck (Columbia, 1961)
With Milt Jackson
With Jay McShann
- The Big Apple Bash (Atlantic, 1979)
With Buddy Tate
With Teri Thornton
- Devil May Care (Riverside, 1961)
With Milt Buckner
- Send Me Softly (Capitol, 1957)