Illinois Jacquet

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Illinois Jacquet
Illinois Jacquet, New York, N.Y., ca. May 1947 (William P. Gottlieb 12581).jpg
Jacquet, New York City, c. May 1947 (Photograph by William Paul Gottlieb)
Background information
Birth name Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet
Born (1922-10-31)October 31, 1922
Broussard, Louisiana, US
Died July 22, 2004(2004-07-22) (aged 81)
Queens, New York, US
Genres Swing, bebop, jump blues
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader, composer
Instruments Tenor saxophone, bassoon, alto saxophone
Years active 1941–2004
Labels Apollo, Savoy, Aladdin, RCA, Verve, Mercury Records, Roulette, Epic, Argo, Prestige, Black Lion, Black & Blue Records, Atlantic.
Associated acts Cab Calloway, Dexter Gordon, Flip Phillips

Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet (October 31, 1922 – July 22, 2004) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, best remembered for his solo on "Flying Home", critically recognized as the first R&B saxophone solo.[1]

Although he was a pioneer of the honking tenor saxophone that became a regular feature of jazz playing and a hallmark of early rock and roll, Jacquet was a skilled and melodic improviser, both on up-tempo tunes and ballads. He doubled on the bassoon, one of only a few jazz musicians to use the instrument.

Early life[edit]

Jacquet was born to a Black Creole mother and father, named Marguerite Traham and Gilbert Jacquet,[2] in Louisiana and moved to Houston, Texas, as an infant, and was raised there as one of six siblings. His father, was a part-time bandleader. As a child he performed in his father's band, primarily on the alto saxophone. His older brother Russell Jacquet played trumpet and his brother Linton played drums.[3]

At 15, Jacquet began playing with the Milton Larkin Orchestra, a Houston-area dance band. In 1939, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met Nat King Cole. Jacquet would sit in with the trio on occasion. In 1940, Cole introduced Jacquet to Lionel Hampton who had returned to California and was putting together a big band. Hampton wanted to hire Jacquet, but asked the young Jacquet to switch to tenor saxophone.


Jacquet in 1941

In 1942, at age 19, Jacquet soloed on the Hampton Orchestra's recording of "Flying Home", one of the very first times a honking tenor sax was heard on record. The record became a hit. The song immediately became the climax for the live shows and Jacquet became exhausted from having to "bring down the house" every night. The solo was built to weave in and out of the arrangement and continued to be played by every saxophone player who followed Jacquet in the band, notably Arnett Cobb and Dexter Gordon, who achieved almost as much fame as Jacquet in playing it. It is one of the very few jazz solos to have been memorized and played very much the same way by everyone who played the song. He quit the Hampton band in 1943 and joined Cab Calloway's Orchestra. Jacquet appeared with Cab Calloway's band in Lena Horne's movie Stormy Weather. In the earlier years of Jacquet's career, his brother Linton Jacquet managed him on the chitlin circuit[2] Linton's daughter Brenda Jacquet-Ross sang in jazz venues in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1990s to early 2000s, with a band called the Mondo Players.

In 1944, Illinois Jacquet returned to California and started a small band with his brother Russell and a young Charles Mingus. It was at this time that he appeared in the Academy Award-nominated short film Jammin' the Blues with Lester Young.[4] He also appeared at the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert. In 1946, he moved to New York City, and joined the Count Basie orchestra, replacing Lester Young.[4] In 1952 Jacquet co-wrote 'Just When We're Falling in Love'; Illinois Jacquet (m) Sir Charles Thompson (m) S K "Bob" Russell (l). Jacquet continued to perform (mostly in Europe) in small groups through the 1960s and 1970s. Jacquet led the Illinois Jacquet Big Band from 1981 until his death. Jacquet became the first jazz musician to be an artist-in-residence at Harvard University, in 1983.[4] He played "C-Jam Blues" with President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn during Clinton's inaugural ball in 1993.

Jacquet's final performance was on July 16, 2004, at the Lincoln Center in New York.[4] Jacquet died in his home in Queens, New York of a heart attack on July 22, 2004. He was 81 years of age.[3] He is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.


His solos of the early and mid-1940s and his performances at the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series, greatly influenced rhythm and blues and rock and roll saxophone style, but also continue to be heard in jazz. His honking and screeching emphasized the lower and higher registers of the tenor saxophone. Despite a superficial rawness, the style is still heard in skilled jazz players like Arnett Cobb, who also became famous for playing "Flying Home" with Hampton, as well as Sonny Rollins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Jimmy Forrest.


Illinois Jacquet's gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.
  • 1951 Illinois Jacquet Collates (Mercury MGC-112)
  • 1952 Illinois Jacquet Collates NO 2 (Mercury MGC-129)
  • 1953 Groovin' with Jacquet (Clef)
  • 1954 The Kid and the Brute (Clef)
  • 1956 Swing's the Thing (Clef)
  • 1963 Illinois Jacquet (Epic)
  • 1963 The Message (Argo) – with Kenny Burrell
  • 1964 Desert Winds (Argo) – with Kenny Burrell
  • 1964 Bosses of the Ballad (Argo)
  • 1965 Spectrum (Argo)
  • 1966 Go Power! (Cadet)
  • 1966 Illinois Jacquet Flies Again
  • 1968 Bottoms Up (Prestige)
  • 1968 The King! (Prestige)
  • 1969 The Soul Explosion (Prestige)
  • 1969 The Blues; That's Me! (Prestige)
  • 1971 Genius at Work
  • 1971 The Comeback
  • 1973 Blues from Louisiana
  • 1973 The Man I Love (Black & Blue)
  • 1976 On Jacquet's Street
  • 1978 God Bless My Solo
  • 1980 JSP Jazz Sessions, Vol. 1: New York
  • 1988 Jacquet's Got It!
  • 1994 Jazz at the Philharmonic: First Concert [recorded 1944]
  • 1994 His All Star New York Band
  • 1996 Big Horn
  • 1999 Birthday Party
  • 2002 The Man I Love
  • 2003 Live at Schaffhausen: March 1978
  • 2004 Jacquet's Street
  • 2004 Collates

As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie

With Kenny Burrell

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

With Sonny Stitt


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott (2010). "Illinois Jacquet". All Music biography. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b The Sons and Daughters of Jean Baptiste Jacquet (1995)
  3. ^ a b "Illinois Jacquet Jazz at the Philharmonic crowd favorite in the 1940s and 1950s". 2004–2007. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (July 24, 2004) "Saxophonist Illinois Jacquet Dies". The Washington Post.

Morrison, Nick (2011) "Five Titans Of Texas Tenor Sax". NPR.Org.

NPR Radio (2008) "Illinois Jacquet: King Of The Screeching Tenor". NPR Radio. November 5, 2008.

Scherick, Carol (2011) "Biography by Illinois Jacquet for Press".

USA TODAY (2004) "Jazz saxophonist Illinois Jacquet dies"

External links[edit]