Julian Priester

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Julian Priester
Julian Priester in 1987
Julian Priester in 1987
Background information
Born (1935-06-29) June 29, 1935 (age 88)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresJazz, avant-garde jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Trombone, euphonium
Years active1950s–present
LabelsECM, Postcards, Blue Note

Julian Priester (born June 29, 1935)[1] is an American jazz trombonist and occasional euphoniumist.[2] He is sometimes credited "Julian Priester Pepo Mtoto".[1] He has played with Sun Ra, Max Roach, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock.


He was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States.[1] Priester attended Chicago's DuSable High School, where he studied under Walter Dyett. In his teens he played with blues and R&B artists such as Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley,[1] and had the opportunity to jam with jazz players such as the saxophonist Sonny Stitt.

In the early 1950s, Priester was a member of Sun Ra's big band, recording several albums with the group, before leaving Chicago in 1956 to tour with Lionel Hampton, and he then joined Dinah Washington in 1958.[1] The following year he settled in New York and joined the group led by drummer Max Roach,[1] who heard him playing on the Philly Joe Jones album, "Blues for Dracula" (1958). While playing in Roach's group, Priester also recorded two albums as a leader, Keep Swingin' and Spiritsville, both of which were recorded and released by Riverside (the latter by their Jazzland subsidiary) in 1960.

Priester recorded two albums with trumpeter Booker Little in 1961, Out Front and Booker Little and Friend (also known as Victory and Sorrow), the first also features Roach, and Priester took part in the sessions for John Coltrane's Africa/Brass album (on which he played euphonium), which was recorded in the same year. He left Roach's band during 1961, and between then and 1969 appeared as a sideman on albums led by Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Blue Mitchell, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Johnny Griffin, and Sam Rivers. In 1969, he accepted an offer to play with Duke Ellington's big band, and he stayed with that ensemble for six months, before leaving in 1970 to join pianist Herbie Hancock's fusion sextet.[1]

After leaving the Hancock band in 1973, Priester moved to San Francisco, where he recorded two more albums as a leader: Love, Love in 1974 and 1977's Polarization, both for the ECM label.[1] In 1979 he joined the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, where he taught jazz composition, performance, and history until retiring in 2011.[3]

In the 1980s, he became a member of the Dave Holland's quintet,[1] and also returned to Sun Ra's band for a few recordings. The 1990s saw the addition of Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra to his schedule. Priester was co-leader with drummer Jimmy Bennington on 'Portraits and Silhouettes' which received an Honorable Mention in All About Jazz New York's 'Best Recordings of 2007', which culminated with the two musicians appearing at the 30th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival. Priester also performs on the album Monoliths & Dimensions, by the drone metal band Sunn 0))), released in May 2009. His major contributions were to the final track of the album, "Alice," a tribute to Alice Coltrane.

In addition to teaching and touring, Priester continues to record albums under his own name. He released Hints on Light and Shadow (with Sam Rivers and Tucker Martine) in 1997 and followed it in 2002 with In Deep End Dance.

As of the beginning of 2022, Julian hosted listening sessions early on Wednesday evenings in Seattle as a part of a Jazz Fellowship, at Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar.[4]


As leader or co-leader[edit]


As sideman[edit]

With Jane Ira Bloom

With Anthony Braxton

With Donald Byrd

With Jay Clayton

  • Live at Jazz Alley (ITM, 1995)

With John Coltrane

With Duke Ellington

With Robben Ford

With David Friesen, Eddie Moore, Jim Pepper, and Mal Waldron

With Red Garland

With Jerry Granelli

  • Koputai (ITM, 1990)
  • One Day at a Time (ITM, 1990)
  • A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing (ITM, 1992)
  • Another Place (Intuition, 1994)

With Johnny Griffin

With George Gruntz

With Carolyn Graye

  • Carolyn Graye (Pony Boy, 2005)

With Charlie Haden

  • Helium Tears (By, 2006)

With Herbie Hancock

With David Haney

  • Caramel Topped Terrier (Cadence, 2001)

With Billy Harper

With Eddie Henderson

With Andrew Hill

With Dave Holland

With Wayne Horvitz

With Freddie Hubbard

With Bobbi Humphrey

With Philly Joe Jones

With Clifford Jordan

With Eyvind Kang

  • Visible Breath (Ideologic Organ, 2011)

With Azar Lawrence

With Abbey Lincoln

With Booker Little

With Herbie Mann

With Pat Metheny

  • Move to the Groove (Westwind, 2000)

With Blue Mitchell

With Lee Morgan

With Duke Pearson

With Buddy Rich

With Sam Rivers

With Max Roach

With Paul Schutze

With Lonnie Smith

With Sunn O)))

With Sun Ra

With Cal Tjader

With Stanley Turrentine

With McCoy Tyner

With Dinah Washington

With Reggie Workman


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1999. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ Huey, Steve. "Julian Priester". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Julian Priester 80th Birthday Celebration | Earshot Jazz". Archived from the original on 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  4. ^ Stewart, Jade Yamazaki (December 2, 2021). "Seattle Times: Seattle's Julian Priester helped create jazz as we know it. Now he's teaching the art of listening". Vermillion Art Gallery & Bar. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  5. ^ "Julian Priester | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 July 2018.

External links[edit]