Lenny Pickett

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Lenny Pickett
Pickett in 2008
Pickett in 2008
Background information
Born (1954-04-10) April 10, 1954 (age 68)
Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.
GenresR&B, funk, pop, rock
Occupation(s)Musician, arranger, music director
InstrumentsSaxophone, clarinet, flute
Years active1972–present

Lenny Pickett (born April 10, 1954) is an American saxophonist and musical director of the Saturday Night Live band. From 1973 to 1981 he was a member of Tower of Power.

He is known for his skill in the altissimo register (executed by using a combination of voicing control, air stream control, and alternate fingerings), which can be heard during the opening credits of Saturday Night Live.

Music career[edit]

Pickett grew up in Berkeley, California. He has no formal musical training, did not attend high school beyond the first year and did not attend college. After dropping out of high school, he took lessons from Bert Wilson, a jazz saxophonist known for his facility with the altissimo register. Other than those lessons, he is self-taught on saxophone.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, he led the horn section for Tower of Power, an innovative and funk-focused East San Francisco Bay area band, and also a popular session band that backed many musicians in multiple genres, from Elton John to musicians in soul music, rhythm and blues, and funk. Tower of Power also released its own albums as a group.[1]

Pickett joined the Saturday Night Live Band in 1985 and has served as the band's musical director since G. E. Smith left in 1995.

As a composer, he has written for his group, the Borneo Horns, and has received a number of commissions to write works mixing classical and popular idioms for a variety of musical ensembles, including the New Century Saxophone Quartet, as well as music for theatre and collaborations with dancers, poets and film-makers. He is a professor of jazz saxophone at New York University.


As leader

  • Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns
  • Bad Dreams Lenny Pickett
  • The Prescription (feat. UMO Jazz Orchestra)
  • Heard by Others Lenny Pickett & John Hadfield

Other appearances





  • 2000 Dinosaur Tracks – Tower of Power
  • 2000 Kick It up a Step! – Strokeland Superband
  • 2000 Long Expectant Comes at Last – Cathal McConnell
  • 2000 Man in a Jupiter Hat – Lee Feldman
  • 2000 Over the Edge – Professor Louie & Crowmatix
  • 2000 Pasajes De Un Sueno – Ana Torroja
  • 2000 Sound LoadedRicky Martin
  • 2000 Sweet on YouChieli Minucci
  • 2002 Heathen – David Bowie
  • 2002 Slow Burn – David Bowie
  • 2003 Oakland Zone – Tower of Power
  • 2003 Universo Fortis – Alberto Fortis
  • 2004 Our Kind of Soul – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  • 2004 Wichita Vortex Sutra – Allen Ginsberg
  • 2005 Here Comes Tomorrow – Ursula 1000
  • 2006 Can't Quit the Blues – Buddy Guy
  • 2006 Planet EarthDennis Chambers
  • 2007 Holly ColeHolly Cole
  • 2008 Cadillac Records – Original Soundtrack
  • 2008 It Is Time for a Love RevolutionLenny Kravitz
  • 2008 Easy Come Easy Go – Marianne Faithfull
  • 2009 Organ Soul SessionsLucky Peterson
  • 2009 Bible BeltDiane Birch



  1. ^ Wynn, Ron. "Lenny Pickett | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 October 2016.

External links[edit]