Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr
|Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr|
|Birth name||Russell Linwood Thomas|
22 March 1935 |
Harlem, New York
Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr (born Russell Linwood Thomas; 22 March 1935) [Muslim name adopted in 1971], is an African-American/Canadian saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone), clarinetist, flautist (flute and piccolo) and composer. He toured internationally with Dizzy Gillespie from 1983 to 1987, appearing alongside Gillespie in the feature films A Night in Havana and A Night in Chicago and performed with Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef. He is the only person to perform all saxophone parts consecutively in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
On 26 June 2011, a tribute concert was held during the festival to honor Abdul Al-Khabyyr's contributions to the Montreal jazz scene.
In his teens he studied clarinet and saxophone in New York City with Cecil Scott and others. In 1954 he traveled to Montreal with trombonist Snub Mosley to play in various nightclubs. While there he met his future wife and decided to stay, working with Al Cowans (1954–1955) and then leading his own band (1955–1957). In Ottawa from 1957 to 1970, he was a member at various times of the Canadian Jazz Quartet (with Richard Wyands on piano, Wyatt Ruther on bass, and Doug Johnston on drums), the Ottawa Saxophone Quartet and also studio/dance bands led by Champ Champagne, Buster Monroe and others. He led his own orchestra at the Gatineau Country Club from 1959 to 1965, except for a short break in 1963 as he recovered from a bout with Polio.
From 1970 to 1980 he returned to Montreal as a teacher in the Jazz Music department of the Université de Montréal. His pupils included the flautist Jennifer Waring, trumpeter Chris Place, and saxophonists Mary-Jo Rudolf, Richard Beaudet and Rémi Bolduc. He also performed in various contemporary music settings such as the SMCQ ensemble (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec), Walter Boudreau's Infonie, Dionne-Brégent, TRIO 3 (composed of Sayyd, Pauline Vaillancourt and Michael Laucke), worked in studio and theatre orchestras, and played jazz at his own establishment, Café Mo-Jo.
He divided his time between Montreal and New York City during the 1980s, then settled in New York by the end of the decade. He was a member, from 1980 to 1982 and again from 1987 to 1993, of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He toured internationally with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra from 1983 to 1987, appearing alongside Gillespie in the feature films A Night in Havana and A Night in Chicago and performed with Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef.
He is the only person to perform all saxophone parts consecutively in the Duke Ellington Orchestra - Baritone sax, 2nd tenor, 1st tenor, 2nd alto and 1st and lead alto.
He recorded and performed in New York with the Savoy Sultans, Illinois Jacquet, the Afro-Asian Jazz Ensemble, and the Charli Persip Superband. He made several appearances accompanied by his sons and other musicians (including Oliver Jones) at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. On 26 June 2011, a tribute concert was held during the festival to honor Abdul Al-Khabyyr's contributions to the Montreal jazz scene.
Married since 1955 (jazz great Charlie Biddle served as best man), Abdul Al-Khabyyr and his wife have five children. Although all of his children play musical instruments, two of his children, Nasyr with drums, and Muhammad with trombone, have followed in his footsteps and become professional musicians. Also notable, Abdul is the father-in-law of Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Kenny Garrett. In 1971, after reading the biography of Malcolm X, Abdul and his family converted to Islam and he went on to become an Imam. Now living in Montréal, Abdul Al-Khabyyr no longer performs after having suffered strokes in 2001 and 2004.
- "A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba" (Credited as Sayyid Abdul Al-Kabir). IMDb. 1989. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- Plant, John (April 1980). "Trois des plus formidables virtuoses de Montreal : Entrevue avec Le Trio 3" [Three of the most formidable virtuosos in Montreal: Interview with Trio 3]. Virus Montreal.
- Brunet, Alain (25 June 1994). "Les trésors cachés de la famille Abdul Al Khabyyr". La Presse (in French). p. D10.
- "Al-Hajj Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Dominion Institute. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- Cote, Starr (16 March 1962). "Polio Stricken Musician Maintains High Hopes". Ottawa Citizen.
- Video on YouTube
- "List of Montreal Jazz Festival shows with Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr". Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
- "Time Capsule with special guest Kenny Garrett: A Tribute to Sayyd Abdul Al-Khabyyr". Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
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