Night Lights Classic Jazz

Cecil Payne RIP

Cecil PayneThere are several confirmed reports from yesterday evening and this morning that baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne, an unsung hero of the bebop era, has passed away:

Cecil Payne dies at 84

Marc Myers: Payne was the first modern baritone saxophonist

Doug Ramsey: Never got the recognition his talent should have brought him

Brooklyn calling for Cecil Payne

Organissimo discussion

Payne was a musician who left a quiet but powerful imprint across the past 60 years of recorded jazz, doing significant work with Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, and Tadd Dameron. Along with Leo Parker and Serge Chaloff, he brought the baritone sax (which was not his first instrument) into the age of bop…and, unlike his two colleagues, managed to survive the hazards of the bop era and live a long life, though his last years were difficult. You can hear a bit of him in the recent Night Lights program The Connection: the Living Theater and Hardbop Jazz, taken from Payne and pianist Kenny Drew’s 1962 version of the score for Jack Gelber’s play (different from Freddie Redd’s), released on Charlie Parker Records. (Another Payne fave of mine, Cecil Payne Plays Charlie Parker Music, comes from the same time and label.) Really, though, he deserves a whole show to himself.

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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