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Saxophone Summit brings together six stellar saxophonists

October 2, 2009
Jimmy and Tootie Heath performing in Sprague Hall. Photo by Harold Shapiro.

Jimmy and Tootie Heath performing in Sprague Hall. Photo by Harold Shapiro.

The Yale School of Music will present a Saxophone Summit featuring six great performers on the entire family of instruments, from the soprano sax to the rare contrabass. The stellar lineup includes Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Antonio Hart, Todd Bashore, Frank Basile, and Scott Robinson, as well as superb rhythm section including drummer Tootie Heath, bassist David Wong, and pianist Michael Weiss. The event takes place on Friday, October 16 at 7:30 pm in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall (470 College Street, New Haven), and will begin with a presentation by the performers about the evolution of the saxophone in jazz and the various kinds of saxophones that will be played in the evening’s program.

According to Willie Ruff, director of the Duke Ellington Fellowship, “Though it had an important role among the French and the Belgians in their military bands, the saxophone was treated as a stepchild in the early years of its existence. It took the coming of age of a small cadre of jazz musicians in the United States to really give the saxophone its voice. It is this rich story of the saxophone in jazz that we will explore in this program.”

Tickets to the Saxophone Summit are $20 to $30, $12 for students. For more information, visit the Yale School of Music website or call 203 432-4158.

About the saxophonists

Jimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. Jimmy is the middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath, bass and Tootie Heath, drums) and is the father of Mtume. He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. During his career, Jimmy Heath has performed on more than 100 record albums and has written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards. He has also composed extended works, including seven suites, two string quartets, and symphonic music. After concluding eleven years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath continues to perform and to lead workshops and clinics throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada. He has also taught jazz studies at Jazzmobile, Housatonic College, City College of New York, and The New School for Social Research.


Frank Wess

Frank Wess started to learn the alto saxophone at age 10 and played in a band led by his father. After moving to Washington, DC he started playing in local bands, first on alto and later on tenor saxophone as well. During World War II, Frank played tenor saxophone and solo clarinet in the Army Band. In 1949 he began studying flute with Wallace Mann and established the flute as a jazz instrument. In 1953 Frank joined the Count Basie Orchestra, starting off on tenor saxophone and flute but later playing alto saxophone too. Frank Wess moved to New York in 1964 to lead his own groups and play with bands such as the New York Jazz Quartet and Dameronia. He also worked in the studios and played shows all over the city. He performed for ABC for 10 years on shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and the Dick Cavett Show. In 2007 he received the NEA’s American Jazz Masters Fellowship award. Today, at age 85, Frank is still an active and highly respected member of the New York jazz scene.

Todd Bashore received his bachelor’s degree in music from Duke University, where he studied with Paul Jeffrey, and his master’s from Queens College, where he studied with jazz legends Jimmy Heath and Roland Hanna. Todd has been active in the New York jazz scene ever since, performing and recording with Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band, Jimmy Heath, matchbox twenty, the Mingus Big Band, the New York City Ballet, Bobby Short, Bebo Valdéz, and many others. He has toured France, South Africa, and Morocco with the Latin Giants Orchestra, Macau with Pedro Giraudo, and Europe and Japan with Charles Tolliver. Todd also performs regularly at Birdland in New York. A composer and arranger, he has written for Slide Hampton’s recording Spirit of the Horn, HBO’s Sex and the City, and The Supper Club. In 2008 he received a commission from Vandoren, and he arranged music for the CTI All-Star Band, which premiered at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Born in 1978, baritone saxophonist Frank Basile holds his bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas. Basile is quickly becoming one of New York’s busiest and most in-demand baritone saxophonists. Since moving to New York, in 2001, Basile has been heard with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, the Joe Lovano Nonet, the Dave Holland Big Band, and Michael Bublé, among others. Basile also leads his own quintet, which performs regularly throughout the city.

Antonio Hart

Antonio Hart

Antonio Hart studied with Bill Pierce, Andy McGhee, and Joe Viola at the Berklee College of Music. With Roy Hargrove, his most important friend at Berklee, he spent three years touring the world and recording Hargrove’s first three records. During those years, Hart worked on a master’s degree at Queens College, where he learned from Jimmy Heath and Donald Byrd. Hart felt blessed and honored when Mr. Heath produced his second recording “Don’t You Know I Care.” Since then, Hart has recorded three more CDs as a leader. The latest, “Here I Stand” on the Impulse label, earned Hart a 1998 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo. He has been in demand on other recordings as well. Hart spends a great deal of time on the road with his band performing and giving clinics. In his off-time, he likes to listen to other styles of music for inspiration. He is constantly trying to get to higher levels on his horn and in his writing.

One of today’s most wide-ranging instrumentalists, Scott Robinson has been heard on tenor sax with Buck Clayton’s band, on trumpet with Lionel Hampton’s quintet, on alto clarinet with Paquito D’Rivera’s clarinet quartet, and on bass sax with the New York City Opera. Scott has been heard numerous times on film, radio and television, and his discography includes more than 190 recordings. A busy traveler, Scott has performed in such diverse venues as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, the Library of Congress, and the Vienna Opera House. He was selected by the US State Department to be a Jazz Ambassador for 2001. Scott’s many works as a composer include solo performance pieces, jazz tunes and songs, chamber works, and large-scale compositions. In 1981, he graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and a year later became Berklee’s youngest faculty member. Since moving to New York in 1984, Scott has been awarded four NEA fellowships and participated in many Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning recordings. Scott has been the winner of a number Down Beat Critics Polls and Jazz Journalists Association awards.