Virginia Mayhew Biography

14 May 1959, Palo Alto, California, USA. Encouraged into a life in music through the enthusiasm of musical parents and grandparents, Mayhew began playing clarinet at the age of 10 before switching to alto saxophone while in her mid-teens, at which time she played in the high school jazz band. At the end of her teens, she moved to San Francisco, extending her studies through schools and private tuition. Her first professional engagement was with John Coppola, one of her tutors, and during the early 80s she played with a number of musicians, from jazz, pop and rock, when they visited the area. Among these artists were Cab Calloway, Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines and Frank Zappa. She also led her own small group and co-led a band with trumpeter Rebecca Franks, which recorded in 1988 for Philology Records and appeared at the 1990 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Meanwhile, in the late 80s, Mayhew relocated to New York City. There, she continued with her studies, now at the New School where she was the first recipient of the Zoot Sims’ Memorial Scholarship. She also played with several leaders, among whom were Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Barron, Terry Gibbs, Slide Hampton, Sahib Shihab, Clark Terry and Norman Simmons. Later in the 90s, she led her own band and worked with Al Grey, writing charts for his ‘Battle Royale: Trombones And Alto Saxophones’, which was performed at the Lincoln Center. She also participated in the recording of Grey’s Fab. She also played and recorded with Diva and appeared on a recorded production of Anne Phillips’ Jazz Nativity … Bending Towards The Light. Among other musicians who have appeared with her, sometimes on her own name albums, are Dena DeRose, Ingrid Jensen, Harvie Swartz, Lew Tabackin and Joe Williams. In 1998, her Nini Green was chosen Best New Release Of The Year by the jazz magazine, Cadence. As well as playing alto, Mayhew also acquits herself very well on tenor and soprano saxophones. In addition to playing and writing, Mayhew is an in-demand educator.

A hard-bop based saxophonist, Mayhew’s warmly eloquent treatment of ballads sets her somewhat apart from her other musicians of her generation and background.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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