Willis Jackson Biography

25 April 1928, Miami, Florida, USA, d. 25 October 1987, New York City, New York, USA. From his late teenage, Willis ‘Gator’ Jackson played tenor saxophone in many bands in his home state before attending university where he studied music theory. From the late 40s into the mid-50s he played in various editions of the small band led by Cootie Williams. Overlapping this spell with Williams, Jackson led his own band on tours and for recording sessions. He also recorded with his then-wife, Ruth Brown. Although Jackson’s playing and composing up to this time had been strongly inclined towards R&B, he also played with bop musicians including founding fathers Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. From the early 60s he was active on the east coast, continuing to record and in the late 70s led a tenor-organ combo featuring Carl Wilson (organ), and Pat Martino (guitar). Although best known for his raunchy, blues-based sound, Jackson was also an effective balladeer, even developing a special saxophone for this purpose.

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

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