AKA Jean-Baptiste Jacquet
Birthplace: Broussard, LA
Location of death: Queens, NY
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Squealing saxophone legend
Born into a musical family, Jean-Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet was given his introduction to public performance while still a small child, tap-dancing to the sounds of his father and older brothers as part of Gilbert Jacquet's Legion Steppers. Eventually he took on the role of the band's drummer, but by the age of 14 switched his focus to alto and soprano sax, joining with his brothers to form The California Playboys. After a period working with local bands, the still-teenaged Jacquet moved to Los Angeles with brother Russell in 1939; two years later, with the support of Nat King Cole, he landed the tenor position in the newly-formed big band of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Due to the exhausting schedule his tenure with Hampton endured only one year, but within this time Jacquet cemented his reputation through the distinctive solo on the tune Flying Home (1942). He then formed a short-lived but popular ensemble with Charles Mingus before accepting a lucrative offer to join Cab Calloway's orchestra. Alongside Calloway he made his first feature film appearance in 1943's Stormy Weather (featuring singer Lena Horne), following it up in 1944 with a more prominent role in the short film Jammin' The Blues.
In 1945 Jacquet became a full-time member of The Count Basie Orchestra, having already guested with the band the previous year for AFRS Jubilee broadcast. True to form, by August 1946 he had moved on once again, throwing his lot in with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic while also freelancing on the side as a session man. Parallel to his involvement in JatP, Jacquet began performing with his own band; by 1948 he was concentrating solely on his self-led projects, although in 1951 he once again began touring with Granz. Now established as one of the top jazz players in the field, Jacquet kept a consistent recording and performing schedule throughout the 1950s and 1960s, appearing at festivals throughout the world and releasing albums on labels such as Epic, Prestige and Argo.
The early 1970s saw the saxophonist working in a trio format, branching out to explore a more restrained approach and occasionally setting aside his horn for the mellow tones of the bassoon. At the start of the 1980s he was invited to lecture at Harvard University, the popularity of which allowed him to become the institution's first jazz artist-in-residence. Spurred on by this success, in 1983 he assembled a big band with which he toured Europe and made numerous festival appearances, eventually returning to the States to perform at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Jacquet continued to be active with his music up until the end of his life, his final public appearance taking place at Lincoln Center only a week before he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Father: Gilbert Jacquet (musician/railroad worker)
Brother: Russell Jacquet (musician)
Girlfriend: Carol Scherick (manager)
Daughter: Pamela Davis
Lionel Hampton (1941-42)
Cab Calloway Saxophonist (1943-44)
The Count Basie Orchestra Saxophonist (1945-46)
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