August 2, 2004 by

Illinois Jacquet

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Categories: Musicians

ijacquet.jpgIllinois Jacquet, a legendary tenor saxophonist whose solo in the song “Flying Home” became a jazz standard, died on July 22 of a heart attack. He was 81.
Born Jean-Baptiste Jacquet in Broussard, La., he was nicknamed Illinois after the Indian word “Illiniwek,” which means superior man. Raised in Houston, Texas, Jacquet tap-danced and played the drums in his father’s band until a music teacher handed him an alto saxophone. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles and switched to the tenor sax.
Jacquet helped to define the Texas tenor sound. Biting on his reed, he could extend the saxophone’s upper range by two full octaves. He was only 19 years old when he played the tenor sax solo on Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home,” a performance he likened to a religious experience.
In a career spanning more than six decades, Jacquet accompanied many famous musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He played in bands led by Count Basie and Cab Calloway, then formed the Illinois Jacquet Big Band in 1981.
During his heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, Jacquet recorded more than 300 songs, but he was best known for the hits “Black Velvet,” “Robbins’ Nest” and “Port of Rico.” He also appeared in the Lena Horne movie, “Stormy Weather,” and in the short film, “Jammin’ the Blues,” which received an Academy Award nomination. In later years, Jacquet toured extensively in Europe and taught at Harvard University.
In 1992, he was the subject of the documentary, “Texas Tenor: The Illinois Jacquet Story.” A year later, he performed a duet with Bill Clinton during the president’s inaugural ball. His final performance took place on July 16 at Lincoln Center in New York.
Listen to an Interview With NPR
Flying Home Download “Flying Home”

One Response to Illinois Jacquet

  1. Judy Close, Publicist, Queens Library

    Monday, June 6, 6:30 PM
    St. Albans Branch, 191-05 Linden Boulevard; 718-528-8196
    Monday, June 20, 6:30 PM
    South Ozone Park Branch, 128-16 Rockaway Boulevard; 718-529-1660
    “A Tribute to St. Albans Great Illinois Jacquet”
    Tenor Saxophone Legend
    performed by David Carter, piano; Michael Fleming, bass; Tootsie Bean, drums; Calvin Lynch, saxophone. Hear such favorites Illinois Jacquet made great as: “Flying Home,” “Robbins’ Nest,” and Sunny Side of the Street.”
    Jacquet was one of the last pioneers of the Golden Age of Jazz, who settled with other African-American entertainers in the Addisleigh Park area.
    Presented For Queens Library’s Adult Summer Reading Club 2005, (themed) “Timeless Treasures: Where Visionaries Live” and to celebrate June is Black Music Month.

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