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Benny Golson (1929-) grew up in Philadelphia where, as a teenager, he became friends with another saxophone player, John Coltrane. After studying at Howard University, which had a conservative music program that insisted on Golson playing clarinet, he left in 1951 to play in guitarist Tiny Grimes’ group. Next he joined Bull Moose Jackson’s R&B band where he became friends with his idol, Tadd Dameron. After a stint with Lionel Hampton, Golson went with Earl Bostic before joining Dizzy Gillespie’s band in 1956. In 1958 he got a call from Art Blakey and stayed with him for a year, during which time he wrote the jazz standards “Along Came Betty,” “Are You Real,” and “Blues March.”
In 1959 Golson and Art Farmer formed the Jazztet which remained together until 1962. Golson then immersed himself in studying composition and orchestrating and went to Hollywood in 1967 where he wrote commercials for products and companies from Borateem to Texaco, scored TV shows such as M*A*S*H, Mission Impossible, and The Partridge Family, and composed or arranged for musicians as diverse as Mama Cass and Itzhak Perlman.
Golson has been honored with over a dozen doctorates, toured on behalf of the State Department, and has had his commissioned concerto for bass and chamber orchestra, “Two Faces,” performed at Lincoln Center. His compositions such as “Killer Joe,” “Stablemates,” and “Whisper Not” have become part of the jazz canon along with “I Remember Clifford” which was choreographed by Twyla Tharp and performed by her ballet company in 1995. He received a Guggenheim Grant in 1995, was given an American Jazz Masters Award by the NEA in 1996, and honored at Lincoln Center in 2001 with a concert, “The Magic of Benny Golson.” He worked with Steven Spielberg on the 2004 film The Terminal in which he makes a brief appearance. He is currently writing his autobiography and a symphony and working on some commissioned pieces.
- Sandra Burlingame
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Volume 55. Benny Golson (Jazz Play-along S.)
Hal Leonard Corporation
Hal Leonard Corp
Legends of Jazz: Showcase (DVD/CD)
Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones
DVD - (Includes Benny Golson)
Benny Golson & Tubby Hayes
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