John Gilmore / Sept 28, 1931 - Aug 20, 1995

Happy birthday to tenor saxophone hero John Gilmore. A long-time member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, a major influence on John Coltrane and an icon Blowing Out Of Chicago.

Gilmore started playing clarinet at 14 and tenor sax at 17 and he played with Earl Hines before joining Sun Ra's fledgling Arkestra in '53. He stayed with Ra for over forty years, recording on every single Arkestra record until '95 (including most of the legendary Ra-produced doo-wop sides).

He brought a gifted and harmonically advanced style and could play sweet to ferocious, but bop & blues was always his main language. Frustratingly, there are just a scant few appearances with any other bandleader. He did co-lead a hot hard-bop date for Blue Note with Clifford Jordan (that aforementioned Blowin' In, with members of the Jazz Messengers) in '57. In '62 he appeared on The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard. In '63 he cut an album with Elmo Hope, recorded live at Riker's Island prison.

The mid-'60s saw him branching from Ra for a bit with work for Paul Bley (Turning Point was released in '75 but recorded in '62 & '64), a couple of fantastic Andrew Hill albums in the mid-'60s, a mod-ish date with Art Blakey in '65 (and subsequent tour), some exploito-jazz on a Batman-themed session with members of the Arkestra and The Blues Project in '66 (The Sensational Guitars of Dan & Dale) and records by Pete LaRoca, McCoy Tyner, Phil Upchurch and a fucking GREAT co-leader session in '70 with Jamaican-born trumpeter Dizzy Reese.

In '61 he gave some lessons to Coltrane (who was actually older than Gilmore by a few years) and Trane's advanced '61 live classic "Chasin' The Trane" was directly inspired by this association. He stayed with Sun Ra for so many years because Ra's music was the most advanced he had come across. In fact he led the Arkestra after Ra left the planet until Gilmore's own death in '95. He also functioned as the Arkestra's kit drummer at times.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published