Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saxophonist Bud Shank was born may 27th in Dayton, Ohio as Clifford Everett Shank Jr., where he began playing the clarinet at his country school at age 10. Like many future jazz musicians of the period, he was inspired to play clarinet by the music of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw on the radio.
Two years later, he switched to the saxophone, the instrument with which he would launch a multi-faceted career. He played with Stan Kenton’s big band, helped define the West Coast jazz sound after moving to Los Angeles, contributed to the rise of bossa nova in the 1950s, switched to a more aggressive bebop sound, became a first-call studio musician in Hollywood, and recorded with Ravi Shankar and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
He drew the attention of Stan Kenton, in whose band, the Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra, he played alto saxophone. Throughout the 1950s, he toured with Kenton where he played alongside saxophonist Art Pepper, and performed frequently at L.A.’s Lighthouse, a club that helped bring renown to the cool jazz style of the West Coast. Although associated with cool jazz for most of his career, Shank was never comfortable with the label.
After leaving Kenton’s band in the mid ‘50s, Shank recorded with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, combining jazz and Brazilian music. He also began to change gears in terms of improvisation, eschewing his nonchalant tone for a more gregarious style more akin to bebop.
In the 1960s, with jazz audiences dwindling as rock music became more popular, Shank turned to studio work. He played flute and saxophone full time for movie scores and pop music. He famously recorded the flute solo on the hit song “California Dreamin” by the Mamas and the Papas.
After having been criticized for abandoning jazz, Shank returned to touring in the 1970s, when he formed a group consisting of brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The band, known as the "L.A. Four", performed Latin-tinged jazz all over the world for several years.
In the 1980s and 90’s Shank had developed a reputation as a jazz icon, and continued to perform, record, and teach clinics. He was an active teacher in Port Townsend, Washington before moving to Tucson, Arizona for health reasons.

On April 2nd, 2009, after returning from San Diego, California, where he had been recording, Bud Shank passed away at age 82. The cause of death was pulmonary embolism.

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