The Jazz Legend You Haven’t Heard Of: Exploring the Brilliance of Benny Golson 

 April 22, 2023

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The Jazz Legend You Haven’t Heard Of: Exploring the Brilliance of Benny Golson

Jazz has been one of the most innovative and influential genres of music since its inception in the late 19th century. Over the years, countless jazz musicians have carved their names in the genre’s history, but some artists’ talents have been overshadowed by others. One such artist is Benny Golson, an American jazz tenor saxophonist, composer, and arranger. Despite his talents as a musician and composer, many people still haven’t heard of this jazz legend. In this blog post, let’s explore the brilliance of Benny Golson.

Introduction

Benny Golson was born in Philadelphia on January 25, 1929. He began playing the piano at the age of nine but later switched to the saxophone after hearing the music of Johnny Hodges. He went on to study music at Howard University and the Berklee School of Music. Throughout his career, Golson has been one of the most prominent saxophonists in jazz, performing with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, and Lionel Hampton. He also composed many famous jazz standards that have been recorded by numerous musicians. Despite his contributions to jazz, Benny Golson remains relatively unknown to casual music fans.

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Let’s dive deeper into the world of Benny Golson and explore why he deserves more recognition as a jazz legend.

Benny Golson’s Early Career

Benny Golson began his jazz career in the 1950s, playing with famous jazz musicians like Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. In 1958, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he played alongside other jazz greats like Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter. During his time with the Jazz Messengers, Golson played on some of the group’s most famous recordings, including “Moanin'” and “Blues March.”

Benny Golson’s Contribution to Jazz Composition

In addition to his skills as a saxophonist, Benny Golson’s talents as a composer have also made him a significant figure in the world of jazz. He wrote many jazz standards, including “Along Came Betty,” “Whisper Not,” “I Remember Clifford,” and “Stablemates.” These compositions have been recorded by numerous jazz musicians over the years and have become essential parts of the jazz repertoire.

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Golson’s Music Career in Hollywood

In the 1960s, Benny Golson moved to Hollywood and began pursuing a career in music for television and film. He composed the theme for the hit television series “M*A*S*H” and wrote music for several other television series and films, including “Mission: Impossible” and “The Parallax View.” Although he achieved considerable success in Hollywood, Golson remained committed to jazz and continued performing and composing in the genre.

Benny Golson’s Influence on Contemporary Jazz

Despite his relatively low profile among mainstream audiences, Benny Golson has had a significant impact on contemporary jazz. His compositions have been covered by numerous musicians, including Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Art Farmer. His influence can also be heard in the work of modern jazz musicians like Joshua Redman and Chris Potter, both of whom have cited Golson as a major influence on their playing and composing.

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Benny Golson’s Awards and Accolades

Throughout his career, Benny Golson has received numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to jazz. In 1995, he was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame, and in 2007 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor given to jazz musicians in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions about Benny Golson

1. What kind of jazz did Benny Golson play?

Benny Golson played mostly bebop and hard bop jazz.

2. What is Benny Golson’s most famous composition?

Benny Golson’s most famous composition is “I Remember Clifford.”

3. Did Benny Golson play with Miles Davis?

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Yes, Benny Golson played with Miles Davis in the late 1950s.

4. Was Benny Golson a member of any famous jazz groups?

Yes, Benny Golson was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

5. Did Benny Golson write music for movies or television?

Yes, Benny Golson composed music for television series and films, including “M*A*S*H” and “The Parallax View.”

6. Has Benny Golson won any awards for his contributions to jazz?

Yes, Benny Golson has received numerous awards for his contributions to jazz, including the NEA Jazz Masters Award.

7. Who are some modern jazz musicians influenced by Benny Golson?

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Modern jazz artists like Joshua Redman and Chris Potter have cited Benny Golson as a major influence on their playing and composing.

Conclusion

Benny Golson may not be a household name, but his contributions to jazz as a saxophonist and composer have made him a legend in the genre. Golson’s compositions have become essential parts of the jazz repertoire, and his influence can be heard in the work of modern jazz musicians. Despite his accomplishments, Golson remains relatively unknown to mainstream audiences, making it crucial to recognize his talent and legacy. So, next time you listen to some jazz, remember to give Benny Golson the credit he deserves.

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