Benny Golson Worked with Coltrane, Gillespie and Davis — and The Monkees

Benny Golson is important for more than his tenor sax playing. Golson — who still is active — was earlier in his career sought after for his composing, arranging and producing. Colson has written a number of jazz standards, including “Killer Joe,” “Along Came Betty,” “Blues March” and “I Remember Clifford.” The latter was written in honor of trumpeter Clifford Brown after he died in a car accident.

Golson composed and arranged for greats – and the not so greats – from all corners of the music scene. Indeed, any list that includes Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Itzhak Perlman and Dizzy Gillespie – and Mickey Rooney, the Animals’ Eric Burden and The Monkees is indicative of a wide ranging talent. It also, no doubt, suggests a guy with a sense of humor, humility and the ability to get along with a wide variety of folks.

The wide variety of folks with which Golson worked is due to a conscious decision to stray from the jazz scene. He wrote for television – including shows such as “M*A*S*H*,” “Mission Impossible” and “The Partridge Family.” He wrote music for numerous commercials as well.

If you are judged by the company you keep, Golson is an all star. In his profile of Golson at AllMusic, Scott Yanow writes that Golson was influenced by pianist Tadd Dameron, who he played with in 1953. Golson played with Lionel Hampton and Johnny Hodges. He came to the wider attention of the public while playing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band from 1956 to 1958.

Golson did a stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he met Art Farmer. The two led the Jazztet from 1959 to 1962. After taking a break to play in Hollywood and Europe, he and Farmer (along with Curtis Fuller) relaunched the Jazztet.

Above is “Killer Joe” and below is “Whisper Not.”

Benny Golson’s website, Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Hreinn Gudlaugsson.

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