Sax Legend Illinois Jacquet Dies At 81
Illinois Jacquet, known to his peers as "Jacket," was a legendary tenor saxophonist who played with nearly every jazz and blues VIP of his time died July 22. He was 81.
Jacquet played with music greats such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Gene Krupa.
Jacquet, who defined the jazz style called screeching, was known as much for his trademark pork pie hat as his innovative playing style.
In 1942, as a 19-year-old member of Lionel Hampton’s band, he played "Flying Home" a tenor saxophone solo that went on for more than a minute and propulsed his name to fame.
During his heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, Jacquet recorded more than 300 original compositions. In 1981 he performed with his own band, the Illinois Jacquet Big Band, and in 1993 played "C-Jam Blues" with former President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn during the inaugural ball.
Jacquet was born in Broussard, Louisiana, his mother was a Sioux Indian. His father, Gilbert Jacquet, was a French-Creole railroad worker and part-time musician. " Illinois" came from an Indian word "Illiniwek," which means superior men. As one of six children, Jacquet began performing at age three, tap dancing to the sounds of his father’s band where he later played the drums. A school teacher helped him discover his true talent when he was introduced to the saxophone.
Despite his fame, Jacquet lived quietly in the borough of Queens. He is survived by longtime companion and manager Carol Scherick, and by his daughter and grandaughter. Sherick said he followed Basie to Queens in 1947 and stayed because "the cost of parking his car in Manhattan was more than the rent on his apartment."