Advertisement

Former Count Basie Orchestra director got his start in teen dance bands

February 12, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Frank Foster's first instrument was the clarinet. He started playing at 11 but switched to the saxophone a couple of years later after he learned the clarinet wasn't a principal dance band instrument.

The Cincinnati native played in dance bands as a teen and was leading - and doing the arrangements for - his own 12-piece ensemble by the time he was a senior in high school.

He continued playing and arranging at Wilberforce University, was hired by Count Basie Orchestra alumnus Snooky Young for a six-week gig in Detroit.

In 1951, Foster did his basic training for the U.S. Army in California and discovered San Francisco's jazz scene. After serving in Korea, he headed to Detroit in 1953 and was hired by Basie.

Advertisement

Foster was with the Basie orchestra for 11 years, playing, arranging and composing.

He left in 1964, freelanced for a few years and headed up the Loud Minority Band and Frank Foster's Non-Electric Company. He soloed with the likes of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry and Jazzmobile big bands. The Jazzmobile band performed his "Lake Placid Suite" at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.

Foster assumed leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1986.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|