A very important tenor saxophonist whose solo on 1942’s “Flying Home” helped launch rhythm and blues, Illinois Jacquet (1922-2004) was also a giant of jazz.
Born in Louisiana, Jacquet grew up in Houston and is considered part of a string of tough Texas tenors. After working locally, he spent time in Los Angeles in 1941, playing with Floyd Ray’s Orchestra. Jacquet was the star of Lionel Hampton’s big band the following year and had such a hit with “Flying Home” that that song became identified not only with Hampton but with Jacquet and his successor with the band, Arnett Cobb.
Jacquet worked with the big bands of Cab Calloway and Count Basie (1945-1946), was one of the main stars of the first Jazz At The Philharmonic concert and appeared in the 1944 film Jammin’ the Blues next to Lester Young. In addition to appearing regularly with JATP, Jacquet had his own jump band starting in 1946, touring and recording regularly for years. Times and musical trends changed but Illinois Jacquet always stayed popular.
During 1968-1969, Jacquet recorded four excellent albums for Prestige. Bottoms Up, a quartet set, features the saxophonist’s big sound and stomping style on such numbers as “Sassy,” “Our Delight,” and “Bottoms Up.” On The King!, in addition to such expected tunes as “How High the Moon” and “The King,” Jacquet plays some atmospheric bassoon on “Caravan.” The Soul Explosion features Jacquet with a big band arranged by Jimmy Mundy. And The Blues, That’s Me! is highlighted by “Still King,” “Everyday I Have the Blues,” and Jacquet’s bassoon on “’Round Midnight.”
Illinois Jacquet, who never declined, continued playing roaring and exciting solos up until his death in 2004.