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Paul Jeffrey, RIP


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Sad news. Paul was an important mentor to me:

Statement by the family of Paul H Jeffrey ( April 8, 1933 March 20, 2015)

"A jazz great and a witness to greatness."

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Paul Jeffrey, husband, father, grandfather, music-educator, arranger and internationally acclaimed jazz musician. Paul died March 20th 2015 after a lengthy illness. He was 81.

A tenor saxophonist with worldwide acclaim, Paul worked closely and creatively with legends. He was the last saxophonist to play with Thelonious Monk in the years before the jazz pianists death in 1982. The two had a close relationship that Monk characterized as, til death do us part. He had a half-century close friendship with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins, with whom he chatted on the phone at times almost daily. Paul and his wife Gerardina accompanied Sonny when he received his Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. in 2011 from President Barack Obama.

Paul also played with Charles Mingus, from his first appearance in Minguss Big Band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972 to the bandleaders death in 1979. He performed as well for Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King (with whom he toured for two years in the early '60s).

But it was as an educator that he found fulfillment in later years. He was artist-in-residence and director of jazz studies at Duke University from 1983 until his retirement in 2003. In Italy, where he has a strong following, a school of jazz music was created in his name in Cairo Montenotte near Genoa.

Paul spoke with great affection of his students, many of whom became notables in the next generation of jazz players. Among them: Washington Duke, Jeb Patton, Todd Bayshore, [sic] Thomas Chapin and trumpet player (and Spike Lee soundtrack artist) Terence Blanchard, who studied under Paul for two years at Rutgers University and billeted at his home, and Geoff Burke and Jerry Weldon, both longtime members of Harry Connicks Big Band.

Paul was also the first Jazz Band director of the McDonald's All American Jazz Band and artistic director of the Aspen Jazz Festival.

His move to Durham, N.C. to teach at Duke was particularly resonant. He first played with Monk in a club in nearby Raleigh in 1970. His tenure at Duke brought it to the attention of the jazz world, attracting campus performances by legends like Lionel Hampton, and Brandford Marsalis. A 2003 retirement event celebrating Paul's career featured a performance by actor, fan and jazz pianist Chevy Chase.

Born in 1933, Paul graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in music education at Ithaca College and spent the early part of his career on the blues/R&B circuit, touring with bands led by Illinois Jacquet, Big Maybelle, and Wynonie Harris before his association with B.B. King.

Paul Jeffrey is survived by his wife Gerardina, daughters Bianca and Catherine, son Paul, and grandchildren Michael, Jacob and Nicole.

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A life's work perhaps not known of/appreciated by the greater audience, but definitely of no small impact to those who did know about it, and, especially, it appears, by those who were touched by it first-hand.

RIP, thank you, sir, and maximum props.

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