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"Forgotten Tenor"
Documentary by Abraham Ravett

Remembering Wardell Gray

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February 13, 1921 - May 25, 1955


This clip comes from the documentary "Forgotten Tenor" made by filmmaker Abraham Ravett

Here's a review of this outstanding film that goes into detail about the film and about Gray's life and contributions to jazz : Review of "Forgotten Tenor"

In this clip Wardell Gray performs with the Count Basie band in 1950.


Count Basie, piano
Clark Terry, trumpet
Buddy DeFranco, clarinet
Wardell Gray, tenor sax
Freddie green, guitar
Jimmy Lewis, bass
Gus Johnson, drums
Helen Humes, vocals

Wardell Gray was born on February 13, 1921 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

After moving to Detroit in 1929, Wardell started playing the clarinet during his teenage years before switching to the tenor saxophone, inspired by Lester Young.

He played in a number of small local groups including the bands of Jimmy Raschel and Benny Carew prior to achieving national fame while playing for two years with Earl Hines beginning in 1943.

Wardell moved to Los Angles in 1945 becoming a integral part of the Central Avenue music scene, known for his nightly tenor battles with Dexter Gordon. -Together they would produce the popular recording "The Chase".

In the late '40s Gray played with both Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, before joining Count Basie.

"Little Pony", Wardell's showcase with Count Basie's orchestra, has come to be considered a classic standard.

He died under mysterious circumstances in Las Vegas on May 25, 1955 at the young age of 34.

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