Paul Jeffrey (April 8, 1933 – March 20, 2015) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, arranger, and educator. While he was a member of Thelonious Monk regular group from 1970–1975, Jeffrey also worked with other musicians such as Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King.
Born in New York City, Jeffrey attended Kingston High School. After graduating in 1951, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in music education at Ithaca College in 1955. He spent the late 1950s touring with bands led by Illinois Jacquet, Elmo Hope, Big Maybelle, and Wynonie Harris. From 1960 to 1961, Jeffrey toured the US with B.B. King, after which he worked as a freelance musician in the New York City area and toured with bands led by Howard McGhee, Clark Terry, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Jeffrey’s first studio work as a leader was in 1968, when he recorded the album Electrifying Sounds for Savoy Records. He toured with the Count Basie Orchestra before beginning his associations with Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. He first joined Monk’s quartet for a multi-day run at the Frog & Nightgown club in Raleigh, North Carolina, in May 1970.
Jeffrey performed as a regular member of Monk’s band throughout the remainder of Monk’s public career, appearing with Monk throughout the US and Japan at the Village Vanguard, Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall, the Jazz Workshop, Shelly's Manne-Hole, and The Cellar Door, among other venues. He was hired by George Wein to organize a 15-piece band for a tribute concert to Monk at Carnegie Hall in 1974; a concert at which Monk made a surprise appearance, replacing Barry Harris on the piano just as the concert was starting. In fact, Monk was slated to play this concert. Barry Harris played the rehearsal. Paul Jeffrey and Wein were nervous because right up to the first down beat of the concert Monk still had not appeared. Then at the last minute he came rushing in and played the intro to the first song. Everyone involved on stage breathed a sight of relief. A great thing about this event was that Jeffrey hired as many Monk alumni as possible, those who knew this music. That made it especially great!
Jeffrey had a lasting association with Charles Mingus throughout the 1970s. He first performed as a member of Mingus’s big band at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1972, and he continued performing, arranging, and recording with Mingus through 1979, the year Mingus died. In 1973 and 1974 Jeffrey made three additional studio recordings as leader on the Mainstream Records label.
Jeffrey was a saxophone instructor at Columbia University in 1973. During these years he founded his octet playing his arrangements, many of his originals. The group rehearsed consistently every week at Columbia U. and did some concerts now and then. One of the concerts was in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. He cared very much for the group. He held positions in arranging and jazz history at Jersey City State College (1974), as jazz ensemble director at the University of Hartford (1975–1983), and as an assistant professor of jazz at Livingston College of Rutgers University (1978–83). In 1983, he accepted a position as artist in residence and director of jazz studies at Duke University; a position he held until his retirement in 2003. At Duke, he taught courses on jazz history and arranging while also directing the Duke Jazz Ensemble. He organized the NC/Umbria Jazz Festival and the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival while serving on the North Carolina Arts Council and the Durham Arts Council.
In 2009, Jeffrey recorded a tribute to Thelonious Monk with the French label Imago Records distributed by Orkhestra, with Alessandro Collina on piano, Sebastien Adnot on bass and Laurent Sarrien on drums.
With Sam Rivers
With Thelonious Monk
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