Tenor Saxophonist Benny Golson

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The best way to strike up a conversation with tenor saxophonist Benny Golson is to ask him about Cleveland pianist and composer Tadd Dameron.   A Philadelphia native,  Golson played with Dameron’s group in the early to mid -1950s, and it became a major influence on his approach to composing.

Golson described Dameron as “very gregarious, very friendly, very open.”

“He had no secrets about his music, what he did,” Golson said. “He shared those things generously with me.”

Dameron also taught him the importance of never allowing melody to take a backseat to what he described as “musical athleticism.”

Golson absorbed Dameron’s lessons well.  During a career that has spanned some sixty years, Golson penned a number of jazz standards including: “Whisper Not,” “I Remember Clifford” “Killer Joe,” “Along Came Betty” and “Stablemates.”  Golson’s pieces reflect the lyricism that embodied Dameron’s works.  Golson also picked up on Dameron’s uncanny ability to arrange for small groups, making them sound much larger.

In addition to his time with Dameron, Golson also played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Dizzy Gillespie’s big band and small group and ensembles led by Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman.

Golson has fronted a number of his own ensembles, most notably, the highly influential “Jazztet,” which he co-led with trumpeter Art Farmer from 1959 until 1962.

Golson, who just celebrated his 88th birthday at the end of January, brings his group to the Bop Stop at the Music Settlement for two performances on Tuesday.  The first set is at 7 p.m. and the second begins at 9:30 p.m.

Listen to Dan Polletta's interview with Benny Golson on Monday, February 6 at 12:33 p.m. on 90.3 WCPN for Here and Now featuring the Sound of Applause.

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