Saxophonist, composer, and NEA Jazz Master Benny Golson recalls the beginning of his legendary career with eloquence, wisdom and humor in this 2001 interview with noted jazz writer Ira Gitler. Growing up in Philadelphia, Golson had intended to become a classical concert pianist until one fateful night at the city’s famed Earl Theater when he heard Arnett Cobb playing “Flying Home” on the sax, “and at that moment, the piano started to fade.” Golson eventually got his own saxophone “from Wurlitzer’s… where you pay a dollar down and a dollar a week forever,” starting him on a journey that would lead him—alongside other young Philadelphia musicians including Jimmy Heath, ‘Philly” Joe Jones, and John Coltrane—to stints with the bands of Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and others, and to co-lead, with Art Farmer, the Jazztet. As a composer, Golson’s output includes standards including “Killer Joe,” “Whisper Not,” and “I Remember Clifford,” a tribute to trumpeter and fellow Hampton band member Clifford Brown, which he also discusses here.
Jazz at Lincoln Center is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit dedicated to inspiring and growing audiences for jazz. Jazz at Lincoln Center advances a unique vision for the continued development of the art of jazz by producing a year-round schedule of performance, education and broadcast events for audiences of all ages.