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Cecil Payne, Baritone Saxophonist, Dies at 84

Cecil Payne, a baritone saxophonist whose impact was strongest during the height of the bebop era, died Nov. 27th. The cause of death was unknown. Payne was 84. During his six-decade career, Payne served both as a leader and a key band member for such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston and Illinois Jacquet.

Born in Brooklyn in 1922, Payne began on guitar, clarinet and alto sax before making his reputation on the baritone. His first major gig as a baritonist came in the late 1940s with Clarence Biggs but he quickly took a position in Gillespie’s band, helping to formulate the revolution that was bop. He also played with Roy Eldridge during that period. A stay with Coleman Hawkins was followed by the stint with Jacquet in the early ’50s, then by long-term gigs in the ’60s with Machito, Woody Herman and Basie. His recordings as a leader appeared on such labels as Savoy, Signal, Muse and Delmark. He continued to perform into the 1980s.

Originally Published