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Nick Brignola Dies at 65

After a long battle with cancer, baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola died on Friday, Feb. 8 at the Albany Medical Center, Albany, N.Y. He was 65.

Born July 17, 1936, Brignola was a perennial poll-winner who, like his stylistic brothers of the baritone, Gerry Mulligan, Harry Carney and Pepper Adams, understood the power of his unwieldy instrument. But Brignola began his reed exploits on the wieldier clarinet, taking up the licorice stick at age 11, and eventually adding alto and tenor sax and flute to his arsenal. It was at age 20, however, that Brignola picked up his hulking baritone. He didn’t intend to play baritone sax, but when his alto was being repaired the only loner sax the store had was the smaller horn’s big brother.

Brignola studied at Ithaca College and Berklee, and he played with Woody Herman, Charles Mingus, Ted Curson, Phil Woods, Three Baritone Saxophone Band (with Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan) and others, but it was his own quartet that he garnered great acclaim in jazz polls worldwide. Brignola’s last CD, Tour de Force, will be released by Reservoir, his longtime label, on February 26.

Brignola is survived by his wife, Yvonne, daughters Jillian Haggerty and Kristin Walker, and son Nicholas Brignola, and one granddaughter. Funeral services are being held today at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Albany.

Originally Published