Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ahmad Alaadeen, Kansas City-based Jazz Saxophonist, Dies

Saxophonist, composer and educator was 76.


Ahmad Alaadeen, whose virtuosity crossed more than six decades of the jazz music genre, died peacefully at his home in Kansas on Sunday, August 15 at the age of 76. Cause of death was bladder cancer.

A native of Kansas City primarily known by his surname, Alaadeen is renowned as a jazz giant in his home city. For 60+ years he made swing his own thing and had a futuristic perspective on the music. Earlier this year, Alaadeen was awarded the American Jazz Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is recognized as a master jazz artist who performed on the highest level and a significant jazz educator for 35 years.

In 2009 he authored The Rest of the Story: Jazz Improvization and History – a user-friendly manual designed to give a foundation to the art of improvisation for students and their educators. In an interview with JAM Magazine in 2006 the icon said he “learned by contributing, and eventually began to play from within himself.” His first brush with jazz came at the age of five when he heard Charlie “Bird” Parker practicing at Jay McShann’s home.

The second generation jazz master honed his craft alongside the jazz icons – vis-a-vis sweat equity – long before there were collegiate jazz studies programs. Alaadeen continued the tradition by nurturing Harold O’Neal and Logan Richardson. A link to the aural tradition of his music genre, Alaadeen will be remembered as a musician who perpetuated the way jazz was originally learned and taught by the genre’s elder statesmen.

According to Chair of the UMKC Jazz Studies Department Bobby Watson, Alaadeen “had a way of opening the harmony with his own personal style. He had such a depth in his playing that only comes from living. He was not only an influence on saxophone players, but all jazz musicians as well.” Alaadeen taught Watson’s improvisational class at UMKC. “I wanted the students to get the aural foundation taught from his book, which was like his own, personal notebook,” said Bobby. Not only does Ahmad Alaadeen emulate Kansas City jazz, he personifies it.

Alaadeen built a solid career performing with icons and groups such as Jay McShann, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Kenton, Lester Bowie, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, The Tonight Show Band and countless others. He also performed with R&B legends like Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson and Gladys Knight. Up until his passing, Alaadeen continued the jazz tradition with students at his side.

With a solid recording profession that began on his own ‘ASR Records (pronounced ‘ahsser’) label in 1995, Alaadeen recorded “Blues for R.C. and Jospehine Too,” “Time Through the Ages,” “New Africa Suite,” and “And the Beauty of it All.” The internationally acclaimed Alaadeen is distinguished by having earned a dozen major awards (ie. American Jazz Museum’s Lifetime Achievement, Billboard, Musician’s Magazine, U.S. Congress, Governor’s Humanities), participated in six media documentaries and served as chairman of the Mutual Musicians Foundation multiple years.

Alaadeen exemplifies the great qualities of the human spirit. His reputation for grace, dignity, and self-expression will endure in his music and memory. Overall, his humble spirit was focused on giving, fostering, and being kind to others. Alaadeen will be desperately missed. The spirit of his music legacy will forever light the path of the lives he touched.

Ahmad S. Alaadeen is survived by his loving wife Victoria “Fanny” Dunfee, and a host of family and friends.

The funeral will be held on Tuesday, August 17 at 10 am at Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel located at 4000 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd. in Kansas City, MO, followed by a 12:30 pm burial at National Cemetery in Fort Leavenworth, KS. Tax deductible donations may be sent to “Alaadeen Enterprises, Inc.,” 6507 Grand, Kansas City, MO 64118 to benefit jazz education or Al-Haqq Islamic Center, 6941 Prospect Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64132. Please include your full name/address, specify gift is in memory of Alaadeen. Ask them to notify the family of Alaadeen.
Author worked as a publicist with Alaadeen.

Originally Published