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Frank Foster, Saxophonist for Count Basie, Dead at 82

Foster was also a celebrated composer and arranger, and a prolific leader

Frank Foster receiving Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center. Photo by Valerie Russell.

Frank Foster, the saxophonist and composer best known for his 1953-64 tenure with the Count Basie Orchestra, died yesterday, July 26, in Chesapeake, Va. The cause of death was kidney failure. Foster, who was honored with an NEA Jazz Master award in 2002, was 82.

Born in Cincinnati on Sept. 21, 1928, Foster first played piano and clarinet before switching to alto saxophone and finally tenor and soprano saxes, as well as flute. In 1949, after attending Wilberforce University, where he played in the dance band, Foster moved to Detroit, where he began his professional career with local bands. He served in the Army during the Korean War and joined Basie after his discharge in 1953.

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