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Saxophonist Harold Ousley Dies at 86

Played with Miles, Billie, Basie and Duke

Harold Ousley

Saxophonist and flutist Harold Lomax Ousley, who worked in the hard bop and soul-jazz realms, died Aug. 13 of unknown causes. The place of death was also not disclosed.

Ousley was born Jan. 23, 1929, in Chicago. After high school, he turned professional, working with circus bands in the late ’40s. In the early ’50s, he played with Gene Ammons, King Kolax and Miles Davis. In the ’50s, he also accompanied Billie Holiday, Brother Jack McDuff, Howard McGhee, Joe Newman, Bud Powell, Clark Terry Dinah Washington and Joe Williams. In the ’70s, Ousley played in the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. He also worked with pop, blues and R&B performers, such as George Benson, Big Maybelle, Charles Brown, Ruth Brown, Percy Mayfield, Sunnyland Slim and Jimmy Witherspoon.

As an educator, Ousley presented jazz programs to schools and became involved in the use of music as therapy. He appeared in the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and hosted his own early ’90s cable television show, Harold Ousley Presents.

He began recording as a leader in the 1960s, with the Tenor Sax album on Bethlehem. His last CD as a leader was Grit-Grittin’ Feelin’, on Delmark in 2000.

Originally Published