Born: May 17, 1916 | Died: 1983 Primary Instrument: Sax, tenor
Many men tried, but Paul Quinichette was the most successful at emulating the style of Lester Young. (Young called him Lady Q, a term not exactly meant at as a compliment.) With a nice smoky tone, Quinichette worked with many great musicians, and played on some of the earliest tribute albums. If he is somewhat forgotten today, it may because the tenor style he followed is currently out of favor. That fact does not lessen his music, some of which is remarkable.
Paul Quinichette grew up in Denver and started young with the saxophone, and attended Tennessee State College as a music major. Beginning on alto and clarinet, he switched to tenor as he began to get work with R&B bands. He toured with Jay McShann for two years (1942-44), and then did similar stints with Louis Jordan and Henry Red Allen. He moved to New York around 1946.
His big break came in 1953, when he was hired by Count Basie … to play solos in the style of Lester Young. He played this role exceptionally, to the point of copying Young’s mannerisms. It earned him a contract with Emarcy Records, a series of fine albums (including one with Lester himself) and a certain level of fame, albeit minor. Three of his recordings were directly on a Basie theme as; “For Basie,” “Basie Reunion,” and “Like Basie.”
When he wasn’t playing Lester, Quinichette had an agreeably gruff tone, which served him well on his ’57 effort “Cattin’ with Quinichette and Coltrane.” Though this is considered his best effort, sadly, this disc would be among his last; as hard-bop became the dominant style, Quinichette found it increasingly difficult to ply his trade.
He left jazz entirely in the late Fifties, working in New York as an electrical contractor. In 1977 he attempted a comeback, producing a few more albums; and spent some time playing with pianist Jay McShann. But poor health forced him to retire again, and he died in 1983. His music is worthy of more attention he may not have been innovative, but was always entertaining.
Bio in part from jazzimprov.