Born: January 10, 1927 | Died: May 13, 2003 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Allen Eager (Jan. 10, 1927, New York City - May 13, 2003, Daytona Beach, Florida) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist.
Eager first played jazz as a teenager during World War II in the bands of Bobby Sherwood, Sonny Dunham, Shorty Sherock, Hal McIntyre, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, and Johnny Bothwell. After the war he became a regular on the scene around 52nd Street in New York; he led his own ensemble there from 1946-48. In 1948 he played with Tadd Dameron, in 1951 with Gerry Mulligan, in 1952 with Terry Gibbs, and shortly after with Buddy Rich. From 1953 to 1955 he again led his own ensemble. He lived in Paris from 1956 to 1957 and returned to record with Mulligan in 1957; after this, he essentially retired from jazz.
Eager mentioned the death of Charlie Parker and his problems with drug addiction as reasons for his withdrawal from the scene. He went on to pursue other activities such as skiing, competitive auto racing, and LSD experiments with Timothy Leary. He occasionally dabbled in music again, playing with Charles Mingus at the Newport Rebels festival in 1960 and with Frank Zappa in the 1970s. In 1982 he made a comeback with an album for Uptown Records, and toured with Dizzy Gillespie. He died in 2003.
Obit by Todd Jenkins
Allen Eager was part of the famed Four Brothers circle of white tenormen who passionately emulated Lester Young's style in the 1950s, making the light, leisurely tone a signature sound of bop and cool jazz.
In his teen years Eager made the rounds of big bands led by Shorty Sherock, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Hal McIntyre and others. He began his career as a leader in 1946, recording for Savoy with a young Max Roach. He gained valuable bebop experience in Tadd Dameron's band alongside Fats Navarro and Wardell Gray, then went on to work with Gerry Mulligan, Buddy Rich, Tony Fruscella and Terry Gibbs.
In 1956, battling a drug habit and unfairly overshadowed by Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and other Prez acolytes, Eager retreated from the limelight to clean up and refocus. He explored several other ventures, including race-car driving and skiing.
In 1972 Eager and his family retired to Florida, where he remained as active as possible in Miami's small jazz scene. Renaissance, his 1982 comeback album, helped to revive his spirit and interest in performing. Eager toured occasionally but kept his activities low-key, preferring to focus upon his family.
Sadly, his cancer was only diagnosed less than three weeks before his death. He is survived by his widow, Nancy; two daughters, Omine and Zoe; and one son, Jacob.