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King Curtis

Born: February 7, 1934 | Died: 1971    Primary Instrument: Saxophone

King Curtis

Curtis 'King Curtis' Ousley was already a well-respected Jazz tenor saxophonist in 1952 when he moved to New York, to concentrate on doing session work for the growing Pop and R&B markets. Over the next decade, saxophone became the pre-eminent lead instrument within Rhythm & Blues/Rock n' Roll, and King Curtis became its leading exponent, spicing up massive numbers of hits with ear catching solos, sealing his reputation as one of the leading instrumentalists of that era. Perhaps he'll be most remembered as blowing that solo on The Coasters 1958 smash “Yakety Yak.”

King Curtis was originally part of the late 40's honking Texas tenor sax brigade, counting Arnett Cobb, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet as influences. He played in bands of Lionel Hampton and Horace Silver. Upon moving to New York from Fort Worth TX (his 1934 birthplace), he was already well grounded in Jazz, R&B, and Pop. Curtis could play any style on a moment's notice. Curtis had also pursued a highly successful solo career, primarily in contemporary R&B. But he also stretched out with the best Jazzmen: about half of his Prestige output circa 1960-62 he's surrounded by top line players like Jack McDuff, Billy Butler, Billy Gale, Ray Lucas, and Willie Rodriguez. On his classic “Soul Meeting,” the personnel includes: King Curtis (tenor saxophone); Nat Adderly (cornet); Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers, Sam Jones (bass); Oliver Jackson, Belton Evans (drums)...
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