Eric Alexander started piano lessons at the age of six. He took up the clarinet at nine and switched to alto sax three years later. The tenor sax became his obsession at Indiana University Bloomington (1986-87). After transferring to William Paterson College in New Jersey he studied with Harold Mabern, Joe Lovano, Rufus Reid, and others.
“The people I listened to in college are still the cats who are influencing me today,” Eric says. “The legacy left by Bird and all the bebop pioneers, that language and that feel—that's the bread and butter of everything I do. George Coleman is a big influence because of his very hip harmonic approach. And I'm still listening all the time to Coltrane because I feel that—even in the wildest moments of his mid- to late-60s solos—I can find these little kernels of melodic information and employ them in my own playing.”
In 1991 Eric competed against Joshua Redman and Chris Potter in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Placing second, this launched him into the whirlwind life of a professional jazz musician. He played with organ trios on Chicago’s South Side, made his recording debut with Charles Earland (Muse Records, 1991), and cut his first album as a leader, “Straight Up” (Delmark, 1991). More recordings followed for numerous labels, including Milestone. In 1997 he put out “Man with a Horn.” The following year saw the release of “Solid!”—a collaborative quartet session with George Mraz, John Hicks, and Idris Muhammad—as well as the first recording by his sextet One for All.
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