Paul Jeffrey was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, arranger, and educator. Perhaps best known for performing with Thelonious Monk (1970–1975), Jeffrey also worked with musicians including Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King, amongst many others.
Born in New York City, Jeffrey attended Kingston High School. After graduating in 1951, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in music education at Ithaca College in 1955. He spent the late 1950s touring with bands led by Illinois Jacquet, Elmo Hope, Big Maybelle, and Wynonie Harris. From 1960 to 1961, Jeffrey toured the US with B.B. King, after which he worked as a freelance musician in the New York City area and toured with bands led by Howard McGhee, Clark Terry, and Dizzy Gillespie.
1968 marked Jeffrey’s first studio work as a leader, when he recorded the album Electrifying Sounds on Savoy Records. He toured with the Count Basie Orchestra before beginning his associations with Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. He first joined Monk’s quartet for a multi-day run at the Frog & Nightgown club in Raleigh, North Carolina, in May 1970.
Jeffrey performed as a regular member of Monk’s band throughout the remainder of Monk’s public performance career, appearing with Monk throughout the US and Japan at the Village Vanguard, Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall, the Jazz Workshop, the Manne-Hole, the Cellar Door, and many other venues. He was hired by George Wein to organize a 15-piece band for a tribute concert to Monk at Carnegie Hall in 1974; a concert at which Monk made a surprise appearance, replacing Barry Harris on the piano just as the concert was starting.