WUSF All Night Jazz Focus Artist of the Week: Jerome Richardson

Jerome Richardson.

This week on All Night Jazz we’ll focus on saxophonist and flautist Jerome Richardson, who was, as the New York Times stated, “one of the most recorded musicians in the history of jazz.”

Richardson was adopted and throughout most of his early life, thought he was born on December 25, 1920, in Oakland, California. Turns out, he was actually born on November 15, 1920 in Sealy, Texas.

A bit of a prodigy, Richardson started playing saxophone at the age of 8 and by the time he turned 14 he was playing with big band great Lionel Hampton. A versatile player, he was equally eloquent on saxophone and flute.  After WWII Richardson toured again with Lionel Hampton and Earl “Fatha” Hines.

He landed in New York in 1954 where he became a much in demand sideman both in jazz circles and Broadway’s orchestra pits. During his tenure in New York, Richardson worked with Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.  In 1961 he became one of the founding members of the noted Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He told England’s Guardian, “It’s a band of enthusiasts, and an opportunity to cleanse our souls.”

Two decades after his arrival in New York, Richardson migrated to California and continued his sideman career both in television and on notable recordings from Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne and others. In the ‘80s Richardson again returned to New York sharing studio and stage with trumpeter Art Farmer and trombonist Slide Hampton.

He passed away at the age of 79 in the year 2000. It is thought that Richardson appeared on over 4,000 recordings. His best-known composition, “The Groove Merchant” has become a jazz standard.

We’ll hear the woodwinds of Jerome Richardson, all week long on All Night Jazz.