Frank Foster (1928-2011)

Saxophonist with the Count Basie Orchestra dies, aged 82

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Frank Foster, the saxophonist, composer and arranger who wrote one of the Count Basie Orchestra’s most popular songs, has died at the age of 82.

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The American musician spent 11 years with Count Basie’s ensemble, joining in 1953 as a tenor saxophonist, and writing the 1956 hit Shiny Stockings.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Foster developed a taste for music from an early age, playing the piano, clarinet and alto sax and nurturing his talent through his high school big band (which he founded). He left his studies at Wilberforce University without a degree and moved to Detroit where he explored the city’s lively jazz scene.

Foster served in the US army during the Korean War until 1953, when he joined Basie’s group. As half of the ‘Two Franks’ – with fellow tenor saxophonist and band member Frank Wess – Foster became an audience favourite. His arrangements of Diane Schuur’s Deedles’ Blues (1987) and of George Benson’s Basie Bag (1988) won him two Grammy awards.

Foster worked with a number of artists including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Thelonious Monk, acting as both composer and sideman. In 2001 he was left unable to play his saxophone due to a stroke, but he remained active as bandleader and composer.

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Charlotte Rudman