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Frank Foster

Frank Foster is an NEA Jazz Master

Born September 23, 1928 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Frank Benjamin Foster III began his long musical career at age eleven, when he took up the clarinet. Two years later he began playing alto saxophone, advancing technically to the point of performing with local dance bands at age 14. He began to compose and arrange at 15, and led his own 12- piece band while still only a senior in high school. Foster attended Wilberforce University, then left for Detroit in 1949 (with trumpeter Snooky Young) where he played with such local musicians as Wardell Gray.

Upon finishing his military service in 1953, Foster joined Count Basie's big band (replacing Eddie Lockjaw Davis) on the recommendation of Ernie Wilkins. In addition to his full throated tenor playing, Foster contributed original material to the band including the standard, "Shiny Stockings," and other popular songs including “Down For The Count,” “Blues Backstage,” “Back to the Apple,” “Discommotion,” and “Blues In Hoss Flat” as well as arrangements for the entire Easin’ It album.

"I wrote `Shiny Stockings' in 1955,” Foster told Bob Bernotas. “We had a rehearsal at a place called Pep's Bar in Philadelphia. We had just arrived in town. Everybody was sleepy, tired, hungry, and evil. Nobody felt like rehearsing. We rehearsed `Shiny Stockings' and it sounded like a bunch of jumbled notes, just noise, and I said, `Wow, all the work I put into this, and it sounds so horrible. I know Basie will never play it.' And then something very strange happened. He continued to play and it came together. Finally, we recorded it and, well, it's the very best known piece that I have contributed to the Basie book.”

After ten-plus years, Foster departed Basie’s band in 1964, and began working as a freelance arranger and musician providing material for Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, among others. From 1970 to 1975 he brought his mighty tenor to a variety of situations including the bandstands of Elvin Jones, George Coleman, Joe Farrell and the Thad Jones�"Mel Lewis big band. Foster also led the Living Color and Loud Minority Big Bands; co-led a quintet with Frank Wess in 1983, and toured Europe as a member of Jimmy Smith's quintet in 1985. Foster succeeded Thad Jones as leader of the Basie band in 1986, where he remained until 1995.

Foster has recorded many albums as a leader, including Here Comes Frank Foster (Blue Note, 1954), Two Franks Please! (Savoy, 1957), Fearless Frank Foster (Prestige, 1965), Manhattan Fever (Blue Note, 1968), Shiny Stockings (Denon, 1987), Frankly Speaking (Concord, 1995), and Swing (Challenge, 1998).

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Ron Aprea


Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Well Water

Piadrum Records


Manhattan Fever

Original Jazz Classics


We Do It Diff'rent

Mapleshade Recordings


Soul Outing

Fantasy Jazz


A Fresh Taste Of The...

Original Jazz Classics


Electric Byrd

Blue Note Records



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