Paul Jeffrey, Saxophonist Who Worked With Thelonious Monk, Dies at 81
Paul Jeffrey, a saxophonist who was a mainstay of the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk’s last working group and later a prominent jazz educator, died on March 20 at his home in Durham, N.C. He was 81.
His death was confirmed by his stepdaughter Bianca Kapteyn, who said he had been in poor health for some time.
Mr. Jeffrey joined Monk’s quartet in 1970 and remained until Monk withdrew from public performance in 1976. Reviewing an Avery Fisher Hall performance by the quartet in 1975, John S. Wilson of The New York Times called Mr. Jeffrey “an unusually skillful interpreter of Mr. Monk’s music, playing with more assurance and personal freedom than other saxophonists who have been associated with the pianist.”
Mr. Jeffrey also had a long association with another jazz giant, the bassist and composer Charles Mingus. He was a member of a big band Mingus led in 1972 and worked with him regularly from 1977 until shortly before Mingus’s death in 1979, writing arrangements as well as playing saxophone.
After his stint with Mingus, Mr. Jeffrey focused on teaching. From 1983 until his retirement in 2003, he was the director of jazz studies at Duke University. Before that he taught at Hartt College in Hartford and at Rutgers University in Newark. A number of his students went on to high-profile careers in jazz, among them the trumpeter Terence Blanchard and the pianist Jeb Patton.
Paul Henley Jeffrey was born in Manhattan on April 8, 1933, and received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College. Early in his career, he worked with B. B. King and other blues and rhythm-and-blues artists. He was later briefly in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie.
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