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Tue, 12.18.1928

Harold Land, Tenor Saxophonist born

Harold Land

*Harold Land was born on this date in 1928.  He was a Black hard bop and post-bop jazz tenor saxophonist. 

Harold de Vance Land was born in Houston and grew up in San Diego. He started playing at the age of 16. He made his first recording as the leader of the Harold Land All-Stars for Savoy Records in 1949. In 1954, he joined the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, with whom he was at the forefront of the hard bop/bebop movement.  Because of family problems, he moved to Los Angeles in 1955. He played with Curtis Counce, led his groups, and co-led with Bobby Hutcherson, Blue Mitchell, and Red Mitchell from the 1970s. 

In the early 1980s through to the early 1990s, he worked regularly with the Timeless All-Stars, a group sponsored by the Timeless jazz record label.  Land also toured with his band during this time, including his son, Harold Land Jr., on piano. During these years, he played regularly at Hop Singh’s in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, and the Keystone Korner in San Francisco.  Land was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He joined the UCLA Jazz Studies Program as a lecturer in 1996 to teach instrumental jazz combo. "Harold Land was one of the major contributors in the history of the jazz saxophone," said jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program. 

Land, who died on July 27, 2001, from a stroke at 72, developed his hard bop playing with his inventive and whimsical solos. His tone was strong and emotional yet hinted at a certain introspective fragility.  Land had an inimitably dark tone within the hard-bop and modal jazz paradigms. Over time, this would increasingly contrast with the brighter tonalities of Coltrane-influenced saxophonists, although Land started to implement Coltrane's musical innovations. Land's "dire, brooding tenor saxophone sound began somewhere between rhythm and blues and Coleman Hawkins. After the early 1960s owed more and more to John Coltrane's harmonies, phrasing, and experiments with modalism."  

The progressive rock band Yes included the "Harold Land" song on their eponymous debut album in 1969. In a news/blog post on 20 September 2010, Bill Bruford commented about the song - "Harold Land was a hard-bop tenor saxophone player, dead now, but quite why we named a song after him I can’t remember."

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