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Illinois Jacquet was born on this date in 1922. He was a Black tenor jazz saxophonist.
Born Jean Baptiste Jacquet in Boussard, Louisiana, he grew up in Houston, Texas. There he played in a band with his older brother, Russell, and worked in several bands around town before moving to Los Angeles in 1941. In LA, he joined Lionel Hampton's big band. Jacquet wrote his signature on Hampton's big band; he played an incredible solo on Hampton's "Flying Home."
He virtually built a career on that solo, which he claimed came from divine inspiration; it ranks as one of the best improvisational performances of the 20th century. His trademark is his raw-boned tenor sound combining R&B boldness and jazz sophistication. He performed in the Jazz at The Philharmonic series, appeared in the jazz documentary "Jammin' The Blues," and in 1945 formed his band. From the 1950s to the present, Jacquet has recorded for many labels, including Savoy, RCA, Mercury, Epic, and Atlantic.
He continued to make jazz recordings into the 1990s; he was a guest on the Modern Jazz Quartet's 1994 album "A Celebration." As he explained in the closing statement of a 1988 Jazz Times interview, "With this kind of music, you don't get old because it takes 50 years to learn how to play it. I don't expect to retire."
Into the 21st century, Jacquet led one of the best swing big bands on the scene and performed with the same intensity that marked his ascendancy more than 50 years ago.
Illinois Jacquet died on July 21, 2004.