Frank Foster, a veteran saxophonist, composer, arranger and bandleader, died in his sleep Tuesday morning. He will primarily be remembered as a pillar of the Count Basie band during its celebrated "New Testament" period from 1953 to 1964, but Foster maintained a busy schedule of recording and touring as both a leader and sideman throughout his life. Besides his work with Basie, Foster worked with a who's who of jazz legends including Thelonious Monk, Elvin Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Milt Jackson and Sarah Vaughan.
Foster's great contributions to the Count Basie Orchestra in the '50s and '60s led to his taking over as the band's leader after Basie's death two decades later. Foster also led his own ensemble called the Loud Minority Big Band which was something of a labor of love throughout his career. On his motivation for starting a big band, Foster said, "I have to make a statement with a big band, or there ain't going to be no statement."
A handful Foster's compositions, notably "Shiny Stockings," "Simone," and "Blues in Hoss Flat," have become well-loved and oft-played jazz standards, especially among high school and college big bands.
News of Foster's death comes a year after some good news for the Foster family: after nearly 5 decades of missing out on collecting royalties for "Shiny Stockings," his most famous composition, he won back the rights to the song. Now, Frank Foster's family will continue to benefit from his legacy by collecting royalties after his death.
The jazz press and blogosphere has already produced a number of worthy obits and tributes to Foster. Click on the links below:
-The New York Times
-NPR's A Blog Supreme
-Some great YouTube selections from Jim Macnie
-A personal remembrance from Doug Ramsey