It took ten years to write Whisper Not, The Autobiography of Benny Golson, by tenor saxophonist and composer Benny Golson and his longtime friend, writer Jim Merod. Walking down the “corridor of life” Golson says, there are surprises, some delightful, and some not.
Last year during an interview with WRTI's Meridee Duddleston, Golson's attitude was: What’s next? "When you create things that have no prior existence it’s like giving birth, and I’m always in that waiting room waiting to see if it’s a boy or a girl.”
From Philadelphia, Golson knew and played with John Coltrane, going on to work with many of the greats of jazz: Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, Benny Goodman, Art Blakey, and many more. After writing standards such as “Whisper Not,” “Blues March,” “Killer Joe,” and his memorial to Clifford Brown, “I Remember Clifford,” he worked in television for a time, scoring shows such as Room 222, M*A*S*H, Ironside, The Partridge Family, and Mission: Impossible.
But playing is his lifeblood, and he continues touring, collaborating with some of the finest artists of today and encouraging the stars of tomorrow.
In Art Kane’s Esquire magazine photograph A Great Day in Harlem, taken in 1958, Golson stands top row, left. He and Sonny Rollins are the only surviving musicians from that picture.
Benny Golson is the recipient of the Mellon Living Legacy Award, an NEA Jazz Masters Award, and the International Academy of Jazz Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award. His alma mater Howard University created the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award in 1996.
This master jazz saxophonist, who turned 88 on January 25th, will be in Europe on tour from March 29th until April 11th with the Benny Golson Quartet featuring Italian jazz pianist Antonio Faraò. Tour stops include performances in Munich, Milan, Paris, Amsterdam, and London.
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Golson is playing the sax on “Blues March”
From Philadelphia to New York to Hollywood and beyond, Benny Golson looks back and ahead at his extraordinary life in jazz. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston has more.
MUSIC: Benny Golson, “Whisper Not” from New Time, New 'Tet
Meridee Duddleston: Saxophonist and composer Benny Golson was a teenager living on Page Street in North Philadelphia in the ‘40s when he and good friend John Coltrane were kicked out of a big band. Stung by rejection, they went back to Golson’s house, and Golson’s mother walked in.
Benny Golson: And we were standing in my living room and I wanted to cry so bad, and I know he wanted to cry, but we were too hip to cry in front of each other. She put her arms around both of us. She says, ‘One day, they won’t have enough money to pay you two.’
MD: Jump ahead a decade to the Newport Jazz Festival, 1957. Golson and trumpeter Art Farmer had just formed his “Jazztet” and done Golson’s famous tune “Killer Joe.” Coltrane was coming off his recording of “My Favorite Things.” The two buddies found themselves in the same tent warming up.
BG: He took the horn out of his mouth and started laughing, and I said, ‘What? What is it?’ “Remember what your mother said about how we would be so good they wouldn’t have enough money to afford us?” he said. “Well, we’re in Newport, and they’re still in Philadelphia.”
MD: Golson has never stopped. His place in the jazz world is secure. He’s performed the world and composed for television and film. His ability and web of experience has put him in the White House and on Steven Spielberg’s set. “Whisper Not” a Golson jazz standard, is the name of his honest autobiography, a life story that first started taking shape on Page Street.