Legendary saxophonist Illinois Jacquet, 81, who still rehearsed his band for hours in the basement of his home, died of a heart attack at his home in St. Albans last Thursday.
Longtime jazz disc jockey and historian Phil Schapp said “He went out in a blaze of glory.” Just last week, Jacquet closed out this summer’s midsummer’s Night Sing festival at Lincoln Center with “Flying Home” his trademark jazz classic.
Jacquet was born Jean Baptiste Jacquet in Boussard, LA., on Halloween 1922. while playing in a Texas-based group, he honed his musical ability, when a fellow saxophonist turned down an invitation to join a new band being formed by Hampton,. Jacquet at 19, accepted in his place in 1941.
He had been playing the tune “Flying Home since his performance with Lionel Hampton propelled him to fame in 1942. Packed audiences stood and cheered him.
colleagues said Jacquet had been holding six-hour practices, and playing at Lincoln Center and doing local performances in queens until his death.
Longtime companion Carol Sherick said Jacquet had been planning to write memoirs of his long career, including a 1940’s incident during which he and several fellow Black musicians were accosted by the Ku Klux Klan after they walked through white-only rail car. In the fall, he had hoped to begin taping his recollections.
Jacquet, was the last of a line of jazz greats who made the Addisleigh Park section of St. Albans a musical bedroom community. It was an easy commuting distance from the Apollo, the cotton club and other venues in Manhattan.
Count Basie lived a few blocks away from Jacquet in the 1960’s, and would sometimes drop by Jacquet’s big brick Colonial. Others who lived nearby were bassist Milt Hinton, Bill Kenny, the Ink Spots’ high-toned tenor, and frequent golf partner. Ella Fitzgerald lived around the corner.
Jacquet said he moved to St. Albans after joining Basie’s band in 1946, because he needed a quieter domicile than his apartment in Harlem had become.
”Charlie Parker and all those cats would knock on my door and want to talk,” said Jacquet. “They’d be coming from out of town.” “ I couldn’t get no rest there.” He said.
A funeral expected to attract scores of musicians is scheduled for Thursday, July 29 at 10 a.m. at Riverside Church in Manhattan. Burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, near gravesites of Hampton, duke Ellington and Miles Davis.