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Duke Pearson

Duke Pearson

Pianist, Arranger
August 17, 1932 -- August 4, 1980

Duke Pearson



"Pearson is a supple, lyrical musician who plays with a light touch, a thoroughly pianistic tone, and a satisfying sense of order."

--Nat Hentoff


Duke Pearson was nicknamed by an uncle who admired Duke Ellington's music. As a youth he studied piano and several brass instruments, but dental problems prevented his becoming a professional trumpeter. He worked as a pianist in Florida and Georgia (1954-59), then moved to New York, where he played most often with Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd (Byrd recorded his best- known compositions, "Jeannine" and "Cristo Redentor"). He also joined the Jazztet briefly (1960) and toured internationally as the accompanist to Nancy Wilson (1961).

From 1963 to 1970 Pearson worked as a producer for Blue Note records. During this period he formed a big band, initially led also by Byrd; as the Duke Pearson Band (1967-70), it rivaled the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, which also shared some of the same personnel. Its soloists included Adams, Frank Foster, Jerry Dodgion, Lew Tabackin, Randy Brecker, the trumpeter Joe Shepley, and Garnett Brown. The ensemble provided a forum for the performance of Pearson's lyrical, swing-oriented compositions. In 1971 Pearson taught at Clark College, and the following year re-formed his band with virtually the same musicians as before. He toured with Carmen McRae and Joe Williams from 1972 to 1973; in the late 1970s his ability to play was impaired by the onset of multiple sclerosis.

--BARRY KERNFELD,The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz


A selected discography of Duke Pearson albums.




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