Big Al Sears

Al Sears (Macomb, Illinois, February 21, 1910 - New York City, March 23, 1990) was an American tenor- and alto saxophonist and bandleader. He played jazz and rhythm & blues. Sears played as a teenager saxophone with Fats Waller. In 1928 Sears replaced the tenor saxophonist Johnny Hodges in the orchestra of Chick Webb, in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. He toured with the revue “Keep Shufflin’”, then he played with Zack Whyte in Cincinnati and with Elmer Snowden. He was noticed by producer and talent scout John Hammond, who arranged for him to record with Harry James. During that time he also worked at the dance orchestra of Vernon Andrade in New York. After his ‘normal work’, he liked jamming, including with Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse, one of the birthplaces of bebop. In 1941 he joined the band of Andy Kirk, “The Clouds of Joy”, where he worked for two years. When World War II was in full swing, he led a band that entertained the troops in military camps and bases. He then played in the orchestra of Lionel Hampton and in 1944 he was saxophonist with Duke Ellington, where he replaced Ben Webster. Sears was one of Ellington’s most famous soloists. In 1949 he left to be replaced by Paul Gonsalves. He joined the group of Johnny Hodges, who had a big hit with the by Sears composed “Castle Rock”. Sears remained in the band from Hodges until August 1952, after which he left to go solo. In the period 1950-1956 he made rhythm & blues records under his own name, fo...

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