Frank Foster III

Frank Foster III - ©

born on 23/9/1928 in Cincinnati, OH, United States

died on 26/7/2011 in Chesapeake, VA, United States

Alias Frank Foster

Frank Foster (musician)

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For other persons named Frank Foster, see Frank Foster (disambiguation)
Frank Foster (musician)

Frank Benjamin Foster III (September 23, 1928 – July 26, 2011) was an American tenor and soprano saxophonist, flautist, arranger, and composer. Foster collaborated frequently with Count Basie and worked as a bandleader from the early 1950s.[1]


Foster was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and educated at Wilberforce University. In 1949, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he joined the local jazz scene, playing with musicians such as Wardell Gray. Drafted into the US Army in 1951, Foster served in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division. Upon finishing his military service in 1953 he joined Count Basie's big band. Foster contributed both arrangements and original compositions to Count Basies band including the standard Shiny Stockings, and other popular songs such as Down for the Count, Blues Backstage, Back to the Apple, Discommotion, and Blues in Hoss Flat, as well as arrangements for the entire Easin It album.[1][2][3]

From 1970 to 1972 (and on occasional later dates) he played with Elvin Jones, and in 1972 and 1975 with the Thad JonesMel Lewis big band.[3] Foster was an Artist in Residence at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1971. That same year, he also started teaching for the New York City Public School System in District 5, Harlem, as part of a team of six professional musicians assigned to the Federal Governments Title I Program: Cultural Enrichment Through Music, Dance, and Song. From 1972 to 1976, Foster was full-time Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY).[2][4]

Foster also formed and lead several groups, most notably Living Color and The Loud Minority. He co-led a quintet with Frank Wess in 1983, and toured Europe as a member of Jimmy Smith's quintet in 1985.[2][3]

In June 1986 Foster succeeded Thad Jones as leader of the Count Basie Orchestra. While leading the Basie Orchestra, Foster received two Grammy Awards: first for his big-band arrangement of the Diane Schuur composition "Deedles Blues" (Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal, Jazz category, 1987), and second for his arrangement of guitarist/vocalist George Bensons composition "Basies Bag" (Best Big Band Instrumental, Jazz category, 1988).[2]

After leaving the band in 1995, Foster resumed his leadership of three musical groups: The Non-Electric Company (a jazz quartet/quintet), Swing Plus (a 12-piece band), and The Loud Minority Big Band (an 18-piece concert jazz orchestra), each of which he had organized years prior to assuming leadership of the Basie unit in 1986.

Frank Foster suffered a stroke in 2001 that impaired his left side to the extent that he could no longer play the saxophone. After continuing to lead the Loud Minority on limited engagements for much of the 2000s, he turned his leadership responsibilities for the band over to Cecil Bridgewater, a prominent New York City jazz musician. Until his death Foster continued composing and arranging at his home in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he resided with his wife and personal manager of nearly 45 years, Cecilia Foster.[3] He died of kidney failure on July 26, 2011.[5]

Awards and commissions

  • Foster received two Grammy Awards: the first, for his big band arrangement of the Diane Schuur composition Deedles Blues (Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal, 1987), and the second for his arrangement of guitarist/vocalist George Bensons composition Basies Bag (Best Instrumental Arrangement, Jazz Category, 1988). He also received two Grammy nominations: for his big band arrangement of Charles Trenets composition "Beyond the Sea", and for an album with his fellow Basie alumnus Frank Wess entitled Frankly Speaking.
  • He composed and orchestrated material for The Carnegie Hall Jazz Ensemble, The Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra, The Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble, The Jazzmobile Corporation of New York City, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Malaysia Symphony Orchestra, The Metropole Orchestra of Hilversum, the Netherlands, and The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In 1983 Dizzy Gillespie personally commissioned Frank Foster to orchestrate one of the jazz icons compositions, Con Alma, for a scheduled performance and recording with The London Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Robert Farnon.
  • In 1987, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Central State University in Wilberforce.[3]
  • In 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Foster with its NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz.
  • Foster was commissioned by The Harpers Ferry Historical Association of West Virginia to compose a jazz suite of ten to fifteen minutes' duration in connection with the Niagara Movement, relating to John Browns famous raid on Harpers Ferry. The suite was performed by the Count Basie Orchestra at Harpers Ferry as part of the three-day Niagara Movement celebration in August 2006.
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center commissioned Foster to compose and arrange music for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, directed by Wynton Marsalis, for performances on March 13-15, 2008, with "A Man and a Woman" as the theme. Foster wrote the words, music, and orchestrations for "I Love You (Based on Your Availability)" and "Romance Without Substance Is a Nuisance", both performed by vocalists Dennis Rowland and Marlena Shaw.
  • On March 20, 2009, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, directed by Jon Faddis, performed a three-part suite by Foster titled "Chi-Town Is My Town and My Towns No Shy Town" at the Harris Theater in Chicago.
  • In 2009, Foster selected The Jazz Archive at Duke University to be the home for his numerous compositions, arrangements, and personal papers.[6]

Humanitarian causes

Frank Foster became a great supporter of The Jazz Foundation of America in their mission to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. After receiving help from the Jazz Foundation, he supported the cause by performing in their Annual Benefit Concert "A Great Night in Harlem" in 2008.[7] He donated his gold-plated tenor sax to be auctioned by the Jazz Foundation of America, the proceeds of which went to support the foundation's non-profit programs, especially working gigs and educational programs for victims of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.[8]


As leader

  • 1953: Here Comes Frank Foster (Blue Note)
  • 1954: New Faces, New Sounds (Blue Note)
  • 1955: Hope Meets Foster (Prestige) - with Elmo Hope
  • 1956: Two Franks Please! (Savoy)
  • 1956: No Count (Savoy)
  • 1963: Basie Is Our Boss (Argo)
  • 1965: Fearless Frank Foster (Prestige)
  • 1966: Soul Outing! (Prestige)
  • 1968: Manhattan Fever (Blue Note)
  • 1969: Frank Foster (Blue Note)
  • 1974: The Loud Minority (Mainstream)
  • 1976: Here and Now (Catalyst)
  • 1977: Shiny Stockings (Denon)
  • 1978: Twelve Shades of Black (Leo)
  • 1979: Non-Electric Company (EPM Musique)
  • 1982: The House That Love Built (SteepleChase)
  • 1983: Two for the Blues (Pablo)
  • 1984: Frankly Speaking (Concord Jazz)
  • 1995: A Fresh Taste of Thad Jones and Frank Foster (Hänssler Classics)
  • 1996: Leo Rising (Arabesque)
  • 1998: Swing (live) (Challenge)
  • 2002: Live at Feuerwache Mannheim (Bassic)
  • 2003: We Do It Diff'rent (live) (Mapleshade)
  • 2004: Settin' the Pace (GJazz)
  • 2005: Endless Fingers (Arabesque)
  • 2007: Well Water (Piadrum)

As arranger

  • 1961: "Little Man (You've Had a Busy Day)" - Sarah Vaughan with the Count Basie Orchestra - Count Basie/Sarah Vaughan (Roulette)
  • 1965: Sarah Vaughan - ¡Viva! Vaughan (Mercury)
  • 1984: "Mack the Knife" - Frank Sinatra - L.A. Is My Lady (Qwest/Warner Bros.)
  • 1985: "Beyond the Sea" - George Benson - 20/20
  • 1987: Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra - Diane Schuur & the Count Basie Orchestra (GRP)

As sideman

With Count Basie Orchestra

  • One O'Clock Jump (1957)
  • E=MC² (1957)

With Kenny Burrell

  • Kenny Burrell Volume 2 (Blue Note, 1956)

With Donald Byrd

  • Byrd's Word (Savoy, 1955)
  • All Day Long (Prestige, 1957)
  • Fancy Free (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Kofi (Blue Note, 1971)

With Earl Coleman

  • Manhattan Serenade (1968)

With Matthew Gee

  • Jazz by Gee (Riverside, 1956)

With Bennie Green and Gene Ammons

  • The Swingin'est (1958)

With Elmo Hope

  • Trio and Quintet (Blue Note, 1954)
  • Homecoming! (Riverside, 1961)

With Milt Jackson

  • Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic, 1957)

With Illinois Jacquet

  • The Soul Explosion (Prestige, 1969)

With Elvin Jones

  • Elvin! (Riverside, 1961-62)
  • Heavy Sounds with Richard Davis (Impulse!, 1967)
  • Coalition (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Genesis (Blue Note, 1971)
  • Merry-Go-Round (Blue Note, 1971)
  • New Agenda (Vanguard, 1975)
  • The Main Force (Vanguard, 1976)
  • Time Capsule (Vanguard, 1977)
  • Elvin Jones Music Machine (Mark Levison, 1978)
  • Live in Japan 1978: Dear John C. (Trio (Japan), 1978)
  • Elvin Jones Jazz Machine Live in Japan Vol. 2 (Trio (Japan), 1978)
  • Live at the Village Vanguard Volume One (Landmark, 1984)

With Horace Parlan

  • Frank-ly Speaking (1977)

With Duke Pearson

  • Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band (1967)
  • Now Hear This (1968)
  • It Could Only Happen with You (1970)

With Ronnie Mathews

  • Roots, Branches and Dances (Bee Hive, 1978)

With Thelonious Monk

  • Monk (1954)

With Woody Shaw

  • The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble at the Berliner Jazztage (Muse, 1976)

With Mickey Tucker

  • Mister Mysterious (Muse, 1978)

With Cedar Walton

  • Mobius (RCA, 1975)

See also

  • List of jazz arrangers


  1. 1.0 1.1 [Frank Foster (musician) at All Music Guide allmusic]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 DeVeaux, Scott; Kernfeld, Barry Foster, Frank (Benjamin, III), Oxford Music Online. []
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Frank Foster." Piadrum
  4. Portrait of a musical giant (Resume Pamphlet). Frank Foster Inc. The Jazz Archive at Duke University. 1980.
  5. Nate Chinen, Frank Foster, Jazz Saxophonist, Composer and Arranger, Dies at 82, The New York Times, July 26, 2011.
  6. The Jazz Archive at Duke University
  7. (Archived by at
  8. (Archived by at

External links

  • Frank Foster bio-documentary "Shiny Stockings"
  • Frank Foster's Website
  • Frank Foster Papers Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University
  • Jazz Archive at Duke University
  • Foster's Official Bio Page
  • Foster's Entry in All About Jazz
  • Interview with Foster
  • Smithsonian Institution Oral History Interview with Frank Foster, 1998
This page was last modified 02.05.2014 06:39:02

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