Harry Klein: Baritone saxophonist who dominated his field for two decades

Back in the 1950s the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, the undisputed king of modern jazz, invited Harry Klein to sit in with him and trumpeter Fats Navarro while they were playing at a New York jazz club.

The Englishman, who was then himself an alto player, declined. He and his pal the trumpeter Leon Calvert were overwhelmed by the city. They had already used most of what money they had when they'd been hustled by a smart salesman into buying identical brown suits. Perhaps Klein felt he'd taken enough risks for one trip.

Klein had docked in New York on the Mauretania as a member of Geraldo's Navy. This was the group of British instrumentalists managed by Geraldo who provided the music for passengers on the Queen Mary and the other transatlantic Cunard liners. The chance to hear musicians like Parker in the clubs was invaluable and Geraldo's men brought home and nurtured the seeds of Bebop in Britain.

Teaching himself to play the alto when he was 14, Klein had his first regular professional job with Ivor Kirchin's band at the Paramount in Tottenham Court Road. He was soon involved with leaders like Nat Gonella, Kenny Baker, Victor Feldman and Jack Nathan. In 1950, although Klein wasn't keen on the idea, Nathan bought him a baritone sax and Klein found he was better suited to it.

Basing his style broadly on that of Gerry Mulligan, he quickly developed a deep, broad-shouldered sound on the horn. He came to fame as a baritone player, winning the Melody Maker poll each year from 1953 to 1957 and he and Ronnie Ross dominated the baritone sax field for the next two decades. Although a lot of his work was in dance bands, Klein made a multitude of good jazz records, notably with the Jazz Today unit. He played in Jack Parnell's big band and was a regular on the various series of broadcasts by Kenny Baker's Dozen during the Fifties.

Stan Kenton's band was touring Europe in April 1956. Two of his musicians were sent back to the States on what turned out to be trumped-up drugs charges. Klein and the fine English tenor player Don Rendell took their places for the tour and both learned much from the American musicians. Klein and Rendell were unknown to the Americans; on their first night with the band Klein was given a solo to play on "All The Things You Are". When he sat down after it the rest of the band turned to him and held up their thumbs.

Klein worked with the tenor player Tommy Whittle on and off throughout the 1950s. After playing for Tony Crombie in 1959 he co-led The Jazz Five with the clarinettist Vic Ash from early 1960 until 1962, when he formed his own quintet. But most of his work was as a freelance in the studios and he played for artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Dusty Springfield and the Rolling Stones. He recorded with the Beatles (on "Lady Madonna"), Sammy Davis Jr, Dudley Moore and Champion Jack Dupree. He worked regularly in the Johnny Spence Big Band.

In later life he continued to play jazz gigs, reverting to the alto when back problems made the baritone too heavy. He also had some success as a bit-playing actor, often in EastEnders. A private man, Klein had no family except for his wife, Pam. She died a few days after him, also of natural causes.

Harry Klein, saxophonist and bandleader: born London 25 December 1928; married Pam; died London 30 June 2010.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Calling All NQT's

£100 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education are active...

General Cover Teacher

£100 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Secondary Teachers of all sub...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

General Cover Teacher

£100 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Secondary Teachers of all sub...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game