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
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesChuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
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
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

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf