British jazz giant’s saxophones up for auction

Peter King was arguably the country’s finest jazz alto saxophonist and four of his instruments are being sold in Wiltshire.

Rod Minchin
Tuesday 01 March 2022 10:51 GMT
Four saxophones that belong to British jazz musician Peter King are going under the hammer (Gardiner Houlgate/PA)
Four saxophones that belong to British jazz musician Peter King are going under the hammer (Gardiner Houlgate/PA)

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Louise Thomas

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Four saxophones owned and played by British jazz musician Peter King are to go under the hammer.

King, who died in 2020 at the age of 80, was arguably the country’s finest alto saxophonist and the closest Britain came to producing a player of the calibre of America’s Charlie Parker.

He made his debut at Ronnie Scott’s club in London in 1959 when he was 19, and went on to perform with many jazz greats including Johnny Dankworth, Ray Charles and Stan Tracey.

Auctioneer Jamie South with a saxophone belonging to Peter King (Gardiner Houlgate/PA)
Auctioneer Jamie South with a saxophone belonging to Peter King (Gardiner Houlgate/PA)

During his six-decade career, he also worked with The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, pianist Georgie Fame, pop group Everything But The Girl, and played prominently on the soundtrack of the classic 1969 British film The Italian Job.

The four saxophones being sold by King’s estate will go under the hammer as individual lots at specialist music auction house Gardiner Houlgate in Wiltshire.

They are expected to fetch a total of between £10,000 and £12,000.

The sale also includes King’s handwritten notebook of set lists and his Musicians’ Union membership card.

In 2005, he was named BBC Jazz Musician of the Year.

Although Peter was about as cool as it got, I think the market will blow hot for his instruments

Jamie South, Gardiner Houlgate

Auctioneer Jamie South said: “Peter King was a giant of British jazz, a performer recognised around the world for his skill and dexterity. It’s uncertain we’ll ever produce his like again.

“With an international fanbase, his saxophones will interest collectors and musicians across the globe.

“Although Peter was about as cool as it got, I think the market will blow hot for his instruments. After all, they’ve produced music that defined an era.”

Other lots in the sale include the Selmer saxophone that King used as his primary instrument from 1966 to 2001, and the “Peter King” model Yanagisawa A-9932Z alto saxophone he favoured from 2001 to 2020.

In 1994, when a saxophone owned by King’s hero, Charlie Parker, went up for sale, the auctioneers chose King to demonstrate it.

– Gardiner Houlgate’s Musical Instruments sale will take place on March 11.

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