Frank Foster, a name synonymous with innovation and sophistication in the jazz world, was a saxophonist, composer, and arranger who made significant contributions to the development of jazz music. Born on September 23, 1928, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Foster’s rich musical journey and exceptional talent have left an everlasting impact on the global jazz scene.
Foster discovered his love for music at a young age, and he started playing the clarinet before transitioning to the alto saxophone and eventually settling on the tenor saxophone. His journey in the world of jazz began with his service in the U.S. Army, where he played in a military band.
Upon his discharge from the Army, Foster’s professional career kicked off when he joined the legendary Count Basie Orchestra in 1953. During this period, he played with fellow saxophonist, Frank Wess, contrasting Wess’ lyrical style with his more modernistic approach. His time with Basie was transformative; not only did he perform as a standout saxophonist, but he also showcased his skill as a composer and arranger. One of his most notable compositions, “Shiny Stockings”, became a jazz standard, underlining his knack for creating memorable tunes.
After a highly fruitful period with the Basie band, Foster branched out as a freelance musician in the 1960s, working as an arranger for top artists such as Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. He also led several groups of his own, including the Loud Minority, and he made numerous recordings as a bandleader, leaving his distinctive mark on a wide variety of jazz styles.
In the 1970s, Foster expanded his musical pursuits by delving into teaching. He shared his extensive knowledge and experience at the State University of New York at Buffalo, shaping the next generation of jazz artists.
Foster’s illustrious career came full circle when he took up the leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1986, following Basie’s death. Under his direction, the orchestra flourished, winning two Grammy Awards and carrying forward Basie’s legacy with a modern touch.
Recognized for his significant contributions to jazz, Foster was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2002, one of the highest honors in the field of jazz in the United States. He continued his musical contributions until his death in 2011 at the age of 82.
Page last updated 7/15/2023.