Hal Singer, a seminal figure in the world of R&B and jazz, was renowned for his powerfully expressive tenor saxophone playing and his immense contributions to the development of R&B. Born in 1919 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Singer’s enduring career spanned over seven decades, a testament to his talent, versatility, and indomitable passion for music.
Growing up in the racially segregated environment of early 20th century America, Singer turned to music as a means of expression and escape. Despite the hardship he faced, Singer’s dedication to music saw him rise through the ranks to become one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation.
Singer’s professional career took flight in 1939 when he joined the Jay McShann Orchestra, where he played alongside jazz great Charlie Parker. In 1948, he reached a career-defining moment with his instrumental R&B track “Corn Bread,” which soared to number one on the Billboard R&B chart. The track’s success earned Singer the nickname “Cornbread,” marking him as a leading figure in the burgeoning R&B scene.
In the 1950s, Singer was a member of the prestigious Duke Ellington Orchestra, contributing to their rich musical tapestry with his soulful saxophone sound. He also maintained a successful solo career, releasing numerous records that showcased his impressive range and distinctive style, which skillfully melded R&B with elements of jazz and blues.
Despite the popularity of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-20th century, which eclipsed many careers in R&B and jazz, Singer continued to thrive. He adapted to the changing music scene by venturing into the realm of jazz, showcasing his versatility and ensuring his continued relevance in an evolving industry.
In the 1960s, Singer relocated to Paris, a city that welcomed jazz and R&B musicians at a time when opportunities were dwindling in America. In France, Singer’s career flourished. He continued performing and recording well into his nineties, solidifying his status as a stalwart of the music world.
Beyond his performing career, Singer also made significant contributions as an educator. He served as a music director for a French government initiative aimed at educating disadvantaged youths, using his knowledge and passion for music to inspire the next generation of musicians.
Hal Singer passed away in 2020, leaving behind a remarkable legacy. His dynamic saxophone playing, innovative blending of R&B and jazz, and his unwavering dedication to his craft made him a beacon in the music industry. His influence continues to resonate, inspiring saxophonists and music enthusiasts alike, making Hal Singer a name that is not only remembered but revered in the annals of music history. Sal was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1996.
Page last updated 7/5/2023.