Sil Austin, born on September 17, 1929, in Dunnellon, Florida, was an American jazz and R&B tenor saxophonist known for his smooth and expressive playing style. Over the course of his career, Austin released a number of hit records, including the chart-topping “Slow Walk” in 1956, which showcased his unique sound and approach to the saxophone.
Austin began playing the saxophone at an early age, initially influenced by the music of jazz greats such as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. By the time he was a teenager, he had already garnered attention for his talent, winning the prestigious “Ted Mack Amateur Hour” radio contest in 1945. This success led to an opportunity to perform with the renowned Tiny Bradshaw band, where Austin further developed his skills as a saxophonist.
In the early 1950s, Sil Austin signed with Mercury Records and began to record a series of singles that demonstrated his innovative approach to the saxophone. His playing, characterized by a smooth tone and expressive phrasing, helped to bridge the gap between jazz and R&B, appealing to a wide audience of music lovers. Austin’s biggest hit, “Slow Walk,” reached the No. 1 spot on the R&B charts in 1956 and remained popular for years to come.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Sil Austin continued to record and tour, both as a solo artist and as a bandleader. His work with musicians like Quincy Jones and Johnny “Guitar” Watson further cemented his reputation as a versatile and talented saxophonist. Although Austin may not have achieved the same level of fame as some of his contemporaries, his influence on the development of R&B and jazz music was significant.
In the 1970s, Austin took a hiatus from his solo career to join the band of iconic musician and performer, Harry Belafonte. Austin remained with Belafonte for over a decade, contributing his distinctive saxophone sound to the band’s performances and recordings.
Sil Austin passed away on September 1, 2001, but his legacy as a talented and innovative saxophonist lives on. His unique sound, expressive playing style, and contributions to the development of R&B and jazz music continue to inspire and influence musicians and fans alike, ensuring his place in the history of American music.
Last updated 3/18/2023.