He is a multi-instrumentalist, known mainly as a saxophonist and flautist, and teacher born Wiliam E. Green in Kansas City, Kansas, to a family where his father was an amateur saxophonist and his mother was a singer in their local church choir. When he was 10 years old he started to perform on his dad’s saxophone and within two years had also added the clarinet to his list of instruments, which he had managed to buy when some of his co-performers in the WPA Big Band gave him some money to help him get one. By the time he was just 14 years old he had started teaching.
After he had graduated from high school he went into service with the United States Navy but as there were no vacancies for a musician at the time, he was posted in the Great Lakes as a machinist’s mate. After 9 months he was relocated to San Diego, and would occasionally sit in on jazz sessions in Los Angeles with artists such as Buddy Colette if he got the chance. When he received his discharge from service he went back to Kansas but this was just a temporary stay as he returned to California within a very short time and took up studies at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music.
In 1952 he gained his Masters Degree and for the next decade he worked there as an instructor. Throughout these years he led his own jazz ensemble, worked as a sideman and became a sought after session musician who crossed over between jazz and classical music with ease.
The countless artists and groups he performed with during his career included the Bert Bacharach, Tony Bennett, The Blackbyrds, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Con Funk Shun, Bobby Darin, Dr. Feelgood, Dizzy Gillespie, Arlo Guthrie, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock, Peggy Lee, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Henry Mancini, Rick Nelson, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Lou Rawls, Martha Reeves, Minnie Riperton, Sonny Rollins, Bill Summers, Toni Tennille, Mel Torme, Stanley Turrentine, Dionne Warwick, Deniece Williams and Gerald Wilson to name just a very few.
The album recordings he has appeared on are too many to mention, but a few of them are Just You and Me by Herb Alpert , Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys , Porgy & Bess by Ray Charles & Cleo Laine, Romantic Journey by Norman Connors, Keep Movin’ On by Sam Cooke, Way Back Home by The Crusaders, Dingo by Miles Davis & Michel LeGrand, Bittersweet by Lamont Dozier, Dream Dancing by Ella Fitzgerald, Live! By Marvin Gaye, Apasionado by Stan Getz, Masterpiece by The Isley Brothers, King of the Blues by B.B. King, Roots by Quincy Jones, Music by Carole King, Showstoppers by Barry Manilow, The Best Days of My Life by Johnny Mathis , Phantom of the Opera by Walter Murphy, Viva Las Vegas/Roustabout by Elvis Presley , Lionel Richie by Lionel Richie, Patrice by Patrice Rushen, L.A. is My Lady by Frank Sinatra , Back to Mono (1958-1969) by Phil Spector and Just For You by Barry White.
As a teacher he was on the faculties of California State University, the Los Angeles Conservatory and the University of Southern California, and also gave tuition at the Candelabra Hall, Los Angeles, where he taught subjects such as jazz musicianship, music theory and solfage,
He passed away in 1996 at the age of 71.
Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams recordings
Emotion (Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)
S CBS 6164B (UK 45)
He is the sax soloist here on “Funk Machine” by Wade Marcus…