Benny Golson's 80th-Birthday Concert On JazzSet For saxophone giant Benny Golson's 80th birthday in January 2009, the Kennedy Center staged an all-star celebration with a big band to the right, small groups to the left, and Golson front and center. JazzSet captured the event.

Benny Golson's 80th-Birthday Concert On JazzSet

Benny Golson's 80th-Birthday Concert On JazzSet

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Benny Golson performs at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. Margot Schulman/Kennedy Center hide caption

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Margot Schulman/Kennedy Center

Benny Golson performs at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater.

Margot Schulman/Kennedy Center

Set List

  • * "Along Came Betty" (Golson)
  • ** "Love, Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere" (Goulding, Janis)
  • ** "Five Spot After Dark" (Golson)
  • *** "Grove's Groove" (Golson)
  • *** "Uptown Afterburn" (Golson)
  • **** "Blues March" (Golson, arr. by Uptown String Quartet)
  • * "I Remember Clifford" (Golson)
  • * "Stablemates" (Golson)


  • * CHJO
  • John Clayton, leader and bass
  • Jeff Clayton, leader and alto
  • Jeff Hamilton, leader and drums
  • ** All-Stars
  • Curtis Fuller, trombone
  • Cedar Walton, piano
  • Ron Carter, bass
  • Al Harewood, drums
  • *** New JazzTet
  • Eddie Henderson, trumpet
  • Steve Davis, trombone
  • Mike LeDonne, piano
  • Buster Williams, bass
  • Carl Allen, drums
  • **** Uptown String Quartet
  • John Blake Jr.
  • Maxine Roach
  • Lesa Terry
  • Nioka Workman

"Along Came Betty." "Killer Joe." "Stablemates." "I Remember Clifford." The titles of Benny Golson's classic compositions set the scene.

In the early 1950s, Philadelphia was a hotbed of young talent. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath, pianist Ray Bryant and drummer Philly Joe Jones were all getting their professional start in the city. Then along came Benny Golson. The young saxophonist had the good fortune to work with Tadd Dameron and Dizzy Gillespie, two of the finest composers in jazz. They inspired Golson to write his own music, and when Miles Davis recorded "Stablemates" in 1955 (with his new quintet, featuring John Coltrane), Golson's reputation as a composer was made.

His career blossomed when he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. As the group's music director, Golson contributed to the band's signature sound, with tunes like "Blues March." He led his own groups, as well. The most famous was the one he co-led with trumpeter Art Farmer and trombonist Curtis Fuller. It was called the JazzTet, and you may have heard one of their tunes, "Killer Joe."

Benny Golson went on to become a leading composer for movies and television, scoring shows such as M*A*S*H, Mission Impossible and Mannix. He also teamed up with Philadelphian Bill Cosby to write the opening theme for The Cosby Show. Golson was so busy, he put his tenor sax down for a time, but fortunately for those of us who love his playing, he's returned to the tenor. In fact, he's even put together a New JazzTet.

Now in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, Golson himself plays three pieces with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra from Los Angeles, two with a specially assembled Benny Golson All-Star Quintet including Curtis Fuller and Cedar Walton, and two with Golson's New JazzTet. The Uptown String Quartet is here, as well, with an all-new take on "Blues March."


Thanks to Dr. Billy Taylor, artistic director, and Kevin Struthers, director of jazz at the Kennedy Center. Recording and Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos.