Bennie Wallace
b. 18 November 1946, Chatanooga, Tennessee, USA. In his teens Wallace played jazz saxophone and sat in with local country and R&B bands. He studied clarinet at Tennessee University, then moved to New York in the early '70s, working with West Indian-born pianist Monty Alexander and singer Sheila Jordan. Wallace's affinity to Ornette Coleman's new jazz language is shown by his later neglect of the piano: he prefers to work in trios, unconfined by the piano's tempered scales. Mostly playing tenor saxophone, his first trio consisted of Glen Moore (bass) and Eddie Moore (drums), who were replaced in 1978 by Eddie Gomez and Dannie Richmond. His debut with this trio—THE FOURTEEN BAR BLUES, recorded for Enja in 1978—was a revelation. Playing with a loose bravado usually heard from musicians with gospel backgrounds, he had found a way to translate Ornette's concept to tenor, on the way picking up echoes of Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler. The album won the Deutscher Schallenplattenpreis and he was invited to play at the 1979 Berlin Jazz festival with the George Gruntz band. In 1981, at the festival, Wallace fronted the North German Radio Band. LIVE AT THE PUBLIC THEATRE (1978) gave him more room to stretch out and confirmed his stature. In 1982 he recorded with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones ( BIG JIM'S TANGO ) and in 1984 reaffirmed his southern roots with a magnificent gospel track featuring the Wings Of Song vocalists ( SWEEPING THROUGH THE CITY ). His Blue Note debut, TWILIGHT TIME, explored his southern background even more extensively, and featured guest appearances by Dr. John and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Garrulous, inventive and full of the blues, without a trace of the ubiquitous, studied John Coltrane-influenced sound, Wallace may be just the thing the tenor saxophone needs for its rejuvenation in the '90s.

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