b. Earle Ronald Warren, 1 July 1914, Springfield, Ohio, USA, d. 4 June 1994, Springfield, Ohio, USA. As a child Warren played a number of instruments in a family band, but by his teens had settled on the alto saxophone. From 1930 he played in numerous territory bands until, in 1937, he joined Count Basie. Playing lead alto and nicknamed Smiley, he stayed with Basie until 1945 and thereafter returned several times in between leading his own band for short engagements. Throughout the '50s he played in various all-star bands, often teamed with other former Basie musicians, among them Buck Clayton, Jimmy Rushing and Dicky Wells. He only left Basie's side for good when his wife became ill, and went on to join vocal group the Platters (on baritone sax). He also managed Johnny Otisí show band. In the '70s and on through the '80s Warren continued to perform, sometimes as a soloist, sometimes in packages featuring other swing era veterans. A striking player with a rich tone, Warren's many years as section leader with Basie have sometimes obscured his importance. Although he was often subordinated in this setting to the solo voices of artists such as Lester Young and Buddy Tate, his solos were always worthy of attention and displayed both an inventive mind and great musical skill. After living in Switzerland for nearly a decade he returned to his home town of Springfield in 1992 for the last two years of his life.
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