Cecil Payne: Bringing Up Father

27 Nov

Remembering saxophonist Cecil Payne on the anniversary of his death at age 84 in 2007.

Payne was rarely a band leader, but that hardly meant he was a follower. He was well-known and well-regarded as a sideman for several musicians, perhaps most famously for Brooklyn childhood friend Randy Weston (but also Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and others).

When he was younger, Payne’s parents, according to Wikipedia, had hoped he would pursue a career in medicine, particularly dentistry. Payne pointed out that his name, Dr. Payne, wouldn’t be the best way to build a practice.

Payne brought plenty of joy with his saxophone, and built a surplus of karma when he needed it most. As he aged into his 70s, Payne’s sight faded because of glaucoma, according to jazzfoundation.org, and he grew increasingly reclusive.

Able only to reach the corner 7-11, he subsisted for more than a year on “two cans of Slim-Fast and a package of M&Ms a day,” according to the website.

A representative of the Jazz Foundation of America talked Payne into allowing Meals on Wheels to deliver: “I forgot greens were green,” Payne said, according to the website.

Payne returned to performing before he died of cancer less than a month before his 85th birthday.

 “Cecil Payne was one of the truly great human beings on this Earth,” wrote Wendy Oxenhorn of the Jazz Foundation of America. “His positive attitude and his endlessly optimistic nature, no matter how bad things were, always got you a, ‘It is what it is’ and ‘Everything is everything’ and never a complaint or a negative word was uttered from his mouth. The Earth is a little emptier from his passing.”

sources: bittersuiteband.com, wikipedia.org, jazzfoundation.org, allaboutjazz.com

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One Response to “Cecil Payne: Bringing Up Father”

  1. LondonJazzCollector November 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    I just came across Cecil Payne for the first time just this last week when I picked up his “alterative” score to the 1960’s New York Jazz Stage production of “The Connection”. Stepping into the shoes of Freddie Redd and the fantastic original score must have taken some courage. I’ve played it only the once yet but look forward to getting to know it better. Seems I have a lot more to learn about Cecil. Nice to know some of these guys made it into their eighties, when so many never got past their forties.

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