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Benny Waters

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Benjamin (1902-1998) Tenor, soprano, and alto saxophonist, clarinetist, and arranger

Benny Waters played piano and reed instruments as a child. He first worked with Charlie Miller (1918-21). Waters studied at the New England Conservatory and subsequently became a teacher; among his pupils was Harry Carney. While playing and writing arrangements for Charlie Johnson (1926-31), he recorded with King Oliver and Clarence Williams. Despite his claim to have played for three years with Fletcher Henderson, he left the group in 1935 after about six months and rejoined Johnson (1936-7). He then worked with Hot Lips Page (1938,1941), Claude Hopkins (1940-41), and Jimmie Lunceford (1942), recording with Hopkins and Lunceford. After leading his own band for four years, he joined Roy Milton's rhythm-and-blues group. He played New Orleans jazz with Jimmy Archey from 1949, and when the group toured Europe he decided to stay. He settled eventually in Paris, where, until the end of the 1960s, he worked at the club La Cigale. He toured extensively in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, playing at many festivals and recording, and also worked in New York during several brief visits early in the 1980s.

Although Waters performs as a soloist on alto saxophone, he is principally a tenor saxophonist and has a big tone reminiscent of Coleman Hawkins'. He was a fine blues clarinetist and also an excellent singer.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For personal, non-commercial use only. Copying or other reproduction is prohibited.
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