AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
WARREN LUCKEY, PLAYED SAX WITH LEGENDS OF JAZZ
By Christian Salazar, Staff Writer
Warren Luckey, a saxophonist who was present at the birth of bebop,
toured with Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s, once
lent his tenor sax to Charlie Parker for a landmark performance, and
appeared on a recording with Aretha Franklin, has died. He was 85.
The Uniondale resident died July 11 of kidney failure, said his
son-in-law, Dan Silver, of Huntington.
Phil Schaap, a leading jazz historian, said Luckey flourished in the
bebop era. "There was a revolution in music 60 years ago, and Luckey
was there," said Schaap, the Grammy Award-winning host of the "Bird
Flight" jazz program on WKCR/89.9 FM.
Bebop was the name of the musical revolution, and Gillespie, along
with Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Kenny Clarke and others, had
developed the style beginning in the early 1940s.
Luckey's playing appeared on Gillespie's famed recordings on the
Musicraft label, including "Groovin' High" and "Things to Come" in
In 1947, Charlie Parker, who played alto sax, asked to borrow Luckey's
tenor sax for a recording he was doing with an up-and-coming jazz
musician - Miles Davis.
Luckey was born in Dallas, on March 5, 1920, and began his musical
training in elementary school, on the piano.
At age 14, he took up the saxophone, following the path of jazz
legends Lester Young and Chu Berry. Three years later, Luckey was
playing in local clubs.
After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, Luckey
attended Sam Houston College and Alabama State Teachers College, with
the idea of becoming a music teacher.
But in 1944, Fats Ford, a trumpet player also at Alabama State,
recommended Luckey to Louis Armstrong. Luckey dropped out of college
and joined the legendary trumpeter's band in Chicago that year for a
In January 1945, Luckey was playing at the Zanzibar Club in Manhattan,
said his family. One night after a gig he went down to the Majestic
Ballroom on 49th Street where he met Myrtle Mae Medley, a vocalist.
A few nights later, Luckey and Medley met at a subway platform in
Harlem, said Luckey's son, Warren Martin Luckey, the family historian.
"They walked up to each other and had a kiss before they started to
talk," he said.
They were married in 1946, the same year Luckey left Armstrong's band
to join Gillespie's first big band.
When Gillespie's band chose to tour Europe, Luckey decided to stay in
New York with his family, moving to Long Island.
For 12 years, he was the bandleader at the Manhattan and Brooklyn Baby
Grand clubs and worked with comedians Redd Foxx and Nipsey Russell,
By the '60s, Luckey was a studio musician for Capital, Victor and
Luckey appeared on Aretha Franklin's studio recording of "The Great
Aretha Franklin" made by Columbia between 1960 and 1961. But he didn't
think much about it at the time. "He took this stuff for granted
because he had played with Dizzy Gillespie," Silver said.
Through the '80s, Luckey played at clubs on the Island, including
Sonny's Place in Seaford.
He also was a central, if taciturn, role model for his five children.
"My father was a quiet, introverted musical genius who thought in
melodies," said Warren Martin Luckey.
In 1983, Luckey developed a neuromuscular disorder, which made
In the 1990s, audiences could still hear Luckey playing gigs on Long
Island with his daughter, Paulette Luckey Silver, who started singing
"He was my mentor, and my musical teacher," she said. "He was
demanding of excellence."
Luckey is survived by two daughters, Patricia Luckey Kennedy of North
Port, Fla., and Paulette Luckey Silver of Huntington; three sons,
David of Uniondale, Warren Martin of Long Beach, Calif., and Charles
of Dallas; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
He was buried next to his wife in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in
<Note: He also recorded with Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Scott, Sonny
Sitt, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke, Budd Johnson, Charlie
Parker, Shelly Manne, Tommy Allison, Kenny Burrell, Cab Calloway, Milt
Hinton ... and was the sax player on several of the Mickey & Sylvia
Luckey is often listed as Lucky in several discographies (the Lord, not Bruynick).
The session where Bird borrowed his tenor sax from Luckey must be the Miles Davis All Stars session from August 14, 1947 for Savoy. 'Milestones', 'Little Willie Leaps', 'Half Nelson' and 'Sippin' at Bells' - all with Parker on tenor - were recorded on this date.
Edited 23 Jul 2005 by brownie