Cultural Percussionist

Al Grey Day

Al Grey (June 6, 1925 – March 24, 2000) was a jazz trombonist who is most remembered for his association with the Count Basie orchestra.

Grey is known for his plunger mute technique (comparable to Tricky Sam Nanton, Bob Hunt and Wycliffe Gordon), and also wrote an instructional book called Plunger Techniques.

As states Scott Yanow in his artist biography on Allmusic, Al Grey’s trademark phrases and often humorous use of the plunger mute long made him quite distinctive. After getting out of the service, he was with the orchestras of Benny Carter (1945-1946), Jimmie Lunceford (1946-1947), Lucky Millinder, and Lionel Hampton (off and on during 1948-1953). Grey was a well-featured soloist with the classic Dizzy Gillespie globetrotting orchestra during 1956-1957 (taking an exciting solo at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival on a blazing version of “Cool Breeze”). He was with Count Basie’s orchestra on three separate occasions (1957-1961, 1964-1966, and 1971-1977), led a band with Billy Mitchell in the early ’60s, and had a group with Jimmy Forrest after leaving Basie in 1977. In later years, Grey performed and recorded often with Clark Terry, made a CD with the Statesmen of Jazz, and for a time led a quintet that featured his son Mike Grey on second trombone. Al Grey recorded as a leader for Argo (1959-1964), Tangerine, Black & Blue, Stash, Chiaroscuro, and Capri, and co-led an excellent Pablo date in 1983 with J.J. Johnson. He died of complications from diabetes on March 24, 2000.

Al Grey was born in Aldie, Virginia and grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. During World War II he served in the Navy where he started playing the trombone. Soon after his discharge, he joined Benny Carter‘s band and later the trombone section of Lionel Hampton.

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