Although he was one of the finest baritone saxophonists to emerge from the bop era, Cecil Payne has been underrated and frequently overlooked throughout his long career. Payne, who played guitar, alto, and clarinet (and spent 1943-1946 in the military), first played baritone with Clarence Briggs' band in 1946, giving up alto around the same period (after making his recording debut on the smaller horn with J.J. Johnson). Payne made his reputation as a key member of Dizzy Gillespie's classic bebop big band (1946-1949), appearing on virtually all of the orchestra's famous recordings. Payne played with Tadd Dameron, James Moody, and with the popular Illinois Jacquet band (1952-1954), but then spent a period working at a day job. He returned to music in 1956, starting a long-term association with Randy Weston, and he had periods with Machito (1963-1966), Woody Herman (1966-1968), and Count Basie (1969-71). But, despite appearing on many records over a five-decade period, fame (except among musicians) has always eluded Cecil Payne.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group