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Rhythm & Blues Saxophone: The Masters-Part 1: Earl Bostic

Earl Bostic (April 25, 1913 – October 28, 1965) was an American alto saxophonist and a pioneer of the post-war American rhythm and blues style. He had a number of popular hits such as Flamingo, Harlem Nocturne and Twilight Time, which all show off his characteristic “growl tone”, a buzzing sound on the saxophone made by engaging the vocal chords while blowing. Earl was reputed to have been a major influence on John Coltrane.

Here I am sharing a transcription of Earl’s short but influential hit tune Harlem Nocturne. Learn this solo and be sure to play along with this classic recording. Any aspiring alto sax player should know this tune cold, note for note. Notice the High G that this ends on and how perfectly he plays that note in tune, nailing it right on the money. Mr. Bostic was a master technician, and all of his recordings are worth studying. His technique was as clean and precise on the saxophone as anyone before or since. Earl Bostic was a big influence on me when I was in high school, and I still admire his music to this day a great deal.

Listen to Harlem Nocturne here:

Here is a great in depth read about Earl:

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