Jamaica in the 1950s and '60s produced many great jazz musicians. The list includes Monty Alexander, Don Shirley, Harold McNair, Montego Joe, Dizzy Reece and Ralph McDonald. But the list is long, and there were many others with whom you may be less familiar. One of them is Wilton Bogey" Gaynair, a mighty tenor saxophonist with a slippery-smokey feel reminiscent of Gene Ammons and Lucky Thompson. When you hear Gaynair, you'll find you're immediately taken by the size of his sound and how easily and lyrically he moved around on the instrument. There are no wasted notes, and all of his improvised lines tell a story.
Surprisingly, Gaynair recorded only three leadership albums. His first was Blue Bogey for the British Tempo label in August 1959, with Terry Shannon (p) Kenny Napper (b) and Bill Eyden (d). Like many Jamaican jazz musicians of the period, Gaynair learned his trade in Kingston backing touring Americna musicians such as George Shearing and Carmen McRae.
Gaynair was a student at Jamaica's Alpha Boys School, where Harold McNair and a number of other jazz arists were students. Like many Jamaican jazz musician looking for greater work opportunities, Gaynair left Kingston for Europe in 1955, bypassing the U.S. My guess is that his decision had much to do with the sizable pool of jazz greats, the daunting task of finding work in a crowded market, and fears of American segregation and civil rights strife.
Gaynair settled in Germany to be centrally located for gigs. Two of his three albums were recorded in London during visits there—Blue Bogey in 1959 and Africa Calling in 1960. His third album, Alpharian, was recorded in Cologne, German, in 1982.
While in Germany, Gaynair played with Gil Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Parlan, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis and others passing through Europe on tour. In 1983, Gaynair suffered a stroke that kept him from playing the saxophone. He died in 1995.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find a download of Wilton Gaynair's Blue Bogey here for only $5.34 . You'll also find this album as well as Africa Calling at Spotify.
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.