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NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's Statement on the Death of NEA Jazz Master Frank Foster

For Immediate Release

“On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, it is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of 2002 NEA Jazz Master Frank Foster. An extraordinary saxophonist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator, Frank Foster’s contributions to jazz are numerous. We join many others in the jazz community and beyond in mourning his death while celebrating his life.”

Best known for his work in the Count Basie Orchestra (and as the composer of the Count Basie hit, "Shiny Stockings"), saxophone player Frank Foster was an extremely successful composer. He created a large body of work for jazz, including works contributed to albums by singers Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, and a commissioned work for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid Suite, written for jazz orchestra. In the 1970s, Foster played with contemporary musicians such as Elvin Jones, George Coleman, and Joe Farrell and began expanding his compositions. He led his own band, the Loud Minority, until 1986 when he assumed leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra from Thad Jones. In addition to performing, Foster has also served as a musical consultant in the New York City public schools and taught at Queens College and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Foster is the recipient of two Grammy Awards.

Although a stroke in 2001 prevented him from playing the saxophone, Foster continued to compose. In a January 2008 interview with the NEA, Foster said, “I had always had as much fun writing as playing. Writing and playing, they're both strongly creative, right? But when you play something, if you mess up you can't make it right. But you can write something, and if it's not right you can change it. And I always had as much pleasure writing as playing because … the thrill of hearing your music played back to you is almost indescribable.”

For more information on Frank Foster, including an in-depth interview, visit the NEA’s website.

Visit the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program website to listen to Frank Foster’s oral history.